Ksheer Bhawani – The Patron Goddess of Kashmir

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The Divine Mother in Atmalinga Form is located in a unique heptagonal spring that flows from the West (Sheer or head section to the East (pads or feet) at Tulmul Village, Ganderbal. The current marble structure was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh, King of J&K in the 1920s.

Kashmir has, right from its origin, thousands of years ago, been a center of spiritualism, learning, education, and teaching. Traditionally, it has been a center for Shaivism as well as Shakti (Devi) worship, well before Buddhism made its entry into Kashmir (268 BC). No surprise, therefore, that the entire 132 km long valley is dotted with sacred shrines, temples, symbols, and waterbodies that establish its connection with the Divine. M A Stein, who translated Rajatarangini into English writes, "Kashmir is a country where there is not a place as large as a grain of sesame without a Tirtha (Shrine)”. Pandit Kalhana while writing his introduction to Rajatarangini names the miraculous springs of Trisandya Saraswati lake on the Bheda hillock, the Self-created fire at Soyambhu, etc., etc. One of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of Kashmir Valley is the Ksheer Bhawani Temple, dedicated to the Divine Mother Maha Ragynya(Tripurasundari), located appx 22 km North of Srinagar City, in District Ganderbal.

The Temple finds mentioned in all ancient texts including the Nilmat Purana (6-8 Century CE) and Kalhan’s Rajtarangini (12th Century CE). Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazal (1551-1602 AD), in his book Aien-e-Akbari, mentioned Tula Mula Temple in detail. Several sages visiting Kashmir have meditated here – from Adi Shankara in the 9th Century to Swami Vivekanand in the 19th century. Swami Vivekanand is reported to have experienced unique spiritual bliss and awakening during his 7 days stay at the Ksheer Bhawani in October 1898.

Geography

Kalhana, the Kashmiri historian, mentions in Rajtarangini (12th century AD) that the sacred spring of Tula Mula is situated in marshy land. The reasons are not difficult to understand. As Vitasta (Jehlum) moves northwards to join lake Wular, it meets three major tributaries en route. LIDDER joins near Khannabal, VESHOV near Bijbihara (Sangam), and Sind at Shadipore. Shadipore where SIND (colloquially Sindh) rivulet joins Vitasta, is known as known PRAYAG in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits attach more importance to the confluence at SHADIPORA and would visit the Tirth for consigning the ashes of their departed family members into Vitasta Sangam. Sindh is not to be confused with the mighty INDUS, also known as Sind – Syndh is a relatively small rivulet originating from the inner Himalayas somewhere near Drass, flowing past Sonamarg and Kangan to join VITASTA at Shadipora near the town of SUMBAL, Distt Ganderbal.

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Kashmiri Pandits believe that Vitasta at Shadipora is full of holy waters brought from all the major lakes, mountains, and springs of Kashmir including Naraan Naag, Gangabal, Kounsernag, and Shesh Nag. LIDDER brings water to SHESHNAAG Lake from Pahalghaam's side and joins Vitasta at Khannabal. The origin of VESHOV is KOUNSERNAAG lake in the Pir Panjal Range. VESHOV passes through Aharabal, Shopian, Khudwani, and Arwani before joining Vitasta at Bijbihara (Sangam). The SYNDH stream brings the waters of Panjtarini from the holy Amar Nath cave and then adds to it the water from the holy shrine of Kheer Bhawani brought by Tulamula Nallah. Tulamula Nallah joins the SINDH stream a little above the SHADIPORA. The water of Kreink Nadi, (mentioned in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangini as Kanak Vahini) which flows to the south of the temple complex of Naran Naag is formed by two tributaries flowing out from two lakes below Harmukh - NUNDKOL (Kalodka in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangini) and GANGBAL (Uttarmanasa in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangini). KREINK NADI joins Syndh rivulet near KANGAN in Kashmir. Finally, the Sindh stream also merges with Vitasta at Shadipora. Once one understands this blending of the Holy waters of all the lakes and springs of Kashmir at SHADIPORA, one realizes the sanctity and importance of this TIRTHA.

 

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Historical Background – Kheer Bhawani

The history of Ksheer Bhawani Spring/ Temple is as old as the Ramayana. Rishi Pulastya, an ancestor of the Ravana is said to have lived/ performed tapasya(penance) in Kashmir. Legend has it that Ravana, the King of Lanka performed strenuous penance to appease Goddess Parvati who was pleased and manifested herself to him in all her nine aspects. As he started losing the war with Bhagwan Ram, he tried to invoke the Goddess by offering sacrifices. Displeased, the Goddess cursed Ravana and ordered Hanuman to take her to Sati-Sar (Kashmir) along with her 360 Nags (springs? snakes?). On reaching Kashmir, Hanuman Ji is said to have stopped at several spots like Tiker, Bhuvaneshvar, Manzgam, Bheda, Lorkipura, Manigam, Raithan, and Baedpur. Even today, these spots are associated with the worship of Devi but the Shrine at Tulmul is the main focus of pilgrims. Hanuman Ji is said to have finally installed the Goddess with her 360 nags in and around Tula Mula village. She was called Ksheer Bhawani or Raji Ragyni, exclusively preferring milk, sugar, rice, and Ksheer as offerings. Ragniya is an incarnation of Durga albeit, a Vaishnav Rupa manifestation. Ragniya is also known as Tripurasundari, while in (Sri) Lanka, the Mother Goddess was called Shayama. It is said that the night during which Mother Goddess came from Lanka to Kashmir was named Ragniya Ratri - Ragniya is a Sattavic form of Mother Goddess, i.e., the form of tranquillity and bliss.

Re-discovery of the Holy Spring

Several legends are associated with the rediscovery of the Holy Spring. One such legend has it that since the area around the Holy Spring was marshy land, excessive water discharge from rivers and springs led to flooding and the devotees were unable to locate the spring after a while. It is said that Goddess herself appeared in a dream to a pious Brahmin – Pt Krishan Taploo of Bohri Kadal, Srinagar and asked him to offer Puja to Ksheer Bhawani in the swamps of Tula Mula. The pious Brahmin asked the Goddess how he could locate her abode in the swamp and was told to travel up to Shadipore by boat wherefrom a snake would guide him to his destination. Pt Krishna Taploo did the same and was extremely happy when the snake guided him through the swampy and marshy land until he reached the hollow trunk of a mulberry tree(called Tul in colloquial Kashmiri). The snake made a dip and disappeared. The pious Pandit took the clue and after performing puja, poured milk that he had brought for this purpose. He demarcated the location with large poles. Subsequently, as waters receded, the Holy Spot was discovered. The event is said to have occurred in Sapta Rishi Samvat 4041(965 AD). It is believed that the discovery of the holy spring was made on Ashadha Saptami, the 7th day of the bright fortnight of the fourth month of the Kashmiri Calendar, Ashadha. Kashmiri Pandits used to gather at the Shrine in great numbers on every Ashtami - the 8th day of the bright fortnight of each lunar month. However, on the Jyeshtha Shukla Paksh Ashtami, the Annual Festival was observed at Tula Mula and the majority of Kashmiri Pandits would gather to offer prayers to their Patron Goddess.

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Over 500 years of rule by invaders and a malevolent administration led to a lack of development, even periodic desecration of the shrine. It was only under the benevolent Dogra Kings that some improvements started. The First Maharaja of J&K, Gulab Singh established a special Trust for Managing Hindu shrines in 1846, named as the Dharmarth Trust. Subsequent Kings continued this patronage. A road to the shrine across the swamps was constructed by Mahant Dharm Dass; Radha Krishen Shah, a merchant, paved the edge of the spring with Baramulla stones and Dewan Narsingh Dayal built the big dharmshala on the north of the spring during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1856-85 AD). In the 1920s, Maharaja Pratap Singh reconstructed the Temple in the Holy Spring. and in 1935, the last Maharaja, Hari Singh freed the Dharmarth Trust from State Government control by establishing a Dharmarth Council with himself as the sole trustee. Since 1959, his son, Dr. Karan Singh, has been its sole trustee. While the Trust has been doing some elementary work in managing & maintaining the Ksheer Bhawani Shrine, it still falls well below the expectations of devotees. Some additional land was acquired to expand the shrine complex to accommodate the heavy influx of pilgrims on festival days. An arrangement for periodic cleansing/ desilting of the Kund (Holy Spring) has been put in place. New Dharmshalas were constructed in the 1960s for devotees wanting to spend a night at the shrine. A 34’x17’Pooja Mandap was erected in front of the Holy Kund to facilitate pooja. Some Havan Sheds have been constructed to perform Yagnyas.

