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| Bijbehara (Vijeshwara):Religious Background and Historical Importance|
By Prof Makhan Lal Tikoo Malla
The ancient town of Bijbehara is located at the longitude of 75.1220 and the latitude of 33.784 with average elevation of 1591 meters (5123ft).The town of Bijbehara known as Vijeshwara in ancient times is situated in the District of Anantnag in south Kashmir on the left bank of the river Jhelum (veyth/ vitasta). It is in the south of Srinagar at a distance of 45 km. The National highway passes through this town. It is surrounded by four plateaus on three sides. In its eastern side a long and wide plateau touches the north eastern mountains of the valley of Kashmir, in its north is the plateau of Chakradhara or Chackdar now known as Semthan (udder) which contains remains of ancient settlements and in its west are two smaller plateaus known as Jaya and Vijaya udders (plateaus).In the lap of these plateaus a town of immense religious and historical importance emerged in the earliest period of the history of Kashmir.
In the East of Vijeshwara tirath is the Vitasta, in the south is the Harishchander Ghath, in the west are the Shakti sathals of Jaya Devi and Vijaya Devi. In the north is Chakreshwar......Vijeshwar Mahatam verse 16.
SOURCES OF THE HISTORY OF VIJESHWARA (BIJBEHARA)
The most important sources of the history of Vijeshwara are the Neelmat Puran, Sahatya Parkash, Rajtarangni, Vijeshwar Mahatam, Amresh Mahatam, Vitasta Mahatam, Thajiwara Mahatam, Bringesh Samhita, History of Kashmir by Bamzai, Tarikhi Hassan, Isralul Abrar by Dawood Mushkwti, Baghe Sulemon by Mir Syed ullah Shahabadi, Christ in Kashmir by Fida Husnain, the Valley of Kashmir by Lawrance, Kashmir ka Prachin Shakti Sathal by M.L. Aash, statutes of gods and goddesses which are found on different Ghats on the Vitasta, statues which are found in surrounding territories of Bijbehara such as village Waghama, Village Semthan, and village Jablipora and some other places. In March 2008 a statue was found by a farmer in a field at Waghama which is considered a master piece of sculpture. The statue at present is in the custody of Archaeological department of the J&K state and is a proof of the glory of the ancient town of Vijeshwara. Besides these sources folk songs and folk tales give us an insight into the rich culture and civilisation which developed on the banks of the vitasta in ancient times at vijeshwara.
While Rajtarngni deals with the ancient history of Bijbehara, Vijeshewar Mahatam extensively deals with its religious importance. According to Kalhana Raja Vijay Anand was responsible for the construction of a beautiful town around the magnificent temple of Vijayshwara which was dedicated to Lord Shiva.
ORIGIN OF VIJESHWARA
Vijeshwar Mahatam exclusively describes the origin and religious significance of Bijbehara. This religious scripture says “pleased by the penance (Tapasya) of Kashyap Muni, the water of SATISARA was drained out by lord Vishnu’s incarnation as Boar (Varaha) after making a passage at Baramulla (Varahmulla) by cutting the mountain. Thereupon, Lord Shankara by using His Divine weapon CHAKARA killed Jaladbaw Asura. The speed of the divine weapon was so fast that it turned into a huge fire ball and a large portion of it fell at a place which came to be known as CHAKRADARA i.e. present Chakdhar in Vijeshwara Khestra .... (Vitasta Mahatam Chapter 8 verse 16)
All the gods and the Brahmins rejoiced over the end of Jaladbaw Asura and appearance of a beautiful valley from the waters of the Satisara. They gave vent to their feelings of joy by chanting hymns in praise of Lord Shanker’s benevolence. Pleased with the devotion of his devotees the Almighty created a sacred place of pilgrimage known as Vijeshwara Tirath and two Shakti Sathals known as Jaya Devi and Vijaya Devi on the Plateaus of Jaya and Vijaya in the western side of the town. (Vitasta Mahatam chapter 8 verse 18).
“where one is free from worries, agony and pain
Where it is easy to control oneself and one’s ambitions, Where peace of mind and spiritual solace can be achieved,
Where spiritually elevated persons remain in un-interrupted meditation,
In that place which is called Vijeshwara the Devtas aspire to be born.”
