Table of Contents

   Index
   Abhinavagupta
   Bilhana - The Minstrel
   Ksemendra, People's Poet
   Kalhana - The Chronicler
   The Serpentine Vitasta
   Panchastavi - A Brief Study
   Concept of "Maya"
   Lalleshwari - An apostle
   Habba Khatoon
   Abdul Ahad "Azad"
   Roopa Bhawani 
   Pilgrim Spots of Kashmir
   Kashmir Monistic Shaivism
   Mankha & "Sri Kanthacaritam"
   Nilamatpuranam and Kashmir
   The Nilamata Purana
   Shaivism & Pratyabhijna
   Sanskrit Chronicles
   The Social Set-up 
   Tantricism in Kashmir
   Kashmir Tantrism
   Vedanta & Kashmir Shaivism
   Later Hindu Periods
   Sanskrit Kaavya of Kashmir

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Pilgrim Spots of Kashmir

By Prof. Chaman Lal Sapru

SANSKRIT Shloka says that almost all the pilgrimages of the World are also found in Kashmir, such as the holy Ganga and the Prayaga.

Every Hindu considers it his duty to immerse the ashes of his deceased ancestors in the Ganga. In Kashmir we give the same preference to Gangabal as is given to the Ganga in holy scriptures. The same is true about the prayaga at Allahabad where the Ganga, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati meet and our Prayaga at Shadipur which is the 'Sangam' of Kashmir's two important rivers the Vitasta, and the Sindhu. Every Hindu who offers prayers according to Sanatana traditions, worships God in the form of PANCHAYATAN. The Panchayatan comprises the following deities-Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Surya. We have temples and Teerthas attributed to the above mentioned gods and also dedicated to Avatar like Shri Rama.

GANESHA
Ganesha is worshipped as the Aadi Deva (The First Deity). Ganesha is the son of Sankara or Shiva. Every Hindu starts his worship with obeisance to Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is considered as the Siddhidata (the, boon-giver) and Vighnaharta (destroyer of obstacles). In Srinagar we have a prominent temple of Ganesha in the heart of the city. The temple previously under the management of the Dharmarth Trust, is now managed by a local managing committee. An annual festival on Vaisakha Shukla Chaturdashi is held in the premises of the temple and a Mahayajna by the Brahman Maha Mandal is performed on the Brahma Jayanti day. There is a legend that during the atrocities committed by Pathan rulers, several hundred years back, the original idol of Lord Ganesha was submerged in the Vitasta by the Pandits to save it from desecration. During the Dogra rule the idol was reclaimed by the devotees and installed on the Vaisaka Shukla Chaturdashi in the temple.

This particular idol is placed in the outer temple by the side of the Siva Lingam and two bigger and more attractive idols, most probably donated by Dogra rulers, are also installed in the main temple.

There is another important temple of Lord Ganesha at the foot of the hillock of Hari Parbat which every Hindu considers it his sacred duty to go round every day. Lord Ganesha's temple is the first amongst the shrines strewn on this hillock.

Even the holy pilgrimage to Sri Amarnathji starts with the worship of Sri Ganesha at Ganeshabal near Pahalgam.

SANKARA OR SIVA:
There is hardly any place of Worship in Kashmir, where you will not find a Siva Lingam. In the world-famous cave of SWAMI AMARNATHJI an ice Lingam is formed to full size on the fifteenth of the bright half of every month, (Poornima), hence is of reverential attraction to the devotees of all faiths. This holy place is visited on the Shravana Poornima every year by thousands of pilgrims from far off places. The Pilgrimage starts from the Dashnami Akhara of Srinagar in the form of a procession. The Mahant carries the holy silver mace of Lord Siva and is followed by hundreds of Sadhus reaching the cave on the Shravana Poornima, which coincides with Raksha-Bandhan.

People like Aadi Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ramtirtha have visited this place. Swami Ramtirtha has composed beautiful verses in praise of the mysteries of the Lord. Swami Vivekananda says to his European disciples, "The image was the Lord Himself. It was all worship there. I never have been to anything so beautiful, so inspiring.

SANKARACHARYA TEMPLE
A beautiful stone-temple of Lord Shiva is situated on a hill in the Srinagar city commanding a magnificent view. The temple is managed by the Dharmartha Trust. It is believed that the first Sankaracharya on his visit to Srinagar, meditated on this spot. Swami Vivekananda has given the following description of the temple:- "Look ! what genius the Hindu shows in placing his temples ! He always chooses a grand scenic effect. See ! the temple commands the whole of Kashmir."

The snow-clad peaks round the valley bear one or the other name of Lord Shiva You have "Mahadeva", "Harmukha", etc. Under the Mahadeva peak in the picturesque range of Harwan, the famous Siva-Sutras (the base of Shaiva Philosophy) were composed. Devotees visit this place particularly on the same day on which the pilgrimage to Amarnathji is undertaken. They also visit the following places of worship connected with Shiva on the same day. Dhyaneshwar in Bandipur, Thajwor in Bijbehara and Harishwar in Khonmoh.

There are numerous temples of Shiva in the whole valley. Sadashiva temple in Purushyar and Someshwar temple in Habba- Kadal find the description in the famous histories and Puranas of Kashmir.

THE VISHNU PADA:
The only holy place connected with Lord Vishnu in Kashmir is Vishnu-Pads or Kaunsar Naga. This is a big lake situated at a height of more than 14,000 feet in Anantnag district. The lake is shaped as a foot and it is believed that Lord Vishnu had placed his holy foot in the place where the present big lake was formed.

