Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ramkund Mandir in Poonch

Ramkund is the symbol of our ancient culture, art and tradition. This is the oldest temple in Poonch region. As per the archaeological report, this beautiful temple was built by Raja Lalitaditya (i.e. between 724 AD and 761 AD) because the style, architecture and the age of the temple is the same as of those temples built by Raja Lalitaditya in Kashmir. This temple, having a very attractive look and history, is embedded in the past. It, however, remained out of sight due to locational disadvantages. Now this old shrine is regaining its erstwhile status.

Ramkund temple is located in a sleepy village Narol of Mendhar tehsil, 62 kilometers from Poonch township. This important religious place is located in a deep gorge at the foothill of Shah Star Range of mountains. At present there are three sacred ponds apart from the ancient temple. They are known as Ram Kund, Lachman Kund and Sitakund. Ram Kund is bigger in size (25' x 25') than Lachman and Sita Kund. A spring water emerges exactly on the northern side of Ramkund. The water of this spring pours into Ramkund which overflows to Lachman Kund and at last Sita Kund. The latter is the smallest in size. These kunds have been designed in such a way that the water of spring after filling all the kunds flows in nallah. On the eastern side of Ramkund, there is an historical temple of 8th century. Stone structure stair case begins from the eastern side of Ramkund upto the entrance of the temple. At present, there is an idol of Hanuman which was installed in the temple in the recent past. On the northern side, a small structure houses the residence of Pujari and a cowshed. A 'Kutiya' has also been constructed near the temple for ‘Sadhus’ and pilgrims. The western side of this holy place is surrounded by banana trees and a small garden of plums which gives this place, look of an 'Ashram.'A big religious congregation is held on 14th of 'Chaitra (March) every year and is known as 'Mela Chetar Chodas'. Devotees from all parts of Poonch and Rajouri district participate in it. People after taking a dip in the holy water or kunds offer prayers in the temple and take part in 'Bhajan Kirtan' organized by the 'Mandlies' (Groups). The religious programme continues for one full day.  ( Buddha Amarnath in Poonch )

As per Raj Taringni of Kalhana, there is a very interesting story behind the construction of this temple. Kalhana narrates that Raja Lalitaditya who was a great warrior and had converted Poonch town into Chawani (cantonment) of his forces, named this places as Purn-Utsva (with the passage of time, this name became Poonch from Purn-Utsva) Kalhana writes that once Raja Lalitaditya left for hunting in the jungle, he reached this place in the evening. At this very solitary place, he saw in the nearby a girl singing a devotional song while a beautiful girl was dancing in this uninhabited place. When the song was over, both the girls bowed their heads at this place and left. The next day also, the same ritual was repeated by the same girls. Then Raja Lalitaditya accested these girls and enquired from them why they were dancing and singing their devotional song at a lonely place in the jungle. The girls replied that they were Devdasis and doing so on the direction of their mothers and grand mothers. "This is our traditional job but we do not know the reason of our dancing at this place." Raja thought that this may be some 'sacred place.' Next day, he ordered for excavation of that particular place where the Devdasis were offering prayer in the evening. After some excavation, two old temples came to surface whose doors were shut. When Raja opened the door, he saw that two idols of Keshav were installed there. One the back of these idols, it was engraved that these idols were installed by Ramchander Ji during his visit to Kashmir. Raja Lalitaditya transported these idols to Kashmir along with him and he installed the idol of Ram Chander Ji in the temple of Vishnu Parihas in Parbaarspur, while the second idol was taken by the queen and she installed it in Chakrshveri temple.

It appears that while removing the original idols from Ramkund temple, Raja Lalitaditya got renovated or reconstructed the original excavated monument with some additions and converted this place into an important religious shrine. No doubt that Raja Lalitaditya had built Poonch city but at present, there is no such building existing on the ground belonging to Lalitaditya's time except Ramkund temple Mendhar. This is the only temple in this region which refers to the construction made by Lalitaditya.

Mr Stein who translated Raj Taringani of Kalhana visited the place where Lalita Ditya excavated and discovered the old temple of Ram Chander Ji's time. Stein visited Poonch in 1892 AD and identified a number of places like Loharkote (Loran), Attalika (Atoli), Saramber (Chamber Kanari), Sawvernik (Surankote) mentioned in the Raj Taringani. But he could not identify Ram Kund Temple of Raja Lalitaditya's time because this temple was located in a very unknown place which was far away from the main route leading towards Kashmir in those days. All the habitants of this area were non-Hindus. Even most of the Hindus were knowing very little about this shrine in the past. Therefore, they could not talk about this temple to Stein. ( Sanskrit as language )

The other proof is that Devdasis reported to Raja Lalitaditya that they belonged to a nearby village known as Sover Dehmana at that time. This village is still existing near Narol (where temple exists) and known as Dharana instead of Dehmana. Therefore, on the facts given above, it is clear that Ramkund is the same temple which was excavated and reconstructed by Raja Lalitaditya in 8th century. ( Chandi Dham Machail )

No comments: