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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXV (2001-2002)

Home Land Pilgrim Centres of Kashmiri Pandits
Principal P. N. Lidhoo (Retd.) "Sopory", Delhi

Kashmir Valley, as the legend goes, was created by the great saint Kashyap Rishi. It is known as the abode of Rishis. Different rulers came to reign this paradise on earth and the Rishis laid their foot prints and reminiscences in the shape of temples, shrines and Viharas which have become important pilgrimages over a period of time.

As our holy places of worship, we have Sharika Devi & Ganesh Bal at the Hari Parbat, Raginya Devi at Tullamulla, known as Kheer Bhavani and Jawala Devi at Khrew on the top of a hillock. We have the Darshan of the ice lingam at the holy cave of Swami Amar Nathji, Sharda Peeth, the ancient university, at Sharda in PAK occupied Kashmir. We have Har Mukh, Zeethyar, Mattan and Verinag as important pilgrimages. Verinagh spring is the source of river Jhelum. The great Mughal King Jehangir fenced it and there is a temple outside to worship. Zeethyar is a far off place which is now linked with a road. We cannot forget Reshimol of Anantnagh. Nobody can even now take meat in that area. Similarly the shrines of Baba Rishi in Gulmarg and Sheikh Nooruddin of Charar are also important. In short, it is necessary to have the record of our pilgrim centres for our children who have to discover these when normal times return and for our progeny to realize their significance. Salient details are given below.

Sopore Area

Nand-ki-shor (Seer Jagir)

This is a famous pilgrimage of Kashmiri Pandits in the north Kashmir, situated on the left side of the river Jhelum carrying valuable timber from famous forests of Lolab, Trihgam, Magam and Kupwara etc.

Nand-ki-shor is an ancient monument with picturesque scenery of its surrounding seen on its walls. With a Chinar tree in the centre it has a huge compound for devotees. Long back, late Jagirdar Balkak Dar had appointed one pujari for puja and sacrifices of sheep were offered on every Saturday or Tuesday at this shrine. It has incarnation of "Shakti".

On Baishakh Amavasia a great yagniya and mela used to be held when every family of Sopore villages, Baramulla, Pattan etc. participated in large numbers. In its compound there is a covered big spring where from the crystal clear water gushes through an inner opening. The water falls in the artificial spring where devotees take bath. Local people come from miles on foot to collect fresh crystal clear water from this source. People offer donations. There is a big "dharamsala" and kitchen etc. here The Sadhus come from far off places to meditate here and they are served free food. On the same day a mela at Sumbal (shadipur) is held which is an old pilgrimage of 1000 years; known as Prayag, where the Aasthis of dead are immersed.

Vaskara - This is the place of meditation of Roop Bhawani. At this place were preserved, the personal belongings of this great saint as used by her daily, like black "Kantope" "feran", blanket etc. On Magh Krishen paksh saptami (Sahib Saptami), Roop Bhawani Jayant was observed here with great devotion.

Gangajattan/Sangramma :

Sangrama is a junction where traffic is directed towards Baramulla, Sopore, Srinagar and other places. This place was conquered by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846 when he took the possesion of Kashmir valley. A huge battle ended at this place in his favour. So it is called ⢻, a sanskrit word, meaning war. There is a muslim pious shrine at the top of the hill while at its base crystal clear water of Harmukh Ganga trickles on Ganga Ashtami day, once in a year. So Hindus assemble in huge numbers to have a bath in the showering water. Pujaris perform shradhas, offer puja and have fasts on this day. Hindus thus consider it a pilgrimage on that day. On this day the famous Harmukh Ganga Pilgrimage is held. It is a tedious journey to reach this place via Sonamarg road. The yatris used to ascend the mountain for three days continuously. The Govt. had provided no arrangements previously. It is situated on the Indo-Tibetan Road, rough and steep to climb. Afghan rulers had stopped this pilgrimage as once thousands of Hindus faced the Nature's calamity, snow, rains and shivering cold in the autumn days of September-October. No one returned alive. It is a hearsay. Now people go with full arrangements with warm clothing and prepared food material. There is a big spring where shradh is performed every year. Small worms, in colours, are seen in crores in the spring. They are considered as spirits of deceased who appear only at the time of Shradh. It is a paradox to believe. Anyhow believe for my sake, as it is an eye witness description. The same worms are put tight in bottles, drums and utensils but as soon as shradh is over these disappear with the Darshan of a pale snake in the Sheshnag spring. There is a "dokhnagh"/"sokhnagh" with cold and warm water. The Assthis of the dead were immersed here after Shrada, as in Hardawar. Harmukh Ganga is Shiva in real perspective, very different from other shrines.

