Chander M. Bhat 
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Shailputri, Baramulla

by Chander M. Bhat  

Vande Vanchhitalabhay Chandrardhakritshekharam ! 
Vrisharudham Schooldharam Shailputreem Yashasvineem !! 

[Shailaputri is one of many names of goddess Parvati. She is called Shail-Bala or Shail-Putri because she was born as Himalaya’s Daughter. Himalaya, being a mountain (Parvat or Shail), She is called Parvati or Shail-Putri. Navratra’s first day is devoted to Mata Shailputri. She rides on Vrash (Bull), she has Shool (Trident) in one of her hands, there is half-moon on her crown, and she is beneficial for whatever one wishes.] 

Shaktaism (Mother Worship) represents advancement in the Shaivism. It accepts Shakti as Mother, Who is the Absolute Power behind every act of manifestation. She is worshipped as Mother. The worship of the Mother, in the form of Uma is the most ancient form of worship in Kashmir. There are many shrines associated with Mother Goddess. The shrine of Ragyna Devi is located at Tullamulla; in North Kashmir some 18 km from Srinagar. The shrine dedicated to the worship of Uma Devi is located at Uma Nagri (Brari Aangan) some 18 km from Anantnag. The shrine dedicated to Zyestha Devi is located atop the eastern spur of Shankaracharya hill, on the left bank of Dal Lake. The ruins of the shrine dedicated to Bhima Devi are lying in village Theid near Mughal garden Nishat. The shrine dedicated to Bhaderkali lies deep in forest among tall pine trees on a slope of a hillock, 4 km away from village Wadipora north of Handwara. The shrine dedicated to the worship of Sharika Devi is located at Chakrishor on the western slope of Hari Parvat hill in Srinagar. The shrine dedicated to the worship of Sharda Devi is located in village Shardi in Muzaffarabad now in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The shrine dedicated to the worship of Brari Maej is located in village Murran some 4 km to the west of Pulwama town. Bhuvaneshwari (Mata Bhuvaneshwari, is one of the seven sister-divinities and the youngest of them, the other six being Ragyna, Sharika, Jwala, Zyestha, Uma and Sharda) is another shrine in Kashmir at village Chandpora near Harwan. The shrine of Jwala Devi is situated on top of a hillock overlooking village Khrew. The shrine dedicated to the worship of Shiva Bhagwati is in village Akingam near famous Mughal garden Achabal. The shrine dedicated to the worship of Bala Devi is in village Balhama (Bala Devi is the Isht Devi of Dogra rulers). The shrine dedicated to Bedi Devi in near village Keller in Pulwama District. The shrine dedicated to Shailputri is in Baramulla town. 
 
There are many more shrines dedicated to Mother Goddess in Kashmir as Kulwagishori Shrine at village Kulgam, Ragyna Shrine at village Zainapora, Barga Shakha on a hillock at village Mattan, Ksheer Bhawani at village Manzgam, The shrine of Chandika Devi at village Sagam, the shrine of Jaya Bhagwati on a Karewa in village Bijbehara, Katyayani Devi at village Kakran, the shrine of Tripurasundri at Khanbarnen, Mangla Devi at village Wuchi near Zainapora,Gauri Shrine in village Baugam (Anantnag), Ragyna Shrine in village Logripora (Loketpur) near Ashmuqam, Devibal at village Raithan, Devibal at Badipora near Chadura, Sharda Shrine in village Yachhkot, Bhimashori Devi at village Zoonipora, Bumai, Sopore, the shrine of Ganga Mata in village Handwara, Ragyna shrine at village Tikker (Kupwara), Gaurishori Bhagwati at village Geeru, Tral, the shrine of Pingla Devi at village Pinglana near Pulwama, Ragyna Devi shrine at village Trisal (Pulwama), Chandika Devi at village Tengpuna near Pulwama, Devibal at village Ratnipora, the shrine of Tutla Devi at village Wahibugh, Lokeshwari Devi at Maharaj Gunj, Srinagar, Durga Mandir, Kharyar, Maha Kali Asthapan at Feteh Kadal, the shrine of Tripuraganga at village Triphar close to Harwan. 
 
After the self-immolation as Goddess Sati, Goddess Parvati took birth as the daughter of Lord Himalaya. In Sanskrit Shail means the mountain and due to which Goddess was known as Shailputri, the daughter of the mountain.
Goddess Shailputri is worshipped on the first day of Navratra’s.
It is believed that the Moon, the provider of all fortunes, is governed by Goddess Shailputri and any bad effect of the Moon can be overcome by worshipping this form of Adi Shakti.  

The mount of Goddess Shailputri is bull and because of that she is also known as Vrisharudha. Goddess Shailputri is depicted with two hands. She carries Trident (Trishul) in the right hand and the lotus flower in the left hand. The shrine of Shailputri is situated in Baramulla town in Kashmir.

55 km from Srinagar, Baramulla is situated on both the banks of Vitasta. Baramulla is an ancient town sprung around the shrine Vishnu Adi-Varaaha which is located at the lower, i.e. northern, end of the town on the Jhelum near the present Kotitirth. Apart from its strategic importance, being in control of the route leading from the valley to the outside world, especially Hazara, Gilgit, Gandhara, the town enjoyed distinction for being a cultural centre for the Hindus (at Varahakhetra) and the Buddhists at Hushkapora (present Vushkor) were Huien Tsang stayed for two nights. Later he said that some copper plates, on which the proceedings of Kanishka’s council were engraved, lay buried here. The name Varahamula is obviously derived from the Tirtha of the Adi-Varaha, the Boar incarnation. It has been generally referred to as Varahakshetra which includes the shrine and its neighbourhood. Varahamula contracted into Varamul which non-Kashmiri scribes turned into Baramulla.  