“The earth is the essence of the universe,
The Himalayas occupy the place of pride on the earth,
Kashmir is of greater importance than the Himalayas,
But sacred tirth of Vijeshwara is of far greater importance.”
M.A. Stein writes about Bijbehara that the ancient name of the town was Vijeshwara. During the Buddhist period it was called Vijaya-vihara. In Kashmiri language it is called Vejbror.
This name is “Apbramsh” of Vejeshwara. Regarding the word “Bror”, the same has been taken from the word “Batarak” which means Devata i.e. the places where gods and goddesses live. It shows that in ancient times vijeshwara was of immense religious importance.
Vijeshwara emerged as the greatest centre of learning and knowledge in due course of time. A university on the pattern of Nalanda and Taxila was established by the thinkers, scholars, and philosophers in this sacred Kheshtra. It remained the centre of knowledge and religious studies for centuries. Philosophy, astrology, astronomy, literature, medicine, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, architecture, sculpture painting, dancing, music etc were taught to the students who came to study from Central Asia, Afghanistan, China and India. It was at this place that Pandit Khalhan completed the history of Kashmir known as Rajtarangni. Khem Raj wrote Shiv-sidhant, Achariya Som Dev wrote Katha Sarit Sagar and Vaital Pacheesi which is the translation of “BRAHAT KATHA OF GANADI” written in Pisachi language. Vijeshwar occupies a place of great eminence in the field of literary activities all along the history of Kashmir. Even today the people look at this place for spiritual guidance.
RELIGIOUS IMPORTANCE OF VIJESHWARA KHESHTRA
According to Bringesh Samihita, Vijeshwar Kheshtra has a great religious and spiritual importance. Strict penance and performance of Shrada at this sacred Tirath is rewarded by Moksha i.e. eternal peace to the soul of a devotee. There is no parallel to Vijeshwara Khestra in the field of achievement of knowledge, self realisation and Mukti. Eka-dash Rudra temple of Lord Shiva and Shakti Sathal of Mata Jaya Devi are two great boons from the Lord to His devotees. Three Ghats on the vitasta are of sacred nature in this area and these are Harishchander Ghat, Deviki Ghat and Sedpeeth Ghat.
“The land of Vijeshwara kshetra is so sacred that if a sack of Mustard seeds is spread over it there are as many religious places in it as the number of the seeds in a sack" ......
SACRED PLACES IN VIJESHWARA KHESHTRA
The most sacred places of Vijeshwara Khestra are Vijeshwar temple, Ekadash Rudra temple on Harish Chander Ghat, Shakti Sathals of Mata Jaya Devi and Mata Vijaya Devi, Tamraswamin tirth at Chakradar, Thajiwara cave of lord Shiva, Mangla Devi Asthapan of Wachi, Harnag tirth, Bhairv Asthapan at Jablipora, Varnag at Zainapora, Sheshraswas Nag in the foot of Semthan or chakdhar plateau, Sedpeeth Ashram and Triporsundri Asthapan. Most of the places of pilgrimage in the Maraz Division of Kashmir were situated in Vijeshwara kheshtra. At Ghambir Sangam which is just 4 Kms in the north of present Bijbehara on the confluence of the Vitasta, the Veshav and the Rambhair the ashes of the dead were immersed and Shrada ceremonies were performed in memory of the ancestors.
DESCRIPTION OF EXISTING TEMPLES OF BIJBEHARA (VIJAYESHWARA)
This temple is located in the centre of Bijbehara not far away from the National Highway. It is surrounded by the residential houses of both the communities. Because of its height and shine of its upper portion it can be seen from the outskirts of the town.
The original temple of Vijeshwara was one of the majestic temples of the valley of Kashmir. That temple was constructed on a huge raised platform. It was a master piece of Kashmir temple architecture. The sanctum sanctorum stood on the centre of the platform constructed of huge stone blocks of rectangular form. The Sanctum sanctorum was of such a dimension in length and breadth that eleven storeys in pyramidal form were constructed over it housing the statues of Hindu pantheon. It is said that the structure was so high that at the time of sun rise its shadows fell on Koil Plateau in Pulwama district and at the time of sun set its shadows fell on the Martand plateau. The main temple was surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and residential rooms for the pilgrims which also served as a wall for the defence of the temple. During civil wars the people and the rulers took shelter in the safe environs of the temple.
