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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXV (2001-2002)
The Prominent Shrines of Kuthar and Breng Valley
Ravinder Ravi, New Delhi

India has attained an appellation of being the land of spiritualism. Its crown, Kashmir has been described as valley of sages and saints and shrines. Almost all the shrines are named after great saints, incarnations, goddesses etc. There is hardly any area, where a shrine does not exist. These are held in great reverence and esteem by everybody. Walter Lawerance in his book "The Valley of Kashmir" says, "Every Kashmiri believes that saints will aid if men will call and they think that a dead saint is more efficacious than a living priest ....... obeisances are made and with barefeet the Kashmiri draws near the doorway and smears his throat and body with the holy dust of the sacred precincts."

Every Kashmiri is God fearing and respects every shrine whether it belongs to muslims or to hindus. Springs, shadowed by shady trees,big rocks, trees, torrents, etc. are usual accomplices of shrines, where hindus pay their obeisance, kneel down in prostration and have abulations. It is given in Ainiakbari that Hindus regard all Kashmir as holy land. 45 places are dedicated to Mahadeo and 64 to Vishnu, 3 to Brahma and 22 to Durga. In 700 places there are carved figures of snakes, which they worship." Fairs are held at these shrines and offerings are made. Pilgrims throng in big numbers to these shrines. Conches are blown and religious hymns are chanted.

Again Walter Lawerance says, "It is dangerous to discuss so great a mystery as the Hindu religion, yet I cannot help noticing the important part which water springs and snakes play in the Kashmiri mythology. Nor I must omit the fact that the Hindus seize with avidity on any abnormal display of the powers of nature. The intermittent springs in R. S. Pura where the water rises and falls in an unaccountable manner at fixed periods; the Gangjetton hill side in Donsu, dry all the year till september, when it becomes a waterfall; the subterraneous fire at Soyam in Uttar Machipora where people cook their food over the hot soil, attract numerous pilgrims and are ranked among the holy places of Kashmir."

These shrines assume great significance following miracles by deities and incarnations and great saints of these splendid places. These shrines are great centers of spiritual eminence, miracles and forecasting. These shrines have the unique distinction of enjoying the esteem of every community alike. Pilgrims make their way toward these shrines in good numbers belonging to different races and ethinic groups. They wish to pay obeisance and get their wishes fulfilled. The great mystic poet and saint Nund Rishi (Shezanand) had travelled through the length and breath of Kashmir. He came to Breng Pargana also, praised this area and said "Breng chu sonu sund Prang." In this beautiful south Kashmir Breng valley and Kuthar Pargana, there are some prominent shrines of great importance. These follow as under -

Trisandhya : French Doctor Francois Bernier came to Kashmir and during his stay in the valley he toured various places of interest. Among these places Trisandhya is one. This shrine is situated beyond famous tourist resort of Kokernag on Anantnag - Ahlan Gdole Road. This holy spring is situated south of Devalgam a populous village in Breng near Magam Sundbrari. This is an ebbing and flowing spring. It has a small basin. It is about five feet deep and about five yards wide. It remains dry almost all the year except Jeth-Har. During this period water appears in the spring automatically and it goes dry again. The process of ebbing and flowing of the water in the spring continues for some time. At first the water springs out continuously for many days but gradually gets absorbed and reappears after intervals. This intermittence occurs several times a day. In Jeth-Har people swarm to Trisandhya. They wait near the spring for rising of water. They go in for prostration; praying it to re-appear when water starts surfacing, the pilgrims exclaim sand, sand, sand with this the pilgrims perform ablutions and take nectar with them. The pilgrims are happy over performing sand and feel optimistic and their wish is fulfilled. Many poets including a persian poet have composed lyrics in praise of this spring.

Dumatabal : This ancient shrine is situated at the edge of the forest on the right side of Hangulgund on Naru_Watnar Road, which is traversed by the path between Vernag and Soaf. This shrine houses a Laxmi Narayan temple with a beautiful spring whose water continuously flows. Its waters join the rivulet which drain rest of the area. Mahatma Shiv ji was its chief priest and warden till 1990. After Kashmir Pandits were hounded out by Kashmiri Pak Muslim fundamentalists from their motherland, this shrine like other shrines was left behind. Mahatma Shiv ji went to heavenly abode at Udhampur. Now his son Shri Nath ji is looking after religious matters.