The Unique Spring
The spring is situated in the center of the island around which Gangkhai, a canal from Sindh, makes a circuit. It is said that this spring is surrounded by 360 other springs, most of which are reported to have fallen into oblivion - covered with rushes or silted up. The main spring dedicated to Goddess Ksheer Bhawani or Ragynya has an irregular heptagonal shape with an apex called PAD (feet) to the east. The northern and southern sides are longer than the western side (called SHER or head). What makes the spring unique is that water in the Kund surrounding the temple is known to change color. Throughout history, it has been recorded that the color of the water of the spring changes, particularly if something bad is to happen. Various shades recorded are -rosy red/ pink, faint rosy, light green, lemon yellow, milky white, and grey white on various occasions. There is no special time or definite period for this change of color. Any shade of black/dark color is considered inauspicious and an ill omen. Swami Vivekanand mentioned changing the colors of the water during his stay in 1898. One of the earliest records of Spring Water changing color is attributed to Mogul King Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl (1551-1602) in his book Aien-e-Akbari.

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Sri Yantra of Devi Ragynya
The Holy Kund (Spring) holds the Sri Yantra (Chakra) of Mata Ragynya. A Yantra or Chakra is a symbolic representation of the deity in all its splendor and various powers/ attributes. It can be a part of Tantra associated with the worship of Mother Goddess - so each manifestation or Roopa is said to have its different prescribed diagram. Tantra has evolved substantially in Kashmir with a strong influence from both Brahminical and Buddhist (Mahayana) practices. Adi Shankara is said to have created his Magnum Opus – Saundarya Lahiri in Kashmir which is an embodiment of Tantra in the worship of Mother Goddess (Shakti).

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The Sri Chakra represents Tantra at its highest. Only those educated in this ‘vidya’ with feet firmly on the path of spiritual evolution can understand its significance, value, and what it connotes.

  1. Bindu: The Central Point.
  2. Trikon (3 angled): A triangle with its apex downwards. Bindu is in its middle.
  3. Shathkon (6 angled): Two triangles inverted on one another. The vertices of the one resting on the side of the other.
  4. Valai: A circle enclosing the Shathkon.
  5. Ashta Dal Eight lotus leaves resting on the circle.
  6. Tri Valai Three circles encompassing the Ashtadal.
  7. Dwar (gate) Three lines with half triangles in the middle, enclosing all other parts and completing the Chakra.

The Sri Yantra/ Chakra is revealed but very rarely in the Hold Spring though it is known to manifest itself in the form of bubbles, revealing the Dwara of the Sri Chakra. Such is the energy level at this sacred spot that those who know how to feel/ spot it are driven to ecstasy & spiritual bliss. Swami Vivekanand had tremendous mystical & spiritual experiences here during his weeklong stay in 1898 – he often said that he could ‘hear’ The Mother speaking to him! Numerous Kashmiri ‘sadhakas’ (spiritually elevated souls) down history have experienced the divine presence of Mata Ragynya at the Ksheer Bhawani Temple. People of the valley have traditionally held the shrine in high esteem. People visiting the shrine would ensure that they went after cleansing their bodies, wearing fresh clothes, and having avoided non-Veg food for at least one day before the visit to the shrine. Even the local Muslims of Tul-Mul and surrounding villages do not enter the gates of the shrine with shoes on or if they have consumed non-Veg food.

Pooja

Devotees light earthen deeyas with ghee (clarified butter), and burn dhoop (incense), to the accompaniment of the music of the ringing of bells played by the priest. The offering is milk mixed with vyena(Mentha sylvestris), Kheer (a preparation of rice in milk and sugar), with sometimes admixture of ghee, raisins, dates, coconuts, and pieces of sugar candy( kand in colloquial Kashmiri) in odd numbers.

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Devotees Offering Pooja on Jyeshtha Ashtami, the Chief Festival at Ksheer Bhawani. This used to be a ‘must attend festival till Militancy forced the Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990.Kashmiri Pandits scattered all over the country still throng the shrine.

The recitation of Sanskrit hymns composed by Adi Shankaracharya – ‘Gauri Dasakam’ is the high point of the pooja which is accompanied by the blowing of conch(shankh), cymbals, and small brass bells.

