Since Mata Kheer Bhawani Fair is on June 2, one of INQ’s columnists, Sunil Raina Rajanak, has contributed a short description of Maha Ragnya Bhagwati, for the wider audience, to let them know the importance of Tulmulla (Kashmir) and its spiritual powers, and the belief of millions of Kashmiri Hindus.
Goddess Of Kashmir, by Sunil Raina Rajanak
Maha Ragnya Bhagwati or the Great Goddess is the titular goddess of Hindus in Kashmir.
She is the embodiment of cosmic power that underlines all creativity, activity, and as such is the immanent form of Universal Consciousness, worshipped in Kashmir since time immemorial.
The glory of Goddess Ragnya is detailed in Maha Ragnya Pradhurbhav, an important chapter of Bringesh Samhita.
The chapter mentions a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati at their abode in Mount Kailash, where Parvati is keen to learn about the glory and attributes of Goddess Ragnya. The dialogue is important as it contains the universal good and succour for mankind. Parvati wants to know the origin and mode of worship of Ragnya, who was then stationed in Kashmir along with her attendants, the chief among them being Anantanag.
With great persuasion, Shiva divulges the sovereignty of the goddess. He reveals that the worship of the devi was initially done by Ravana in Lanka, where the goddess was duly anointed and propitiated. Ravana had prayed to Shiva to grant him Adi Shakti and due to his severe penance,Shiva made the goddess stay in his kingdom. The prosperity of Lanka during Ravana’s rule was attributed to the presence of Adi Shakti.
However, his sinful acts — abduction of Sita and attempt to kill Rama — angered the goddess. She requested Hanuman to take her to Satidesha,present day Kashmir. Before leaving Lanka, the goddess cursed Ravana with defeat. Goddess Ragnya travelled to the Himalayas along with her attendants with stopovers at different parts of the Kashmir valley before finally choosing the current location of Tulmulla in Ganderbal district. Other important places in Kashmir associated with the goddess are Pokhribal, Lok Bhawan, Raithan, Tikker, Mazgam, Shadipur and Logripora. While she was stationed at Tulmulla,Rama along with his entourage, visited the goddess to offer his gratitude after vanquishing Ravana. Since then, it is believed that Rama visits Kheer Bhawani shrine — dedicated to Goddess Ragnya — on every full moon night to offer prayers; people also believe that Hanuman has stationed himself as a full-time attendant at the shrine.
The temple is located amidst lofty chinar trees, which appear as sentinels of peace and tranquillity. The place is surrounded by water bodies, with Mount Harmukh in the background. The temple finds mention in Kalhan’s Rajtarangani and Abu Faizal’s Ain-i-Akbari. Every year, a big fair is held on the eighth day of the waxing moon in the month of Jyeshta when lakhs of devotees congregate at the shrine to offer their obeisance to the Universal Mother. In olden times, when means of transportation were few, devotees would come by boats, tongas or walk from different parts of the valley to the pristine and balming precincts of the shrine to attend the annual fair. Devotees recite hymns to the deity, offer kheer, milk, sugar, and flowers to the goddess as they believe doing so will deliver them from misfortune and sins, besides granting them divine protection. The annual fair at the shrine is also known for its local savouries; so after offering prayers, one can feast on lotus stem pakoras, puris and halwa.
The temple town welcomes everyone, and the locals enthusiastically take every care of their guest devotees.