Thursday, February 4, 2010
Kheer Bhawani is a temple dedicated to the worship of the goddess Kheer Bhawani (originally just Bhawani) constructed over a sacred spring of hers in a natural setting. The worship of Kheer Bhawani is universal among the Hindus of Kashmir. The temple is situated at a distance of 14 miles east of Srinagar near the village of Tula Mula. The term kheer refers to the food used to propitiate the goddess, which became part of the name. As is the custom with Hindu deities, she has many names: Maharagya Devi, Ragnya Devi, Rajni, Ragnya Bhagwati, and so on.
Around the temple is an area covered with smooth and beautiful stones. In it are large, antique chinar trees beneath which the pilgrims sit or sleep on mats of grass. The colour of the spring changes. While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, the colour black is taken as an indication for inauspicious times for Kashmir. In 1886 Walter Lawrence, the British Settlement Commissioner for land, noted during his visit to the spring that its color was having a violet tinge.
Maharagya was pleased with the devotion of Ravana and appeared before him and Ravana got an image of the goddess installed in Sri Lanka. But the goddess became displeased with the vicious and licentious life of Ravana and so didn't want to stay in Sri Lanka. Therefore, under the command of the goddess, Hanuman got the image from Sri Lanka and installed it at the holy spot of Tula Mulla.
The mention of Kheer Bhawani is found in Kalhana's Rajtarangini. Kalhana writes that the sacred spring ofTula Mula is situated in a marshy ground. The name of the spring is Mata Ragini Kund.
Maharagini is the form of Durga Bhagvati. The Brahmins of Kashmir worship this spring and pilgrims from every comer of the country visit to have the darshan of the place.
In Rajtarangini Tula Mula is considered very sacred and the Brahmins of Tula Mula were very great and powerful. The spring of Maharagya was very sacred. Thousands of years ago many floods occurred in Kashmir and the sacred spring of Tula Mula also was inundated under its sway and the holy place could nowhere be traced. All around was water. At last Kashmir's Yogi Krishna Pandit had a dream in which the goddess appeared to him and ordered that she would swim in the form of a snake at the proper place and that he should stick large poles and when the water subsided there the holy spot was discovered. This event happened during the Samvat 1941.
The mention of this temple is also found in Abul-Fazal's book Aini-Akbari in which is written that the area of Tula Mula extended over the area of hundred bighas of land, which got sunk in the summer season and formed into a marsh.
Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami Vivekananda also visited here to have the darshan of the place.
With the pouring of milk and throwing of sugar candy in the spring by the pilgrims, a thick and solid layer was formed at its bottom. When it was cleared, the ruins of an old temple and shrine slabs engraved with figures were discovered. Here many images were also found but nobody rebuilt the temple till the Samvat 1969 when Maharaja Pratap Singh who was the disciple and worshiped this goddess, got a marvelous temple of marble made in the midst of the spring which shines like a pearl in a shell. The marble temple was completed in 1920s. Some people are of the opinion that there was a mulberry tree near holy spot of Kheer Bhawani which, in Kashmiri, is called Tul Mul. But Tul Mul is also derived from the Sanskrit phrase-Tul Muli-that is of great value. This means that all other pilgrim centres are of lesser value than this one. It is said that after Ravana finished the worship of the goddess he offered the kheer (rice pudding) to the goddess which she accepted and since then it is called Kheer Bhawani.
In early 2008, there were plans to modify the basic design of the marble structure. The project was sponsored by Capt. Kapil Raina and family. However, Dr. Karan Singh, who is the Trustee of the Dharmarth Trust that looks after the affairs of this shrine and many other Pandit shrines of Kashmir, refused to carry this proposal forward. He believed Pandit community generally won't be happy with the act of changing the look of the old structure.