Annually a havan is performed on Wahika Zoona Pach Kah - Baisakh Krishen Paksh ikadashi, at Dumatabal. This is called "Narda Kah". Yatris first take holy dip at "Naran nag" in "Naru" and ascend towards Dumatabal where final holy dip is taken in the sacred waters of Dumatabal. People in large numbers attend the "havan" and take part in the fair organised on the occasion.

merza kak shrine : This shrine is located in Hangulgund about 30 km. from Anantnag. There is a Smadhi of great mystic poet of Kashmir, Merza Kak, popularly known as "Kak Sab". Merza Kak has done miracles. He has seen the oppression and tyranny of Pathan rulers. He too was not spared from "Begaar". The locals had prayed "Pathan Kardar", that Kak Sab was a saint and should be released. They even begged Pathan not to force Kak Sab into "Begaar" but Pathan Kardar did not agree and ultimately this great soul was forced to drop the "begaar" at Khanabal. With a bundle put on his shoulder, Kak Sab left for Khanabal. While trekking down the arduous way he felt tired and lay down for rest. Sweated, Kak Sab went in deep sleep. Meanwhile Mata Sharika, in disguise, came into being and dropped a slip duly certified by the Ghat Munshi of Khanabal into his hand and disappeared. After some time Kak Sab woke up and found a slip duly certified by the Ghat Munshi at Khanabal. He was indeed a great Aatma to know what had happened. The bundle also disappeared. He returned with the slip and delivered it to Pathan Kardar. Kardar was astonished to see this but said he will get it verified from Khanabal. This proved to be a truth. Pathan Kardar felt ashamed of what he had done. He bowed down before Kak Sab and became his disciple.

On "Zeth GataPachi Doi" a "Havan" is performed in Hangulgund. Hangulgund is a Hindu populated village. A large fair is also held at this place on this occasion. Popularly known as, "Kak Sabun Jag" devotees come from every nook and corner of the valley to attend this Jag. Kak Sab created "wakhs" which are considered best technically as well as linguistically. After Lal Ded and Nund Rishi hardly such kind of wakhs are heard. Even Muslims from the area join Pandits in celebrating this Jag.

Kungam Nag : There is a spring in this hamlet. This spring is situated two Kms away from Soaf, on Hangulgund_Kachwan Road. The spring remains full of water round the year. Hindus worship there. Better known as Kumar ji's shrine. On "Kumar Shyam6", "Navreh Trie3" and "Chitra Zoona Pach Akdoh" devotees make their way towards this sacred spring. On these days a coloured big fish in the spring raises its head out of water. The devotees take this spectacle as a good omen. This spring is surrounded by hills and flowers are abundant.

Gajander Nag : This is also a shrine. It remains dry almost all the year. It is situated on the west side of Soaf on the banks of river Brengi. It is being said that an iron slab has stopped its waters from flowing out, and once it is lifted, it will flow out continously, thus draining whole area. Devotees had been ascending to it on Ganesh Chaturthi with "Tahar". It contains shaddy trees, among them walnut trees are in abundance.

Budey Nag : This holy spring is situated near Panjgam 4 Kms from Suftashali, surrounded by willow trees. This spring not so deep, is full of water. It is on the bank of River Korel. Near by lush green fields with mulbery trees add to its beauty.

Baba Alak Ram Samadhi : It is situated at Irakimmi a Hindu populated village near Kokernag. Baba Alokh Ram had been a great monk and a seer. A mausoleum under Chinar tree bears the testimony to this great saint. People from different walks of life do come to pay their obeisance to Baba.

Man Shah Baba Shrine : This shrine is located at Bidder on Anantnag - Kokoernag Road. Man Chand was a great saint who preached universal brother-hood and peace. People especially Hindus make offerings at the shrine of this noble soul. Tahar is distributed at the mausoleum among the needy and destitutes. A fair is held annually at the shrine in which "bands" from Mohipora perform their traditional Pather. Similar fairs are held at Soaf and Gohen also.

Shiva Bhagwati Shrine : This shrine is situated at a distance of about 15 Kms from Anantnag. This famous shrine is situated in an historic village Akingam. This village is situated at the extremity of the range of hills and lies south east of Anantnag. A fair is held annually on Chitra Zoona Pach Navam and a Yagiya is also performed. This shrine attracts devotees from every nook and cornor of the valley.

Swami Ashokananda Ashram :

This Ashram is located near Achabal. This Ashram houses a Yoga Kendra also. It is surrounded by pine and cypruss trees, orchards and maize fields.

Kothair : This historic village is situated near Shangus in the mountains and lies south east of Anantnag. There is an old sacred tank and some ruins. This shrine is situated a few miles away from Achabal. Kothair is also rich in iron mines. On "Wahika zoona Pach Trie-Baisakhi Krishen Pakh Tritiya" a fair is held at this shrine. It is called Achan Trie Yatra.

Brariangan : Bariangan was once a Hindu dominated village with well to do Pandit families. This is also called Uma Nagri as there is a shrine of Uma Bhagawati. It is an historic village in the Kuthar Paragana lying east of famous Achabal Mughal Garden. There are several springs also in this village. The largest one contains the temple of Uma Bhagawati. This is held in esteem by Kashmiri Pandits. Swami Syam Anand Ji developed this shrine and it was due to his ceaseless efforts that Uma Nagri was expanded. Pilgrims come from every part of Kashmir. A Maha Yagya is performed every year. Thousands of devotees join in Maha Aarthi on this occasion.
 
 

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