Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sikh shrines of Jammu Kashmir Ladakh

The Jammu and Kashmir State is known world over not only for its enchanting beauty but also for its religious places. These sacred places dot the whole landscape of the State. Some of these belong to Muslims, Hindus, Christians and some to Sikhs. It is said that some of the Sikh shrines in the State have been constructed in memory of Sikh Gurus who visited the State during their life time.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, Kishtwar
Kishtwar is situated on the left side of river Chenab. In Kishtwar Muslim shrines like Sayeed Shah Mohumad, Fareed-u-Din Baghdadi etc., Hindu shrines like 'Sri Neel Kanth Mandir' and 'Ashtbadi Temple' are very famous shrines. Guru Nanak Sahib stayed at the garden of sidhas known as 'Sidhian Di Bagichi' and had discources with Sidhas. Guru Sahib also visited Bhadarwah and Jammu city. Bhadarwah and Kishtwar Gurudwars were constructed later on by Bhai Sahib Sher Singh Kashmir.

Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, Leh - Ladakh
Guru Nanak Sahib along with his disciples stayed in village Basgo, as the legend is familiar from generations to generations of that village. In 'Gurdwara Pather Sahib,' a sacred stone 8x8 feet is still preserved in his memory. Upto 1965 local Lamas were managing the shrine. Now-a-days Gurdwara is managed by the Indian Army. This Gurdwara is 24 Kms away from Leh route.

Gurdwara Nanaksar Mattan Sahib
This famous Gurdwara is 57 Kms from Srinagar and is situated in district Anantnag. Juma Chopa, a Muslim met Guru Nanak Sahib near Mattan forest. According to "Janam Sakhi Bala' his name was Kamal Faquir. Guru Sahib stayed near the twin springs of Martand temple, familiarly known as Machh-Bhawan. In the middle of spring was a stone plate on which Guru Ji discussed religious discources with one Pandit Braham Dass of Bijbehara, who adopted Guru's faith later.During Afghan rule of Noor-din-Bamzi, S. Gurmukh Singh constructed there a Gurdwara in 1766 A.D.

Gurdwara Nanak Asthan, Anantnag
Guru Nanak Sahib visited this place during his third itinerary. Guruji stayed outside Anantnag near the spring of Nagbal.The foundation of this Gurdwara was laid before Sikh rule. A large jagir is still associated with this shrine.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib Bijbehara
Bijbehara is 6 kms from Anantnag and 13 kms from Awantipura. Guru Ji stayed for some time in the house of Braham Dass Pandit, as requested by Pandit Ji. Gurdwara is constructed on the left bank of Jehlum river. Gurdwara is managed by Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Anantnag.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, Awantipura
Awantipura is 29 kms from Srinagar situated in Pulwama district. Some ruins of Hindu temples are also seen. Guru Nanak Ji stayed at this place for some time. The historic shrine is constructed in the memory of Guru Ji's stay. Before proceeding to Srinagar city.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, Hari Parbat Srinagar
After visiting some Muslim and Hindu temples, Guru Nanak Sahib stayed near the Hari Parbat Hill. According to 'Mahan Kosh' this Gurdwara was constructed by S. Hari Singh Nalwa.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Charan Asthan, Berwa
This historic shrine is situated 35 kms from Srinagar in Berwa (Distt. Budgam). A small Gurdwara was constructed before 1947. In 1948, Gurdwara building was washed away by floods. In 1975, a new Gurdwara building was erected. Gurdwara is managed by Parbandhak Committee, Budgam.After Guru Nanak Sahib, Guru Gobind Sahib visited the valley, after his release from the Gwalior Fort in 1619 A.D. Guru Ji visited the valley along with king Jahangir in 1620 A.D.

Gurdwara 6th Patshahi, Nowshera
Nowshera, a tehsil of Rajouri is 40 kms away from Bhimber. Guru Hargobind Sahib visited Nowshera in 1620 A.D. Biru Dutt (Birm Shah) met Guru Hargobind Sahib near the place of 'Glotian Khurd'. Birm Shah dedicatedly served Guru Sahib. Guru Ji bestowed a seat to Birm in that area. Birm propogated Guru's mission in the hills of Mirpur. Guru Sahib gifted some belongings to Birm Shah as a token of love. Later Biru settled near Kani village.

Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, 6th Patshahi Rajouri
This historic Gurdwara is associated with Guru Hargobind Sahib. A white marble Gurdwara building has been constructed on the site of old plinth. Later on, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, camped here to undertake his activities. Banda Singh's weapons are also preserved in this Gurdwara.

Gurdwara Shah Ji Marg, Pulwama
Guru ji entered Shopian along with king Jahangir, near the site of Katu Shah.Now-a-days, a new marble Gurdwara is under construction on the old plinth site. A historic Chinar tree where Guru ji tied the rope of his horse is still seen. Later on, Katu Shah preached Guru Nanak's mission in that part. Shah Ji Marg (Shadmarg in Kashmiri language) is situated near Shopian, near to Kamblimpur stream on Mughal road. In the revenue records village "Kamblimpur" is associated with Katu Shah near the village an old 'Patkala Vir Temple' was present. According to MA Macualiffe (The Sikh religions) Katu Shah first met Guru Hargobind Sahib at Amritsar. About 3 kms away from the historic shrine is 'Chishma Guru Hargobind Sahib'. From this site, Guru Ji proceeded to 'Khanpur Sarie'.

Gurdwara 6th Patshahi, Kathi Darwaza, Srinagar
This famous historic shrine is located at the foot hills of Hariparbat Hill. Guru Hargobind Sahib, according to some source also visited Mattan Sahib. Guru ji stayed permanently near Hariparbat Fort but often stayed at 'Shalimar Bagh'. An inn for the pilgrims was also constructed. Large number of people embarrassed Sikhism during Guru Ji's stay. Near Kathi Darwaza, Guru Ji stayed for 13 days. This shrine was later on built by Governor S. Hari Singh Nalwa. On the implementation of Gurdwara Act in 1976 A.D. this main Gurdwara also came in the hands of Khalsa Panth. 'Guru Ka Bagh' (Patshahi) is located on one side of the shrine. Recently white marble Gurdwara building was errected under the supervision of Baba Harbans Singh of New Delhi.

Gurdwara 6th Patshahi, Baramulla
This historic Gurdwara is located on the right side of river Jehlum, at a place known as 'Kot tirath' during Sikh rule. Guru Ji preached Guru Nanak's mission at this place. It is here that stone cutters of Baramulla presented a beautiful 'Stone-cot' to King Jahangir, who further presented it to Guru Hargobind Sahib. At the request of people, Guru Ji planted a Chinar tree with his own hands, as a sign of memory. Baba Harbans Singh Ji uprooted that historic Chinar and constructed a white marble Gurdwara building, having silver plated domes. This shrine is very impressive and is being maintained well by the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Baramulla.

A Thara was constructed later on by one Bhai Daya Ram, near the chinar tree. Bhai Lal Chand, Bhai Jassa Singh etc. also helped in this construction. S. Hari Singh Nalwa affiliated three villages (viz. Jahanbazpura, Nadhihal and Vadhra) and sanctioned Rs. 3000/- annually to this shrine. This Gurdwara is 45x45 feet. Pilgrimage quarters, Langar hall and a large car parking is near the shrine.

Gurdwara Thara Sahib, Kalampura
This historic shrine is 8 kms away from Baramulla town and 01 kms on Baramulla - Srinagar National highway.According to history, one Faquir Balol and his disciples met Guru Sahib near Kalampura village. They discussed religious discourses with Guru Ji. At the request of people, Guru ji dug out a fresh water spring. In the last years of 19th century, a plateform (Thara) 20x25 ft. was constructed by S. Matwal Singh Sahni and other Gur Sikhs. Chief Khalsa Dewan Amritsar, intellectuals like Bhai Vir Singh, S. Damodar Singh engineer, S. Narinder Singh etc. visited this place and constructed Gurdwara building in 1928-1931 A. D. Gurdwara is managed by Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Baramulla.

Gurdwara Parimpillian, Uri
Guru Ji proceeded to Uri via village Khatnayar, Peernian and stayed near Sultan Dhaki. A plate of stone is still preserved in Gurdwara, on which five Muslim faquirs (viz. Peer Gulsher, Peer Bhur Sultan, Peer Rangi Imam, Peer Noor Nihal and Peer Abdul Gaffoor) had religious discources with Guru Ji. At the end, the Guru ji proceeded towards 'Dolanga' village. The foot prints of Guru Ji's horse are still preserved near 'Dolanga' site.

In 1936-37 A.D. a small Gurdwara was constructed by the devotees. S. Narian Singh of Salambad, S. Gurmukh Singh, S. Damodar Singh engineer and other Gursikhs helped in the construction. Sahajdhari Sikhs, Brahmans and Muslims Sayeeds visit regularly to Gurdwara for blessings. Baisakhi and Guru Hargobind Sahibs birthday are celebrated with great enthusiasm here. A small bridge was constructed on the river Jehlum in 1970-71, which connected Gurdwara.

Other historic shrines in State are Dera Nangali Sahib Poonch, Gurdwara Thapiana Sahib Shalkot, Dera Baba Banda Singh Bahadur (Reasi), Gurdwara Thali Sahib Jammu, Gurudwara Singh Sabha Bhai Vir Singh Gulmarg, Bunga Akali Phula Singh Shaheed Gunj Srinagar, Gurdwara Shaheed Gunj Barzala Baghat Srinagar, Gurdwara Amira Kadal Srinagar etc.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christmas Trends Ideas List

What’s new in Christmas trends for 2010: Colors, themes, etc.

It’s that time of year again, time to decorate your shops for the Christmas holidays. Why decorate? It highlights your store and draws people in, and it also enhances the morale of your staff. Everybody loves the colored lights, the aroma of cinnamon and apple cider, and the sounds of Christmas carols.

New colors for this year are purple, bronze, gold, black, deep burnt orange, blue, brown, and pink. Any metallic shades are good. Black can be paired with a bright color for a dramatic effect. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the traditional red, green, and white. If you want a different look, try lime green, dark wine or burgundy, and ivory instead of white.

For added effect try glitter and sparkles – anything that shines; feathers, beads, fringe – things soft and fluffy. Add a touch of the unexpected with animal prints and flowers on your gift wrap. The key to a beautiful Christmas is balance and taste. Always avoid anything tacky!