The town of Vijeshwara was the centre of political activities and upheavals in ancient times. The civil wars that frequently occurred had a large impact on the town and the sacred temple. According to various historical sources the ancient temple suffered some damages during the frequent civil wars in Kashmir especially during the reigns of Raja Nar, Raja Anant, Raja Kalash, Raja Bikshachar and Raja Har
The temple was razed to the ground during the rule of sultan Sikander -Butt-shikan (the idol breaker). The statues of gods were broken in to pieces. The huge stone blocks that could not be broken were used in the construction of Mosques and Khankhas. Tarikhi-Hassan mentions “this country possessed from the times of Hindu Rajas many temples which were like the wonders of the world. Their workmanship was so fine and delicate that one found himself bewildered at their sight. Sikander destroyed these temples, levelled them with the earth. After demolishing Martand, three hundred temples including Vijeshwara temple were destroyed and with the material of the later, Mosques and Khankhas were built. On the site of Vijeshwara a Khankah which is even to day known as Vijayshwara Khankah was built”. Now the Muslims of Bijbehara do not call it as Vijeshwara khankah.
During the rule of Raja Partap Singh the pundits of Bijbehara constructed a new temple of mortar and bricks in the centre of Bijbehara and named the temple as Vijeshwara temple in memory of once the magnificent temple of Vijayeshwara. This temple is now on the verge of crumbling down owing to the lack of maintenance and migration of the Hindus from this area.
MATA JAYADEVI ASTHAPAN
The shrine of Mother Goddess known as Jaya Devi Asthapan is located on the Jaya Plateau. It is considered as one of the earliest Shakti sathals of Kashmir. In context of this Shakti Sathal it is appropriate to quote the meaning of a verse given in Vijeshwar Mahatam, Vitasta Mahatam and Amrish Mahatam.
“The Goddess whom Devtas venerate day and night, on whose orders awful enemies are vanquished, who is blackish in colour, whose hands are decorated with Shankh, Chakara,sword and a Trident, whose head is decorated with crescent, who travels on a lion, with whose light the universe shines, I prostrate before the Mother who is called Jaya Devi”.
A grand Bhawan in the earliest times existed on the plateau where devotees thronged to pay obeisance to mother Goddess. This shrine also fell victim to political turmoil and it was totally damaged during the rule of Sikander. The rehabilitation of the Pandits during the rule of sultan Zainul abidin resulted in the reconstruction of this place of worship,but the grandeur and grace of ancient period could not be restored. Mata Jaya Devi is the Isht Devi or patron Goddess of thousands of families in and outside the valley.It was the reason that devotees in large numbers used to visit this shrine throughout the year till 1990.
Vijeshwara Mahatam describes that anybody who worships Mata Jaya Devi is bestowed with blessings as desired by the devotee. Because of this Shakti sathal Vijeshwar Kheshtra came to be known as “Sidhi Kheshtra”.
The shrine was renovated by the Hindus of Bijbehara during the Dogra rule in Kashmir. It re- emerged as a centre of religious and cultural activities.A nine day festival on Navratra in spring was celebrated up to 1989 in the picturesque premesis of the shrine. Similarly, the devotees paid obeisance to Mata Jaya Devi on Ashad Shukulpaksha Ashtami every year. This day is considered as the day of appearance of the Goddess in Vijeshwara.
It would be apt to quote the translation of the shaloka (verse) in vitasta Mahatam regarding the greatness of Mata Jaya Devi
“Mother Goddess is the giver of prosperity and peace of mind,
She enhances mental capacities of her devotees,
She is the giver of Yog Sidhi,
She appears in different forms such as Brahmi, Vaishnavi, Rudri, Parvati, Shakti, Kalyankari,
Let us prostrate in total surrender before Her.”
HARISH CHANDER GHAT TEMPLE OF LORD SHANKER
A magnificent temple of “Ekadush –Rudra” is situated on the left bank of the Vitasta on HarishChander Ghat. The National Highway touches the western side of the Temple premises. The world famous Mughal Gardens of Bijbehara are situated near the temple complex.
