Jyeshta Ashtami day, of Hindu calendar, falls on 20th of this month. The day has significant for Kashmiri Pandit community as it is the day they visit the Mata Kheer Bhawani shrine in Kashmir.
Since, it is not possible for every Pandit to visit Kashmir from Jammu and other far off places, it is also not quite safe considering the volatile situation of Kashmir. Since ingenuity is a trait, they’ve come up with a similar shrine, a replica, of the original shrine here in Jammu also. While thousands of pilgrims will visit the original shrine in Kashmir, a religious function has been organised in Jammu shrine too.
The temple, or the shrine, was constructed by displaced Pandits in 1990s after the exodus of the minority Hindus from Kashmir. The temple has been constructed at Bhawani Nagar about six km from the city has become a major attraction in the City of Temples for its resemblance with the shrine in Tulmulla which falls in Ganderbal district of Kashmir.
Many organisations and individuals set up stalls to distribute eatables and for this, arrangements are being made. “We expect a good number of devotees. I think due to the prevailing situation in the Valley, this year, the number of pilgrims visiting the original shrine will be less but the goddess is everywhere so it doesn’t matter where people will go,” said Sushil Raina, a volunteer.
Although in Jammu, devotees cannot experience the shade of chinar trees which are lined up on the temple premises at Tulmulla, it has given spiritual strength to the displaced community to stay connected with their roots.
“Since 2016, our family has not visited Kashmir due to fear of stone throwers. We will pray here in Jammu, which is a land of temples,” said Kanta Bhat, an elderly woman.