Religious themes are making a comeback this year. Nativity scenes are of primary importance. Folk art is also popular-anything handmade, hand painted, knit, or crocheted. Shells and sea creatures go well with blues, greens, and browns. Personalize your ornaments. Monogrammed ornaments made great keepsakes. Old ornaments are popular. Check out that trunk in the attic. Is Grandmother’s silk angel tree top still there? If you have small children, decorate with their favorite cartoon characters, snow globes, miniature houses with snow on their roofs, and picture frames with your children’s pictures.

The traditional decorations include a Christmas tree, garland, lights, candles, and wreaths. Originally, the tree was decorated with white candles; later silver tinsel was added. The first ornaments were hand-blown glass from Germany. In America, the invention of plastic made decorations much cheaper and provided more variety. Plants that became popular as Christmas decorations are poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe.

Decorating now has become an art form. Neighbors compete to see who can be more creative with their outdoor d├ęcor. In addition to lights, we have Santa in his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, or a nativity scene, or an inflatable snowman. We even have inflatable snow globes with Frosty or Santa standing in a snow storm. There is no limit to the creativeness of Christmas designs, and there are no rules when it comes to selecting and decorating one’s home or business. These lights and decorations delight customers and passersby for the entire season.

Maybe you don’t have time to decorate the way you would like; after all, this is the busiest time of the year. There are companies who can decorate for you at a reasonable price determined by the type and amount of decorations you prefer. This will allow you to spend more time with your family just enjoying the Christmas holidays.

On the other hand, you may want extra income. If you have a seasonal business such as a landscape company, a nursery, or a lawn care provider, or maybe you are a florist and you want additional business, or maybe you just want to open a business; what ever your situation, why not design and decorate homes and businesses for the holidays? This business offers you a chance to generate more income when your regular business is slow, and it cuts your overhead costs and enables you to keep your employees all year. You can sell Christmas decorations to your regular customers while you are drawing in new ones.

Holiday decorating business is growing rapidly. Customers spent over $200 million dollars in decorating services last year. Your company could have a big percent of that money next year if you start right away developing your decorating business. Most of your sales will come from two-income families-those who don’t have the time to climb ladders to hang garlands and strings of lights in freezing weather, and business people understand why it is important to decorate their shops and show their Christmas spirit. Your decorating company can perform a tremendous service to the people in your community as well as aiding you to grow your business.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shrine of Sharda in PoK

After Vajpayee-Musharaf meeting at Islamabad during SAARC conference from 4 to 6 January 2004 a number of CBMs between the two parts of Kashmir were initiated to normalize the situation, create friendly relations and encourage the peace process. These include the cease fire on LOC, opening of two roads across the LOC via Poonch-Rawalakote and Uri-Srinagar, meeting of divided families, and start of trade ventures etc. Accordingly Kashmiri Pandits and other religious organizations of state demanded for the opening of Sharda Shrine of POK for religious tourism so that they could have Darshan of this old temple and annual yatra of the Shrine could be revived as it was conducted before partition in the month of August. The then president of Pakistan Parvaiz Musharaf accepted the demands of the minorities of J&K in principle and sanctioned Rs. 8 crores in 2006 for creation of infrastructural facilities near the Shrine so that pilgrims could be allowed to visit. As per the information received through internet, POK government constructed some tourist huts, community centres, youth hostel and cafeteria near the Shrine but no attention was paid towards the revival of the Shrine which is in deteriorating condition. The Muslim natives of the village Sharda and adjoining areas still call the monument as Sharda Mai (Sharda Goddess). Dr. Ghulam Azhar a noted historian of POK writes in one of his research article that Sharda Shrine is the oldest monument of POK which needs preservation and restoration. The Shrine was an important pilgrim centre in the past. The ruins of the old monuments are sufficient to narrate the old glory and glamour of this Shrine.

Sharda Shrine is about 207 kilometers in the north of Muzafarabad in POK.The Shrine is situated in between 340.48'latitude and 740.14' longitude. The spot is linked with motorable road leading from Muzafarabad via Neelam valley, Kundal Shai, Jagran Valley, Athmaquam, Neelam township and Dwarian. The Sharda Temple is located near the confluence of Kishan Ganga river (Neelam river) and Madhumati stream in an open ground. It is a breath taking spot with full greenery, multicolour flowers, springs, forest belt surrounded by snow clad peaks of Sharda and Narda hills of Nanga Parbat range which divides POK from Galgit-Baltistan.

Before independence the annual Yatra of Sharda Temple was conducted from the ancient time. During Dogra rule after 1846 this Yatra had become a regular feature. The Yatra of Sharda Devi was started on Shukal Pakash during the month of August (Bhadun). The devotees would start their yatra on 4th Bhadun and on 8th they were taking dip in the Sharda Kund on the bank of Madhumati River and after giving Sharad of their Pitras (died relatives) they were having the Darshan of Sharda Goddess. Mostly Kashmiri Pandits were conducting the Yatra after traveling hundreds of miles on foot. Mr. C.E Bats, the author of the Gazetter of the Kashmir who had visited the spot in 1872 AD writes that the Sharda Tempe is situated in the confluence of river Madhumati and Kishan Ganga. The temple is approached by a stair case about nine feet wide of steep stone steps some 63 in numbers having on either side a massive balustrade. The entrance was through a double porch way at the south-west corner of enclosure. The walls of the enclosure are about 30 feet high. In the middle of the walls in the north side is an arched recess which contains Lingum. The Cella about 23 feet square stands on the elevated plinth about four feet from the present level of ground. The entrance is on the west side facing the porch way. On each of the other three sides of Cella, a single roof has y been erected over the building for the protection by the order of Colonel Gundu, the Late Zaildar of Muzafarabad. The interior of the temple is square and perfectly plain. On the ground lies a large rough slab of unpolished stone which is said to have been disturbed by Raja Manzoor Khan of Karnah in search of treasure. In those days the Shrine was venerated by both Hindus and Muslims. There was also a fort constructed by Dogras with 60 Dogra Constables stationing for the protection of Shrine and defence of the area. The ancient Shrine is about 400 yards in the south of the fort. The temple was also renovated by Colonel Gundu, the Zaildar of Muzafarabad in 1867 AD.

In the ancient time Sharda was famous in all over India. The historic facts reveal that near the Shrine there was a Budhist University established during the period of Emperor Ashoka (273BC) known as Sharda Peeth, to spread the teachings and thoughts of Budhism in Kashmir and other hilly regions. The foundation of Sharda Peeth was laid on the bank of Madhumati River. The fourth Budhist council was summoned at this place by Emperor Kanishka in 141 AD. In Sharda University, a Sharda script was invented by the Budhist monks and scholars which was the amalgation of local dialects and understandable to the common people. Therefore with the help of this script Budhism was spreaded in Kashmir, Himachal, Tibet and Nepal. However with the downfall of Budhism in India the glory and glamour of Sharda Peeth got also vanished and it became a part of the history.

Kalhana writes in Raj Tringani that in 11th century AD it was a temple of Sharda Goddess. Historian Belhana writes in Vikrama Chiriter that he has been educated only due to the blessings of Sharda Goddess whose crown was formed with the gliterring gold collected from the river Madhumati. Al Bruni who had visited India in 1036 AD writes in his book 'India' that there is a great image of Sharda and devotees assemble here for the pilgrim. Abu-ul-Fazal in Aain-e-Akbari writes that on the bank of Madhumati in Drava area of Muzafarabad there is a stone temple of Sharda Devi. Every month on the Shukal Pakash the image of the Sharda starts showing miracles. The temple is respected by large population. Therefore it appears that upto 16th century AD this temple was having great religious importance.

Juna Raj the writer of Raj Tringani Juna Raj written during the rule of Sultan Zain-ul-Ab Din of Kashmir (1420-1472 AD) records in his book that Sultan Zain-ul-Ab Din was undertaking religious pilgrim to Hindu Shrine and participating in Hindu rituals. Juna Raj also recorded that Sultan had visited Sharda temple in 1422 AD along with the Yatris. After taking bath in Madhumati stream he entered the temple but he felt annoyed on the wickedness of the priest and devotees and lost faith in the Goddess Sharda. The Goddess Sharda did not manifested herself. Sultan also slept in the temple during the night hours. But he could not see the miracles of the Goddess.

C.E Bats writes that during his visit of Sharda Devi in 1772 AD there was a Lingum and not image of Goddess Sharda. Maharaja Gulab Singh had got the temple renovated during 1846-1856 AD. He had also appointed a Brahmin priest to look after this historic temple, constructed a fort near the temple and posted 60 constables for the protection of Sharda Shrine and the area. Therefore the devotees started visiting the Shrine regularly and the ancient Yatra was revived. The devotees start their Yatra on 4th Bhadun and on 8th Bhadun they were taking dip in the Sharda Kund in the Madhumati stream and have the Darshana of the temple. This Yatra remained in vogue during Dogra period upto 1947. After the turmoil of 1947 when Kashmir was divided into two parts this important Shrine had gone under the occupation of Pakistan. For the last 62 years the Shrine remains unattended and is in ruins. But now there is a great demand from the minority population of Jammu and Kashmir state for the restoration of Sharda temple and start of the Yatra. This will be another CBM between the two parts of the Kashmir.

K.D Maini

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trekking in Harmukh Peaks

Trekking is not just a pastime for eccentrics and bushwalkers-trekking is simply a means of travelling and appreciating the mountains and the people in the most natural way-on foot. There is no technical climbing, only walking sometimes strenuous, sometimes easy-but walking nonetheless. Sound preparation, both physically and mentally, is still vital. It would be a sorry individual who went to Himalayas unprepared. There are several attractive peaks in the bosom of the Himalayas which fascinate traveller and tourists, one such beautiful peak is Harmukh.  ( pilgrimage in kashmir )

Harmukut Ganga in Kashmir

There are so many routes to reach Harmukh (Harmukutaganga) - Gangabal region, via Sonamarg - Nichnai Pass, Bandipore route, Gurez, route, Gulmarg, Wussan - Preng, etc. The shortest route is via, Kangan - Narranaag. The Harmukta identified with Haramukh Peaks is to North of Kashmir surrounded by massive glaciers. Narranaag is mentioned in the Nilmat Purana as "Sodar Tirtha". From Narranaag one has to climb a very steep ascent a distance of approximately 17-20 kms which can be covered in 7 - 8 hours to reach Gangabal Top. As there is no habitation, one comes across Gujjars and Bakerwals here with their flocks of sheep and goat.

