Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mata Kheer Bhawani Ragnya in Tullmulla Kashmir

Justify FullThe temple of Kheer Bhawani is situated in the village Maheshaspora, Tullmulla, which is 25 Km north of Srinagar city in Ganderbal district. This temple is highly revered by the Kashmiri Pandit community of the State .The temple is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Ragnya Devi. An annual festival is held here on the Jesht Astami (May-June) when Hindus visit the temple in large numbers to offer prayer to seek the blessing of the deity. Devotees also throng on every Shulka Paksh Ashtami round the year and perform hawan to please the mother Goddess. The historic temple of Kheer Bhawani was built by the then the Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. Maharaja Pratap Singh. Later it was renovated by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1912.

The temple complex is surrounded by streams and Chinar trees in the complex. The temple proper has a hexagonal spring where in idol of Goddess Ragnya is decorated and housed in a small marble-pillared temple canopy. The main spring of goddess Kheer Bhawanijee is an irregular heptagonal shape with apex called pad or feet to the east and the opposite side called shirr or head. The water of the spring changes its colour from time to time. According to a local legend, Lord Ravana of Great Indian epic, the Ramayana worshipped mother Ragnya, who showered her blessings on his kingdom. The Goddess thus resided in Lanka, the capital of the Lord Ravana. Later due to Ravana’s misdeeds, the Goddess cursed him and ordered Lord Hanuman to take her to Satisar (Kashmir) a place cut off from the world by snow-clad mountains.  (Shrine of Mata Ragnya at Lokitpur )

It is being said that Lord Hanuman obeyed and carried the Godess on her shoulders and enterd this great valley and on Goddesses direction selected this place and Goddess entered into this spring which becomes the abode of Godess Ragnya\Sharika. The temple is fondly called Kheer Bhawani because of the countless devotees who over the centuries offered milk, sugar, rice pudding or Kheer to the scared spring. This is an incarnation of Goddess Durga Mata the local name of the Goddess is Ragnya or Raginia.

The small temple made of white marble-pillared canopy is located in the middle of a natural spring or Kund, the walls of which are hexagonal in shape. A tiny footbridge over the spring leads to the temple. There are many clear water streams around the temple and many Chinar trees in and around complex provide shade to the devotees.

The atmosphere at the Kheer Bhawani temple gets spiritually surcharged during mela. Every body remains busy in either taking bath or preparing to do puja in the temple etc. The hexagonal temple kund or tank remains full of coloured flowers. So much so, a thick layer of petals keep floating on the water of the sacred tank. The temple pujaries or temple priests are busy in attending their clients to fulfill the obligations to complete the ritual with full devotion and attention.  ( Chandi Mata or Machail Wali Mata )

The devotees make offerings of flowers, lamps and of course kheer (traditional condensed milk) and pray for the well being of their family. Round the year thousands of devotees offer kheer at the feet of the goddess- it is believed that if your future holds something ominous, the goddess, knowing that would immediately turn the white kheer black making you careful and aware of your impending doom.

Before goint for prayers, devotees take a dip in the holy waters of a nearby stream. This creates a sort of spiritual aura around them.The large numbers of Kashmiri Pandit families stay for a day or two and get busy in preparation of food by spreading the bed spreads on the floor under the huge Chinar trees. Without fear and awe in the temple, every body in the family do his or her share of work.   ( Mata Bhuvaneshwari )

Keeping in view the huge inflow of Yatris, some residential quarters were constructed in the vicinity to accommodate them, particularly during inclement weather.To serve the devotees, some voluntary organisations arrange langers for yatris. Even army and paramilitary forces come forward to serve food and prasad. This mela usually lasts for three days. After which devotees rush to their homes-blessed and blissed. The mela provides an apportunity to local businessmen to do some business. They sell milk, flowers and earthen lamps to the pilgrims.