Vijeshwar Mahatam and Vitasta Mahatam mention that after retrieving the land from the waters of Satisar and killing of Jalad bhav Asura with the blessings and divine might of Vishnu, Shanker and Mata Parvati , Kashyap Muni brought a large number of people from different parts of India and made them to settle in the Valley of Kashmir. He created replica of all the Tirth Asthapans of India in the valley for their spiritual solace. Vijeshwara was bestowed with the distinction of the replica of “Kashi” with Harishchander ghat on its southern side along with a temple dedicated to lord Shanker. This temple is considered equal to the temple of Kashi Vishwanath. During the Hindu period a grand temple was constructed which was damaged in political upheavals and was ultimately demolished by Sultan Sikander. Credit goes to Maharaja Gulab Singh and Maharaja Ranbir Singh who reconstructed the Harishchander Ghat temple with the material of the demolished temples of Bijbehara.
The new temple is a master piece of Dorga-Kashmiri art of temple architecture. Ekadush-Rudra form of Lord Shanker stands on a splendid “Pranali” in the centre of the temple. The square platform on which the pyramidal temple is situated presents a charming look. The temple faces the east overlooking the vitasta. On the right side of the steps towards the main temple is a smaller temple which is decorated with an idol of Lord Lakshmi Narayan which is of exquisite beauty and fini On the left side of the steps is a huge Shiva-lingam. In the front of the temple is Nandi ( the sacred bull ) seated on a small platform facing the temple. on one side of the ghat on the vitasta a shiv lingam is installed surrounded by three walls which are decorated with statues of gods and goddesses. The statues in the temple complex are master pieces of Kashmiri school of sculpture. Inside the sanctum sanctorum a statue of Lord Ganesh was broken after 1990 and replaced by a statue made of plaster of paris and two out of ten Shiv lingums from the Pranali have been stolen.Devasthan prabandhak committee has filled the gap on the Pranali,but this is not a permanent solution. The temple has been a centre of attraction for tourists and pilgrims up to 1990.It had been included in the tourist map of the state during the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. One of the attractive features of temple complex is “KAH-KAH PAL” installed here by a great ancient saint Shivet Pundit. The miraculous KAH KAH PAL is conch shaped polished heavy stone. It weighs about 80 kg. It can be easily lifted to a man’s average height by applying eleven fingers of eleven persons and by chanting “KAH-KAH......KAH......KAH.....”.A single person can move it because of its oval shape, but cannot lift it. (This miraculous oval shaped stone also has been stolen and efforts are on to trace it)
The temple is surrounded by about 34 kanals of land. On one side of the premises was the residential building for the Pujaris. A beautiful Lotus pond (Pamposh Sar) belonging to the temple on its western side has been unfortunately converted into a bus stand without the consent of the minority community. The whole land is the property of the temple.
Prior to 1990 temple complex was one of the traditional halting stations for the Sadhus,pilgrims and the chari-Mubark (Holy Mace) on way to swami Amaranth cave. The Chadhi Mubarak could proceed further only after its stay for a night at Harish chander Ghat Bijbehara.
During the last 22 years the temple and the whole infrastructure has suffered due to neglect and lack of maintenance. Attempts in this period have been made to grab the land of the temple. Preservation of the temple, its premises, ancient precious masterpieces of sculpture in the temple premises need protection from being vandalised. The temple has featured in many Hindi movies in the past.
PRACHIN CAVE OF LORD SHIVA AT THAJIWARA (BIJBEHARA)
The Prachin cave of Lord Shiva at Thajiwara is located on the slope of a plateau about 4 kilometres in the east of Bijbehara Town. Bijbehara –Phalgham road traverses along the premises of the sacred shrine.
