Temple Reopens In South Kashmir After 17 Years
4 July 2006
The Times of India
Srinagar: The pealing of bells drowned out the rat-a-tat of gunfire, at least for a while in a corner of South Kashmir, as the Mata Ragya Temple in Devsar town, Anantnag, opened after being shut since the eruption of militancy 17 years ago. The shrine in Khanburan area of Devsar is dated back to some 5,000 years, when Mata Ragya, as per the folklore, stopped in this deodar tree-lined patch, on her way from Sri Lanka to Khir Bhawani Asthapan at Manzgam in Anantnag. Since then, it has remained a popular pilgrimage destination for Kashmiri Hindus and Muslims alike. The temple fell into 'disuse' and then into 'disrepair' after Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the region as terrorism spread. Now there are only 10 Pandit families living in the area. 'I paid for the construction of a two-room hutment in the precinct of the temple only last year, and this year, I have made up my mind to take up the issue with the state government to get funds under pilgrim tourism scheme to renovate the shrine,' said Sartaj Madni, the MLA from Devsar. The temple reopened on Tuesday after a two-day festival organised with the help of local Muslims by the All Party Migrant Coordination Committee that helps uprooted Pandit families. 'The temple's reopening would not have been possible without the support of the local Muslims,' said T K Dhar, secretary of the committee. He said more than 700 devotees from Jammu, Srinagar and nearby villages participated in the Maha Yagya and were greeted on the way by local Muslims.