The Kheer Bhawani Mela while attracting devotees from the entire country affirms the fact that ‘Kashmiriyat’ is one with ‘Bharatiyata’
Chaman Lal Gadoo
An annual festival is held on every Jyeshtha Shukla Ashtami at Tulmul, Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindus pray to their Isht Devi on the occasion. This year Government has made elaborate arrangements to conduct Kheer Bhawani Mela from 18-22 June 2018. A large number of devotees are expected from all over the country to participate in the Mela and seek Holy Mother’s blessings!
The shrine of Ragnya Bhagwati, also known as the shrine of Kheer Bhawani, at Tulmul, is one of the most revered Hindu Temples of Kashmir. The shrine is dedicated to the worship in Bhawani, the Divine Mother. Tulmul is situated at a distance of around thirty kilometers from Srinagar, towards the north of the city. During the Hindu era, Tulmul was a place of great learning. The holy spring in the middle of which the temple of Maharajni is placed, is situated on the bank of a branch of the river Sindh. In Nilmat Purana, the river is
mentioned as ‘Tsandara Baga’. There are many references of Tulmul in the Rajatarangni. The Ragina Kavach—a psalm in praise of the Divine Mother included in Sanskrit work of Rudrya Mala Tantra substantiates that Tulmul is an ancient and popular place of pilgrimage among Kashmiri Hindus. Dr Bhullar traced some sixteen manuscripts from Brngisha Samhita, related to the holy places of Kashmir. One of them is about Tulmul. The Samhita mentions in detail about the sacred shrine of Bhawani.
When Swami Vivekananda Visited Kheer Bhawani
Swami Vivekananda visited Tulmul during his stay in Kashmir. Soon after he had a vision of Mother Kali at a solitary place near Srinagar, Swami Ji went to Kheer Bhawani on September 30, 1898. There he lived a life of intense austere and devotion to the Mother for a week. His biography narrates the details of his stay at the shrine; ‘Before this famous shrine of the Mother he daily performed Homa, and worshipped Her with offering Kheer. Every morning he used to worship a Brahmin pandit’s little daughter as Uma Kumari, the Divine Virgin.’ When he returned to Srinagar, he appeared before his disciples a transfigured presence, writes Nivedita. ‘No more Hari Om, It is all Mother, Mother now’ he said. One day at Kheer Bhawani he had been pondering over the ruination and desecration of the Temple by the Muslim invaders. Mother spoke to him ‘what, even if unbelievers should enter My temples and defile My images! What is that to you? Do you protect me? Or do I protect you?’
At the same shrine, in course of worship one day, Swami Ji wished in his heart that he were able to build a new temple in place of the one which is in dilapidated condition. He was startled in his ruminations by the voice of the Mother Herself, saying to him, ‘My child! If I so wish I can have innumerable temples and magnificent monastic centers. I can even at this moment raise a seven storeyed golden temple on this very spot.’
Shri Parmananda Research Institute, Srinagar, in their publication Shri Shri Maha—Rajni Pradurbhavah, ‘A leaf from Brngisha Samhita’ has given detailed description of the shrine. The origin of this temple has been described in the last chapter of Brngisha Samhita. It is noted that Pulastya, the father of Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, was originally from Kashmir. Ravana worshiped the Maharajni but in the form of Shyama. The Divine Mother bestowed Ravana, many boons. At the time of the war with Sri Ram, Ravana tried to invoke the blessings of Goddess by offering her various kinds of sacrifices. There-upon the Goddess cursed him and ordered Hanuman to take her on the back and Anant serpent to Satisar, Kashmir. Thus the Goddess came to Kashmir with 360 serpents, Nagas. The night when the Divine Mother came to Kashmir, came to be called Rajni-Ratri. The Goddess is worshipped as Maharajni.
For a long time, the Tirtha at Tulmul remained under flood-waters. There is a legend that, the Divine Mother appeared in a dream to Pandit Govind Joo Gadoo and he was ordered to visit Tulmul. He arranged a boat from Sowura Ghat and went to the abode of Divine Mother with a number of earthen vessels filled with milk. When he found the spring, he poured milk into it. Perhaps for this reason this shrine is known as Kheer Bhawani. Another version is that a pious Brahman, Krishna Pandit, found mention of the holy spring in a book called ‘Brihad Katha’. Later he had a vision in which he was informed by an angel that the holy spring of Mata Maharajni lay among the swamps of Tulmul village. He was further advised to move towards the north east direction following a serpent from Shadipur and this actually happened. Shri Krishna Pandit marked the place where the snake stopped. Then he moved in an oddly rectangular direction. The space thus covered, was also demarcated. The swamp around the holy spring was filled up. Thereafter, a stone temple was constructed. One day Krishna Pandit was performing Puja, a Bhoj Patra, birch-bark leaf appeared floating in the spring. A Shloka was written on the leaf. The Shloka read; “I, prostrate to Supreme Goddess Maharajni who is lustrous having twelve suns and seated on lion’s throne, wrapped by the serpents, not visible to the material eyes but realised by spiritualists”.
