Monday, April 23, 2012

Journey in lap of Himalayas

Amidst this grand unfold of vivid beauties, the mountains, the streams, the meadows and therefore the snowline of Himachal are a real spectacle which will inspire several a artist - be it poet, painter or thinker. A drive on the Manali Keylong Leh route passing through the high altitude of Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh offers a mix of all this and far a lot of. A travel on this route is nothing however a poet's delight and a photographer's heaven.

Given the adverse road conditions and unfavorable weather, one wants a passion to venture into this one in every of the foremost difficult roads of the country. it's advisable to hold full winter gear in all weathers. the primary encounter with unpredictable weather will begin as early as Solang valley, barely ten km out of Manali when the intense, radiant Sun is overshadowed by a dark cloud among seconds.

Travelers typically take the primary halt at Marhi, which, besides being a chai-pakora station, is additionally the reporting centre for all vehicles plying on Manali Leh route. when a hot cup of tea and paying obeisance at a neighborhood temple, one moves ahead on the foremost mesmerising ascent of the journey - the large Rohtang Pass that stands tall at 3979 metre on east Pir Panjal vary. Gorges and colossal rocks scare the challenge the travelers on one facet whereas a huge Himalayan vary casts a spell on the other! Maneuvering several needle-shaped turns, with slopes exceeding forty degree, and encountering lonely stretches, abundant hustle and bustle awaits the guests atop Rohtang. The Pass, that in Tibetan suggests that a pile of corpses, leaves everybody awestruck with its grandeur and humility!! 

The Himalayas, that look gigantic upon ascent, bear a noticeable check up on the Pass. Altitude is that the sole indication of enormity. The mountain, though huge, stay humble before humans atop! The Pass, notorious for its unpredictability, is additionally known for Beas Kund - a spring - the supply of river Beas, that originates subtly beneath a blue and gray closed structure. many serene moments at the Beas Kund convey that rivers, but fiery, have a humble origin! 
Humility is best taught there than elsewhere!

A few turns later, one encounters an area with several flags. At 4111 metre, this can be the very best purpose of Rohtang. Vendors usually crowd there with stalls for chana-kulchas. Who will resist these hot, nee warm, snacks within the biting cold and chilly breeze? Alongside, one also can get pleasure from ride on the newly introduced all weather bikes, giving a feel of a mini journey sports arena.

The real beauty begins beyond Rohtang, where the character unfolds its mystique, virginity and purity! The lofty Himalayas appear to be kissing the sky. attributable to high altitude, the Sun gets therefore shut that the shadow of clouds is clearly seen on mountains - a rare spectacle, that deserves to be aptly captured. One will witness the distinct amendment in vegetation. The tree-line gets away, creating means for little bushes. The mountains become naked, sandy and rocky. within the absence of thick forestry and reduced distance between ground and therefore the sky, the sharp glare of the Sun makes the donning of goggles inevitable. 

A few kilometers later, one enters Khoksar, the primary village of Lahaul Valley. The stopover, at the bank of river Chandra, gift a typical hill facet atmosphere - a river bank, a suspension bridge, a large naked rocky mountain, bad road, a PWD Rest house alongside and little roadside outlets giving paranthas, noodles, momos, rice and Siddu, a neighborhood dish. One have to be compelled to push in one thing, as this can be the sole major stop on this road, before reaching Keylong. 

As one moves deeper into the Lahaul valley, the terrain becomes therefore lovely that one forgets the displeasure of travelling on unmetalled roads. At several places, mountain streams flow over the road whereas at several alternative places, the pot holes, accumulated rainwater, landslides, bumpy tracks are the sole signs of what we have a tendency to decision a 'road'. Unmindful of this, one should get pleasure from the grandeur of Himalayas, interspersed with waterfalls, streams, rocks and gorges. Wild roses and alpine flowers deck the slopes in an unforgettable feast of colors. Suspension bridges add excitement to journey. Atop one such bridge, one will see the gorgeous Sissu fall cascading over the cliff from a high valley between 2 mountains. Crossing another bridge takes one to Tandi - the confluence of rivers Chandra and Bhaga. From here, the 2 rivers travel in unison as ChandraBhaga. The meeting purpose, with rocky ranges and a noticeable village Ghoshal within the background, is therefore spectacular that it seems in promotional images for this region. 