Monday, May 25, 2009

pollution rising in river vitasta

The much revered and the very enchanting river Jhelum is one of the seven rivers collectively referred to as Sapta-Sandhu. The river finds its mention in the ancient Indian scriptures of the Rig-Veda where it is called Vitasta. The ancient Greeks called the mighty river as Hydaspes after the titan descended God born to Thaumas-the sea God and Elektra-the cloud Goddess. Hydaspes was the brother of the Goddess of Rainbow-Iris and Harpies - the lord of snatching winds. The historical battle between Alexander the Great and King Porus of Jhelum in 326 B.C. is documented as the Battle of Hydaspes. Mogul Emperor Jahangir was very fond of this river with clear blue waters and called it 'Bebat', though its initial course is a bit muddy.
The modern name of Vitasta Jhelum which was adopted from Jhelum city in Pakistan whence the river flows near city's vicinity. The name Jhelum was carried to Kashmir by European travellers and found its way into official usage, otherwise the river is still knowing as Vyath by natives.

The river Jhelum not only cleans one's body and uplifts the soul after dipping in it but also adds to the beauty of Kashmir valley and acts as its drainage. However, these days a dip in the river Jhelum will sap the body and sag (hang down unevenly) the soul. This is attributed to ever looming level of pollutants especially domestic wastes which consists of human excreta, greywater, polythenes etc. Huge piles of garbage can be seen on banks of the river from Khawaja Bhag to Khanpore and Azad Gunj upto Khadneyar. Because of large population living on its banks, the river is being used as dumping site by the inhabitants of the area who throw the filth in the river. Even sweepers of Municipal Corporation/Committees dump all the garbage along the river banks. Owing to accumulation of domestic wastes the water of the river has become eutrophic with high biological oxygen demand (BOD) and almost lost its regulatory capability. As the river proceeds from rural to urban area, there is gradual decrease in water depth due to entry of silt and garbage into the river.

The river is getting silted up due to erosion in its catchments particularly the low hills. About 80 percent of the catchment area of river is affected by soil erosion which has been accelerated by massive deforestation and overgrazing of the pastures. The process has further aggravated through quarrying and mining, development of hill roads and other development projects. With slight rains, the river is in spate and brings misery to the millions of people of Kashmir valley. Concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen (NO3) have crossed the permissible limits due to entrance of 7 lakh lit of urine, 29000 kg of faeces and 45,000 kg of biomedical wastes into the river daily. This has caused Eutrophication affecting thereby the phyto/300 planktom. Heavy metal pollution is also on the increase. ( Birbal )

Apart from urine and human faeces and biomedical wastes, wastage from slaughter houses, tanneries, meat fish, fruit and vegetable markets are also dumped into the Jhelum river. Waste of marriage ceremonies and other rituals including wastes of polythene materials have further added woes of the Jhelum. Use of this polluted water by the people for daily requirement would give rise to borne diseases - cholera, jaundice, amoebiasis etc.  ( cusine of jammu )

Effluents discharged by commercial establishments and nearby hospitals is also a source of river water pollution. JKPCB reported that the entire stretch of the river Jhelum in Srinagar has a high oxygen deficient value beyond the permissible level of 10 mg-1 or water.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prem Nath Shastri Saint and Scholar

Prem Nath Shastri, popularly known as Shastri Ji needs no introduction. He is known to people for services, he rendered to community. A medium statured versalite personality wearing a smile with collyrium eyes speaking volumes was a scion of Astrological clan who wrought a revolutionary change in the mindset of Kashmiri Pandits and imbibed in them cult of pragmatic approach and the rules of propriety. He had a humble beginning initially but by dint of his incessant hard work he created a niche in the glaxy of other luminaries. He has aptly been described as the doyen of Kashmiri ethos and culture. A blest seer, a profound religious preacher, a great social reformer spurning dogmas, social taboos and superstitions belonged to a dynasty whose services for Kashmiri Pandits can never be forgotten nor sunk into oblivion. Soon after the demise of his father, he exhibited his long cherished propensity to carry forward the left-over work of his clansmen and took it to a logical end for progeny to come.

