Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peer Kho Cave Temple Jammu

The Shrine of the Peer Kho Temple is one of the old temples of ‘the City of Temples’. A large number of devotees throng it on Puranmashi, Amavasya and Ekadashi. The important festivals held here are Shivratri, Purnima amd Shravan Puranmashi or Raksha Bandhan. The lingam is located inside a small but peaceful cave embellished with white marble rectangular platform. The black stone lingam is decorated with a copper snake or Naga and a Silver sheet covers the Jallari or Yoni, topped by a copper vessel hanging to pour water continuously on the lingam. The lower part of the body of the lingam and other features are similar to the shrine of Purmandal temple complex and probably belong to the same period of early Dogra regime. The Peer Kho Temple and Peer Mitha are two old temples located in the city of temples. During the reign of Raja Ajaib Dev, for the Saint Siddha Ghareeb Nath entitled Peer, the temple was built in 15th century A.D according to the unconfirmed historical records. The two caves are twenty to thirty feet below the ground level. The Peer Kho cave temple has a lot of reverence among the local people of the old city. ( Historical Temples of Kashmir )

The shrine of Lord Shiva also known as Jamvant cave belongs to an old historic spot. It is located amidst igneous rocks topped by the sedimentary deposit of the River and acacia jungle in Northeast of Jammu city on the side of circular road above the terrace of Tawi River.

The pink, high arched gateway with a white marble stair with a railing leads to the temple complex and into a long verandah, with marble and mosaic flooring, which opens to another entrance on the opposite side from the Pacca Danga via Jullaka Mohalla. The courtyard is flanked by three shikhara on the left side with two of them modern and one ancient. The low round ribbed Gumband or dome is merged with the modern structure with stone finial and an inverted lotus. This serves as the entrance to the cave shrines further cut into the boulder conglomerate deposit of the River Tawi, which were formed due to the successive flooding, and receding of water for centuries. The round domed entrance leading to the caves is embellished with beautiful later Mughal or Dogra style paintings on the ceiling and with floral motifs in the centre of the dome. The pillared arched niches on the periphery of wall and ceiling painted with Dogra style painting is similar to the motifs of Ram Nagar Palace complex in Udhampur District of Jammu province. The colour scheme & the style of paintings prove that the paintings belong to the mid 19th century of Jammu school of painting with emphasis on the indigo colour.

The other rectangular shikharas on either side with brass finials are of recent origin. There is a Devi temple built on the right side of it in the corner of courtyard. It has a white marble miniature temple shrine embellished with beautiful image of a goddess in a glass casing. On right side, there is a series of rooms which serve as the residential quarters for the staff of the temple. The present Mahant of the temple is Peer Rattan Nath who holds the Gadhi or the ownership of the temple.   ( Buddha Amarnath in Jammu )

The round domed entrance leads to a small opening to a low-level passage and bifurcates into the Amar Nath Guffa cave on the right side. The low ceiling channel further leads to Siva shrine or the Amar Nath Cave Siva Temple known as Jamvant Cave after one of the heroes of the famous Indian Epic of the Ramayana. There is another small opening on the left side which goes further downwards to the Nav Durga shrine. It a long grilled temple decorated with life size idols of Lord Rama, Sita, Lord Vishnu and other gods and goddesses. The narrow means of access further extends in a winding manner to a large covered courtyard and further down extends into another small opening to the Nau Devi’s Guffa or Nine Devi’s Cave shrine. The long platform with statues of nine Goddesses in attractive red robes is a wonderful view to behold in a cave shrine. These Nav Devis namely are Shri Mata Shella Puri Devi, Shri Mata Bhadrachani Devi, Shri Mata Chandra Ghanta Devi, Shri Mata Sakandanatha Devi, Shri Mata Kushamandra Devi , Shri Mata Katyani Devi ,Shri Mata Kalarathri Devi, Shri Mata Maha Devi, Shri Mata Siddi Devi.

There is separate passage for entry and exit of the Cave which is excavated into an igneous rock which is twenty feets below the level of the temple. The peaceful, calm and serene place is suitable for spiritual attainment.

The temple courtyard has a Tulsi plant pedestal in the premises, which also indicates fine reflection of the Dogra style of architecture found in Ram Nagar palace at Ram Nagar and at Zorawar Singh Residence cum Palace Complex of Vijaypur in Reasi.