So, I write with confidence and conviction for those who would study its importance as laid in Hindu scriptures. Yatris travel in buses to Sonmarg and stay at Rapii Angan, Bart-bramsar, Hamsa-dwar, Brahma-Vishnu springs, Sheshnag, Harmukh-ganga, Jatta etc. No trees are there for shelter to protect against sun, rain, snow or storm. The road is hilly and difficult to climb.

Reshi Peer - "Peer Pandit Padshah har Mushkill Kusha .......... Aassaan":

It is situated on the right side of River Jhelum near the main Wazir temple in Sopore town. This place is venerated and worshipped, as this is the place of birth of Reshi peer - S/o Govind Ram Koul, R/o Batayar, Alikadal, Srinagar where his temple exists and where an annual fair and "Havan" was held. There is an interesting story how Reshi Peer was born, in a boat at Sopore after great meditation and prayer by his grandmother, who was hailing from a far off vilage, Gushi, in Kupwara area. She was meditating in the jungle of Tikkar near Kheer Bhawani. Her anxiety and concern were that her daughter should give birth to a son to sustain her daughter's life whose husband was rather elderly & frail. In course of time, Reshi Peer was born; while his mother was being carried in a boat to Srinagar to deliver the child. It was near Wazir temple in Sopore where she had to be taken for delivery and this became known, later on as "Reshi Peer" of Sopore.

Reshi Peer started meditation in solitude from his childhood at his house as he was a handicapped, crippled child. When he grew up, he used to give Parikrama of Sharika devi on his knees. In a dream the Devi blessed him with her darshan"and appeared to him as his "guru". Some say for 12 years he performed Parikrama under the guidance of Krishan Joo Kar. He became famous for his miracles. The emperor of those days, Aurangzeb, was informed by his governor about the miracles of the famous Reshi Peer addressed as "Padshah". So he was called to face imprisonment at Delhi. But to his great surprise, the emperor was greatly influenced by his vedantric and spiritual charisma; and so he was not only released but awarded a Jagir at Devsar at Anantnagh. Mullah Abdullah Badhak Shahi used to discuss the spirituality and Vedanta with him. The discussions held were translated in Persian language in a book, by his Pupil Dara - Shikoh. The name of the book is Sair-i-Akbari. Beside the Reshi Peer Trust, Shiva Hiranki Reshi Pir Kashmiri colony of migrants, has been established near Alipur, Delhi in his memory.

Zinpora Dooni (Bomai) - A famous pilgrimage of Hindus. It is famous, as the Dooni of a Yogi used to burn through out the year since ages past. This Tirath has a lot of assets, land, orchards etc. The Sadhus stay here for years with free board and lodging. Bomai, a Hindu village is at a distance of one mile from Sopore. There is lot of enthusiasm on Havan and yearly functions. After raids in 1947 Swami Nand Lal ji was taking care of it. But he left for Tikkar to make this "Tirth" glorious after 1947 destruction. A social welfare committee would take care of these Tiraths from Srinagar and Dharam-Arth Trust and Sudhar Samiti along with the cooperation of local Hindu organizations would work together to uplift them and keep their assets under control. Sri Kanth Sopori, a retired Patawari had spent his precious life to safeguard Tiraths like Zinpora and Wazir Bagh of Sopore and the Reshi Pir Mandir over there. Annual functions were arranged and Hindus used to pay visits to these places. There is a lot of land possessed by Bomai Mandir with a school and shops attached to it.

Bandipore Area

This location is famous for its scenic beauty and strategic route to Gilgit via Astore and Gurez passes. The English tourists used to visit this area specially for its beautiful sanitorium, Sonarwami, on the bank of Nalla Madhumati and Bonar waterfalls in the jungle of Matergam. The people used to come and go to Gilgit on horses/ponies daily. Bandipor is famous not only for its fertile land but also for fertile brains. So, this area has produced well known saints, scholars, poets and philosophers. There is a Shardha Mandir, at a Hindu village Kaloosa, on the bank of Madhumati canal. The biggest lake in Asia, Wular lake, is nearby; the canal falls in this lake. Local Hindus from this town and adjacent villages used to hold Annual Hawan at this Mandir.