Mountains, rivers, plains, greens all meet at one purpose and make a wide ranging show of the richness of nature. when humility, unity is another lesson taught by Nature on this route! 

Legends add feather to the present natural crown of Tandi. it's believed that the wedding procession of Lord Shiva, passing through the tall mountains, had left sinusoidal imprints, visibly distinct from alternative impressions on this vary. There are alternative mythological stories concerning Draupadi and Rishi Vashishta. Tandi is alleged to possess return from 2 words 'Tan Di', i.e. Rishi Vashishta is alleged to possess relinquished his body at this time. 

Travellers got to high up their tanks at Tandi, that has the last fuel station before Leh, another 365 km from this place. 

Spending moments of leisure at Tandi, one drives ahead for Keylong - a reputation that ignites passion and challenge; a reputation that epitomizes undaunted human spirit of living in frozen conditions and virtual solitude. 

For travelers wanting to travel beyond, Keylong is that the ideal place for an evening halt, because it is headquarter of Lahaul and Spiti district. Besides a HP Tourism Hotel, Keylong has several personal hotels. One will visit nearby Udaipur valley or proceed towards Leh, through the gorgeous Jispa valley and therefore the famous Darcha valley. Keylong city additionally includes a little monastery besides a neighborhood market (called because the Mall - equivalent to the other hill station!) that sells things like woolens, handicrafts and olive oil. 

Whichever direction one takes consecutive morning, one cannot afford to miss the eternal charm of a dawn in Lahaul. 

A gleam of sunshine peeps through the curtains and wakes up the tourists quite early. Pulling open the curtains will leave everybody, and not simply a nature-lover, overwhelmed. The morning Sun is golden and obvious. The meadows are shining and splendid. The cattle graze quietly and birds chirp politely. The moments are packed with cheerful calm and radiant resonance. it's a singular expertise to rouse to such a serene however extravagant morning, that echoes Dickinsons's verse, 
"Nature's 1st inexperienced is gold, her hardest hue to hold; her early leaf's a flower, however solely therefore an hour."
One will anticipate to the journey beyond, absolutely overcome by the paranormal nature - indeed unbelievable and unfathomable!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Pillar of Modern Dogri

Though we see Dogri Poetry's birth in Rama Datta Bhadwal's (popularly known as Dattu belonging to 2nd half of 18th Century) poetry so for a traced only in two couplets. He was basically a renowned poet of Braj Bhaska (language) There after, similarly Lal Ram Dhan,Ganga Ram, Mathara Dasand Kanshi Ram (known as Pahari Gandhi) also composed some Dogri couplets, but not so systematic poetary or any thing in prose. After a long interval, however, it was only during Maharaja Ranvirt Singh sign that Dogri language got a royal patronage and it was declared an official language along with Persian language. However, by the order of the Maharaja, its then prevailing script was modified and improved also. All the Government notifictions and orders used to be issued in this language alongwith Persian. It also got place in the revenue stamps, postal stamps and currency notes etc. Some important books of the other languages were also translated into this language, Lilavati being however, one of them, as it is most important book on Mathematics (in Sanskrit) which was translated by Jyotishi Visheshwar. But alas, after the sudden death of that great Dogri ruler during 1886. (AD) Dogri had vitually become orphan. No body did take care towards its declining status and the Urdu language becme dominant alongwith English.