Gauri Dasakam -Singing the Glory of The Mother Goddess

लीलालब्धस्थापितलुप्ताखिललोकां
लोकातीतैर्योगिभिरन्तश्चिरमृग्याम् ।
बालादित्यश्रेणिसमानद्युतिपुञ्जां
गौरीममम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ १॥
 

प्रत्याहारध्यानसमाधिस्थितिभाजां
नित्यं चित्ते निर्वृतिकाष्ठां कलयन्तीम्
सत्यज्ञानानन्दमयीं तां तनुरूपां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ २॥
 

चन्द्रापीडानन्दितमन्दस्मितवक्त्रां
चन्द्रापीडालंकृतनीलालकभाराम् ।
इन्द्रोपेन्द्राद्यर्चितपादाम्बुजयुग्मां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ३॥
 

आदिक्षान्तामक्षरमूर्त्या विलसन्तीं
भूते भूते भूतकदम्बप्रसवित्रीम् ।
शब्दब्रह्मानन्दमयीं तां तटिदाभां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ४॥
 

मूलाधारादुत्थितवीथ्या विधिरन्ध्रं
सौरं चान्द्रं व्याप्य विहारज्वलिताङ्गीम्
येयं सूक्ष्मात्सूक्ष्मतनुस्तां सुखरूपां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ५॥
 

नित्यः शुद्धो निष्कल एको जगदीशः
साक्षी यस्याः सर्गविधौ संहरणे च
विश्वत्राणक्रीडनलोलां शिवपत्नीं
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ६॥
 

यस्याः कुक्षौ लीनमखण्डं जगदण्डं
भूयो भूयः प्रादुरभूदुत्थितमेव
पत्या सार्धं तां रजताद्रौ विहरन्तीं
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ७॥
 

यस्यामोतं प्रोतमशेषं मणिमाला-
सूत्रे यद्वत्क्कापि चरं चाप्यचरं च ।
तामध्यात्मज्ञानपदव्या गमनीयां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ८
 

॥नानाकारैः शक्तिकदम्बैर्भुवनानि
व्याप्य स्वैरं क्रीडति येयं स्वयमेका ।
कल्याणीं तां कल्पलतामानतिभाजां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ ९॥
 

आशापाशक्लेशविनाशं विदधानां
पादाम्भोजध्यानपराणां पुरुषाणाम्
ईशामीशार्धाङ्गहरां तामभिरामां
गौरीमम्बामम्बुरुहाक्षीमहमीडे ॥ १०॥

Another very popular hymn sung at Mata Ksheer Bhavani is the Kashmiri rendition of Panchastavi by Late Pt Jia Lal Saraf, a renowned Kashmiri Sanskrit scholar. Panchastavi is a Classical collection of five hymns sung in praise of Mother Goddess Tripura.

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Pt Jia Lal Dhar Saraf, a renowned Sanskrit Scholar, and Spiritual Giant earned the eternal gratitude of our community by translating into Kashmiri, one of the most celebrated stotras ever composed, Panchastavi – five celestial hymns praising Tripurasundari.

Vivekananda at Ksheer Bhawani
One of Mother India’s most spiritually evolved sons – Swami Vivekanand visited Kashmir twice – 1897 & 1898 as a State Guest. On September 30, 1898, he strongly felt an urge to visit Ksheer Bhawani and instructed his companions not to disturb him with their presence there. He returned to Srinagar on October 6, totally transformed. At Ksheer Bhawani, he daily performed homa, offering a maund (appx 37 kg) of Milk, rice, and almonds to the Mother. Daily he worshipped the young daughter of a priest as Uma Kumari – the Divine Virgin. He has confessed to having heard Mother’s voice calling out to him several times. His spiritual experiences are said to be too sacred for public discussion. "Since I heard that divine voice," the Swami later said, "I have ceased making any more plans. Let these things be as Mother wishes."

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With this background, it is but natural that the shrine was a huge magnet for every Kashmiri Pandit family, our family included. Like most Kashmiri Pandit families, we considered Mata Ragynya as our patron goddess and it was obligatory to pay a thanksgiving visit to the shrine after every important event in the family – a marriage, the birth of a child, and so on. One such story my grandfather told me was that after the marriage of my parents in 1954, he arranged a trip to the TulMul shrine inviting the entire extended clan of over 25 people.