He had a mind fleeter than wind and had the capability to prognosticate the things to happen. Success swayed his way when he prophecied an upheaval in the administration of Jammu and Kashmir State in 1953 that proved correct to the precision.Shastri Jee was a strong votary of Kashmiri Pandit unity and always exhorted the KP's to remain united and celebrate the respective auspicious festivals on particular specified day. Though he had a tough criticism to face on this account, but obdurate as he was, he never succumbed. Owing to his meritorious services rendered to his community he has had so many coveted awards in his name. He was conferred upon with the prestigious shardasuman award for his contribution in the field of religious genre. Shastri Jee always stressed to give sanaskar and religious knowledge to children synchronising with scholastic activities. He was a strong advocate of educating the future generation into the basic Sanatan Dharma and was outrightly against the cultural onslaught or what can appropriately be called as westernization of culture. Thus this great religious scholar always and throughout his life stressed to follow the foot-prints of Bharti-Sanaskriti, so much so that he denounced the handshake calling it a sign of slavery. He, instead emphasized the age old practice of hand-folded namaskar to all and sundry.  ( Jeewan Sahib )

Shastri Jee was a patriot par excellence which is amply manifested from his teachings and ardent supporter of upholding Kashmiri language and was vociferous upon parents talk to their children in Kashmiri and shun English nomenclature. Besides, he was a social reformer and stood for social reformation among Kashmiri-Hindu unity. He was not ostentations type of man, but always despised pomp and show in marriages. He was a good philanthropist as well and used to donate liberally for the cause of the weak, poor and the needy.

Shastri Jee was an advocate of vegetarianism and admonished people to desist from taking meat. Pandit Jee was terribly moved by the hurly-burly way of life KP's experienced due to onslaught of militancy. In order to soothe their tribulations, he used to arrange and attend the religious congregations giving sermons and religious injunctions packed with punch. Hindus in general and KP's in particular owe a great deal to him for survival of religious zeal and fervour. It is through his benevolence that one can activate his melodious casettes at ease in home and take the essence of his hard lived labour. He also authored shoals of books. His translation of Holy Geeta Jee into Urdu and Lal-Wakh are worth to mention. He has also edited and compiled Renveshvar Panchang which was long drawn demand of Jammuites.

There is no sphere of activity which this legendary giant has not deliberated upon and also reduced to writing the basics of rituals from cradle to death.

Shastri Jee had a meticulous felicity of expression. He would enthral the audience with his subtle and witty retorts. Whenever he felt that he was being eulogised disproportionate to his liking he would draw a chuckle signifying to stop.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shrine of Sharda Mata in Udhampur

Udhampur popularly known as 'the land of Druva', Headquarter of District, is named after Raja Udham Singh, the eldest son of Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir. The town is said to have been built in place of dense forest where Udham Singh occasionally went on hunting trips till he developed great love for the spot and choose it as site for township. District Udhampur lies between 32 degree 34 minutes to 39 degree 30 minutes North Latitude and 74 degree 16 minutes to 75 degree 38 minutes East Longitude. The altitude of District Udhampur varies from 600 meter to 3,000 meter above sea level. The District is situated in the South-Eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir State and is bounded in the West by Rajouri District, in North-East by Doda District, in the South-East by Kathua District and in the South-West by Jammu District.

Rough terrain
District Udhampur is rich in forest wealth. The total forest area of the district is 51.49% Sarada is located within the jurisdiction of Udhampur District and forms a part of Village Gangara. The village is about 3 km from Udhampur town enroute Kashmir Valley on National Highway 1A. One has to climb a steep of about 1 km from national highway to reach the village. The name of the village is Sarada as per revenue records and it is believed that this village came into existence some 225 years ago. This village is situated on a hilltop overlooking its fields, the railway track, air strip, Udhampur town and Tawi River. The natural scenery of Sarada is very charming, surrounded by a dense forest from the West and by untrimmed trees and shrubs from other three sides. There is a steep path right from national highway up to the temple of Sarada.

Tawi valley
This path has been constructed by local residents with the help of Rural Development Department under Nehru Rojgar Yogna in the year 1981. The path is partially constructed on steps and partially by laying dressed stones all over the path up to the temple. It takes a pilgrim only half and hour to reach the temple. With the bright sunlight reflected in silvery pine trees above, and gurgling River Tawi meandering through the valley below, the pilgrim already is in a different world. The trekking undoubtedly is slow but not boring as the scenery alongside is most picturesque.