Prachin Cave of Lord Shiva at Thajiwara (Bijbehara) is also known as “PRACHIN CAVE OF SWAMI AMARNATHJI”. It is one of the most prominent places of pilgrimage in the valley of Kashmir and Vijeshwar Kheshtra. According to Thajiwara Mahatam, Vijeshwar Mahatam and other religious manuscripts written and compiled by saints, scholars, Dharam Gurus of yore in Vijeshwar Kheshtra, this sacred cave is the cause of the creation of Holy cave of Amarnath. This cave has been the centre of attraction for devotees since times immemorial. As per the religious scriptures mentioned above the holy cave of Thajiwara has the same religious sanctity and importance as that of holy cave of Amarnath. According to these scriptures mother Goddesss observed strict penance at Thajiwara Cave to please Lord Shiva for revealing to Her the Eternal truth of this “BRAHMAND” i.e. the unlimited universe. Pleased by Her Tapasya Lord Shiva granted Her wish and selected extremely secluded place in the Himalayas to reveal eternal secret of the creation of this limitless universe to Mother Goddess Parvati.The day when Amar Katha was revealed was Shravan Purnimashi. This revelation by Lord Shiva is called “AMARKATHA” and the cave were it was revealed is known as Holy cave of Amarnath. After the revelation of the eternal secret of the universe lord Shanker came to be known as Lord Amarnath and ice-lingham appeared as His symbol in the holy cave Hence, the Cave of Thajiwara is an inseparable part of Amarnath pilgrimage.
Annual yatra at holy cave at Thajiwara coincides with that of the last day of annual pilgrimage of the holy cave of Swami Amarnath on “SRAWAN PURNIMASHI”. It is the reason the devotees have been paying obeisance at Thajiwara Cave since ancient times. The shrine premises is spread over an area of about 50 Kanals of land which includes slopes and the top of the plateau besides the lower portion of the plateau along the Bijbehara-Phalgham road.
According to Thajiwara Mahatam, one who is not in a position to pay obeisance at Amarnath Cave because of Physical disability or any other reason, can have Darshan of Lord Shankar at Thajiwara cave. Such a devotee is bestowed with the same spiritual benefits as in the cave of Swami Amarnath. The water that trickles down from the roof of the cave on sacred Shivlingam flows from the cave into two smaller caves and a pond outside the main cave. The same water is led through a small channel towards bathing ponds. This small channel is called Amar Ganga. Besides it Amar Bhabooti is another feature of Thajiwara cave. Devotees from all parts of the valley and the tourists on way to Phalgham used to pay obeisance at this place of pilgrimage round the year before 1990. A festival was celebrated at the cave premises on every “SHRAWAN PURNIMASHI”.
Thousand of devotees thronged this place on this occasion. The annual Yatra and festival were resumed after a gap of 18 year in year 2007. From the year 1990 to 2007 the temple adjacent to the Holy cave, Yatri Niwas, bath rooms and whole infrastructure suffered a great damage including the cave itself. Now the cave temple has been rebuilt by Devasthan Prabandhak committee an elected body of the Hindus of Tehsil Bijbehara. Efforts are being made to restore the glory of this place of pilgrimage, but the lack of financial resources and complete cooperation from the community members have resulted in the delay in rebuilding the whole infrastructure at Thajiwara.
VIJAYA DEVI ASTHAPAN
This asthapan is situated on the top of Vijaya Plateau in the west of Bijbehara town. The statue of Goddess was placed on the open area and not covered by any temple structure. This statue was rolled down from the top to the foot of the plateau by some anti social elements in the year 1970. Efforts to re-install it at the original place failed because of the heavy weight of the statue. It was lying at the foot of the plateau up to 1990 and its whereabouts are not known now.
JABLIPORA SPRING TEMPLE OF BHAIRAV
A temple known as Bhairav temple existed on one side of Jablipora spring about 1 kilometer from the main town of Bijbehara. It too was demolished during the days of Sikander’s rule. In the Dogra period the members of the community rebuilt it. This spring is equally revered by both the communities. Now the temple does not exist there because it was destroyed during the early period of militancy.
SED PETH TEMPLE
A temple was constructed in memory of a great saint of Kashmir known as Sed Moul.His Ashram was situated near the Vitasta in the southern side of Vijayeshwara temple. It is pertinent to mention here that Sed Moul was the guru of Laleshwari popularly known as Lal Ded.At the site of the ashram a temple was constructed by his disciples’ ghat on Vitasta known as Sed Peth Yarbal or Butt yarbal still exists. Later on the temple was reduced to four walls with a huge Shiv lingam in the centre. The walls contain statues of gods and goddesses. This site was surrounded by the residential houses of the Pundits before their exodus. Now a colony of the majority community has emerged around this sacred site.