Again it was during middle thirties that we see that Dogri reopened its eyes in Pt. Har Datta's poetry like- "Adalti da dhanda", Vishwa nath Khajuria's one act play- 'Achoot' Dinu Bhai Pant's Guttalu, B.P. Sathe's short stories, but this all was scanty and scattered approach which hardly could fulfill the conditions for the all round development of Dogri literture. It was however, with the advent of Prof. Ram Nath Shastri when Dogri's renaissance period re-started. He gathered some serious friendly personalities like D.C. Prashant, Pt. Sansar Chand, Baru, Dinu Bhai Pant and Narayan Mishra etc. and on the auspicious day of Basant Panchmi during 1944, the Dogri Sanstha was established with a solemn declaration for the development and growth of Dogri language and its literature. Just after that in an informal meeting of the Sanstha Pt. Sansar Chand Baru was nominated as-its first founder president and Prof. Shastri was nominated its first founder general secretary, who proved to be the main and leading source of inspiration for others especially for the talented younger generation. In order words it is to be pointed out here that with the inception of Dogri Sanstha a systematic movement under the inspiring, dymanic leadership and guidance of Prof. Shastri was started very vigorously. With the result several young poets and writers of Hindi and Urdu started turning towards Dogri. Amongst them however, the names of Ved Pal Deep, Kehari Singh Madhukar and Yash Sharma etc are particularly to be mentioned here, though writers lke B.P. Sathe, J.C. Sathe and Ram Kumar Abrol etc were also joining simultaneously.

Born on 15th April 1914 to a Khajuria Brahman parents at Madi village near Reasi town in Jammu division, his father Sh. Gouri Shankar Khajuria was a renowed Ayurvedic Physician in his area, but unfortunately he could not carry on his practice properly in that area. He therefore, decided to shift down to Jammu city alongwith all family members and settled in Karan nagar Mohalla of the city where his luck however, started bringing fruit, Since, his father wanted his son Ram Nath to adopt the Aurvedic Profession like his, he decided to get him admitted in a Sanskrit Pathshala being run in the premises of Ranbir High School, Jammu. After getting preliminary education in that pathshala he got admission in Sh. Raghu Nath Sanskrit maha vidyalaya, Jammu, which was a pioneering institute for the learning of Sanskrit during those days. He passed his Shastri (Hon. In Sanskrit) followed by Prabhakar (Hon in Hindi) BA & MA (Sanskrit) examination all from the Lahore, University respectively. Thereafter, he joined as teacher in Rajput High School, Jammu. He served in that School for 5 years. During that period he solemnized his 2nd marriage as his first wife had since expired. His 2nd wife Smt. Sushila Devi proved to ba a very dedicated life partner for him who always had been a source of inspiration for him.

He joined as lecturer in Sanskrit in the prince of Wales college (now known as Gandhi Memorial Science College) Jammu, the post-vacated due the retirement of a world famours linguist Dr. Siddherhwar Verma.
While serving in that College when he was asked to supervise the Hindi Section of the college magazine-Tawi and also to guide the students accordingly, a question struck in his mind that Dogri even being the mother tongue of the Dogra community why was not finding any place in the college magazine. Then and there he decided to do some thing for the development of that language and literature.