A ‘doonga’ (mini-houseboat) was hired to carry the party down the Jehlum from Alikadal, our nearest ghat or yarbal to Shadipore, the spot where it meets Syndh rivulet. From here, the party walked to the shrine – appx 2 miles. Since the ‘picnic’ was a weeklong affair, the family had taken all materials required for such a big group (food grains, bedding, eating vessels, etc). Milk and vegetables were to be sourced locally while for cooking, arrangements were made with a local Hindu shopkeeper, generically called Halwai. Such shops dotted the complex and would cater to the requirements of families by providing cooking facilities, food, bedding, other material, etc. Each family had a fixed service provider and the relations, based on trust and mutual goodwill would run for generations! Material that was to be used for offering to the Sacred Kund – Fresh Milk, Kand (a kind of Candy Stick), Vyene(Mentha sylvestris), dry fruit( diced dry coconut, dried dates, kishmish, and Nabad – a crystalline form of sugar cubes, deeyas( earthen lamps) all these were procured from the Halwai shop. Halwai Ji would also provide a special type of poori (fried roti made of refined wheat flour) called ‘Luchi’ in Kashmiri. I do not know how and why but the taste of those Luchi with Kehwa (green Kashmiri Tea) made in a samavour is still fresh in my mouth. It was obligatory/ mandatory for any person/ family paying a visit to the Tul-Mul shrine to get Luchi for the extended clan. Such was the social norm! These Halwais would also prepare/ provide the ‘prasad’, mostly Halwa (semolina porridge) that was offered for ritualistic pooja called ‘Preypyun’ and then carried home as well! Another wonderful preparation would be Narder-Monj (fried lotus stem pieces covered with batter made from rice powder and a bit of red chili powder, salt to taste!). This sure used to be one big delicacy and went very well with Kehwa and Luchi!

The tradition was that the newly wedded couple or the newborn baby would be taken for Pooja but only after a dip in the Gangkhai, a branch of river Sindh that skirts the shrine. Bathing arrangements were basic – for women, the ghats were covered but for men and kids, it was an open affair - a few stone steps that led to the main waterbody – just 2-3 feet deep. Water used to be ice cold thanks to the alpine origins of Sindh!

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Men & kids taking baths in the Gangkhai, which skirts TulaMula Shrine!

The main compound of the shrine was barricaded with an iron fence. All shops, dharmshalas, etc were outside this fence. The compound was paved with square sandstone slabs that gave the compound a neat look. Huge chinar trees dotted the compound though the area was full of Willows, Elms, and Mulberry Trees.

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Devotees in the Ksheer Bhawani Temple Courtyard on Jyesth Ashtami Festival. The courtyard is paved with sandstone and has huge Chinar Trees that provide shade. Very few people can be accommodated in the two Dharmshalas and mostly, people have to find space under the open skies!

From what I was able to gather from my late grandfather and other family members, the trip to Ksheer Bhawani was a huge event. Prasad was procured from the designated Halwai, earthen lamps and other pooja material too came from the same source. The Priest who performed the Pooja again used to be specific to a particular family/ clan. With great devotion, the newlyweds performed Pooja and then set to light the earthen lamps(deeyas) in the shapes of the Hindu Swastika or Omkar in Devnagri/ Sharada script. The Earthen Lamps were procured by the Dozen and for important events (birth of a child or marriage), a minimum of 108 numbers were used. For the entire night, people kept performing Pradakshina(circumambulation) of the Kund. People would lie down on reed & rice straw mats (called Waguv in Kashmiri), unmindful of anything but the sacred atmosphere that prevailed amidst the chanting of hymns and prayers.

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Traditional Kashmiri Rug called Waguv, woven using reeds from Dal Lake (Pech) and rice straw. Lightweight and very comfortable used it in every household during my childhood!

The ‘picnic’ at Tul-Mul lasted for 4-5 days before the party reversed its steps, back to the Shadipura ghats from where the same doonga took them back to Srinagar, a journey that would have taken a minimum 1 night, if not more! My guardian uncle, then all of 5-6 years age, says he remembers the return journey because all the men-folk had to assist the boatmen in pulling the doonga upstream using ropes & ling poles. Must have been some picnic!

On the return journey, eating non-veg food was allowed. I recall my grandmother telling me that as the doonga started its journey back, my father’s uncle arrived at Shadipura(from Srinagar, on a cycle) with some freshly caught fish for the family. The young men in the party were playing cards as the elders watched, bemused! My grandfather, in a very benevolent mood, called out to the ladies to serve some fried fish to the young men. Well, the ‘young men, my father and a few cousins included, were engrossed in playing cards and egged on each other, as plate after plate of freshly fried fish was served and finished! Before anyone realized it, the entire stock of fish had been devoured and digested, leaving grandma red-faced and furious. A fresh purchase of fish had to be made so that the party could have a proper dinner!