It is clear that Kashmiri Pandits have been going for pilgrimage to this much before 6th or 7th century AD. Kashmiri Pandits have been visiting this lake for centuries essentially to immerse Mortal remains of dead relatives and also for peforming Shradaa, Havan both at Gangabal and at Narran Naag. For a Kashmiri Pandit, Gangabal used to be equivalent to sacred river Ganga.

The scenic place has many natural attractions which attract our attention. Kanak Vahini, as mentioned in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangni Kalhana, or the present day "Krenk Nadi" which flows to the South temple complex of Narran Naag is formed by tributaries that flow from two lakes below Haramukh. These lakes are known Nundkol and Gangabal, referred to as Uttarmanasa in Neelmat Purana. Krenk Nadi joins Sindh stream below near Kangan. ( Buddha Amarnath in Poonch )

Kashmiri Pandits go for pilgrimage to this lake on "Ganga Ashtami" in the month of "Bhadrapada" (a month of Hindu Calendar corresponds to August or early September). There is a rock temple near the bank of the lake and has a Shiva Lingam (The Shiva Lingam, at present, has been broken by some miscreants there). It is a unique experience to watch sunrise and sunset view of the Mt Haramukh - 5755 meters.The lofty clad mountain peaks, alpine forests and grasslands and the sacred lakes are just bewitching and serene.

It is not hard to understand why Haramukh was traditionally revered by the Hindus of Kashmir. Its impressive position can be appreciated from afar, even at Gulmarg, as it dominates the lower Kashmir valley. Not surprisingly, Haramukh and the sacred waters of Gangabal and Nundhkohl became a destination for Hindu pilgrims indeed. It is said that this yatra predated, and was generally held more important than the annual "Shri Baba Amarnath Ji Pilgrimage."         ( Mata Kheer Bhawani  )

A trek/yatra in this region offers spectacular mountain scenery, beautiful flowered campsites and excellent view of sacred Lakes of Nundhkhol and Gangabal.The lofty clad mountain peaks, alpine forests and grasslands plus sacred lakes are just bewitching and serene.One has to take all the provisions with him for at least 4-5 days journey.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Changpas of Ladakh

Up in the Changthang plateau, Ladakh, what one can see occasionally is a caravan of people and animals along with their belongings for setting up makeshift shelters. Life for the tribe 'Changpas', the nomadic pastoralists of this region with an average altitude of 14600 above sea level is really that, an unending caravan. Here amidst the rugged mountainous terrain which has a brief season in which anything can grow, these 'northerners,' or 'Drukpa 'in Tibetan simply soldier on, along with their sheep, goat, yak and horse.

There are several 'Ladakhs'. Leh, the capital city now a tourist hotspot with all the trappings of modernity, of bustling markets, trekking companies and hotels is miles away and worlds apart from life in the upper reaches. Changthang remains remote, disconnected even inhospitable, certainly not on any tourist map. None of the opportunities for earning a living here from the tourism industry, nor is there any settled agriculture.

Survival in this high ground, snow covered for 8-9 months in the year is a challenging, nay daunting task. It is centered around livestock; Rearing of animals, consuming and selling the produce milk, hair, meat is the main and only means of livelihood. Movement is the key, over the mountainous paths in constant search of pastures for their livestock and habitats for themselves.

Unlike other nomadic pastoralists, Changpas do not move from one climatic region to another; they do not for instance 'migrate' in the winter months to warmer climes. Rather they move short distances within the same zone. Migratory routes are established over years with campsites identified at vantage points. Typically, there are constructions with stone wall boundaries for protection against the chill and the wind. Acutely conscious of limited grazing season of 4-5 months, they are simultaneously harvesting grasses for storage when the frost sets in.  ( Trekking in Harmukh Peaks )

Up in the Changthang plateau, man is pitted against nature, Changpas have evolved techniques to even out the periods of surpluses and shortages. In the summer months, when the livestock produces high levels of milk, dairy products are converted into less perishable forms like butter and cheese. Again, animals are fattened up during the summer to be slaughtered early in the winter, while the weather is conducive to storage. While the struggle against the elements to survive is a bitter one, it also comes with a blessing. Because the terrain and the climate are so difficult, there is no pressure from settled farmers, unlike what other nomadic groups in the region face. Agriculture is well-nigh impossible and thus remains very clearly a Chanpa turf!

The blessing comes with a rider though. Their constant movement is hardly conducive for any development programs of the government to be targeted towards them. Thus for most, they remain excluded from any of the welfare or protection schemes of the government. Life can get very grim, up in the icy terrain. The caravan of Changpas often encounters. mishaps. Their tents are swept off their poles by the strong winds or they see their animals die due to heavy snowfall
They have to necessarily contend with sickness, injury even death. At such moments of even tragedy, the caravan cannot stop. The movement, momentum has to be kept up, no matter what the cost, animal or human. Many times, it is the elderly who simply die. Sometimes it is children. What could be more torturous or traumatic for parents to lose their child and carry on regardless? It is not only the climate or terrain that is harsh for the Changpas.

There are other calamities that the Changpa stoically faces. Often it is the man of the house who migrates to the higher pastures, with the livestock leaving his family at a safe place with adequate food, fodder and firewood supplies. Neither has anyway of knowing immediately of any accident, sickness or even death has befallen their loved ones. It may be 3-4 days, for the information to reach. It is just the way things are. There seems no way it could be any different, not for the previous generations, not for the Changpas now.

No doubt, the absence of health care and medical services is glaring. Education too has taken a big hit. The very mode of life of this nomadic group runs contrary to the current concept of education as it is for thousands of children across the country. How can the Changpa children even conceive of a school building, teachers, classes and extra-curricular activities? They will live their lives as nomads, shepherds, never perhaps knowing the discipline of study, nor the value of an education. Never knowing that things could be different in the world beyond the Changthang plateau.  ( Pollution in River Jhelum )
All their learning comes from the path and the life pattern handed down over hundreds of years. Of course the learnings are vast, immeasurable the life-skills, best practices to sustain, conserve their meagre resources, pitted against what is easily one of the harshest climes and terrains in this Himalayan zone. Changpas inhabit a world that is unknown and unseen to much of humanity outside the Changthang plateau. There is inevitability to the pattern of life here and there is no question of 'choosing' an alternate to the nomadic way of life.

Yet the gnawing question still remains: will the children and indeed the future generations continue to live the same way, a life of pristine value and worthy of the highest respect, yet one that remains outside the purview of development? Is it fair that the robust Changpa children will continue to roam the heights in search of fodder much like their parents and grand-parents, sans the skills and knowledge that is within the reach of others in the state? To enable this generation of Changpas to make informed choices about their lives and destinies would indeed be laudable. It could chart a different course of life for the quintessential wanderers who live a life that others may not even dare to dream. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Story Of Birbal Maheshdas Bhat

Birbal, whose real name was Maheshdas Bhat, was the Chief Minister (Wazir-e Azam) of the Mughal court in the administration of the Emperor Akbar. He was one of Emperor’s most trusted members along with being a part of Akbar’s nine advisors, known as the “navaratnas”, meaning “nine jewels”. He was the only Hindu who was a “Din-i-Ilahi” believer, a new religion created by the Emperor Akbar. He was a very dear friend of the emperor, who liked Birbal most for his wit and wisdom, as a result of which they frequently had witty and humorous dialogues between them. These conversations have become stories and now are part of a rich tradition of folklore and legend.      (  Changpas of Ladakh )

Early days of Birbal’s Life: Birbal grew up in a Kayastha Brahmin household, poor but well educated. He was very shrewd and talented in using wit to his advantage in any situation.  He learnt Sanskrit, Hindi and Persian (it was state language at that time) at the age of 5 from his grandfather. As a family tradition he also learnt music and poetry. He started writing his own poems at that young age only. He was also good any tuning and singing poems and his wit mixed with humor attracted any person who had a conversation with him.

Maheshdas got a chance to show his talent in writing poems and singing ability when he was invited by Bhagwandas, the king of Jaipur, who was very fond of encouraging artists. Maheshdas used to write poems with the penname “Brahmakavi”. Then he also went to the King of Rewa and served in his court. At that time Tansen was also a member of the same court at Rewa. Later he joined the court of Akbar in 1556 A.D and worked with him for 30 years.    (  Shastri Jee )

Birbal’s family: Maheshdas Bhatt was born in the city of Trivikrampur in 1528 A.D to Gangadas and Anabhadevi.  They were Kayasth Brahmins. His grandfather Roopdhar was a great Sanskrit scholar and resided in Patrapunj. Maheshdas was the third child and at a very young age lost his father Gangadas. His mother sent him to her father Roopdhar at Patrapunj.

And he got his education by his grandfather. Because of his accomplishments Maheshdas was able to marry a girl from a well known family in Kalinjar. After marriage, he was financially settled.

Last Days of Birbal’s life: It was said that Raja Birbal met Guru Amar Das, the third guru of Sikhism on his way to the battle of Malandari Pass. He and his army had their meals in the Langar, when some individual told him that Guru Amar Das had a precious rasayana (a rejuvenating ointment that promised eternal youth according to Ayurveda’s Bhoota Vidya). Birbal demanded this rasayana from Guru Amar Das. But it is believed, Guru Amar Das saying God’s name is the true rasayana and this rasayana was only gifted to the previous Gurus.   (  Sanskrit as the language of introducing the gods )

Birbal did not believe him and instead got angry. However, he had orders to reach Malandari (Muhim) the next day. Abandoning his plans for the rasayana, he had to continue the journey.

Attempting to crush the unrest amongst Afghan or Pashtun tribes in Northwest India, Akbar sent troops for the battle. When the troops faced resilient resistance from the Afghans, Akbar sent Birbal to help Zain Khan in the battle, and the Zain Khan (who was jealous of Birbal due to his close proximity with the Emperor)  misled Birbal to enter a narrow pass at night. The Afghans were well prepared and were ready on the hills. Many men on Birbal’s side lost their way or were killed in the holes and the caverns and it was a terrible defeat, in which Birbal fought with bravery but died on 16 Feb 1583 A.D. The Birbal’s death was said to be caused by treachery, not military defeat.

Akbar was very shocked by the death of Birbal and he didn’t attend court for two full days and didn’t eat or drink anything and mourned for a long time. It is believed that Sanchit Fazal killed Birbal as he couldn’t stand the close relationship between Akbar and Birbal. Birbal’s last wish was that upon his death, his ashes be immersed in the River Ganga at Haridwar, but Akbar did not yield to this wish and instead he had a well dug, near the river and buried his ashes there (’Thanda kua’ near Harki Pauri, Haridwar).

