STATE TIMES NEWS Srinagar: In a low-key affair, the priests offered prayers at the Ragnya Devi temple Ganderbal district on Saturday after the annual Kheer Bhawani Mela was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. Every year thousands of devotees, especially Kashmiri Pandits, arrive at Mata Ragnya Devi temple in Tulmulla to celebrate the annual festival, they said. This year, the event was cancelled by the Dharmarth Trust of Jammu and Kashmir due to the coronavirus outbreak and it asked the devotees to cooperate with the authorities and offer prayers to the goddess at their homes, the officials said. The mela was cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 situation and the prayers and celebrations at the temple were a low-key affair, Ganderbal Deputy Commissioner Shafqat Iqbal told PTI. He said the prayers were held at the temple by the priests and the caretakers of the shrine. Some government employees, who were staying at the shrine, also took part in the prayers, Iqbal added. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended wishes to the Kashmiri Pandit community on the occasion of Jyeshtha Ashtami. “Best wishes, especially to the Kashmiri Pandit community, on the very special occasion Jyeshtha Ashtami,” he said in a tweet. “With the divine blessings of Mata Kheer Bhawani, may everyone be happy, healthy and prosperous,” Modi said. With no devotees for the mela’ this year, the Tulmulla town wore a deserted look. This place would have been alive with festivities, but there is nothing this year because of coronavirus outbreak. We miss the festivities and our Pandit brethren, Junaid Ahmad, a nearby resident, said. Showkat Mir, another local, said the Muslims of the area used to welcome their Hindu brethren with open arms on the occasion every year. The annual mela’ is also famous as a display of Hindu-Muslim bonhomie as local Muslims make arrangements for worship for their Kasmiri Pandit brethren. The Muslims put up stalls every year outside the shrine and prepare kheer’ (pudding) for the devotees. The devotes use it while offering prayers to the deity at a spring near the temple and believe that the colour of the spring’s water indicates Kashmir’s well-being.
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