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Doonga – the poor man’s houseboat! Used to be a popular mode of family/group transport before buses became popular.

I never had the privilege of traveling to Tul-Mul in a doonga; the arrival of faster modes of travel – the bus, for example, put paid to that culture. The journey was faster (60-80 minutes from our nearest stop at Gojwara) and cheaper, though the regal charm of floating down the river was, unfortunately, lost forever! However, the visits to Mata Ksheer Bhawani were pretty regular. The place had a unique, dreamlike, surreal feeling for me – a strange sense of peace that entered my soul and stayed there! One big memory is of 1966 when my late father arranged yet another big clan picnic at Tul-Mul – it was a gathering of 20-25 clansmen & cousins, my father’s sisters with their respective families, and a neighbor thrown in for good measure! I recall a cousin of my father would take me along to a park near the bus stand and regale me with fictional ‘stories’ of his ‘hunting expeditions’ with Maharaja Hari Singh! And boy, did I laugh at the way he narrated those stories! As I look back, I am wonderstruck – how simple, almost naïve we kids were, compared to today’s 8-9-year-olds who can’t live without TV/ Mobile/ Internet & PUBG! We had NOTHING in comparison and yet I dare say with certainty, that the quality of my childhood was much better than what I see of kids of today! There was a certain amount of gay abandon, of finding happiness in simpler things in life. During the 1966 trip, I got the scare of my life as I tried to balance myself on a wooden log in the marshy waters surrounding the shrine –and, as expected, went into the water! Seeing me wobble in water, unable to control myself, other kids ran away; I am not sure who pulled me out and deposited a stinging slap on my face as a bonus! I returned to the camp with my tail firmly between my legs!

Forced Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir in January 1990, put paid to the regular visits our community people would have to this shrine. Some families would visit the shrine on every Ashtami (the 8th day of the bright fortnight of every month). The atmosphere used to be great fun, mingled with devotion. Alas, the waters of the Holy Spring turned dark in 1990 and we Kashmiri Pandits became refugees in our own country. The faith, that trust in the Goddess, however, was not lost. Every year, on Jyeshtha Ashtami, thousands would flock to Tul-Mul to pray to the Goddess, pray for perseverance, for a never say die spirit, for peace to prevail so that we, her children could return.

My last trip to Kashmir was in 2007 and I went to say my prayers to the Goddess. The shrine had turned into a virtual fortress with barbed wire blocking the gates, gun-totting policemen patrolling the gates and surroundings.

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The outer gates of Ksheer Bhawani Devi – with barbed wires, closed doors, and gun-totting military men!

Once inside, we met some CRPF men who are living within the premises and taking care of the daily aarti/ pooja with great devotion – God Bless them!

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True Guardians of faith – the Indian armed forces currently staying within its precincts to guard it against Islamic zealots

The Chinars in the courtyard looked forlorn and shorn of their pristine glory; the entire area wore a desolate, surreal look. I shed silent tears while sitting in front of the Sacred Kund. I am sure Mata Ragynya has HER purpose in all the turmoil that has caused the unprecedented upheaval in the lives of our community members. That was exactly what SHE told Swami Vivekanand, way back in October 1898.

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The desolate complex of Mata Ragynya that once used to be full of devotees

I could see one Halwai from whom I purchased some Luchi which we shared with the CRPF personnel, along with some tea. I carried the Luchi in my luggage back to Vadodara and shared the prasad with my family. The only question my father asked about my Kashmir trip was if I had visited Tul-Mul. The shrine and its numerous memories are so strongly interwoven in our lives, so much a part of our psyche that to forget those is impossible. Like the Jewish diaspora, we Kashmiri Pandits too, need to remember Tul-Mul by saying,” Next Year We shall be back,”!! I want to take my son and my daughter-in-law to the shrine of my Kuldevi to pay our obeisance!

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Tul Mul – A Wide Angle Perspective: A Painting by Pt Rajan Wattal, Jammu

Artist Rajan Wattal has, for the first time, conceived the idea of a full frame painting of the Kheerbhawni Shrine covering its entire area, from left side shops to right side shops, the bathing ghats in the entrance area to the temple, in what can be termed as a ‘wide angle picture’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Time Flies Over, but Leaves its Shadows Behind"