Amid the unrest in the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits undertook the annual pilgrimage to the Harmukh Gangbal lake shrine in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district and prayed for peace. Led by General Secretary of Harmukh Gangbal Trust, Vinod Pandit, a group of Kashmiri Pandits performed religious rituals at the shrine on Ganga Ashtami, Mahashradha for the departed souls of community and the culmination of Vedic Mahayagya.
“This was the 8th annual Gangbal yatra which we revived in 2009 after almost 100 years,” said Pandit, who is also the Chairman of All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC). Security was provided by armed forces en route the shrine of Lord Shiva.
Sunil Takhroo, who came all the way from Bengaluru to take part in the yatra, said, “We prayed for peace and normalcy in Kashmir by performing a small yagnya.” “For Kashmiri Hindus, this place holds importance equivalent to Haridwar. In the past, ashes of the dead members of the community used to be immersed here,” the APMCC chief said. He said the yatra was affected due to the eruption of militancy in Kashmir.
Pandit, who has been instrumental in the revival of various traditional pilgrimages in the Valley, said in wake of the ongoing unrest that started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8, several people were unable to the join the yatra.
“As the pilgrims have to trek for seven to eight hours we make sure that they register a month in advance so their medical checkup and acclimatisation can take place,” he said. The yatra which began on September 9, culminated on Sunday after the holy mace reached the shrine.
“The prayers of the holy mace were held at the 1700-year-old Shiv temple at Narayan Nag, before it was taken to the lake shrine where special prayers were held and the annual yatra culminated there,” he said. The trust plans to hold the yatra next year as well.