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.