Setting aside their fears, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits thronged the ancient shrines of Kheer Bhawani and Mata Tripur Sundri in this volatile south Kashmir district to celebrate the birthdays of the Vaishnavite goddesses.
The birth anniversaries of Mata Kheer Bhawani in Tulmula (Ganderbal district), Goddess Tripur Sundari in Devsar and Goddess Ragniya Bhagwati in Manzgam in Kulgam district, Ragniya Bhagwati Loktipura (Anantnag) and Ragniya Mata in Tikker (Kupwara) were celebrated by Kashmiri Pandits in the valley yesterday with havans, community kitchens and mass prayers.
This is for the first time that havans, community kitchens and mass prayers were conducted by Kashmiri Pandits on such a large scale in all the five ancient shrines on the same day as it was done 29 years ago before migration of Pandits in the wake of militancy.
"This situation in the valley did not deter pilgrims from paying obeisance at the spring shrine in Manzgam", Daleep Raina a devotee, told PTI.
He said local Muslims came forward to greet them on the occasion.
Avtar Ji Shastri, the head priest who performed the maha yagna at Manzgam shrine, said after many years Kashmir Pandits participated in the pilgrimage.
While 2,300 Kashmiri Pandits visited the spring shrine of Manzgam located near the famous Aharbal water falls, over 2,500 visited the shrine of Tripur Sundri at Devsar in Kulgam.
"We reached Mazgam shrine two days ago. We faced no problem en route although there was a fear factor due to the situation in south Kashmir", President, Manzgam Prabandik Committee, Kuldeep Raina said.
Raina, who led his team to organise a maha yagna, community kitchen and prayers at the shrine, said, "Kashmiri Pandits freely and fearlessly came here and paid obeisance at the shrine".
Vinay Kaul, another devotee, said he did not face any problem.
In Devsar, community kitchens were organised and mass prayers conducted by Kashmiri Pandits.
"Although there were less number of devotees compared to last year, but Yagna was performed in the best possible way", another devotee Sanjay Kaul said.
Manzgam, which was once a safe sanctuary and launching pad of foreign mercenaries, is now abuzz with the flow of pilgrims mostly Kashmiri Pandits.
The Manzgam temple, situated in the southern most part of Kashmir, was rebuilt after it was damaged when militants exploded a bomb and killed a priest by slitting his throat in 1990.
In Tikker in Kupwara district, over 1500 pilgrims took part in the yagna and prayed for peace and normalcy in Kashmir.
Over 53 militants have been killed and two dozen civilians and securitymen have lost their lives during separate encounters in south Kashmir this year.