How Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Mela Kheer Bhawani in Jagti after exodus

Surrounded by an umbrage of empty water bottles, two Kashmiri Pandits have langar in scorching heat

Pallavi Sareen

Jagti, June 10: Mela Kheer Bhawani concluded today at Jagti with huge crowds of Kashmiri Pandits gathering together on the auspicious day. Saying that “Jagti” was an evolved term of “Jagatamba” another name for the Goddess they worship, a Kashmiri Pandit Brij Nath Sharma recalled the time when they would celebrate the Mela Kheer Bhawani in Tulmula in Kashmir.

Apart from the usual fervour and joy at a community gathering for the celebration of Mela Kheer Bhawani, an unusual sight was of red faces sweating in the scorching heat, searching for water bottles to quench their thirst every passing minute. Being used to the colder temperatures in Kashmir where the Kashmiri Pandit community would celebrate Mela Kheer Bhawani in 24-degree temperature, having to shift into Jagti quarters left them with enormous adjustments and compromises.

Bearing the Jammu heat, Kashmiri Pandit youth, children, adults and aged alike celebrated Mela Kheer Bhawani, offering prayers in the Kheer Bhawani temple set up in Jagti itself, near the quarters. A young boy studying in 11th class, Sahil Pandita took it upon himself to decorate the temple and do the “shringar” of the Goddess.

People from the community got together to arrange for a “langar” in the form of fried lotus stem pakoras, rice, Roohafza drinks among other things. Yet, the one thing that resonated in all the people was a yearning for the life they once had.

“There’s nothing but dirt here, so much heat that one can’t even think about anything else. The quarters we have been forced to live in make my heart cry, especially when I think about the way we used to live in Kashmir. We celebrated Mela Kheer Bhawani in Kashmir and will continue to celebrate it here as well but the difference in both the celebrations is immeasurable,” said Chunni, an 85-year-old Kashmiri Pandit.

“Our faith will never waver. We have utmost belief in our Goddess but the Mata Kheer Bhawani in Tulmula is the original one. We do have this temple in Jagti but it has essentially been set up only because we are unable to celebrate this day in Kashmir,” said Bhushan Lal Pandita.