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Temple bells toll again in Kashmir valley
Anil Bhat in Jawala Hills (Kashmir) |
July 13, 2003 16:07 IST
After remaining silent for over a decade, temple bells are once again being heard in the Kashmir valley as thousands of pilgrims, including Kashmiri Pandits, are thronging the ancient temples in the militancy-hit state.
Over 9,000 Kashmiri Pandits visited the 460-year-old wooden Kalo Mata temple, popularly known as Dolo Bhagwati, on the deity's birth anniversary on Saturday, evidence of the state's gradual return to normalcy, officials said.
"The doors of these temples have remained open since the last two months as Pandits are turning up in large numbers to toll the bells. It is a home coming for them," the state's Financial and Revenue Commissioner Hira Lal Kadabaju said.
"I have come here after a gap of 13 years to ring the bells of this historic temple," M K Raina, a Kashmiri Pandit who migrated from the valley after the advent of militancy, said.
Another devotee who came to pay obeisance at the temple said, "I will have no regrets if I die now. I wanted to have a darshan of the deity."
The gates of 167 ancient temples were locked after 350,000 Hindus fled the valley in the nineties after militancy erupted in the state.
The violent and turbulent years of militancy saw the desecration of idols and destruction of temples in the state, a state government official Ramesh Bhat said.
Kadalbaju, who has been entrusted with the job of supervising construction of hamlets for the Kashmiri Pandits, said about 150,000 Pandits have visited different shrines, particularly Ragniya Bhagwati at Kheer Bhawani, in the last two months.
While 70,000 Pandits visited Kheer Bhawani, 20,000 paid obeisance at the Mattan Sun temple and another 10,000 visited Jawala Bhagwati, he said.
Nearly 5,000 devotees offered prayers at Chakrisherwar while 40,000 paid obeisance in the Shankaracharya temple and another 10,000 visited Hari Parbhat.
"They are coming to fulfill their emotional aspirations. Their visit to the valley is a positive sign," Kadalbaju said.
Paramilitary forces have been entrusted with the security of all these historic temples.
"So far, apart from a few government employees, Pandits could not visit the temples in such large numbers," Major S Mukherjee, who was instrumental in getting the old Zala temple repaired, said.
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