Why was Birbal Popular? Maheshdas was a poet and author whose wit and wisdom impressed Emperor Akbar a lot and he bestowed a new name on him – Birbal (Bir means Brain, Bal means Strong) and the title of Raja.

Birbal’s participation in many important military campaigns proved he was a rare combination of a man with a pen and the sword. He accompanied Akbar on military campaigns to Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Due to his high position and influence with the emperor, he was envied by many.

When Akbar heard the death of his dear friend in the battle against Afghans, he was greatly shocked and did not eat food or water nor attended his court for two full days. It is said that this was one of the only 5 times that Akbar did not attend his royal court during his reign.

Akbar Birbal’s genuine love and friendship
Akbar’s genuine love and friendship for Birbal is attested by two incidents. Once, when Birbal fell off his horse and was knocked unconscious, Akbar personally took care of him and brought back to consciousness.

Another time, while watching the fight between two wild elephants, one of the elephants went mad and ran after Birbal. Akbar brought his own horse between the elephant and Birbal and saved Birbal’s life. The elephant stood silent and didn’t attack Akbar. Everyone was shocked as Akbar could have been hurt severely or even died if elephant was attacked. These two incidents are usually mentioned to indicate the Akbar’s love and friendship towards Birbal.

Birbal’s palace at Fatehpur Sikri: Built in 1571 A.D, the palace of Birbal at Fatehpur Sikri, is one of the marvelous buildings of imperial Harem. It is at north east from Jodha Bai’s Palace and it consists of four-square rooms, all interconnected through open doorways and two oblong entrance porches on Northwest and Southeast corners. All the four rooms have flat ceilings, and porches have triangular chhappar ceiling with pyramidal roof.      ( pride of Led Zeppelin )

The rectangular columns have lotus petals and stalactite designs. The first floor has beautiful Jharokhas overlooking the court below and a simple projecting eaves. On an octagonal drum, a dome of the upper rooms rests, which is also carved with a raised trefoil pattern. The domes are crowned by an inverted lotus and kalash finials and also have the traces of tile work. The entire construction is composed of lintels and beams, and beautifully carved brackets have been used to span the spaces between the pillars and ornamental arches. These brackets are there on both faces with lotus and the Arabian designs. Approximately triangular surface area between two adjacent arches and the horizontal plane above them of the arches also have arabesque and floral design.

Akbar Birbal Stories: Birbal Stories are very famous and popular in India among all ages of people. They are usually called by Akbar Birbal Stories. Even children are very familiar with these stories as the stories have found their way into the language class syllabus.

The dialogue exchanges between Akbar and Birbal have been recorded in many volumes. Many of these have become folk stories in Indian tradition. Due to the wit and humor they depict, the Akbar-Birbal stories are loved by one and all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Story of Walnuts in India

Walnut (Juglans regia L) is a single natural resource that has a lot of bio-diversity and adaptability potential. It grows in foot-hill, abondonded, road side, riverside and marginal land areas. The present plantation is mostly of seedling origin that receives nil after care and yet showers its bounty upon the owners.

North Western Hill Regions of India, abound in lofty mountains and majestic slopes where, walnut germplasm thrives best in its natural temperate climate. Commercial cultivation of edible walnut at present is confined to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Arunachal Pradesh with an estimated area of 97 thousand hectares and annual production of 113 metric tonnes (2005-2006). It is an important dry fruit having a long shelf life. Walnut kernels are labeled as a health food fruit rich in oil with 65 percent lipid of polyunsaturated nature safe for consumption. Walnut cultivation is directly connected to the economic prosperity of the people living in remote and far-flung areas. Use of walnut kernels in Agri. based food industry, kitchens, gift packets, ritual, recipes are well known. ( Birbal name was Maheshdas Bhat )

Barring some regular walnut plantations in governmental farms, we do not have elite walnut grooves with farmers. The life span of walnut tree extends to many decades even to a couple of centuries. In J&K felling of green walnut tree is prohibited by law. Walnut is a monopoly crop of Jammu and Kashmir state with an annual turnover of Rs. 2500 million out of which Rs.1180 million are in foreign exchange. It is exported to over 42 countries and Agri.Produce Export Dev. Agency (APEDA) GOI New Delhi has certified walnut produced in J&k as Organic. The said organization has included J&K under Agri Export Zone for walnut in 2002-03.  ( Led Zeppelin song of kashmir )

It is heartening to note that the book under review, first of its kind in country, based on the compilation of the up to date data, generated by various workers numbering over two hundred is scanned, analyzed and classified and presented in 23 chapters besides refrences,annexures and index.

Introduction of walnut as such includes historical perspective dating back to 12000 to 9500 years as an oldest tree food of mankind. The origin based on excavations, prehistoric deposits dating from Iron Age, ancient nomenclature, travel of seed material from one region to other, heritage from Indian point of view as gathered from Rajtarangni, Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri, Nuskha Dar Fanni-Falahat and other texts is quite comprehensive.

Present status of walnut at Global, National and State level explained on the basis statistical figures from authentic sources pin-pointing the productivity levels,acerage, year wise exports and revenue give an overall view of this dry fruit of commerce. Botanical description on the parameters of phenology, yield potential criteria supplemented with labeled figures make the understanding easy. Nut quality in the form of weight, percent kernel, size, shape, shell strength, seal, suture, flavour, oil composition besides genetic diversity prevalent in Juglans world over is explained. Economic importance with respect to social and religious beliefs, Doctrine of Signatures, trade and environment, handicrafts are discussed. Nutritional contents of walnut kernels as a health food based on international data are included for the benefit of common man. Walnut oil, its composition and uses in culinary and artistic work are highlighted.

Cultivation aspects of walnut are described under propagation, rootstock and cultivars. It includes establishment of nursery and management, grafting, budding techniques besides newer approaches of propagation like zero energy high humid polyhouse chamber, hot cable callusing (HCC). Review of research work done in India on walnut seed germination,propagation,study of exotic and indigenous ,germplasm, genetic variability,dehulling,nutrients and bio-regulators and named cultivars has been attempted.

Quality criteria both for export and domestic consumption fixed by concerned agencies and shelf life at different storage temperatures, utility of controlled atmospheres storage, vacuum, carbon dioxide and nitrogen on walnut kernel are discussed .Methods of prolonging the shelf life by the use of anti oxidants, irradiation fluorescence light and colored packing based on research findings are explained.

Historical background of walnut utilization by man in the form of recipes, rituals connected with religious ceremonies, both in-shell and shelled in India are put on record for the first time. In addition walnut based recipes of international importance scanned through internet sources worth trying by housewives, chefs, cooks, confectioners and consumers in general are compiled. Nature's bunties from walnut tree components along with medicinal and microbial properties, walnut liqueur and allelopathic traits are included in last chapter.   ( Tourism in Jammu Kashmir )

The book authoritatively contains almost all the information on the subject sufficient for the planners, scientists, administrators to plan their future programs. It is sure to serve a baseline document for all those interested in walnut not only in J&K but for all other walnut growing states of India. It is a reference book for researchers, scholars and students besides libraries of higher learning.

The landmark book compiled by a Professor Emeritus and an Agriculture Scientist having served the cause fruit growers of state for over forty years is a tribute to his dedicated work.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lalleshuri Lal Vakh

Kenchan Deithumm Oaray Aalaav 
Kenchav Ruttahaaye Naalai Veuth 
Kenchan Muss Chath Achhee Laajee Taalav
Kenchan Papith Gayee Haaluv Kheuth 

“To some of your devotees you give a call from above and they became one with you. Some as a result of your bounty enjoy to their hearts content the nectar of your grace at its very fountainhead. Some regrettably get drunk so deeply with the worldly attractions that they become totally blind to your divine grace while some ... See More suddenly fall from the pinnacle of your blessing just as a farmer loses his entire field of ripe crop to the sudden attack of a huge mass of flying insects.”    ( Holy Mother Bhuvaneshwari )

The grace of the Lord is a strange display of his bounty. Each one is honoured according to his worth and capacity. Some devotees of the Lord achieve the ultimate realization of self instantly and such is the depth of their devotion that they... See More’re virtually invited from above to accept the divine grace. Such a generosity is not out of any sweet will of the Lord but they deserve it and strangely enough still they do not desire. There’re some exclusive devotees of the Lord who enjoy God’s grace to such an extent that they swig the whole nectar in a single gulp. It suggests the rarest of the rare example of complete merger with the universal Lord, being one with Him which’s the complete absence of duality between the seeker and the sought. The next case is of the worldly wise who gets engrossed in the affairs so intensely that he never looks back and goes on pursuing worldly wealth and collecting materials as if he has to be here for all times together. He understands the truth when he nears his end and tries to look back but the time is lost and occasion missed. He passes away to face the divine justice and accept his merit. Then there’s another instance of a saadak who reaches the height of his realization and grace of the almighty through his personal virtues but has a sudden fall from his height as the consequence of some gross fault committed by him. Lalleshuri compares the event to the loss of a farmer’s full farm produce by a sudden attack of a mass of worms who eat up his whole season’s travail in a single go and leave him fully impoverished

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sudhmahadev Fair Festival

According to yet another legend, Goddess Parvati, the daughter of Raja Mantalai wished to marry Lord Shiva at this place. And, this marriage was solemnized in a temple near a pond. So, on the name of that pond, this place is called Mantalai, where Man means great and pond talai. (   Sudh Mahadev temple )

This year, Sudhmahadev fair is being held from 25th June. Thousands of devotees from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana tourists from abroad come to participate in this folk fair. Hundreds of locals also pour in this fair attired in their traditional dresses and costumes.

Situated in the lap of Siwaliks at an elevation of 1500m lies a historic Lord Shiva's shrine, called Sudhmahadev. It commands a scenic view of its surroundings on all sides and is located amidst sylvan setting of snow clad mountains and evergreen forests of pines. It is about 120 km away from Jammu city, 55 km in the north of Udhampur town and 23 km from Chenani. Sudhmahadev is not only popular for its Lord Shiva's shrine but has also remained famous for a Yoga Ashram of late Dhirender Brahmchari at Mantalai which is 8 km from Sudhmahadev.   (  Harmukh Harmukuta ganga Gangabal region )

Every year, three days annual fair is organized at Sudhmahadev on Jyeshtha Purnima (full moon) of Bikrami era, which generally comes off in the month of May every year according to Christan era. Sometimes, this Purnima, however, falls in the month of June, coinciding with the Haarh Purnima. This year, Sudhmahadev's fair is being held with effect from 25th June. Thousands of devotees from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and tourists from abroad come to participate in this folk fair. Hundreds of locals also pour in this fair attired in their traditional dresses and costumes.

