In Kulgam, revival of pilgrimage rekindles hopes of Pandits
Often in news for gun battles between militants and security forces, south Kashmir is witnessing a revival of pilgrimage to abandoned Hindu shrines. Hundreds of displaced Pandits are paying regular visits to three revered temples in the volatile Kulgam district and holding ‘havans’ on special occasions.
This year the shrines of Mata Katyayani (Kakran), Mata Ragniya Bhagwati (Manzgam), and Mata Kulwagishori temple are once again witnessing a heavy rush of pilgrims. In the past few days religious events were organised on the occasion of ‘Haar Ashtami’.“On Ashtami, a havan was organised by the Mata Katyayani temple. We have been doing so for past several years. It’s our ancient shrine and many migrants staying in camps in Jammu visit it. The number of devotees visiting the places has increased in the past few years,” said Vinod Pandit, chairman, All Party Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC).
The Katyayani temple was vandalised by local villagers in the aftermath of demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992. After remaining abandoned for years, the APMCC started its restoration in 2012 without taking any help from the government. Since then annual religious congregation is held at the shrine every year. Despite a rise in militancy and emergence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliate groups in the Valley, Pandits have started visiting Kashmir, especially to celebrate religious functions, in the past few years.
“Peaceful religious celebrations in all three temples give new confidence to minorities that we can pray without any fear in our homeland. Let’s hope peace and communal harmony prevails again in the Valley,” said Avtar Bhat, one of the devotees who has been living in Jammu since 1990.