A majority of Kashmiri
Pundits considers Khir Bhawani, the Goddess whose
favorite offering is rice-pudding, as the guardian of
Valley. The annual festival of Zetha Ashtami, in Her honor, is celebrated on the
day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month Jeshtha (May/June of the common
shrine of Khir Bhavani is located in the village Tulmul, about 15 miles from
Srinagar, the summer capital of
. Discovery of the site in the swampy areas of Tulmul is ascribed to village mystics Pundit Gobind Joo Gadru and
Krishna Taplu. In a vision Pundit Gadru received instructions to follow a
celestial snake to reach and offer puja and milk at the designated site of the
Bhavani in the marshy lands of Tulmul. Since then the tradition continues with
monthly visits by devotees with an annual mela and grand puja on the day of
The spring in the temple complex has an irregular heptagon shape with its apex,
called ‘Pad’ (feet), towards the East. The northern and southern sides are
longer than the western side-called ‘Shir’ (Head). In the center of the holy
spring now stands a marble temple dedicated to the Bhavani. The water in the
spring is said to change color portending the circumstances in
Walter Lawrence in his book ‘Valley
Kashmir’ (published 1895) reported the water to have a
The legend of Khir
Bhavani is engrossed in antiquity and has been enshrined in
two Sanskrit scriptures: Sri Sri Maharajni Pradurbhava, and the Rajni Mahatmya.
Apparently the scripture is supposed to be part of the purana named Bringisha
These scriptures indicate that the original abode of the Goddess was in Lanka.
After killing of Ravana by Rama, the Goddess ordered Hanuman to carry Her to Kashmir
along with her 360 attendants Snake Nagas.
The journey of the Goddess from Lanka to
is not only a description of a physical journey of the Goddess, but also signifies the journey of the tantric
yogi through the various phases of purification during the practice or sadhana.
It is also interesting that vehicle for the journey of the Bhavani to
Hanuman-the quintessence of a devotee (Bhakta) in the Vaishnavite tradition.
Thus we have an esoteric confluence of Vaishnavite and Shaktic traditions, and
introduction of a Vaishnavite link for a people more comfortable with Shaivite
systems. Dr. Madhu Bazaz Wangu in her books, ‘goddess is born’ and ‘Images of Indian
goddesses: myths meanings and models’ has researched details about the
background, introduction, iconography and meaning of Khir Bhavani during the
. Her research (source for some of the information
herein) indicates the confluence of several threads Tantric, Shaivite, Vaishnavite, and even Western in the tradition and molding of the
Bhavani is the representation of the Krama tradition where Bhairavi is the
supreme power encompassing all-the culmination of Shakti worship. Thus the
elements of ancient traditions in Kashmir of Lalla Ded and Roopa Bhawani
continue through Khir Bhavani in the modern times.
May the Goddess preserve us all! Click on the URL and sing along the devotional
Omanand Koul, Burlington, MA