Sudhmahadev shrine has a temple that houses a black coloured marble idol of the Lord Shiva along with His consort the Goddess Parvati mounted on Nandigan (Bull) and huge trident (Trishul). This idol of Lord Shiva is called Aap Shambu (Swayambu Shiv Shambu) lingam. Sudhmahadev shrine is 2800 or 3000 years old and its temple is narrated to be built by the Raja of Chenani, Ram Dev about 500 years ago. This temple has dhooni which commemorates the spiritual attainment of Swami Baba Roopnath, who used to live in the temple and his dooni has been kept constantly burning eversince. (  Shiv Parvati Shrine )

Of the various legends regarding Sudhmahadev shrine, the most leading one relates to Sudheet or Sudanshu, who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva but in his fore birth he was demon. Being an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, Sudhanshu used to meditate in the lush green forests of Sudhmahadev. In the vicinity of Sudhmahadev, Goddess Parvati, daughter of Raja Mantalai also used to worship the Lord Shiva. It is stated that one day Sudanshu approached Mata Parvati to pay his obeisance. Since Sudhanshu was demon in his fore birth, so his demonic appearance frightened Mata Parvati and she gave a loud shriek.

Hearing this shriek Lord Shiva who was meditating on the highest peak of Shivgarh facing Gaurikund got infuriated; He flung his trident to protect Goddess Parvati. The trident instantly struck on Sudanshu's head fatally. While Sudanshu was dying, he called on Lord Shiva again and again so Lord Shiva realized that he had committed a mistake by killing his devotee. Lord Shiva then himself reached the spot and offered Sudanshu to bring him in life again. Sudanshu did not agree and preferred to have salvation at the hands of Lord Shiva. With his sincere devotion, lord Shiva gave him a promise that his name would be prefixed to Lord Shiva's name at this place. Since then it has been called Sudhmahadev. The trident that struck Sudanshu stands installed near the temple. This trident bears inscription in Brahamai character of Gupt period and lingum lying inside the temple is the same where Sudanshu used to worship Lord Shiva.

According to yet another legend, Goddess Parvati, the daughter of Raja Mantalai wished to marry Lord Shiva at this place. And, this marriage was solemnized in a temple near a pond. So on the name of that pond, this place is called Mantalai, where Man means great and pond talai. . This talai is supposed to act as Havan Kund for performing various marriage ceremonies. This site is considered an ancient one as was evident from large number of pots herds of various types found allround there in the earth. There is another version that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were married at Gaurikund. Gaurikund is a sacred perennial spring where Goddess Parvati used to go for bath. The legend of this site evinces that Goddess Parvati after taking bath used to worship Lord Shiva, mediating in a cave which is nearly 2 km from Sudhmahadev on the bank of stream fed by the water of Gaurikind. Devika, a famous and sacred stream of Jammu also originates from Gaurikind. It is believed that the Goddess Parvati herself flows as a stream or river in the serpentine manner and emerges at the shrines of Kameshwar Mahadev Udhampur, Purmandal and Uttar Behani in Jammu.

Sudhmahadev Fair
During the first day of three days of folk fair, the devotees first bathe in the Beenisangam called Budhisudhi rivulet, which gushes out from top of the Dhar Shivgarh and is considered an abode of innumerable saints. Thereafter, the devotees take bath in sin destroying spring (Pap Nashni Bauli) situated just at the entrance of temple, about which it is said that a holy dip in this spring shuns all evils.      (  Buddha Amarnath in Jammu )

During the festival, long queues of pilgrims both men and women are seen at the site of this spring. The folk artists of surrounding villages turn up in large numbers to sing folk lores of areas highlighting various aspects of civilization with special reference to Lord Shiva. The tools of folk media like dance, song, flute, drum etc; are fully exploited with rhythm by small groups to promote cultural heritage of India. The stalls by various developmental agencies and merry go round add attraction to the festival.

The pilgrims after becoming free from baths, go to Lord Shiva's temple raising slogans, singing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. Every pilgrim carries with him offerings like flowers, billpatri, dhoop, cash etc and a small pot of water to mount on Shivlingum. Several people perform yagna and distribute puddings sweets and other eatables to the poor.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Moungri in Jammu

In the lap of high mountains, near marvellously green meadow Sardabbar lies the holy Shiv Parvati Shrine. The two matchless natural caves (25 and 20 ft. long/apical) have a 9½ ft high naturally formed rock Shiv-Lingam being guarded by over-head Shesh Nag carved out of same rock, joint Parvati-Pindi on left, underneath a Damroo, at right, Nandi Shankhas and Amritkund. There are also countless deities.

The vast lush Mela site 'Sardabar' is the home of Kansar Devta with ancient times' live sized stone idols. In its dark shaded cool bosom are engraved its untold legends. The different varieties' dense forest covers, particularly elegant walnut layer which makes it sunless, add more charm, beauty and attraction to the already blessed spot.      ( cuisines of jammu )

In-between Aap Shambhu caves site and Sardabbar an elephantine hillock 'Gaj Raj Parbat", wrapped in trunk Chir forest, stands, majestically upright. From the spacious mount, one can have wide ranged captivating scenic view of centuries old shrines and temple and collyrium masked lofty mountains, misty in monsoon, snowy in winters.

The green valley of lord Shiv-Parvati's sacred abode enjewelled with all the heavenly treasures offers a "Divine Embrace" to all. The blissful experience would surely allure every one to have the eternal solace at an unparalleled destination studded in picturesque devotional environment again and again. The unique and magnificent pilgrim-tourist picnic spot, 7300 ft high from sea level, connected with black topped vehicular road link, is 51 kms from Udhampur District headquarters towards North-West, in village Moungri, block Panchari.    ( mansar lake )

Moungri Mela:
The traditional as well as Government organized festivals are not only playing significant role in the states peace and progress, but also in preserving and promoting the priceless multifaceted cultural heritage. In this noble cause the Mid May's 3 days famous Shiv-Parvati annual Mela Moungri too is contributing a lot.

The District Administration Udhampur makes elaborate arrangements for the matchless and wonderful festival every year. The ever-swelling crowds of thousands and thousands pilgrim-visitors from across the state and beyond throng over here and take part in the mela with great fervour and gaiety. Due to concerted efforts and coordinated participation of various departments and non-governmental agencies the ever-progressing Moungri Mela, as popularly called, beats its own previous records every year. The colourful Mela is a symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood. The attractive events during the 3 days are mainly organized by the District Youth Services and Sports Department Udhampur in collaboration with some times one or two more agencies to entertain the pilgrim-visitors and further strengthen the warm ties of mutual love and understanding amongst the different sections of the society.  ( Walnuts in India )

The Indian Style Wrestling Association J&K (NGO) in collaboration with Shree Amar Memorial Trust Katra and Bamhag Kesri Dangal Committee organizes a grand Wrestling match as the Mela's last day's event at Sardabbar Mela site that is connected with vehicular road facility. In fact, every, item in the Mela creates such an overwhelming atmosphere that it becomes a glittering event and is flashed to the country's nook and corner by the State and National media in a big way. However, the funds shortage always remains a major constraint that hampers the Mela's improvement painfully. Nevertheless the district level selected troupes of cultural and sports teams are called to participate and perform during these days.

Considering facts and aspects of the unique festival, its range and level, especially of cultural events should be raised by inviting state, inter-state and national level cultural artists troupes from Ladakh, Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh Haryana, Rajasthan and Jammu etc. as are called for Baisakhi festival Jammu, Narvatra festival Katra, Ladakh and Sindhu Darshan festivals by the State Government. Similarly the wrestling event should also be given assistance.        (  Shrine of Sharda Mata )

The Central Government provides huge funds to assist and organize the public Melas in J&K State. But ironically except few selected festivals, organized at few already developed spots, no other place is assisted or encouraged by the Government. The State Government should come forward to provide open hearted financial assistance and encouragement to the Moungri Mela so that the hidden cultural heritage of the area is exposed.          ( Peer Kho Temple )

Accommodation available:
* One tourist hut with 3 well furnished double bedded rooms for Rs. 125 per room.
* One youth hostel with 30 single beds for Rs. 20 per bed and one special double bed room for Rs. 60/- per night.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Janam Dhin Birthday

Janam Dhin, Birthday, is celebrated in a unique way in Hinduism. In Hindu religion, the Hindi Tithi and Nakshatra is chosen to celebrate the birthday. The annual birthday celebration is not on a fixed date as in the English Calendar. Hindus give importance to the Tithi and 27 Nakshatras. Feeding the poor is an important part of Hindu birthday celebrations.   ( Sanskrit usually called God's own language )

On birthday puja we will need the help of a learned Pandit who can perform puja of Ganesh ji and other deities, main puja is of 1)Ashwathama 2)Bali 3)Vayas 4)Hunuman 5)Kripachari 6)Purshuram 7)Markandi, because as per our religion these seven deity are 'chiranjeevi (Amar)' .We considered this puja of highly auspicious as we get blessings 'Asharwad' for our long life and prosperity. Other important pujas performed on birthday include pujas to Shiva, Rudra Abhishek, Navgraha Puja and pujas to 'Ishta Devta' or personal deity. Blessings of parents, especially that of Mother is very important on birthday.

Now, if the person believes in astrology, then depending on the position of the grahas etc there will be other pujas that will be needed to be performed on the birthday. For this the person will need the help of a learned astrologer.    (  Temples in kashmir  )

Even those Hindus who celebrate birthday by cutting cake, visit temples first and perform puja of birthday in the morning at there home for long life and prosperity. So a person should be given the freedom in the evening to celebrate his/her birthday the manner which he/she wants.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mal Mass in Martand Teerath

Adhika Masa(Mal Mass)
Significance of Mal Mass in (Martand Teerath) Mattan Anantnag Kashmir

When the sun does not at all transit into any rashi but simply keeps moving within a rashi in a lunar month (i.e. before a new moon), then that lunar month will be named as adhik or "extra The Hindu calendar is a lunar calendar and is based on the cycles of the Moon.The lunar calendar adds one extra month every third year. This extra month is known by various names: Adhik Maas, Mal Maas, Purushottam Maas. This is the thirteenth month of the lunar calendar.

