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Braving unrest, Hindu Pandits perform Gangbal yatra in Kashmir.

Keeping the Hindu Life Alive in the Valley….

Kashmiri Pandits perform Gangbal yatra in Kashmir, pray for peace to return.

A group of Pandits at the Harmukh range during conclusion of the Gangbal yatra on Monday. PTI

A group of Pandits at the Harmukh range during conclusion of the Gangbal yatra on Monday. PTI

Amrita Kaul | HENB | Jammu | Sept 12, 2016:: Despite continued shutdown and protests in the Valley, a group of Kashmiri Pandits undertook the annual pilgrimage to the Harmukh Gangbal lake at an elevation of 3,570 metres in Ganderbal district.

The ancient lake is revered by Hindus and is believed to be an abode of Lord Shiva. During the 1990s, when 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homeland, the lake shrine was almost forgotten. In 2009, the yatra was revived by Pandits.

In the first week of September this year, a group of pilgrims started their journey from Zyeshtha Devi temple in Srinagar to the ancient temple at Naran Naag in Kangan tehsil of Ganderbal. From there, the pilgrims undertook an 8-hour journey on foot to the holy Gangbal lake on the auspicious day of Ganga Ashtami on September 9.

The pilgrims were led by general secretary of the Harmukh Gangbal Trust Vinod Pandit. “We prayed for return of peace in the Valley. Due to the current unrest, hundreds of pilgrims could not participate in the yatra this year,” said Pandit. He said for Hindus this place was as important as Hardwar. In the past, ashes of the dead from the Hindu community were immersed here.

“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.

Ganderbal : A group of Kashmiri Pandits performs prayers at the mountainous North East Harmukh Range, 14500 ft above sea level at the conclusion of Annual Harmukh Ganga (Gangbal) Yatra 2016 organised by Harmukh Ganga Gangbal Trust along with All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. PTI Photo (PTI9_12_2016_000089B)

Ganderbal : A group of Kashmiri Pandits performs prayers at the mountainous North East Harmukh Range, 14500 ft above sea level at the conclusion of Annual Harmukh Ganga (Gangbal) Yatra 2016 organised by Harmukh Ganga Gangbal Trust along with All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. PTI Photo.

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.

Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, who have 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.

Source: PTI.

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