As already said in the preceding paragraph he took an initiative to establish Dogri Sanstha with the help of above mentioned five stalwarts. Though previously he used to write shortstories and essays etc in Hindi only then by switching over to his mother tongue Dogri he by and by started concentrating in Dogri writing also.
Consquently, within a short span of time his pen captured the nerve of Dogri language's sensibility, and in due course of time he became a celebrated Dogri poet, fiction writer, essayist, dramatist and translator etc. He, through his writings, in such like various generes was successful to lead Dogri movement so as to reach out to the Dogra people in order to make them under stand the importance of Dogri language and literature as their mother tongue. He retired as Professor of Sanskrit. He had been a senior fellow of Dogri in the University of Jammu from 1970 to 1975, from 1977 to 1985 he worked as a chief editor of the Dogri-Dogri dictionary project of J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages which is regarded as a monoumntal addition to the development of the Dogri language. Moreour, it was especially for the benefit of the lovers of Dogri. He was one of the members of first central committee and also that of the general council of the same academy. He was also nominated as one of the members of Academic Council of Jammu and Kashmir University (When there was only one University for both the regions.)
Prof. Shastri by giving impetus to the spirit of renaissance of Dogri language for the benefit of Dogra community he made them understand the beauty of their mother tongue. Thus, he worked tirelessly to promote this language by writing in different genres of the literature of this language as well as by propagating it in different fields. Not this much only he also presented an ideology that he believed in getting rid of out dated and old values and welcoming higher values like fairness, equality and individual self pride. His many writings have enshrined in them satire and irony as he vigorously exposes the duel character of many people in the society. He has always made emphasis on writing biographies of those Dogra heroes who always challenged the establishment and followed the path of justice and virtues. In short his basic ideology was progressive one enshrined with rich Indian tradition. Again it was due to his convincing power that he made Dr. Karan Singh agreed to donate two kanals of land in Karan Nagar for the construction of Dogri Bbawan which is now getting a big building's shape. Prof. Shastri also alongwith his friends to approach Sahitya Akademi's chairman for recognizind Dogri as a literary languate and then too with the recomendation of Dr Siddheshwar Verma, Dr. S.K. Chatterjee agreed to recognize it during 1969.
His writings :-
1) Dharti Rin - It is a collection of poems he wrote over a thirty five year's period
2) Badnami Di Chhan - A collection of Dogri short Stories 1976 AD.
3) Talkhian - A collection of Dogri Gazals
4) Kalam Kar Charan Singh - A critical study of Late Dogri poet Charan Singh
5) Duggar De Lok Nayak - An Account of three great heroes of Duggar - (1) Bawa Jitto (2) Data Rnapat and (3) Mian Dido
6) Naman Gran - Dogri play (with co-authors Dinu Bhai Pant and Ram Kumar Abrol)
7) Bawa Jitto- Dogri play based on the life and sacrifice of a legendary Dogra hero.
8) Jhankdian Kirana a- A collection of sic one act plays.
His major translation works -
He also translated array of many prominent works intoDogri from the different language such as Sanskrit, Hindi Bengali and English books to further the richness of Dogri languages literature.
Details :
1. Six Upanishads (All prominent)
2. Bharatari Hari's Niti and Vairagyashatakas
3. Shudraka's Mricchakatikam (a well known Sanskrit drama) as Mitti di gaddi
4. Bhasa's four short plays - (1) Doot Vakyam, (2) Karna Bhar (3) Madhyama vyagoga and (4) Doot Ghatotkacha
5. Ravinder Tagore's - Gitenjali and Balidan, Malini and Dakghar (all three dramas)
6. Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography - My experiments with truth.
7. Vinova Bhave's Gita Pravachan.
8. C.Rajagopalchari's Ramayana.
9. Dharma Vir Bharti's -Dharmayuga as 'Annayug'
10. Gorki's lower Depths as Patalbasi.
Editing works :-
Apart from the above Dogri- Dogri dictionary's editing works as a Chief Editor, he also edited works are considered to be of high standard during 1970. On the occasion of the Silver Jublee Celebration of Dogri Sanstha, he edited the 'Rajat Jayanti Granth' in which standard research oriented articles on Dogra culture, art, social life, literature and history were included. All the articles were written by the renowed and eminent scholars of Jammu region.
Awards and honours received by him -
1) Sahitya Akademy award for his short story - Badnami Di Chaan during 1977.
2) Sahitya Akademy's translation prize in 1989 for his translation of Sanskrit drama Mriccha Katikam as "Mitti Di Gaddi".
3) State Academy award for his Dogri prose work- Duggar De Lok Nayak, in 1981
4) State Academy award for his collection of Dogri Gazals - Talkhiyan in 1991.
5) Padma Shri Award, India's fourth highest civilian honour for literature and education in 1990.
6) D. Litt. (Honoria causa) from the University of Jammu in 1994.
7) 59th Sahitya Akademy Fellowship, the highest literary honour conferred on him by Government of India for his contribution to Dogri language and literature.
When the Central Government decided to include Dogri in the 8th schedule of Indian Constitution in December 2003, he had felt extremely happiness and said- This has ended the long struggle of the Dogri speaking people for a rightful place for their language. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has fulfilled his promise to Jammuites.