Just as there is the lunar year with the extra month (Adhik Maas), so is there a lunar year with a diminished or reduced month, with only eleven months in the year.     ( Swami Jeewan Sahib )

The lunar year comprising of eleven months only is very rare indeed. It occurs once in 140 years or once in 190 years. But the extra month or Adhik Maas comes every third year. Adhik Maas adopts the name of the month that follows adhik Maas.

Whenever Sankranti does not fall within one month then Adhik Maas occurs. When there are two Sankrantis within one month then it becomes the lunar year with one reduced month (11 months in the year).

Vasishtha Siddhanta mentions that Adhik Maas or the extra lunar month occurs after every 32 months, 16 days and 8 Ghadis (a Ghadi is a period of 24 minutes and 60 Ghadis equal 24 hours).

It is a fact that the solar year is made up of 365 days and about 06 minutes and the lunar year is made up of 354 days. Thus both the solar and the lunar years have gaps of 11 days, 1 hour, 31 minutes and 12 seconds. As this gap increases each year, it approximates in three years to one month. (  Janam Dhin, Birthday  )

[ The moon takes about 27.3 days to make one complete orbit around the earth. The earth orbits around the sun once every 365.2422 days (= earth's orbital speed of 29.79 km per second). The earth and the moon in 27.3 days have moved as a system about 1/12 of the ways around the sun. This means that from one full moon to the next full moon, the moon must travel 2.2 extra days before it appears full. This is due to the curve of the earth's orbit around the sun. The moon is still making one complete orbit (circle) in 27.3 days. But to line up with the earth and sun to become a full moon again it takes 29.531 days. 29.531 day Lunar months = 354.372 days per lunar year. Thus we arrive at a difference of 10.87 days a year between a lunar year and a solar year of 365.2422 days per year.]

 Religious significance of Adhik Maas (Mal Mass)in  Martand Teerath Anantnag Kashmir
There is a beautiful story related to Sun (God) in Martand (Mattan) Anantnag  Kashmir. Aditi was much perturbed about the future of her sons. She performed great penance for twelve years in order to please Vishnu.  Sage Kashyapa became worried about her health so he advised Aditi to leave that austere penance.  He told her "Toyah Marate Mandam" (You have killed the egg i.e. ova.Aditi got a still egg which was of gold. She then prayed to Brahma. Brahma Ji finally advised Aditi to throw the egg into the Satisar and gained prosperity because a very pious and sacred shrine in the three worlds will become known at that place by the name of "MARTAND" (Mritand) i.e. one begotten from the still egg.  Twelve sons (twelve months) were given twelve different names and places to preside over.

A way out was made near Baramula for the water of Satisar to flow out. On one side of de-watered Satisar was found the still golden egg which had been thrown there. Lord Vishnu struck this egg with his chakra into two parts and great light came out of it which pervaded all round. Thus it was prayed as Sun God Martanda.  From the two parts of the broken still egg sprang out two sacred springs; Vimla and Kamla; from the chakra flows the Chaka stream which destroys great sins and satisfies the dead by a pious dip in it and offerings of sacrifice. Vimal Kund, the stainless and pure gives salavation to the dead; and Kamal Kund gives solace to the living; water in the Vimal Kund bear Vishnu and Shiva and that of the Kamal Kund bear Brahma and Mahesh.

Adhik Maas (Mal Maas) is capable of washing away all the sins of people. During this month Shraadh, fasting etc are undertaken and garments etc. are distributed to poor people. One more beautiful story relates to how, in ancient times, through the observance of Mal Maas Vrat, king Nahush was released from all bondage.

Devi Bhagavat says that charitable and meritorious acts, shraadh and fastings etc. carried out during this Mal Maas (Adhik Maas), inevitably produce results. Just as atomic sized contents within a seed produce a giant and long living big tree, so in the same manner even a little charitable act done during Mal Maas (Adhik Maas) produces big results.       (     Ramkund in Poonch   )

Martand Prohit Sabha had worked a lot in the past twenty one years,and build new temple and Dharmshala''s and are offering rooms at a very less price to the Shardalu''s who come to visit Martand Shrine.

From pawan pandita kashmiri guruji

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mata Ragnya at Logripora

Hey! Devotees of Mata Shakti, hold the torch of magnificent faith. Let ye float high, the unique banner of immortal peace. Wear the unending cover of dispassion towards Kam, Krodh, Loubh, Moh, and Ahankar and recite the glory of Shiva and Shakti to bring nectar to the soul besides bliss of santosh to the Atman. These are the feelings when one descends on the seat of devotion in the hearts of lands groomed by the Knight of Canals, the Shah Kol. It is pertaining to the abode of Mata Ragnya at Logripora(Loketpur ).Logripora is an ancient village in Pahalgam Assembly segment enroute Anantnag Pahalgam via Martand. This village also known as Lokitpur is one km away from shrine place Aishimuqam. Perished high up on a mountain spur in the shrine of Zain Shah Sahib known among Hindus as Zanak Rishi, he is the guardian saint of the Lidder Valley and is reputed to be one of the followers of Shiekh Noor-Ud-Din the chief saint of Kashmir Valley” writes Parmanand Parashar in his book Kashmir: The Paradise of Asia. Shri Shiri Ram Bakshi in his book Kashmir through Ages [Volume 3] writes, “There is a spring and a small hill near Baisaran, passing through the glade. There is a big rock in the centre of the glade. It is that saint Zain Shah meditated 12 years on that stone. There was then living a Gujar with his family. He had a cow from which he gave milk continuously to Zain Shah for 12 years. Once the wife of the Gujar murmured that during 12 years they would have obtained 12 calves from the cow. The saint heard this and called for the Gujar and told him to go to the cowshed and call calves by their names from the door. Thereby 12 calves came out from the shed when the Gujar was busy with calling the saint left the place. The Gujar searched all sides and found him on the bank of Lidder at Aishimuqam where his Ziarat is existing.

Logripora has the distinction of being the seat of an ancient shrine of Mata Ragnya dating its history to the era of Satisar. The surrounding area of village Logripora consists of Sapt Rishi Springs at a distance of half km on East side, Sweet water spring of Village Manzgam on West side at a distance of half km. Roza Mubarak of Saint Zain Shah [Zanak Rishi for Hindus] at Aishimuqam at a distance of one km on North side and Bodh Rishi, the seat of Bhodhistva, at a distance of half km on South side. Logripora is at foothills of Shael Dar forest range abounding in Devdar trees.  (  Kheer Bhawani   )

Logripora village was home to 42 house holds of Kashmiri Pandits before mass exodus and now only four house holds have held back. I visited the village on 11th September 2009; one Shri Jagan Nath Bhat son of Late Shri Mahadev Bhat aged 54 of the same village accompanied me. We reached this village at about 1100 hours after starting our journey from Srinagar at about 800 hours.

Logripora village holds in its lap the famed Shrine of Ragnya Mata, the incarnation of Shakti. The shrine is held even today as gospel of peace and pleasure for all ethoses that have unquestionable faith in the magical prowess of Shiva and Shakti.

Spread over an area of forty kanals of land, the shrine has five springs representing Panchtatva. As Panchtatva combine and form a life. Simultaneously water from all the springs with independent out lets combine to form a brook and passing into a phase of journey. The philosophy of life as per Sanatan belief applies to the presence of these springs. Shiva and Shakti being the creators of the Universe seem to overlook the Panch Nags [five springs] to form a brook of life for its onward journey.

Five springs exist and dates its origin to the era of Kashyap. Each spring is with length and breadth of 10 to 12 feet each apart from the bigger one which has dimension of about 12 to 15 feet. This spring has earned its name as Kali Nag due to its blackish crest. Two temples stamp at this place. One temple is devoted to Lord Shiva, having a Shiva Lingam in it and the other one is built magnificently to house a spring inside the temple. The temple is made of bricks while as the spring is having its walls made of Devri stones. There is no image or presence of any visible figure of any god or goddess, which can be directly approached on the side of morning sun is a window shaped place carved in the wall of spring where in a monolithic black stone image of Mata Ragnya was placed. This portion of window type place specially carved for keeping the image of Mata is not approachable any way except spring water in from of it. The monolithic black stone image of Mata is said to be some 1000 years old. It is that when Lord Hanuman brought this image from desecrated Sri Lanka and on his voyage to Ksher Bhawani, he had a brief stint at this place and thereafter the place was also known as Ragnya Pora.   (    Sudhmahadev fair  )

The monolithic black stone image of Mata is not now available there. The image may have either fallen in the hands of vandalisms or may have felt in the hands of antique smugglers taking the advantage of the turmoil conditions in the valley. No FIR has ever been lodged and neither has district administration provided any security cover to this magnificent place of meditation. There were other pieces of images of variety of stones and these also missing now. The fencing of the shrine has also been dismantled in the year 1993. There are many walnut, apricot and Chinar trees in the forty kanal land of the shrine and these are very much there.

Another temple in premises of the shrine one a hillock was devoted to Lord Shiva and a big Shiva lingam is installed in it. The Shiva lingam is made of hard rock stone on monolithic base. The temple has remained apparently untouched by hooligans due to the heavy mass of the lingam.

The shrine place is an ecstatic mutational place and philosophy of origin of world applies to it as the combination of Shiva and Shakti as creators of this universe comes to the fore; from the fact that presence of Shiva and Shakti and representatives of Panchtatva is what we now call the universe with mother earth and other celestial bodies making it a body for research and imagination. Swami Nand Bab and Swami Kashi Bab were perhaps feeling this magnetic gravitation towards this shrine that they adopted to meditate here for earning moksha from creators of the universe. The sanctity of this shrine is revered even by Muslims as they offer first cow milk to the temple spring at the feet of Ragnya before using it for themselves.

It is held in high esteem by local devotees particularly and they often quote examples like one dates back to period not for away from the date of exodus. Smt. Meenawati wife of Late Sh. Shamboo Nath Bhat age 86 who is still residing in this village disclosed that the marriage of the daughter of Sh. Mahadev Bhat was fixed and she suddenly fell ill. She was admitted in a hospital at Anantnag. As the day of nuptial knot was closing in she was brought back to the village in ill condition to attend Saat Mainz at Ragnya Pora/Logripora. All of a sudden a saint namely Kashi Bab appeared there and offered her the sacred water of temple spring, she took the water and was all right within half an hour.  

