Kheer Bhawani is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kheer Bhawani (Maharagnya Bhagwati) constructed over a sacred spring. The temple is situated at a distance of 22 Kilometers east of Srinagar, near the village of Tulmul. Maharagini is the form of Goddess Durga. Kashmiri Pandits worship this spring and pilgrims from every corner of the country visit here to have the darshan of the place.
This temple, made of marble stone, is located in the middle of a spring, around which there is a vast area whose floor has been covered with smooth and beautiful stones. In it exist large and old chinar trees beneath which the pilgrims sit or sleep on mats of grass.
It is believed that, the colour of the spring water changes occasionally signifying the some unusual happenings. When black or darkish, it is believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir. In 1886, Walter Lawrence, the-then British settlement commissioner for land, during his visit to the spring, reported the water of the spring to have a violet tinge. In 1990 the colour of the water is said to have turned red.
The mention of Kheer Bhawani is found in Kalhana’s Rajtarangini. Kalhana writes that the sacred spring of Tula Mula is situated in a marshy ground. The name of the spring is Mata Ragini Kund. Abu’l Fazal ibn Mubarak in his book Aini-Akbari mentions the area of Tula Mula extending over a region of hundred bighas (unit of land area) of land, which used to sink in the marshy lands during the summer season.
In Rajatarangini, Tula Mula and the spring of Maharagnya has been considered very sacred and the Hindus of Tula Mula considered notable for their spiritual prowess. Thousands of years ago, many floods occurred in Kashmir and the sacred spring of Tula Mula was inundated under its sway and the holy place could nowhere be traced. At last, Kashmir’s Yogi Krishna Pandit Taploo of Bohri Kadal, Srinagar had a dream in which the Goddess appeared to him and directed that she would swim in the form of a snake at the proper place and that he should stick large poles to demarcate the holy spot in the marsh land. Subsequently, when the water subsided there the holy spot was discovered. This event happened during the Samvat 4041 (Hindu lunar date).Sh. Krishen Joo taploo possessed some valuable manuscripts too like Bhrigu Samhita which was in late Eighties taken away from his family members and now its fate is not known. He even had a huge Shiv Ling which at present is at Bohri Kadal temple. An annual Hawan used to take place coinciding with the discovery of Holy pond of Kheer Bhawani at his residence before forced migration of Kashmiri Pandits.
It is believed that after Ravana worshiped the goddess, he offered her Kheer, which she accepted and has since been called Kheer Bhavani. Maharagya was pleased with the devotion of Ravana and appeared before him. Ravana then got an image of the Goddess installed in Sri Lanka. However, the Goddess became displeased with the vicious and licentious life of Ravana and so didn’t want to stay in Sri Lanka. Therefore, she is believed to have instructed Lord Hanuman to get her out from Sri Lanka and install it at the holy spot of Tulmul.
It is said that the night during which Mother Goddess came from (Sri) Lanka to Kashmir was named Ragniya Ratri. In Kashmir a number of shrines are dedicated to Mother Goddess but the Shrine at Tulmul is the most famous one.
Swami Vivekananda also visited here to have the darshan of the place.He was deeply touched by the beauty of Kashmir. Swami Vivekananda visited Kashmir twice and it was on 10th September 1897, when the lotus feet of this great saint touched the beautiful and pious land of Rishis, once called as Reshver (land of Rishis). His first visit of Kashmir was short. The second visit of Swami Vivekanand to Kashmir valley was more eventful. This time a party of Europians was accompanying him. Prominent among them was Sister Nivedita (Margret Noble). He stayed in Kashmir from about mid of June 1898 to the mid of September 1898. During this stay he visited the places of religious and historical importance like Shankaracharya Hill, Hari Parvat, Martand (Matan or Bhawan), Panderthan (Pandresthan, Place of Pandavas), temples of Avantipora, Bijbehara, Moghul Gardens of Nishat and Shalimar.
On September 30, Swami Vivekananda left for Mata Kheer Bhawani at Tulmulla, leaving strict instructions to his party not to follow him. He stayed there almost for a week. He daily performed Havan there, and worshipped the Mother with offerings of Kheer. Every morning he worshipped a Brahmin Pandit’s little daughter as “Uma Kumari.” One day at Kheer Bhawani while worshipping, the thought of the ruination and desecration of the temple by the Muslim invaders left him distressed at heart. He thought that Mother has been manifesting Her presence here for untold years, “How could the people have permitted such sacrilege without offering resistance. If I had been here then, I would never have allowed such a thing. I would have laid down my life to protect the Mother.” Thereupon he heard the voice of the Mother Goddess saying, “What if unbelievers should enter My temple and defile My image? What is that to you? Do you protect Me, or do I protect you? Another day, in course of his worship, another thought flashed through the Swami Vivekananda’s mind that he should try to build a new temple in the place of a present dilapidated one. He even thought of trying to raise funds for this. At once the Divine Mother said to him, “My child, If I so wish I can have innumerable temples and monastic centres. I can even this moment raise a seven-storied golden temple on this very spot.” Referring to these experiences after his return, he said to his disciples, “All my patriotism is gone. Everything is gone. Now it is only Mother! Mother! I have been very wrong. I am only a little child.” Since I heard that divine voice, I have ceased making any more plans. Let these things be as Mother wishes.” It is often said that the vision at Tulmulla made him realize, what he is and for what he is in this world? Ramakrishna Parmahansa his Guru had once prophesied during a discourse with his close disciples that when Vivekananda realize who he is, he will not like to live anymore in this world and would depart from it. On July 4, 1902 Swami Vivekananda at the age of 39 years, 5 months and 24 days left his mortal cage, to reunite with the Supreme Energy of this Cosmos, thereby fulfilling his own prophecy, ” I shall not live to be forty years old.”
Maharaja Pratap Singh who was the disciple of the Goddess, got a temple of marble made in the midst of the spring. The marble temple was completed in 1920s. Some people are of the opinion that there was a mulberry tree near holy spot of Kheer Bhawani which, in local language, is called tul mul. But tul mul is also derived from the Sanskrit word atulya mulya meaning great value.
The festival of Bhagvati Kheer Bhawani is held in the Ashtami of Jeth and Har. Therefore, in these two days, crowds of people go there. The pilgrims before worshipping bathe in the nearby holy stream.
Pandit Aftab Kaul has written in his book “At the Feet of the Master” that for spiritual knowledge, spiritual perfection and salvation there are four prescribed stages in a journey from Srinagar to Kheer Bhawani. First stage is the holy spring of VicharNag; second, is the Kawaj Nar (the Land of Lire). From Vichar Nag on the right side of the road is the beautiful Lake of Anchar (Achar) which before the opening of the motorable road, was a short-cut and a charming way to Tula Mula. After this the next stage is one of Tengul Bal (the Hill of the Burning Embers). After crossing all these stages the pilgrim reaches at the feet of Maharagya Kheer Bhawani. This is like “Pilgrim’s Progress” written by John Bunyan.