Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], June 18 (ANI): On the occasion of "Jyeshtha Ashtami" on Friday, members of the Kashmiri Pandit community gathered at the Mata Kheer Bhawani temple in Janipur, Jammu district and offered prayers.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not many people participated in the celebration.
"Only 20-25 people have been allowed to offer prayers at a time at this temple of Mata Kheer Bhawani in Janipur. We pray to her to drive away the pandemic. In our prayers, we have also asked for our return to our homeland in Kashmir," said Virinder Raina, a Kashmir Pandit.
The annual festival of "Jyeshtha Ashtami" is the revered day of Kashmiri Pandits. On this day, lakhs of Kashmir Pandits used to visit the temple dedicated to Goddess Kheer Bhawani located in Tulmulla village near Srinagar. However, after they migrated from Kashmir in 1990, for many years they said they could not go back.
For the last few years, people from Jammu used to head to the temple in Tulmulla, Ganderbal and attend the annual Kheer Bhawani Mela that is held in the temple premises. This time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, devotees could not travel to Kashmir on the auspicious day and offered their prayers at the temple in Janipur, which is a replica of the temple in Kashmir.
Last year too say members of the migrant Kashmiri Pandit community, they could not offer their prayers at the Kashmir temple.
Speaking to ANI, Rohit Koul, a sevak (worker) at the temple, said, "We pray that the pandemic ends as soon as possible and we can return to lead a normal life. At least 12,000-13,000 people used to offer prayers at this temple before the pandemic. Unfortunately, for the last one to two years, no one was allowed to celebrate the festival or even go to the temple in Kashmir. Owing to the COVID-19 protocols, langar (free meal service) has been cancelled. People can only offer prayers at the temple.""Returning to our homeland is always in our prayers," he added.
Dr Agnishekhar, a devotee at the temple, said, "If this not time, then next time we will celebrate the Ashtami in Kashmir. We will return to our homeland and live there on our demands."Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday registered 656 new cases, 1,426 recoveries and 9 deaths over 24 hours. The number of active cases in the union territory is 10,602, as per the media bulletin on COVID-19. (ANI)