Shri Sudershan Koul age 70 who is still residing in the village also quote the example of how all people (devotees) fell ill when a dispute took place between them on construction of the roof of the temple. It was only on the advice of a saint that the dispute was settled and roof of the temple was constructed. Ultimately all were free of illness.    (   Lalleshuri  )

Shiva and Shakti here created all alike. Be it Satoguni or Rajoguni or be it occupied with Tamoguni habit, but pitfalls of attachment and faith must remain when Shiva is with Shakti and Shakti is incomplete tale without Shiva, who the Tamoguni was, who has separated Shiva with Shakti and took away the image of Shakti, the other part of Ardhnareshwar. Attribute intellect to antakarna to bring back Shakti for Shiva at magnificent spring abode of Shiva and Shakti in this Ragnya Pora. Should we wait Shiva to come out of meditation and what then?

Author Chander M. Bhat

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Haramukuta Amarnath Kheerbhawani in kashmir

Historically the holiest of the Kashmirian Tirthas has been the Haramukuta, the “Siva’s Diadem”. It is the present day massif of Haramukh peaks and the lakes of Gangabal and Nund-Kol at the foot of these mountains. The main peak in the massif resembles mount Kailash above Lake Mansarovar in Tibet which is the source of River Indus (Sindhu). Kashmiris considered the Gangabal Lake as the true source of Kashmir’s Ganga or Sindh River and it was known in ancient times as “Uttaraganga”. Nilmata Purana describes the Lake as “Uttaramanasa”. It was the final goal of the great “Haramukuta Pilgrimage” which used to take place annually in the month of Bhadrapada and was attended by thousands of pilgrims. The ashes of the persons who had died during the year were immersed in the sacred waters. A short distance below is the Lake Nund-Kol fed by a hanging glacier chunks of which keep on breaking and falling into the Lake with a great roar from time to time. One gets the impression of a thunder storm on a cloudless sky. The old name of the Lake was “Kalodaka” or “Nandisaras” which is derived from a legend making the Lake as the joint habitation of both Kala i.e., Siva and his faithful attendant Nandin. From the later the whole collection of these sacred sites gets the name of “Nandiksetra” by which name the author of Rajtarangni, Kalhana mentions these throughout his narrative. These sites were so sacred in ancient Kashmir that every King before ascending the throne would go there to take a dip for washing away all his sins. In case of any wrong doing, the best way to atone was to take a dip in the icy waters of Gangabal. Almost the entire narrative of Kalhana’s Raj Tarangni emphasises the importance of this pilgrimage. Nara-Nag was the first halt where even now the ruins of a massive temple complex exist. The pilgrimage would proceed from here to Gangabal along a steep mountain spur of Bhuteshvara, the present Bhut-Sher. There were many temples along this route which have now disappeared under thick vegetation. The pilgrimage was still popular till the visit of Sir Aurel Stein, the translator of Rajtarangni who came here for the first time in 1888. There is ample and conclusive historical evidence, on the other hand, to prove that the holy cave and the ice lingam were known to the people since very ancient times and have been continuously and regularly visited by pilgrims not only from Kashmir but also from different parts of India. ( Buddha Amarnath )

“While the earliest reference to Amarnath can be seen in the Nilamata Purana (v.1324), a 6th century Sanskrit text which depicts the religious and cultural life of early Kashmiris and gives Kashmir’s own creation myth, the pilgrimage to the holy cave has been described with full topographical details in the Bhringish Samhita and the Amarnatha Mahatmya, both ancient texts said to have been composed even earlier.”

References to Amarnath, known have also been made in historical chronicles like the Rajatarangini and its sequels and several Western travellers’ accounts also leaving no doubt about the fact that the holy cave has been known to people for centuries. The original name of the tirtha, as given in the ancient texts, is of course Amareshwara, Amarnath being a name given later to it. (  Harmukh Harmukutaganga Gangabal )

Giving the legend of the Naga Sushruvas, who in his fury burnt to ashes the kingdom of King Nara when he tried to abduct his daughter already married to a Brahmin youth, and after the carnage took his abode in the lake now known as Sheshnag (Kashmiri Sushramnag), Kalahana writes:

“The lake of dazzling whiteness [resembling] a sea of milk (Sheshnag), which he created [for himself as residence] on a far off mountain, is to the present day seen by the people on the pilgrimage to Amareshwara.”(Rajatarangini, Book I v. 267.Translation: M. A. Stein).

This makes it very clear that pilgrims continued to visit the holy Amarnath cave in the 12th century, for Kalhana wrote his chronicle in the years1148-49.

At another place in the Rajatarangini (Book II v. 138), Kalhana says that King Samdhimat Aryaraja (34 BCE-17CE) used to spend “the most delightful Kashmir summer” in worshiping a linga formed of snow “in the regions above the forests”. This too appears to be a reference to the ice linga at Amarnath. There is yet another reference to Amareshwara or Amarnath in the Rajatarangini (Book VII v.183). According to Kalhana, Queen Suryamati, the wife of King Ananta (1028-1063), “granted under her husband’s name agraharas at Amareshwara, and arranged for the consecration of trishulas, banalingas and other [sacred emblems]“.           ( Kheer Bhawani Temple )

In his Chronicle of Kashmir, a sequel to Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Jonaraja relates that that Sultan Zainu’l-abidin (1420-1470) paid a visit to the sacred tirtha of Amarnath while constructing a canal on the left bank of the river Lidder (vv.1232-1234). The canal is now known as Shah Kol.

In the Fourth Chronicle named Rajavalipataka, which was begun by Prjayabhatta and completed by Shuka, there is a clear and detailed reference to the pilgrimage to the sacred site (v.841,vv. 847-849). According to it, in a reply to Akbar’s query about Kashmir Yusuf Khan, the Mughal governor of Kashmir at that time, described among other things the Amarnath Yatra in full detail. His description shows that the not only was the pilgrimage in vogue in Akbar’s time – Akbar annexed Kashmir in 1586 – but the phenomenon of waxing and waning of the ice linga was also well known.

Amareshwar (Amarnath) was a famous pilgrimage place in the time of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan also. In his eulogy of Shah Jahan’s father-in-law Asif Khan, titled “Asaf Vilas”, the famous Sanskrit scholar and aesthete Panditraj Jagannath makes clear mention of Amareshwara (Amarnath) while describing the Mughal garden Nishat laid out by Asif Khan. The King of gods Indra himself, he says, comes here to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva”.

As we well know Francois Bernier, a French physician accompanied Emperor Aurangzeb during his visit to Kashmir in 1663. In his book “Travels in Mughal Empire” he writes while giving an account the places he visited in Kashmir that he was “pursuing journey to a grotto full of wonderful congelations, two days journey from Sangsafed” when he “received intelligence that my Nawab felt very impatient and uneasy on account of my long absence”. The “grotto” he refers to is obviously the Amarnath cave as the editor of the second edition of the English translation of the book, Vincient A. Smith makes clear in his introduction. He writes: “The grotto full of wonderful congelations is the Amarnath cave, where blocks of ice, stalagmites formed by dripping water from the roof are worshipped by many Hindus who resort here as images of Shiva…..”

Another traveler, Vigne, in his book “Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu” writes about the pilgrimage to the sacred spot in detail, clearly mentioning that “the ceremony at the cave of Amarnath takes place on the 15th of the Hindoo month of Sawan” and that “not only Hindoos of every rank and caste can be seen collecting together and traveling up the valley of Liddar towards the celebrated cave……” Vigne visited Kashmir after his return from Ladakh in 1840-41 and published his book in 1842. His book makes it very clear that the Amarnath Yatra drew pilgrims from the whole of India in his time and was undertaken with great enthusiasm.        ( Martand Teerath Anantnag )

Again, the great Sikh Guru Arjan Dev is said to have granted land in Amritsar for the ceremonial departure of Chari, the holy mace of Lord Shiva which marks the beginning of the Yatra to the Holy Cave. In 1819, the year in which the Afghan rule came to an end in Kashmir, Pandit Hardas Tiku “founded the Chhawni Anmarnath at Ram Bagh in Srinagar where the Sadhus from the plains assembled and where he gave them free rations for the journey, both ways from his own private resources”, as the noted Kashmiri naturalist Pandit Samsar Chand Kaul has pointed out in his booklet titled “The Mysterious cave of Amarnath”.

The Tiratha of Kheerbhawani is not very frequently mentioned in Rajtarangni which is the earliest book of recorded history not only in Kashmir but the entire sub-continent. It occurs in the fourth book at verse 638 during the reign of Jayapida as “the land of Tulamulya where hundred Brahmans less one had sought death in the water of that stream”. However, during the reign of King Jayapida the organisation of the Purohitas was a very well to do and an influential body and the Tiratha had become very important pilgrimage. The spring of Kheerbhawani located in present day Tulmul is quite large and is supposed to be very sacred to Maharajni, a form of Durga and has always been held in veneration by the Brahman population of Srinagar. The spring is said to exhibit from time to time miraculous changes in the colour of its water, which are ascribed to different manifestations of the goddess. Turning of the colour into shades of black is supposed to signal approaching bad times. Some people say that before the exodus of the Pandits from Kashmir the colour had turned completely black in 1990! The legend has it that there were 360 springs surrounding the main spring but all of these seem to have disappeared as the land has become marshy all around. In the last half century the pilgrimage had become the most important for Kashmiri Brahmans who used to come here from all over the State and even from outside. Kheerbhawani is considered to be the Presiding Deity of most of the Kashmiri Brahmans. The annual festival held here on Zetha Ashtami (usually in May) has been declared a public holiday for the Kashmir province by the State Government. This year the Mela is on June 4. A comprehensive account of this holy shrine written by Samsar Chand Koul has been carried by Vitasta Annual Number and is accessible at: upheaval of 1990 which resulted in unprecedented exodus of the whole community of Kashmiri Brahmans made the pilgrimage go into total oblivion. There was no body left to worship at the temple except the paramilitary forces guarding it. However, for last few years the pilgrimage has picked up again and a large number of both Kashmiri Brahmans as well as others visit the shrine. Mufti Sayed had proposed to bring back Kashmiri Pandits by settling them in special tenements constructed around the temples at Kheerbhawani and Mattan (enroute Amarnath Yatra). Apart from the fact that the idea itself is preposterous as settling Kashmiri Pandits in just two concentrations guarded by paramilitary forces would not bring back the amity which existed between the two communities prior to the Exodus, when they were inter-mingled throughout the valley, the project has converted these holy shrines into built up localities thereby destroying their traditional and historical ambience. A recent visit to the shrine revealed that the ancient description of the famous large spring surrounded by 360 smaller springs in a marshy land thick with vegetation is completely gone. It looks like any other temple in the middle of a city. The area around the temple has been completely filled up and strengthened by piling. A large number of two storey brick houses have been built all around. These are meant for the returning “migrants” of whose return so far there is no surety. The legend about the discovery of the spring when a pious Brahman Krishna Pandit had a vision in which he was asked to engage a boat up to Shadipur where from a snake floating over the marshes would guide him to exact location of the spring remains in historical records only. Everything is now built up. The least the Government can do now is to cover entire area with fast growing vegetation like weeping willows so that some ambience of a green and natural environment of the Goddess is restored. Immediate concern for the Pligrims is the need to provide sufficient number of toilet blocks. There is also a dearth of blankets at the time of the annual festival.  Finally, one thing which looks obnoxious and monstrous is a steel girder bridge built over the stream, most probably for transportation of building materials. It is expected that this would be removed after the construction is over and the traditional approach is maintained and if possible suitably improved. In Kashmir we are experts in rebuilding historical monuments and not preserving these. Incidentally the colour of the spring at present is whitish green which denotes peace and prosperity!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Poshmot a Spiritual Pragmatist