The above mentioned temples need immediate renovation, maintenance and eviction of land grabbers at the earliest. The description of other temples of Vijeshwar Kheshtra such as Mangla Devi Asthapan at Wachi, Varnag Spring at Zainpora, Tamraswamin tirth at Chakradar, Harnag tirth, Sheshraswas Nag in the foot of Semthan plateau etc. will be presented later on.
Devasthan Prabandhak Committee Tehsil Bijbehara (camp Jammu) is an elected body of the Hindus of Bijbehara Tehsil. It has been entrusted with the duty of preserving, renovating and reconstructing the temples and shrines that existed in the Tehsil before mass migration of the Hindus in 1990.After its reconstitution in 2007 the committee has tried its utmost to save the immovable assets of Mata Jaya Devi shrine,Harish Chander Ghat temple of Eka Dush Ruder, Pracheen cave of Lord Shiva at Thajiwara and Vijeshwar temple with the cooperation of District and Tehsil administration besides the complete support and encouragement of local M.L.A. A.R. Veeri and president Bijbehara Municipal committee M.A. Mufti. Land grabbing efforts have been successfully foiled and process of getting ex-gratia for damaged property and compensation for land occupied by the Govt is being pursued with full force. The committee resumed Annual Yatra and Festival at pracheen Cave of Lord Shiva at Thajiwara in 2007after a gap of 18 years. A new temple outside the holy cave has been reconstructed and efforts are on to restore the glory of this Tirath Asthapan by providing all the facilities to the pilgrims. A new gate in the premises of Harishander Ghat Temple was constructed in the year 2009 along with a path which leads to the main temple. Similarly garbage from the compound of Vijeshwer temple which had accumulated there during the last 20 years was removed and a new gate was constructed. Vijeshwar temple needs immediate repairs, otherwise there is every apprehension of its crumbling down Unfortunately lack of financial resources is a cause of delay in saving and restoring the past glory of the shrines of Teh. Bijbehara. Devasthan Prabandhak committee has prepared a master plan for the restoration, renovation, development and maintenances of all the temples and shrines of Tehsil Bijbehara. The committee appeals the members of the Pundit community where ever they are to come forward to give their unstinted support and cooperation for the preservation and restoration of our religious and cultural heritage which is unique in all respects. It is our collective duty to re-establish our identity. Let us not forget our past. Nobody should be in a position to call us a ( vanishing community.)
Let us donate a meagre amount out of our income for the preservation of our religious heritage. The Account No. of Devasthan Prabandhak Committee Tehsil Bijbehara is:-4575000100012463 Punjab National Bank Durga Nagar Jammu (J and K).
The committee would feel encouraged by suggestions from our brethren and the views will be incorporated in our programmes. Since 2007 three elections have been held to elect the managing committee in a transparent free and fare manner. In all the elections participation of the members of the community was encouraging. At present Devasthan Prabandhak committee Tehsil Bijbehara is being run by:
President: Prof. Makhan Lal Malla
Organisers:- Dr. Manmohan Jotshi ( Editor-Vijeshwar Jantri) and Jawahir Lal Koul ( Prop. Cambridge Higher Secondary School Bijbehara.)
Senior Vice President:- B.L. Bhat (Ex-M.L.C.)
Vice Presidents: Raj Nath Tikoo. Brij Nath Raina. (Rtd. Head Master), Ramesh Koul Laribal.
Advisors:- O.N. Koul (Retd. Chief Accounts officer), J.L. Bhat (Advocate), Moti Lal Tikoo (Retd. Tehsildar)
Secretary: Pran Nath Tikoo
Joint secretary: Avtar Krishan Koul (Retd. Chief Accounts Officer)
Accountant / Cashier: Sanjay Tikoo (Director Coventry scholars group of Schools Jammu)
Publicity Secretary: Virender Mohan Bhat
Members: Vijay Malla (Bijbehara), Kuldeep Bhan (Mahind), Sanjay Dhar (Jablipura), Kuldeep Raina (Bat Gund Krandi gam). Rakesh Koul (Nobug), Jawahir Lal Raina (Khiram). Pushker Nath (Sirhama), Rakesh Tikoo (Hugam).
Tej Krishan Bhat, Krishan Kumar Pandita, Veerji Tikoo (Ash), Ravi Ji Tikoo, Vijay Kumar Raina, Jay Krishan Jotshi and Padam Nath Koul from Bijbehara.
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