Over 12,000 Hindus gather in Kashmir to celebrate Maha Kumbh
Srinagar, June 14: About 12,000 Hindus, mostly migrant Kashmiri Pandits, on Tuesday gathered at the 'Sangam' (confluence) of the Jhelum river and Sindh stream in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir to celebrate 'Maha Kumbh'.
"Last time we had such alignment of celestial bodies was in 1941 and today after 75 years and 10 days the same celestial alignment is in place," said Ashutosh Bhatnagar, 44, who had come from Delhi to take part in the Maha Kumbh though he is not a Kashmiri.
The Sangam at Saidipora village in Ganderbal has always been sacred to the local Pandit community for the immersion of the ashes of their dead, he said.
"Maha Kumbh is an event that the devotees could not miss and that is why we have come in such large numbers to be part of this auspicious occasion," Bhatnagar said.
The Maha Kumbh this year has been declared by Omkar Nath Shastri, an astrologer whose family is known for publishing Panchang (Hindu almanac) for Kashmiris before the Pandit migration took place in early 1990s.
"At this confluence of Jhelum river and Sindh stream Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years and Ardh Kumbh every six years," said Bharat Raina, convener of Tuesday's function at Sangam.
Raina said a 12-hour long 'Havan' (offerings to fire) was started on Monday at Sangam and will end on Tuesday.
"On this day, the devotees take a bath at the holy Sangam to wash away their sins and then proceed to the little island at the confluence where a Chinar tree has been growing since long," he said.
"This little piece of land at the confluence is the sanctum sanctorum of the holy place. Devotees offer water to the Shivling on this island. After the Havan, the devotees will take 'Prasad' and distribute it among their near and dear ones back home," said Raina.
This is the first time since the migration of local Pandits from the Valley that they have come in such large numbers to be part of the Maha Kumbh at Saidipora Sangam.
However, in 2011, around 35,000 Hindus, mostly from south India, had gathered at Sangam in Saidipora village to celebrate 'Pushkar' which is basically a south Indian Hindu celebration taking place at river banks.
Authorities have made tight security arrangements for the devotees who will start leaving the Valley on Tuesday evening.