Smt. Padama Sachdev, the eminent Dogri writer, has rightly said-Professor Ram Nath Shatri is the Bhartendu of Dogri language and literature. There is not a single person who is writing in Dogri now, has not been influenced by him. Not a single word is there in Dogri on which his stamp has not been registered with the help ofhis associates. He salvaged Dogri languge from the cultural debris and presented it in a very much revived and refreshed state before the Dogra people. Earlier the Dogra writers were writing in other languages, perhaps taking Dogri to the language not fit for literary composition." Am eminent Oriya poet and ex president of Sahitya Akademi Said" There are a few in India and elsewhere in the world who excel in so many areas of literature.

At last, but not the least here just two lines of his one of the gazals having the progressive ideology are being quoted here for the sake of judging his such approach towards life- Dharma de nan innakuda, (Talkhiyan) (So much rubbish in the name of religion, why don't you just forget it? good or bad, this character is at least mine.)

When this great piller of Dogri expired on 8th March 2009 all the Dogri lovers were shocked. Prof. Ram Nath now though is no more in this mortal world he will be living in his writings and works done for the advancement of Dogri for all times to come.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ladakhi Apricot

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca), locally known as "chulli," is one of the most nutritive, delicious and commercially important fruit crops of Ladakh. It has a wide range of distribution in different parts of Ladakh with particularly abundance in Sham areas (lower Ladakh) including Dha-Hanu, Garkhon, Skurbuchan, Domkhar, Wanla, Khaltse and Timosgang. Apricot in Ladakh, is believed to have been introduced a century back either from China or Central Asia. Since then, apricot has become one of the most preferred and commercially cultivated fruit crop of Ladakh and has become an integral part of the people there.

Apricot, being a unique, tolerant and highly stable plant, can grow exuberantly in wide range of jagged sandy soil, having very low nutrient and moisture content, in the Cold desert of Ladakh. Luxuriously adapted in the extreme environment here in Ladakh, the apricot tree can attain a height of about 4-7m bearing heart shaped leaves, and produces flowers in spring and friuts in summer. With the onset of breezy spring, these trees overcome the long terrible winter dormancy and start producing young healthy leaf buds, and by the month of April-May they produce beautiful white or pinkish flowers that not only ensures the continuity of their population but also give a unique look to the sandy desert of trans-Himalaya. By the month of August-September, they start producing yellow-orange, rounded or oval shaped fruits that are juicy, sweet taste with peculiar apricot flavour.

There are many varieties of apricot grown in Ladakh, which differ from one another in taste (sweet, bitter, sour), size, shape and physical appearance. Some of these varieties include Halman, Laktse-karpo, Safaida, Khanteh etc. Halman and Laktse-karpo are the most preferred one for commercial purpose. Both, the fruit and kernel of apricot is believed to be highly nutritive and consumed as either fresh or dried. They are known to possess a good amount of vitamin-A, vitamin-C, potassium, calcium, iron, carbohydrate, amino acids and sugars. Apricot has been consumed by the people of Ladakh for decades. It has became an integral part of the traditional culture of people here. Local people serve dried or fresh apricot as an excellent dessert, particularly on traditional festival occasions. During the chilly winters, when people prefer to remain indoor, dried apricot fruits make an excellent eatable that compensates the long cold winter, especially for children who use to fill their pocket with dried fruits and enjoy themselves.

In entire Ladakh, a farmer practices one of the best and oldest method of fruit preservation and storage by open sun drying. The local people, particularly women and children, collect the fully ripend apricot in a large traditional basket (locally known as Tsepo) and wash them under running water to remove the dusts, and then spread on the roof top for drying under open sun light. The fruit are dried either as whole fruit (locally known as Fating) or seed are separated before drying, and the dried fruit without seed are called Chulli skampo. During the sun drying process, the fruit loses its natural colour and turns dark brown. This is the major drawback of traditional method of sun drying in Ladakh. However, at present, the Ladakhi farmers have adapted several improved methods of drying including treatment with sulphurdioxide and use of polyhouse apricot drier. These methods are believed to reduce or prevent the browning of fruits.