The total land under Sarada village is 243 hectares, of this, wasteland, shrub land, and the dry land count for more than 23 hectares, the habitation area, together with pathways, land owned by school and temple compound occupies nearly 66 hectares and the rest approximately 154 hectares is classified as grazing ground. ( Sudh Mahadev temple )

Sanctum Sanctorum of The temple of Sarada is situated at an altitude of 2000 feet in the North West of the village. Sarada is synonymous to Divine Mother. Sardapeeth or the abode of Sarada is the goddess of learning and fine arts. This temple came into existence when Sh. Gopal Dass of village Jakhani was in boyhood. His parents sought his admission in a nearby school. Being not interested in learning 3 R's he used to go to this place as there was shade of five black berry trees with a nice spring gushing out from the stem of a big tree.

He used to sit under the shade of these trees and return to his home at the time of closing of schools pretending that he was in school. One day while sleeping under the shade of these trees he had a celestial dream. Mother came out from one of the tree trunk and said to Sh. Gopal Dass that I am residing in the hollow stem of the tree. Sh. Gopal Dass wake up and returned to his home with heavy heart. From that day he used to carry one bag of sand everyday with an intention to construct a temple on the spot. No wonder the holy spot became a sacred shrine to which thousands of devotees not only from Udhampur but from distant places were attracted to seek blessings from Sarada Mata, the goddess in her three aspects of Sarada, Nanda and Saraswati.  ( Kheer Bhawani )

Sarada Mata's abode in Black Berry Tree
The hollow trunk of the black berry tree from where the Divine Mother was discovered become the sanctum Sanctorum of the temple which came up here with great efforts of Gopal Dass. Gopal Dass remained celibate throughout his life and is always seen in the temple premises doing some work or the other.

The entrance of the temple is from the North-East side. The Divine Mother is facing towards an ancient temple on the opposite side River Tawi situated in a depilated fort. This temple has been built by Raja Udham Singh and there is an asthapan of Mother Nanda [The joy of self-realization. Self-realization is not attained. It is bestowed by the unconditional grace of the Supreme. The supreme joy when graced upon the devotees gives him surprise beyond expectation. That is the goddess Nanda].

There is a holy spring locally known as Bowli coming out below the trunk of the holy tree, the water of which has been extended and is being stored in a closed reservoir which has two outlets. Pilgrims can take a bath under these outlets. An elderly person of the village told me that in olden days the water of the holy spring was stored in a reservoir and animal would die after taking the water from the reservoir. And in later years the animals of the village were not allowed to take the water of the holy spring.

The Sarada temple occupies the centre of a rectangular court of 150 feet long and 40 feet broad. There are four black berry trees in the compound of the temple and all are in full gloom. Only the holy tree in which Mother is having its abode bears the fruit.

Sarada Varada Devi Mookshdhartri Saraswati is a hymn meaning Sarda grants the boon of emancipation through wisdomIn dark nights under the shade of the black berry trees, the sacred place present an atmosphere where one becomes one with God. And in moonlit nights, devotees experience something mystic all over the temple of Sarada Mata.

Author Chander M. Bhat

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lalleshwari Lal Ded Kashmiri Shaivite scholar

Lalleshuri (Lal Ded) of Kashmir has invited attention of a number of scholars throughout the world. Her poetic compositions or Vaakhs as they are popularly called are the extempore outpourings of a highly awakened Yogini and exhibit high quality poetry with a deep philosophical content. Here and there we find her personal spiritual experiences unfolded in a simple form besides terse principles of Yoga exemplified with easily graspable day to day activities. Lalleshuri communicated her spiritual teachings in the language of the common man using verbal medium only and the impact was so great that her poetry safely has carried through centuries by memory lane as a divine word with negligible distortion of language. ( Poshmot )

The Vaakhs of Lalleshuri is a vast canvas with varied hues spread over by a great literary artist, a highly awakened Shaivite Yogini and a religious philosopher. Her sayings about the futility of worldly existence and the escape route through the practice of Yoga have received wide recognition and continue as such. She had detached herself completely from the material world and become a wandering ascetic displaying a frightful aura devoid even of her clothes to cover her nakedness. Her poetic compositions were instantly committed to public memory and sung as divine songs to make retribution to God for ones sins. A highly awakened soul, a Yugpursha and a living incarnation of Lord Shiva, she gave out rare gems of Vaakhs in the common man's word showing a clear path towards self realization. She has castigated man time and again for collection of material belongings ignoring the real divine treasure that only is capable to give safe passage through temporal existence. She was shocked to see people enjoying life's glamour which they knew was nothing but an illusion and how eager she was to see people shun the lure of the world. Repeatedly she like a past master preacher stressed upon man not to take the false for the true. She says it was only their ignorance that bound them to the falsehood and thus waste the precious moments of their lives that could otherwise be fruitfully used for higher purpose.