There were about 1200 Kashmiri Pandit families in Baramulla prior to mass exodus and was considered second town in Kashmir Valley having such a big population of Kashmir Pandits after Anantnag town. Pandits were mainly residing at Kanli Bagh, Ushkura, Rangwar, Dewan Bagh, Rajghat, Ramghat, Khawja Bagh and Jatti. All the families migrated to other parts of the country on outbreak of militancy in the valley in the year 1990. 
 
Devibal, popularly known as Shailputri or Shaila Devi, is located on the left bank of Vitasta on the National Highway, just 1 km from Baramulla on Baramulla-Uri road at Anapur (present day Khanpur). The shrine is nearly 1000 years old which can be testified from the remains found at the site, placed on the left side under a big Chinar inside main entrance of the shrine. These are six in number and include a unique Shiv Lingam. The main entrance of the shrine is close to the road. One has to step down eight stairs by using staircase to reach the temple premises laid with dressed stones. This beautiful temple is surrounded by four mighty Chinar trees. Some big wild trees also form the part of this complex and it is said that in entire Kashmir valley these types of wild trees are only seen in Shailputri Shrine. There are two walnut and 15 popular trees in the premises of this temple comprising about seven kanals of land. One has to turn right after walking eight yards to reach the main entrance of the sanctum sanctorum and then there is ascend of seven steps to enter. Within the premises is a holy spring, inside which stands a marble temple like the one at Ksheer Bhawani, with a marble icon of Mother Shailputri facing towards south. The premise is 105 feet long and 47 feet wide and has space for circumbulating (Parikrama), with the floor laid with marbles, around it. Holy spring is sixty feet in length and twenty feet in width having crystal clear water?  Water oozes on the right hand side top corner of the holy spring. Kashmiri Pandits hold this Ashthapan in high esteem and consider it next to Ksheer Bhawani. One has to step down seven steps to reach Vitasta Ghat. There is one Dharamshala within the temple premises. Security forces are occupying this Dharamshala at present. 
  
On the other side of the road opposite to Shailputri Shrine there is a big mountain called Bhairav Bal. A small temple has been constructed on the opposite to the main entrance of Shailputri shrine at the foot of this hill near a Shilla. 
 
After mass exodus of Pandit from the valley, the shrine remained without any care and started to wither from its pristine glory. The shrine was burnt to ashes in October 1990. I was posted in Baramulla and I saw with my open eyes the flames in the sky. It was about 8 p.m. Other day there was complete curfew in the town and I enquired from a police personal who was guarding the Dak Bunglow, where we the employees of Postal Department were residing that what had happed. He told that Shailputri temple has been burnt by some miscreants and the icon of Mother Goddess has been shifted to Police Lines. It was later confirmed that the main idol of the Shailputri riding on an ox was attacked and its arms and legs axed. I visited this shrine after some days when curfew was relaxed. The temple was having a devastated look. The Chinar trees which had lost their leaves due to fire were themselves reflective of the grief and sorrow of this shrine. History will not spare the generations of Kashmiris who wrought such havoc to this land. The temple was again constructed by Rashtriya Rifles and was re-opened on 28th November 1995. Master Anoop Singh told me that the temple located at the foot of Bhairav Bal opposite Shailputri temple was also attached and was set on fire but the temple does not catch fire and the same temple is lying intact at present. Two persons who axed the main idol later died due to road accident and by high tension electric shock. 
 
I have visited this temple during my school days alongwith my respect father Pandit Dina Nath Bhat who often used to tell me the stories associated with Shailputri. 
  
The biggest congregation of devotees at the shrine takes place on Ram Navami. People from nearby towns like Sopore, Kupwara, Handwara, Seer Jagir etc. used to come and join the congregation. Koti Tirth (Holiest of Holy Shrine), Bhairav Mandir (amidst an almond orchard at the foot of Gosainteng), Gosainteng (abode of seven springs and a temple sacred to the memory of the heroes of Ramayana, including that of Sita) and Chhatipadshahi (Sixth Sikh Guru has visited this place) are located on the right bank of Vitasta, opposite to Shailputri Shrine. Replica of Shailputri has been constructed by the devotees of the Mother at Munshi Chek, Jammu. 

In dark nights, under the shade of the Chinar, the sacred place present an atmosphere where one becomes one with God and in moonlit nights, devotees experienced something mystic all over in the shrine of Shailputri. 

Notes and References  

  • Place Names in Kashmir by B.K.Raina and S.L.Sadhu, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. 

  • Encyclopaedia: Kashmiri Pandit Culture and Heritage by Shri C. L. Kaul, published by Ansh Publications and Distributors, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.

  • Interview dated: 16.07.2013 with Shri Ramesh Kumar Bhat son of Shri Triloki Nath Bhat resident of Rangpath, Baramulla at present Trilok Pur, Gole Gujral, Jammu 

  • Interview dated: 16.07.2013 with Shri Soom Nath Mantoo son of Shri Shamboo Nath Mantoo resident of Ramghat, Baramulla at present 66 D/C, Gandhi Nagar, Jammu. 

  • Interview dated: 01.09.2013 with Master Anoop Singh son of Sardar Deva Singh resident of Noor Bagh, Baramulla. 

  • On the spot reporting from Shailputri Shrine, Baramulla by Shri Harbinder Singh son of Shri Jagjit Singh resident of village Chandusa, Baramulla. 

   

 

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