From the commercial point of view, apricot has been the major source of income for many Ladakhis who are engaged in cultivation and marketing of this fruit. Halman and Laktse-karpo are the two prime varieties that have a good demand in the market and are profitably sold @ Rs 200 - 250 per kilogram. Besides, the kernel of apricot is also consumed and marketed by locals. The seed with sweet kernel is consumed as dry fruit and make a good market price of Rs 100-150/kg while the seed with bitter kernel are used for oil extraction. The apricot oil (locally called tseghumar) is a multipurpose oil with a peculiar apricot flavour and is sold at a remarkable price of Rs 300-500 per litre. Traditionally, the oil is extracted from the semi-roasted kernels by crushing them in a large wooden mortar (locally termed as Thorn), followed by heating and compressing them with few drops of water on a flat stone(called as Tsigg). Besides, several other products such as apricot jam, squash, jelly and cake are being produced for commercial purposes.

This is worth mentioning here that Ladakh is one of the major producer of apricot in India, but, at present almost 90% of the fresh apricot being produced in this cold arid region go waste and its market value stands abysmal. The prime reason for such debacle is the lack of proper network for processing and supplying apricot products in Ladakh and elsewhere in India. The local apricot growers, though, have the knowledge of cultivation and drying, but, they are devoid of any modern technical skills for proper preservation, storage, transportation and marketing of apricot products. This results in a huge less not only to the poor farmers but also to the economy of Ladakh in general.

Keeping in view the major challenges of apricot processing and marketing, the people of Ladakh particularly farmer and young generation needs a deep understanding and awareness of apricot production and commercialization. Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) has made a significant research on apricot propagation, processing and commercialization in Ladakh. In fact, several such scientific research is needed to overcome the major obstacle faced by apricot growers and marketers. . If this God gifted natural resource of Ladakh is to be commercialised and made a potential source of income for thousands of poor Ladakhi farmers, then the local government and non-government agencies, who seem to be complacent, needs to recognise the potential of apricot and go hand in hand with farmers.

Baba Bhed Devta a spiritual journey

The shrine of Baba Bhed Devta is one of the lesser known jewels of the cultural treasure trove of the Dogra culture which flourishes in the Shivaliks and its adjoining region. Ensconced in the lower Shivaliks and situated on the bank of the holy Suryaputri i.e. today's river Tawi , the shrine of Baba Bhed Devta is also known as Baba Bhed Nag and is a classical Dogra shrine, steeped in folklore and local oral traditions and blessed with natural beauty. It is the natural beauty and remoteness of the shrine which lends a holy and sacred aura to it. In the local folklore and mythology, Baba Bhed Nag was the most illustrious son of Vasuki Nag the king of Serpents who handed over the rule of Jammu kingdom to Raja Bhed Devta when he brought waters of Tawi from Kali Kundi glacier in Kaplash mountains of Bhaderwah to Jammu with the help of Kaliveer and blessings of Kalika Mata. That is why a large number of Rajput clans who ruled over small principalities in Jammu region consider Baba Bhed Devta as their kuldevta along with Kaliveer. 

The legend of Baba Bhed also has a great historical significance as it is believed that in the hoary past Nagas who ruled over north India were serpent worshippers. The legend also has its origin in the Shaivite Hinduism which was prevalent in much of the Jammu and Kashmir state in the ancient times.

The place where shrine is situated is known as Bhed village. The shrine is atop a big rock on the base of which is the gently flowing river Tawi. Due to U turn of the river, a large and deep water body has been created which is locally known as 'Dawar' in Dogri. Fish which abound the water body is called as Devta. Devotees offer balls of kneaded flour to the fish. Fishing is strictly prohibited in this stretch of the river which has led to the creation of a sanctuary. 