The unique feature of the temple is the Ghoraknath eternal Dhunni or continuous smoke-emitting shrine in the centre of the temple. There is small Samadhi of Shri Peer Shiv Nath as his memorial just opposite the main entrance from Peer Kho Mohalla Side. On the right side of the main entrance, there is a small shrine of Shani Devata. The white metal standing image of Lord Shani is placed on a square platform worshipped by the local people in large numbers on every Saturday. The temple located on the riverbank provides fresh air and beautiful scenery to the visitors. There are many handicrafts and handlooms shops with a variety of crafted souvenirs for the visitors who happen to visit the temple daily on the dead end road of the Peer Kho Mohalla. The whole temple has been built on a high-elevated artificial platform to prevent the flooding of the water of the Tawi River in the rainy season. ( Machail Yatra )

The temple requires more area for parking. The white marble staircase requires to made unslippery by roughing the marble steps otherwise it is dangerous to use in the rainy season. The proper signage at the Circular Road needs improvement for easy access to the temple. The temple also requires some benches for the devotees to take some rest after visiting the temple. The viewing points on the Western side of the temple need to refurished with proper sheds and benches so that visitors take rest and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the River and beyond.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The journey of faith Machail Yatra

Bhadarwah and Kishtwar in Jammu province are dotted with a number of famous pilgrimage sites. These sites attract thousands of people every year from all over the country.

One such place which is thronged by devotees in large numbers is the shrine of Chandi Mata or Machail Wali Mata. “Chandi Mata” the goddess of benevolence showers blessing to all irrespective of caste, creed and colour. According to a legend, the Goddess Chandi appeared at Machail long years ago in the shape of Shila (Pindi). The mother came here from her ancient place Mindhal Battas (HP) to bless the simple, ignorant and helpless people of Paddar area. The Machail Yatra is a unique pilgrimage with unique features. Besides spiritual, its social aspect is more effective and impressive where the Goddess asks her devotees to shun social evils for the welfare of society and mankind as a whole. ( Mata Kheer Bhawani )

The Chandi Dham Machail has the distinction of the simultaneous appearance of Shiv and Shakti. On the one hand, the Goddess Chandi (Shakti) is blessing her devotees at Machail village while on the other hand God Mahadev Shiva appears on the opposite high mountain in the shape of lingam to provide darshans to the pilgrims on the pious occasion of the Shakti yatra. The mountain is called Shiv Pahad which often remains covered with black clouds. It is a unique union of Shiva and Shakti found at Machail.

The holy shrine of the Goddess Chandi is situated at a height of over 8,000 feet above the sea level in Machail village surrounded by high mountains, thick devdar forests and attractive meadows and world famous sapphire mines. The most attractive and historical lion astride idols of the Goddess Chandi and Lakshmi Ji made of pure silver are the rare sight and source of inspiration for the pilgrims who come to seek blessing of Mataji. The most important and impressive aspect of the Machail Yatra is the unique holy mace of the Goddess which leads the then pilgrims and provides strength and inspiration enroute. ( Mata Bhuvaneshwari )

The miraculous Machail Yatra to the hilly area of Paddar in district Kishtwar, is really a boon for the people who seek blessing of “Mata Chandi”. The pilgrimage has revolutionized the action and thoughts of the general public having faith upon the divine mother. The popular Machail Yatra has its historical, religious importance. To pay obeisance, everyyear devotees participate in annual Machail Yatra which starts from Jammu.

In Jammu, she has her origin in Mahalaxmi Mandir at Pacca Danga and thence at Bhaderwah where from her “Chhari or Holy Mace” starts in the month of August every year. The yatra starts with religious procession ” which is taken out from Mahalaxmi Mandir and passes through Jain Bazaar, Link Road, Purani Mandi, City Chowk, Raghunath Bazaar and Indira Chowk in the City of Temples and then joins the main yatra at Chinote.

Situated around 306 kms away from Jammu, the Yatra passes through Jammu, Udhampur, Batote, Kishtwar, Atholi and Gulabgarh road and thence on foot to Machail Mata which is about 30 kms. Though the terrain is too tough to trek but with the grace of Mata Chandi, one feels hillbilly joyous in association with enchanting pilgrims echoing “Jai Mata Di, Jai Chandi Maa, Machail Wali Mata Ki Jai, etc.”

The main stop over or reception stations over en-route are Bhala, Puddoda, Premnagar, Thathri, Kistwar, Paddar, Massu, Chishoti, Atholi Gulabgarh, Layondee, S Kunderpul, Chishoti, Hamooree and thence Machail Mata’s sacred temple. Through out the route religious congregation and Bhandaras are organized to high ligh the importance of the yatra.  ( Ragnya Mata in Logripora village )

"Earlier, the yatra used to reach its destination Chandi Dham Machail, on the eve of a local festival called 'Naghui' when doors of the historical Chandi temple were thrown open for Darshan of the Goddess after remaining closed throughout the year as per ancient tradition and faith. On the occasion, the local populace including Buddhist Clad in multi colour traditional dresses greet the holymace and the pilgrims with enthusiasm. The devotional songs and holy couplets sung and chanted in local Padhri language surcharge the holy dances throughout the day. Besides Sankirtan, Karsewa, havna are also performed by the devotees for peace and satisfaction of the ultra modern society which is full of tension today. ( Sharda Mata in Udhampur )

The Machail Yatra has strengthened the spirit of religious tolerance, bonds of secularism and mutual brotherhood among the masses which is apparent from the fact that even our Muslim brothers greet the Yatra with due respect where-ever it passes, through their habitations.