Kharapora-Arin Dardpora :

There is a famous cave in the jungles of Arin Dardpora about four miles from Bandipora. It is also known as "Chotta Amarnath". This cave has a wonderful stone work, with engravings on walls, carried out miraculously long long time back by some Hindu ruler. The cave has an ice Shiv Lingam and can accommodate 5 to 6 pilgrims at a time. To have the darshans, one has to crawl with torches in hand since inside it is dark.

Ram Takhat : It is situated on this plateau of Ramahal mountain near line of control. As per the legend, Ramchander ji, whilst in exile had his Durbar at this place in the jungle. There is a spring and a huge polished stone with peculiar engravings. It is known Ramji's stone - "Tir"; this hillock adjoins the plateau near Singhpora at Baramulla. People used to visit this "asthapan" from far and wide with great reverance.

Prayag and Pushkar : Shadipur is a town near Sumbal. Here the rivers Sindhu and Jehlum meet and the confluence; Sangham, is called Prayag. There is an island at this confluence where there is a Chinar tree believed to be thousand years old, in folk lore. Hindus used to immerse ashes of deceased at this Sangham. Once in a century, Dashhara is held at this place and the last one was in the year 1940 when the Hindus of the valley and from other places performed the Shradh in memory of their deceased kith and kim. Another pilgrimage in this area is Pushkar situated in Magam-Gulmarg region. There is a natural spring where Hindus have a "Tirth" and take a bath particularly on the eclipse days and on other auspicious occasions. With displacement of Hindus from these areas due to terrorism, all these places have lost the erstwhile importance as pilgrim centres.

Baramulla Area

Sheila Devi Pilgrimage - Sheila Devi spring is situated under the hill on the right side of the Jehlum valley Road. On the other side of the temple and the pious spring, the river Jhelum flows in high speed. Across the river and opposite to the temple there existed a Hindu populated colony. So, every Hindu generally used to take a bath in the hot water spring and offer Puja to Devi. People who are blessed offer Havans and other Pujas in honour of Devi. The Marble "murti" is placed in the centre of the spring. The spring area is big with a considerable space all around for parikrama and for assembly of devotees in front of Devi. There are a few Dharamsala for Sadhus. Around this shrine and both sides of the river there was a thick Hindu population in an environment of solitude & peace. After migration the atmosphere has changed and it is sadness all around.

Kotti Tirath (Crore Tiraths) :

Ancient scriptures reveal that this place had the same importance as Mattan. People from earlier times would offer shradha here on the bank of Vitasta. Some would also immerse the Aasthis of dead over here. It is situated opposite to Sheila Devi pilgrimage across the river Jhelum. There is annexed a Sikh pilgrimage "Chatti Padshahi" of marble construction. Sikhs come from far off places especially on Sundays; Baisakhi, remembarance days of Sikh Gurus and other auspicious days. There is vast sikh population in Rafiabad, Baramulla, Singh Pora and other places nearby. Sikhs and Hindus have a great reverence for this pilgrimage and attend it regularly.

Gangnor :Under Gosaniteng hill, there is a natural water flow; water is hot in winter and cold in summer. All people with no consideration of caste & creed take a bath in the artificial spring and then proceed to their respective places of worship. The water flows from the natural source into the artificial spring through an iron channel (nor). It resembles Ganga & so is known by the name of "Gangnor". There is a wooden structure, with roof over the artificial spring.

Kanimoj - (Indra Bha - Pilgrimage) :

It is a pilgrimage specially for unmarried girls. Amidst the water in the hill region, 6 miles from Baramulla, there are structures resembling teats of cows; with gushing water, and the foot of a cow in the river Jhelum. People come down to offer puja, milk, kheer etc. in honour of the deity, observing fast on Thursdays in autumn. The Hindus consider it a yatra, known as Indra Bha.

Gosaniteng - (Ramkund - Sitakund)

This old temple is situated on a hillock on top of Baramulla town. Bhairav mandir is at the bottom. It was daily visited by the Hindus who worshipped it and offered "naveed" and "prasad". The importance of Goswani Teng is held up by scriptures. Sadhus throng there in summer as there is refreshing air, free from pollution and noise. It is a place of meditation for "yogis" and sadhus. There are seven kunds especially "Ram Kund", "Sita Kund", "Lakshman Kund", "Bharat Kund" etc.