- Devotees observe fast and gather here on the eighth day of the full moon in the month of May-June when, according to common belief, the Goddess changes the colour of the spring"s waters.
- The temple complex is known as Kheer Bhawani because of the thousands of devotees who offer milk and kheer, a form of Indian desert, to the sacred spring, which magically turns black to warn of impending disaster
- The visit to the Kheer Bhawani pilgrimage during the annual festival can be the most thrilling experience. The festival of the Kheer Bhawani temple is extremely famous and devotees gather from far and wide to participate in the worship of the Goddess Ragnya Devi.
- The festival ends with a maha yagnya. It has been a tradition among the Kashmiri pundits to visit the temple of Kheer Bhawani on all the nine days of the navratras. The tenth day of the festival is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami.
- The Historic Temple of Kheer Bhawani was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1912 & later renovated by Maharaja Hari Singh. Surrounded by streams, the place abounds in Chinar tree in-and-around the compound Complex within which is a hexagonal Spring wherein diety of Goddess Ragyna is decorated in a small white Marble Temple.
- The legend goes that Lord Rama worshipped Mother Ragyna during his exile & desired Hanuman ji to shift the seat of Mother after the expiry of exile period, who bought it to Shadipora and was later shifted to the present site as per the wish of devine Mother Ragnya conveyed in dream to one Pandit Rugnath Gadroo, it is believed
Shri Krishna Pandit composed a poem of as many stanzas as there were letters in the ‘Shloka’ and this poem ‘Rajani Stotra’ is still in existence. Although it is recorded that the discovery of the holy spring was made on Asharha Saptami, 7th day of bright fortnight in June-July, but devotees throng this place on every 8th day Ashtami, and an annual festival is held on every Jyestha Shukla Ashtami.
The holy spring has an irregular heptagonal shape with the apex called Paad situated to the east. The northern and southern sides are longer than the western side, which is called Shir or head. It is shaped like AUM in the Sharada script. In the centre of the spring the Maharajni temple stands. The spring is situated in the centre of an island round which the Gang Khai, a canal from Sindh makes a circuit. The spring is said to be surrounded by 360 springs. Most of these are covered with bushes and silted up. In 1902, Pandit Ved Lal Dhar cleared the sedimentation of the main spring. The digging unearthed an ancient temple in the centre built of large sculptured white stone with superb artistic features and marvelous images of deities. The whole shrine was repaired by Maharaja Partap Singh, the Dogra ruler in 1907. Maharajni is the Isht Devi of Kashmiri Hindus.
According to Hindu scriptures, Hindu deities are expressed in three manifestations; (1) ionic form, wooden, stone or metal (2) Mantra, sound form (3) Yantra, a mystic symbol. The deities are usually worshipped in ionic forms. In Tantric culture, the devotees concentrate on mystic symbol or Yantra, geometrical abode of the deity and are supposed to acquire super-physical powers. The Yantra is drawn by using the dot, Bindu, the straight lines, the triangle and the circle. Tantrikism is a way of worship. In Tantra Shastra, Maharajni has a prescribed diagram, Chakram with her Shaktis. Mantra is a sound form of the deity. It is chanted to invoke the deity in the mind, generally known as Dyanam. According to Maharajni Pradurbhavah the Mantra of Maharajni is a 15-worded Mantra. An appropriate ritual has to be followed while reciting the Mantra.
The pilgrimage to Kheer Bhawani has a great significance. While going to Kheer Bhawani first the pilgrims reach ‘Vicharnag’—the spring of contemplation, then to ‘Tyangal-Bal’—the hill of ambers, after which the pilgrims reach ‘Kavaj-Var’—the cremator’s groove and ‘Amar-Haer’—the immortal ladder. The third place is Anchar Lake, which derives its origin from Anchar—righteousness. Finally, the pilgrims reached their destination—Divine Mother.
Shrines dedicated to the worship of Kheer Bhawani are found at a number of places in Kashmir. The shrines are marked by the presence of the holy spring and a place of worship dedicated to Bhawani.
(Source: Kashmir—Hindu Shrines by the author)