Mata Kali Temple in Bahu Fort
The outer Himalayas or Siwaliks of Jammu Region are well known for a large number of religious places. Among them, the most renowned ones are Mata Vaishno Devi, the Sukrala Mata, the Shiv Khori, the Sudh Mahadev, the Bawe Wali Mata etc. The Bawe Wali Mata also known as the Goddess Maha Kali is confined to the inside of Bahu Fort. The Bahu Fort situated in the submountain track of Jammu Siwaliks lies quite opposite to the old Jammu City on the otherside of the river Tawi which is known as Surya Putri (daughter of the Sun).
The temple of the Goddess Maha Kali built on an elevated plat form, is dated back to about 3400BC, and as such this temple is considered to be one of the oldest temples in India. Together with Mahamaya temple in Bahu Rakh, it attracts a lot of local pilgrims. An additional attraction has been created by the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing in collaboration with J&K Paryavarn Sanstha in Bahu Rakh (in microwatershed) lying between the two temples is the Environment Park. This Environment Park sprawls over an area of 220 ha but presently only about 10-12 ha area of this park is fully developed. The rest will also be developed in due course of time.
It is believed that black stone image of the Goddess Maha Kali housed in the temple was transported from Ayodhya much earlier than this temple came to fore by the kings belonging to Solar Dynasty namely Raja Bahu Lochan and Raja Jambu Lochan.
Although there are still no positive evidences that who first constructed the temple of the Goddess Maha Kali inside the Bahu Fort yet it has emerged from its structure that atleast Bahu Fort used to exist during the attack of Amir Timur which happened to take place in 1399 AD. Some of the legends relating to the construction of the temple are as follows:-
i) One of the legend goes by the fact that Bahu Fort temple was first built by the King Bahu Lochan during 8th century as reported by Sh Shiv Kumar Sharma and Dr D C Sharma, well known writers. Their assertion is based upon the source of Archaeology Department, Government of India.
Early Muslim rulers including Amir Timur attacked this place many a time but none of them had mentioned it under the name of Bahu Fort. It has rather been referred to by the name of Jammu Fort.
ii) Another legend relates to the attack of Amir Timur during 1398-99 AD on Bahu town vis-à-vis Maha Kali's temple and Mahamaya temple.
iii) Third legend concerns with attacks of Mohamad Gauri and Mohammad Gagnavi on India. It is believed that during these attacks a number of Rajput families were forced to flee from Rajasthan and got settled in Siwalik hills, and laid down foundations of principalities around Jammu hills. One such principality belonged to Raja Kirpal Dev who became the ruler of Bahu town and his brother Sangram Dev became the ruler of Jammu. The other leading rulers of Bahu principality were Jagdev, Paras Ram, Krishan Dev and Azmat Dev during 1570 - 1580, 1580 - 1610, 1610 - 1635 and 1635 onward AD, respectively. But in due course of time Jammu principality became supreme among all these principalities. Later on with the emergence of Maharaja Ranjeet Dev, a strong ruler of Jammu, the principality of Bahu was merged with Jammu.
Rebuilding of the Temple
There is also a belief that after plundering of the Bahu Fort by the invaders, Maharaja Ranbir Singh who ruled from 1857 to 1885, had a dream wherein the Goddess Mahakali exhorted him to rebuild the destroyed temple. Accordingly Maharaja Ranbir Singh built the temple and constructed the Bahu Fort also. Some say, it was built by Maharaja Gulab Singh.
Throwing of the Goddess Maha Kali's Idol into River bed: It is said that during the rule of Maharaja's Partap Singh (1885-1925), a saint who was totally against the practice of animal sacrifice, took out the idol of the Goddess Maha Kali from the temple. He then tossed this into the bed of river Tawi but in a secret place. After this incident, Goddess Maha Kali appeared before the Maharaja Partap Singh in a dream and bade him to fulfill the desire of the saint by ceasing the sacrificing of animal in the shrine. Maharaja Partap Singh called on the saint and told him to bring the idol of the Goddess Maha Kali and the same was installed again in the temple. Since that day instead of animal sacrifice to please the Goddess Maha Kali either the goat is brought there or purchased from the Pujari and offered to him after reciting some hymns and the devotees sprinkle a handful of water on the back of the goat that begins to shiver. As soon as the goat returns to the previous state, the offering is said to be accepted which is locally known as "Shilly Charana".
Firing of Canon
Before 1947, it was the usual practice to fire the canon. It had resorted to create awareness among the people about the daily times as a few families had watches/clocks in their homes. The canon used to fire thrice a day i.e. 4 A.M. 12 Noon and 8 P.M. from the Bahu Fort. This function was performed by the army personnel as fort was used by Army of Maharaja Hari Singh to stay. Canon firing practice though remained upto 1950 yet it used to fire only once in a day i.e. 12 Noon. Its voice heared upto Sailkote.
Means of Transport
Before Independence, the people from large number of villages used to visit the Bahu Fort temple on foot or by tongas. Tongas carried the passengers only upto Jammu old city and from there they reached the Bahu Fort either through crossing the river Tawi or by boats. Two boats floated in the river Tawi, one from Pacci Dhaki Tawi Ghat and other opposite to graveyard via Jammu Tehsil Office route. During Navratras temporary wooden bridges used to be build opposite to Gujjar Nagar on the river Tawi. Such means of transport however, got extinct owing to building up of pacca roads and declining of water level in the river Tawi.
The people of Jammu possess stern belief that the Goddess Maha Kali always save the Jammu city from air attacks. It is quite evident from Pakistan Air Force attack made during Indo-Pak war in 1965 and 1971. The air attackers did their best to destroy the Tawi bridge but never succeeded. They were hindered to their task as they found nothing visible except a small girl holding a earthen lit lamp in her hands.
Bahu Fort Mela
Prior to pertaining of the country, people of Jammu city and villages generally used to visit the temple during Navratras, especially during Ashtmi and Navmi, when big Bahu Fort melas happened to celebrate. Navratras come off twice a year, one during March - April and second during September - October. Navmi of March - April Navratra, coincides with the Ram Navmi (birthday of the Lord Ram). People of Jammu city came to the temple regularly in groups, particularly on Tuesday and/or Sunday. Some of them after worshipping the Goddess Maha Kali, went to Mahamaya temple too.
Now a days with the availability of cheap transport one can see a huge rush of devotees even on ordinary days but to talk of Navratras and /or Sunday and Tuesday, who pay their obeisance to the Goddess Kali. They also offer her flowers, sweets, money, gold and silver. These days even Jammuites and tourists come to pay obeisance to Mata Kali at night or in the evening after visiting from Bagh-e-Bahu as the temple remains open from 3 A.M. to 10.30 P.M. with a break of one hour from 3 to 4 P.M.
Post By Prof. R . D. Gupta
Post By Prof. R . D. Gupta