Lalleshuri was very much dedicated to her Guru. While expressing her gratitude to her Guru in guiding her in all her progress she says that her Guru is both father and mother to her, who made her blind eyes capable to see, her bare body able to wear the celestial garments and thereby discriminate between falsehood and the truth. Lalleshuri has repeatedly described the importance of a teacher in the way to self realization. She says one who develops full faith in his Guru and follows religiously his directions, is able to control all five senses with the help of Gyan Yoga and succeeds in overcoming the sea of ignorance. He is lifted above the gross material world and all worldly events, joys and sorrows, sound immaterial to him. Lalla says in one popular Vaakh--- she asked her GURU a thousand times who was the one who was nameless and beyond comprehension but she didn't get a reply. When she got tired by asking repeatedly and hence helpless she was suddenly satisfied without an answer and understood the truth of life and its creator who was responsible for all creation and still beyond comprehension. The purpose here is to bring home to the seeker that the Guru guides his disciple in all circumstances and the seeker doesn't fall short of guidance in association with him. Lalla says she has washed her body with the Gangajal (water of the sacred Ganges) of the Gura-Shabda (word of her Guru) and thus attained pure salvation while living the same material body

Lalleshuri is a great interpreter of the divine word Aum. She extensively explains the validity of Aum in achieving higher stages in yoga through Pranayama and advancement of self by mastering efficiently the recitation of Aum. She says one who is able to master the recitation of this divine word with the rhythm of his breath without any digression of thought can form an easy bridge between him and the universal consciousness. Lalla says further that she gradually mastered the recitation of Aum in a way that she began feeling a strange sensation and with it her whole ego vanished, and thus detached from the world she was enlightened. At this stage, says Lalleshuri, she closed all the doors of her body i.e. controlled all her physical senses and took to recitation of Aum with the beats of the heart and thus achieved the higher echelons of consciousness. Here she cautions the seeker to inhale and exhale slowly with a particular rhythm such that there is a transformation of self as from a baser metal into gold and no stopping at any stage till the goal is reached. There is always at each stage the danger of being carried away by worldly digressions as these are much overpowering and most misleading. Lalleshuri points to a stage where the seeker gains full control over five senses and to him the world of matter vanishes completely. His soul is released from the bondages of the body and that is liberation. Nothing can be achieved without full control on the material self and ego. Lalleshuri expresses her personal experience in this context. She says she reached perfection by experiencing the bliss of the realization of truth and became the embodiment of celestial gleam through the discipline of yoga. She felt the presence of Lord everywhere and became herself too part of the infinity. She was wonderstruck that she had lost her identity and merged with the supreme. The fully realized yogi ultimately achieves that stage of perfection as Lalla says when Lord Shiva becomes a horse to ride for him, Lord Vishno the saddle and Brahma to hold the stirrups. That indicates the fulfillment of purpose or the ultimate liberation from material bondages.

In her ecstasy of achievement Lalleshuri describes her encounter with the supreme. With her tears of joy she washes the divine feet but feels the divine presence on her head indicating the ultimate success of a yogi. She says on her observation that the lord is without name, form, shape, caste or creed and still the nucleus of the universe, so there is none else worthy to be worshipped. She feels the presence of the lord shining everywhere, she listens to the divine talk and Lalla nowhere, already merged with the supreme. The influence of the lord (Shiva) is everywhere in the cosmos and it is only the human mind that can work to tune it in its favour in its lifetime. Human life is precious as only capable to achieve the highest stage of perfection by being one with the supreme. When human mind is absorbed in worldly affairs it is quite non-receptive to divine influences, alternatively when one is absorbed in meditation and looking within his self it naturally becomes sensitive to divine vibrations by losing interest in material advancement and shunning all egos.

Author JL Bhat