Geeta Ji says, Brahmin is much more than a learned scholar. He is the seer of the community through whom the contact with the life of the spirit is attained. Such a reverend personality was Mahatma Shree Poshker Nath Koul (Poshmot) fondly called “Dady Ji Maharaj”. Mahatma Ji attained Nirvan on 18th of February 2009. Though he is not physically with us but shall ever remain in our thoughts an unforgettable personality for his selflessness and visionary guidance. His untimely passing away was a bolt from blue for his family and as well as for the entire community.

Born at Srinagar (J&K) at Kanyakadal on 5.11.1937 to Late Smt. Leelawati and Shri Ram Chand Koul, he dedicated his precious life to spiritual endeavors and was a source of inspiration to individuals in particular and community in general.A ‘Grahasti’ saint of par excellence, Mahatmaji was gifted with unique and unparalleled surrender both in spiritual dealings and ‘Grahast’ management. He was indeed the father image who showered divine love on every one, whosoever came in contact with him. He was the Karam Yogi who put every word that flowed from his blessed mouth into action. ( Sudh Mahadev Temple )

Mahatma Ji has firm faith in the dictum, “ the service of mankind is service of God”. He worked ceaselessly for the social and economic upliftment of the downtrodden sections of our community. He often said “ a little help to the needy does not make the donor poor in any way, instead it lifts him in his own estimation , it is our duty”. He spent his precious years of his life in renovating the shrine of Tirath Raj Lok-Bhawan, Anantnag Kashmir, to make the place a centre of spiritual enlightenment. He established, Shri Pushkara Swami Sewa Ashram at (Govry-Shanker) temple Kanyakadal, Srinagar, at Laxmipuram-Chinor Bantalab, Jammu and at Najafgrah west Delhi.  ( Lal Vakh )

The spiritual pragmatist of the highest stature, Mahatma Ji is the author of numerous publications like “ Posh-Diel” a collection of devotional Bajans, Ramayana and Mahimnapar in Kashmiri language, ‘Mukhta Maal’ the (Vakas) and Devi-Ank”, which are the reflection of his matured pen, powerful intellect and his relentless quest for spiritual awakening. The service rendered by him to the community in reviving the Kashmiri Pandits tradition and culture- a rich heritage, can hardly be effaced by the passage of time. Ramayana and Mahabarta in our mother tongue has revived the tradition of its recitation in every household- A great contribution to the community. ( Shastri Jee )

Mahatma Ji, a man of spiritual attainments, benevolent and kind, followed, from the beginning to the end, the path he had traced for himself with, devotion extreme and profound sinerity. He often in his discourses warned to his devotees to refrain from the attachments to material body, which are contrary to spiritual advancement. Devotees would listen to him with rapt attention when he would highlight the message of Absolute world, the abode of God, where everything revolves round the Absolute Truth. He insisted that the devotees should come out of the shakles of egoist me and there is no doubt that they will come out of the darkness of ignorance and will realise the light supreme.He was an eye opener, our eternal father , preceptor, and our guide. His seperation has created a void which can hardly be fullfilled.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Swami Jeevan Sahib

There is a beautiful health resort at the foot of the famous and centrally located hill, Vastervan, known as Ladhu. The hill is known as Veshrivan to the scholars of our ancients chronicles and is said to be a store house of many myths and truths for the people who live in its vicinity, who confirm that they used to get many items of their day to day need like tea, salt, medicine, some ores like iron and even gold from it. The village has remained a seat of learning for Shaivism, Buddhism and Vaishnavism during our glorious past and the broken fragments of the fine stone slabs and the ruins of the ancient monuments scattered over a large area of the village bear a testimony to this fact. The area of these ruins now known as Sankarshan/Samsa:ri' Nag is also known as Gosa:ni' Nag perhaps due to assemblage of the Saints and seers who often visited the place for religious and other discourses. The shrine of the famous shakti_Upasak, his holiness Jeewan Sahib who is said to have erected a platform of 18 feet high to lit the holy fire "Dhuni", has remained a place of pilgrimage of Kashmir since the second half of the eighteenth century. The area is flanked with a cave where the famous Sufi Saint, Nund Rishi worshipped for a long time and the seat of the famous Sufi poet, Wahab Khar stands close to this shrine on the Khrew-shar road.

Young Jeewan Sahib worked as a domestic servant in the house of a Hindu family of Rainawari, who was a Tehsildar by profession. It is said that he lit the kitchen oven early in the morning as a holy fire and used the dried cow dung as an offering to it while reciting "SWAHA". He made his abode the kitchen room and would seldom come out of it. One night the sleep of mistress of the house broke at the midnight due to the smell of smoke coming out of the kitchen room, she got up to see the matter herself as soon as she reached to the kitchen door, she was astonished to see the full room glittering with dazzling light and the cook sitting on it in 'Abhaya Mudrah' the lady got perplexed and informed her husband who also visualised the whole seen and informed his wife, that the man is spiritually positioned very high and we should discard him from preparing our meals, instead we should grace him with respect and reverence. Thus the hidden treasure came to light and people started thronging this place. ( Shree Poshker Nath Koul Poshmot )

The exact date of the saint is not forthcoming in any of the records available with us at present. P.N.K Bamzai in his book "History of Kashmir", (Revised Edition), 1973, confirm his time somewhere close to the second half of the eighteenth century, when Azad khan, the Afghan Governor declared himself as the independent ruler of Kashmir (1784-85). Jeewan sahib led a life of austere meditation and penance at Rainawari the eastern suburb of Srinagar city and thousands of people used to flock to him for solace and listened attentively to his discourses, the burden of which was simple living and high thinking. It was at his instance that a hard hearted tyrant and arrogant man like Azad Khan came under a spell of devotion and love. In 1785 Timur invaded Kashmir with a strong Afghan army and thus ended the period of tyranny let loose by Azad Khan. The Governors from Kabul, or their representatives who ruled over Kashmir after Azad Khan, were not less tyrant, so Jeewan Sahib, left his city dwelling and after a thorough Wandering he reached to the famous village, Ladhu of Vihi Paragana in the lap of the valley of famous hill vasturvana and made his habitant in a stony gap of the hill near the most fascinating spring of fresh water known as DaderNag. It is said that he worshipped here for a considerable period facing towards the holy shrine of mother goddess Jwala Ji, which, it is said, was live on the Jwala parbhat just opposite to the present hermitage of the saint.

It is said that devotion unto him is a source of floodlight and it does not remain concealed. People thronged the hermitage of Jeewan Sahib. The news reached to the governors of Kabul regime. They tried to persuade the hermit to return to the city but of no heed. Finally the rulers ordered a land grant to be kept at the disposal of the shrine so as to look after its day to day requirements. The fame of the Dhuni hermit had reached to all the quarters of the valley. The whole area had once again reassumed its lost glory and fame. The Jeewan langar was opened to every devotee who visited the place. Religious discourses and discussions were held. The land bestowed by the royal seal was managed by the disciples of the Reshi. Everybody was welcome to attain the Reshi cult barely observing two restrictions strictly. One was to remain vegetarian throughout the life and the other was to abstain from the family life. Such dedicated devotees had to maintain complete austerity throughout their life. ( Swami Prem Nath Shastri Jee )

He has reported to have taken his disciples to the holy dip of the Ganga at Haridwar, through the waters of the Dadher Nag. It is said that one of his disciples insisted for the said purpose and Jeewan sahib took a plank of wood in his hand and throwing it into the water of the said Nag. He sat on it wearing his wooden sleepers and asked the disciple to extend his hand while closing his eyes. Lo! The next moment they were at the Haridwar and back after the holy bath. It is said he had meditated in the deep forest of Gosain Gund, Anantnag for a long time where he planted a half burnt and left over pine tree branch of his Dhuni at the time of his departure. The branch sprouted forth and is now a big pine tree of that area known as the Jeewan sa'bin Ya'r. A pint of ashes from his Dhuni worked miracles for the remedy of innumerable ailments.

The fame of Jeewan Sahib spread far and wide during his life time. He was revered by all the Muslims and Hindus alike .The exact date of Nirwan of this Luminary of Kashmir is Shrouded like his date of incarnation but it is said that he was a contemporary of H.Hs. Mirzakak, Shakkar Sahib, Kashkak, Bhagwan Gopi Nath JI and Wahabkhar are reported to be the regular and early visitors of his holy shrine. The Samadhi of this great Luminary who remained a Shakti Upasak all his life is situated in the area covered with lofty chinars. His disciples at his Samadhi known as "sheshyas" besides remaining brahamcharis all their life preserved and upheld the holy fire of his Dhuni.We celebrate his Jayanti on the second day of the bright half of the month Margashirsha and the tithi of his Nirvana on the second day of the dark half of the month of the Phalguna. The devotees hold a big Hawan on his Jayanti and Nirvana.Recently the devotees have initiated renovation of Samadhi and Dhuni Sahib, and needs attention of all concerned to preserve this and bring back its cultural, heritage.  ( Janam Dhin  Birthday )