<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid tight security, a group of around 600 Kashmiri Pandits, including women and children, today left for annual pilgrimage to the Mata Kheer bhawani shirne in Kashmir valley. Amid chants of ‘Mata Kheer Bhawani Ki Jai’, the Kashmiri Pandits boarded around 20 State Road Transport Corporation buses and left this morning to pay obeisance at the Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple in Tulmulla area of Ganderbal district. Divisional Commissioner, Jammu region, Mandeep Bhandari and head of the Mata Kheerbhawani 2017 reception committee and former bureaucrat Kiran Watal, flagged off the vehicles. Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti greeted Kashmiri Pandits on the eve of Mela Kheer Bhawani. Yesterday, more than 100 pilgrims had left for Mata Kheer Bhawani shrine in Manzgam in Kulgam district in troubled South Kashmir area for organising a annual maha yajna. “We have reached to shrine safely. The preparing for the yajna (hawan) has started,” Head of Kheerbhawani Prabandik Committee Manzgam, Kuldeep Raina said. Watal, who along with his team left with pilgrims, told reporters that “unnecessary” fear has been created by some people and it cannot stop KPs from visiting the shrine of their principal deity. “It is centuries old yatra. We have been going to Kheer Bhawani temple in Tulmul Ganderbal, Kheerbhawani temple in Manzgaam (Kulgam), shrine of Mata at Tikker (Kupwara), Tripursundri temple at devsar (Kulgam) tomorrow. KPs are going to all these shrines to pay their obeisance,” Watal said. He said the state authorities have made security arrangements at par with Amarnath Yatra en route Mata Kheer Bhawani shirne and back. A voluntary committee, including representatives from camps and non-camps, has been set up under the umbrella of Mata Kheer Bhawani Yatra 2017 Reception Committee with an aim to provide facilities to the pilgrims en route the temple. Omkar Nath, who has been visiting the cave shrine for the past 17 year, said that he will not stop going to shrine to pay his obeisance. “I will rather die en route but will not stop from going to Mata Kheerbhawani. I am going this year too,” he said. The shrine of the Hindu goddess, Mata Ragyna was built by erstwhile Dogra rulers of Jammu and Kashmir. Nestled among mammoth Chinar trees in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, the temple witnessed massive crowds of KP devotees who made the journey from across the country. Walking barefoot, the devotees carry rose petals and offerings to the goddess. Jammu and Kashmir government has announced a holiday tomorrow in the Kashmir Valley on the occasion of Kheer Bhawani Mela. In 2016, about 40,000 people took part in the pilgrimage while 30,000 in 2015 and about 60,000 in 2014. The shrine is called Kheer Bhawani as devotees offer milk and kheer to the deity known as Ragnya Devi. The fair held at this annual festival is a symbol of centuries-old communal harmony and brotherhood as local Muslims make all arrangements for devotees and even set up stalls selling flowers and other material for the devotees to offer at the temple. The governor, in his message, said that this festival is a shining example of communal harmony and brotherhood which symbolise the glorious pluralistic ethos of Jammu and Kashmir in the centuries past. He also prayed for peace, harmony, progress and prosperity in the state. The chief minister, greeting people on the eve of Mela Kheer Bhawani, said that the mela symbolises the multi- religious and tolerant ethos of the state which has been an epitome of harmony and brotherhood since ages. She made an appeal to people to strengthen the bond of togetherness between various sections of the society which Jammu and Kashmir has been proud of.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

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600 KPs leave for Kheerbhawani shrine in Kashmir amid security