Legend goes that Ram whilst in exile was here; he has left "Ram Takhat" in a village near Hari (LOC). Near by in the forest there was a famous place of meditation, "Goppa Bal", where there was an Ashram for sadhus with free boarding & lodging provisions.

Jawala Devi (Swayam-Vedar) :

There are some crevices in the land which underneath are burning. Mythologically it is of religious importance. People visit these on foot and prepare food etc. on these crevices Hundred years earlier it used to be a very important pilgrimage, in this area. Now the archaelogical deptt. has found burning volcanoe here so it is under Govt. control and religious performances are prohibited.

Kupwara Area

Trihgam Spring - It is situated on the Kupwara-Kralpora local road. It has the "Samadhi" of a saint sadhu near it. The saint was known as the Trehgam Babajee and every one in North Kashmir received his blessings. Ther is a crystal clear greenish water in it with fish of golden colour. It has a vivid scenery to look at. In 1946 there was only a primary school there but now a days there are colleges, with main market next to big trade centre, Kupwara, amidst the Lolab and Trehgham valley on the right and left sides. The road from Trehgam leads to Kralpora - LOC and on the other side across is the famous Krishna Ganga river.

Shardha Pilgrimage : This shrine is situated in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Reportedly it is well preserved; even muslims used to swear by "Shaarda Maa". It is believed that in the reign of Chander Gupta Vikramaditya there was a famous Sanskrit learning centre here and a library of rare snaskrit manuscipts. As per belief on the auspicious day, of "Gouri Tritya", on the Saraswati puja day, there used to be a convocation at this learning centre when certificates were given to scholars coming from near and far off places. It was a centre of Sanskrit and Sharda learning, the latter script is still in vogue for Kashmiri Pandit Panchaks and Janam Patris.

Chandigam (Lolab) : There is a spring at this place which has great religious & historical significance. Sogam town is nearby and this place is famous for walnut orchards. There is a big temple "Ganesh Bal" in this town, with huge landed property - which was managed by Sudhar Samiti. There was an Ashram also where saints from different parts of our country used to live.

Brahma Spring : On the top of the hill of Hamal (now called Rafiabad), amidst this forest, this venerated spring is situated. Nearby there is the sikh village, Sialkote; sikhs also used to visit this spring and worship it. There is a historical belief that this was an important Hindu religious place but now no Hindus live here.

Sadhumalan - Kandi village :

Kandi village is famous for its pilgrimage known as Sadamalan. All those who wanted to visit Shardaji and other Tiraths on this side had to assemble here for the board and lodging provided thoughout the year. This shrine had huge cultivable land attached to it. It is a beautiful place for the meditation of Sadhus. Many well educated Hindu families lived here. But on 20.3.90 deceased Autar Kishan, engineer by profession, was killed by militants in his office as Dy. Director Food and Supplies, Srinagar. He was the son of a teacher. He belonged to this village and was its pride. Hindus immediately migrated after this tragedy for their safety and respect and are still in exile.

Badarkali Pilgrimage near Wadipora -

It is situated on Handawara - Wadipora Road only a few miles away from Wadipora. People used to assemble here for annual "Mela" on Ram Navami day. There is a legend that mother Kali came from Kolkata to chase the demons and killed all demons at Handwara known as Handawara now. There is a higher secondary school here. This temple has a wealth of orchards and cultivable land. Nalla Mawar flows here. Langate, Batagondu, Nagam etc. are near by.

Tikkar-Kheer Bhawani Spring : Earlier there was only a badly maintained wooden structure here in the midst of the jungle. But, now there is a marble Murti in the middle of the spring and its "Parikrama". There is a covered Puja hall, a dharamsala with a cold water well. Stream water is not available. On the adjacent hill there is a "Tri-murti", in marble, representing Swami Lal ji, Swami Nand Lal ji and Kral-Bab in an Ashram. Walnut trees are in abundance. There used to be a provision of free board and lodging for Sadhus, night and day, in the spaceous Dharamsala. Jeth Ashtami was observed every year, with annual Havan, very auspiciously and remarkably. This asthapan in situated on Kupwara-Kralpora Road, leading to the famous shrine, shaardhaji, now in POK.

