Thousands of devotees from across the country joined the annual Jhiri Mela, one of north India's biggest religious gatherings, which began here on Tuesday amid tight security, officials said. The Jhiri Mela is held every year on 'Kartik Purnima'. Devotees pay obeisance at the Baba Jittoo temple in Jhiri village, 20 kms from here on the Jammu-Akhnoor highway, and seek his blessings and those of his daughter Bua Kouri.
Baba Jittoo was a farmer who gave up his life in a protest against the oppressive demands of zamindars about 500 years ago.
According to legend, his daughter took her life by jumping onto his funeral pyre.
Amid tight security, the devotees, including women and children, began thronging the temple since early morning and the crowd swelled as the day progressed, the officials said.
The devotees also bathed in 'Baba-da-Talab', a natural pond four kms from the temple which is believed to have curative powers.
"We feel blessed after coming here. We have been coming to this fair every year for the last many decades," said Nitin Khatri, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, who was accompanied by his wife and several other family members.
Rajinder Kumar, who works in Australia, said he has been visiting the fair for the last 15 years to seek the blessings of Baba Jittoo.
Stalls selling food items and all sorts of goods dotted the area around the temple. An amusement park has also been set up for entertainment of young visitors.
This year, the key feature of the fair is to promote sports and cultural richness of the region, the officials said.
Nearly eight to 10 lakh devotees from across Jammu, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and other parts of the country visit the fair every year, they said.
The nine-day-long Jhiri Mela will conclude on November 20.