According to limnologists Baba Bhed is an important sanctuary for many a species of fish and other aquatic beings. In the recent times, the environmentalists have come to recognize the important role played by such sacred water bodies and groves in the preservation of the bio-diversity in India. The place also has afforded protection to cormorants, rock pigeons, and other fauna.

Baba Bhed is revered not only in Jammu region but also in Punjab .Every year thousands of devotees throng the shrine to pay their obeisance. According to the local tradition the Brahmins of Largan and Sodha villages act as priests of the shrine. Similarly the Rajputs of Bhed Mandi and Aitham perform the function of the temple sevadars (caretakers) of the shrine.

Though the pilgrimage goes on throughout the year, more arrivals are witnessed on Sundays, purnimas or on those auspicious days when mundan ceremony can be performed. A big mela is organized on the auspicious occasion of Aashad and sharad purnima. On such occasions Gardis, who also calls themselves as Baba Bhed de Balyats, sing Karkas in the praise of the deity and beat drums. Jattar is also performed by the head pujari. Reverence for Baba Bhed Nag brings to the fore the fact that people of this kandi belt generally have suffered from scarcity of water and the abode of the Devta has been symbolic of life giving water and subsequent agricultural productivity.

A platform has been constructed on the rock where devotees worship the deity and present offerings. On auspicious occasions devotees offer saungals also called Chaunda in the name of their Jayesth or eldest son. Those people who do not have 'Sthan' or place of worship for their kuldevta at home offer the sacred saungals at the shrine.

The devotees have great reverence for Baba Bhed who is famous for granting boons and fulfilling wishes of the devotees. The devotees on fulfillment of their wishes visit the shrine for thanksgiving. The agriculturists particularly make it a point to offer the agricultural produce like milk, grains etc to the deity. Sometimes a goat is also sacrificed on the occasion of child birth, mundan or any other ceremony.
The shrine of Baba Bhed Devta is situated in the village Bhed which is on the left bank of river Tawi. The shrine can be reached through different routes. From Jammu , the devotees travel to Nagrota where just one km ahead of Kol Kandoli shrine, a road on the right leads up to the village Katal Batal situated on the right bank of river Tawi. From here on after descending to the river bank one has to cross Tawi by a boat service. Once the river is crossed, a welcome Arch welcomes the devotees in Sodha village. A devotee has to trudge a distance of three and a half kilometers through fields, thick vegetation and after crossing a number of brooks to reach the shrine. A part of the trek also involves steep incline paved with stones (Takki) which has to be negotiated on foot with care. However, all the physical exertion is forgotten once the pilgrim reaches the shrine located in the picturesque small valley surrounded by the hills. The other route is from the village Aitham situated on Jammu-Surinsar-Mansar route. Though this route is less frequented but it is equally challenging and has a breath-taking view of the Shivalik uplands and greenery. The, three kilometer long path is arduous and poses a gentle challenge to the pilgrims. It starts from village Aitham and passing through Ladgan village finally reaches the shrine. Enroute the devotees are rewarded with the sight of a train coming out of one tunnel and then disappearing into the other. Little do the devotees realize that a railway tunnel is situated right under their feet!

However due to lack of proper connectivity and infrastructure, the pilgrimage to the shrine remains a challenging task. There is no road connectivity with the rest of the world. Even at Katal Batal the base camp of the pilgrimage there is lack of public utilities like toilets, shelter sheds and resting places. The pilgrims have to depend on boats to cross Tawi which though a unique experience cannot be relied upon during rainy season. Once the Tawi is crossed again the pilgrims have to travel through a fair weather Kutcha road.

It is essential that potential of such a picturesque and religious tourist destination be tapped. Already a foot bridge is under construction over Tawi and it is hoped that public utilities shall also be provided at the shrine which is facing the problem of filth and insanitation. To improve connectivity, it is imperative that the alternative jungle track from Aitham village be also converted into a well maintained bridle path. The potential of religious tourism is immense in Jammu and opportunities galore. The shrine can be brought under the Mansar-Surinsar Development Authority so as to have an all-round development of this holy place revered by the Dogras.