Anantnag Area

Martand (Sun Temple) :

Mattan is 5 miles away from Anant Nagh. A huge cave on the general road, on the right side, is also seen which is famous for its historical background, as per scriptures and of great archaelogical interest. This village, where it is situated, is called Bamzahoom. It is said that it is a very long cave of unlimited destination. The Hindus perform Shraddha to deceased on the "Chaka" rivulet near the famous Mattan spring. On its South at a distance of 21/2 miles, the famous ruins of structures are visible which depict the old Hindu culture and architecture. Lalitaditya king had constructed these temples. Similar ruins are seen at Awantipora. Among the famous temples of Kashmir, many are situated in Anantnag district. The vivid picturesque scenary of Nagbal is remarkable, having a fresh water spring with a Shiva temple amidst it and some "Dharmsalas" around. In the evening the Kashmiri Pandit women folk, girls & boys used to visit this place and offer Aarti. Muslims offered "Namaz" at adjacent Reshmol Sahib. No one, even muslims not, take meat, beef, chicken etc. here even now.

There are some well-known pilgrimages in this district. Brief description is given here for appraising the future generations. Important ones are as follows :

Veth Vatur - The birth of Vitasta, known as Veth. Annual fair is held on its birthday on thirteenth day of Lunar Bhadoon.

Kapal Mochan - The annual fair is held on Shravan solar twelfth day near SHOPIAN. Shardha of deceased new born babies was held there, to give peace to their precious souls.

Manzgam - It is situated near the jungles, in between Shapian and Kolgam. It had for locals the importance as that of Kheer Bhawani of Tullamula or Tikkar.

Jhajwor - Situated near Bijbehara with an ancient Shiv mandir; an annual fair is held on Shravan Purnima day.

Lok Bhavan - Eight miles from Anantnag. Annual Maha yagna is held here every year.

Gotam Nag - Three miles away from Anantnag. So many yogis meditated here to achieve mukhti. Swami Gasha Kak the famous saint of Kashmir had established his Ashram here. Pilgrims going to Amarnath used to halt here.

Uma Nagari - Swami Swayam Anand Ji made this Nagri a paradise on earth. As it is said that Devi Uma had appeared in person in a dream to him. All devotees donated for its development. A big "dharamsala"was constructed but now it is regretted that migration of Kashmiri Pandits has affected all these temples in Kashmir, some have been uprooted. May Maji Devi restore all 350 temples and a new leaf may turn in the history of this community.

Nag Dandi - Nag Dandi annual Havan is well celebrated. It is about 3 miles from Anant Nagh and 2 kms from Achhabal Mughal garden.

Jawala Devi (Khrew) - 13 miles away from Srinagar in the land of Kessar near Pampore, it is situated on a hill where about 108 stairs are to be climbed to reach the top. There is a "Sandoor" covered Shrine of Jawala Devi with a big bell (Ganthi). Annual fair is held on Ashad solar fourteenth.

Amar Nath goffa - Situated beyond Pahalgam, is the famous cave of international importance. Every year lakhs of pilgrims have its darshan on the auspicious day of Shravan Purnimas (full moon). The yatra starts from "Sant Akada", near Amira Kadal chowk and thousands of yatris participate some have pigeons on their heads and some have flags. People travel by bus upto Pahalgam. Then the journey is on foot or by "palkis", horses, ponies which are available. Inside the cave is a Shivlingam.

Chandan Vari - Sheshnag (lake), Vavjan Panchtarni, are "dhams", on pilgrimage to Amarnath where every sort of facility of lodging, boarding, medical aid, police security etc. is provided by Govt. authority and private Trustees.

The details of the pilgrim centres in Srinagar and around, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, are described in length separately in this publication.

As a teacher, I have served various corners of the valley of Kashmir and have seen all the shrines of this "Adode of Rishis" with great interest. Now at the fag end of my life, in exile, I am very fondly remembering these shrines. I record these, to the best of my knowledge and references to relevant literature, under utterly sad conditions, for our progeny who will, I pray, preserve these shrines in our beloved homeland, Kashmir.



The author is a renowned educationist and teacher having travelled extenswely in the valley.

Mailing Address : C-II/Y-I, MIG, DDA flats, Dilshad Gardens, Delhi-95
 
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