THE DEVI ( DIVINE MOTHER ):
We have numerous places of pilgrimages attributed to the Goddess in Kashmir of which the Kheer Bhawani, Shri Sharika Mandir, Mahakali Mandir ( Srinagar and Vadora ), Jwala Mukhi ( Khrew ), Shailaputri (Nagabal, Baramulla), Baladevi, Sri Vaishnodevi and Sarthal Devi (last two in Jammu region) are well koown.

KSHEER BHAWANI:
The temple of Goddess Maharajni, known as Ksheer-Bhawani, is situated about 14 miles away from Srinagar at village Tulamula in the famous Sindh valley. The road leading to Ksheer Bhawani has also spiritual significance. J. Krishna Murti in his booklet "At the feet of the Master" writes about the following four "Sadhanas" to achieve realization. They are Viveka (Discrimination), Vairagya (renunciation), Sadachar (righteousness) and Prema or Mumukshaa (the eternal love). While going to Ksheer Bhawani one comes across the places bearing the same name. First we reach 'Vicharnaga.' Vichar is synonym of 'Viveka'. Then we reach 'Tyangal-bal' (the hill of burning charcoals) and Kavaj-var (the fire of cremation ground) and Amarher (the immortal staircase). These two names also denote the feeling of renunciation. The third place is Aanchar Lake, which derives its origin from Aachar (the righteousness). After going through these places we reach the cherished destination, the holy place of the Divine Mother and one is all love pure and divine with the Divine Mother.

An old Sanskrit text called the 'Bringesha Samhita' carries a chapter known as 'Rajny-Pradurbhava' and the Pauranic description of the said Teertha is given in the said book. The demon-king of Lanka (Ravana) in order to attain unlimited power worshipped Mother Maharajni. The Divine Mother, after being moved by the immense 'tapas' (penance) performed by Ravana, bestowed upon him many boons.

Soon after, Ravana began to lead a life of luxury and after forcibly taking away Sita, prepared himself for a battle with Lord Rama. After watching the misbehaviour of Ravana, the Devi asked Hanumana to take Her to Satisar (Kashmir) along with 360 Nagas.

Hanumanji installed the Devi at Tulamula village in Kashmir Valley. Here the Devi is being remembered as 'Ksheer-Bhawani' or Goddess Rajna. The Devi began to be worshiped with flowers and offerings of milk and sweets only.

The Brahmins of Tulamula have been described in Rajatarangini as full with spiritual powers.

For quite some time in the past this important Teertha remained under flood waters and it was only after a pious Brahmin Shri Krishna Pandit had a vision that the place was rediscovered. He was a great devotee of the Devi and composed the famous Rajna Stotra.

A beautiful marble temple has been erected in the centre of the 'Kunda' (spring) by Dogra rulers. This spring changes colours and is shaped as "OM" in Sharada script. Every year an annual festival is held on Jyeshtha Shukla Ashtami at this holy place. Swami Vivekananda and many others have performed Tapas at this holy place and had visions.

SUN TEMPLE AT MARTAND:
Only five miles away from the town of Anantnag is a village known as Mattan or Bhawan. In ancient scriptures the name of this place is given as Martand (the sun). Here is a beautiful spring and a small rivulet flowing nearby known as the Chaka. On the banks of the Chaka thousands of devotee; from northern India perform Shradhas to their deceased ancestors on Adhikmasa months on Vijaya Saptami. About 2.5 km. from the spring are ruins of a magnificent temple known as Martand. The temple in Indo-Greak architectural style was built by the great emperor Lalitaditya.

OTHER SHRINES:
The two prominent places of pilgrimages of Muslims and Sikhs are Hazratbal and Chhatipadshahi. The Hazratbal shrine on the Dal lake facing east is know as the second Mecca. The holy relic of Prophet Muhammad is preserved here. The Chhati Padshahi is a Gurdwara near Hari Parbat which had been visited by the sixth Guru of the Sikhs.

Besides the above mentioned places of pilgrimages there are hundreds of holy places found in Kashmir. A brief description of these places is given below:

DISTRICT ANANRNAG:

AMARNATH:
This is the holy cave in which the ice-lingam of Lord Siva is formed changing its size with the waning and waxing of the moon.

VETHA - VATUR
(Vitasta-tatra) : Here is the source of river Vitasta. Annual pilgrimage to this place is performed on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the Bhadra month.

KHANA BARNI:
Dedicated to Divine mother, it is near Qazigund.

KAPAL MOCHAN:
Annual festival on Sravana Shukla Dwadashi is held here and devotees perform shradha of teenagers. it is situated near Shopian.

MANZGAM:
A temple in the forests is dedicated to Mother Rajna. Annual festival is held on Jyeshtha Ashtami.
 

PROPER ANANTNAG:
A holy spring after which the town as well as the district is named is famons for its crystal clear water. Annual festival of Ananta Devata is held on the fourteenth day of the dark half of Bhadra month.

THAJIWORE:
It is situated near Bijbihara. An old Shiva temple is found here and the annual festival is held on Sravana Poornima.

GAUTAMA NAGA:
It is situated about 4.5 kms. away from Anantnag.

LOKABHAWAN:
Annual festival is held here and a Mahayajna performed. It is 11 miles from Anantnag.

UMA NAGARI:
A temple and a spring of Goddess Uma is found here. Annual Mahayajna is performed here.

NAGADANDI:
Sri Ramakrishra Maha sammelan managed by Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee Kanyakumari, is situated here. An ancient spring and a few idols of some ancient temple are found here. Annual festival is held here on the day Chhari (Amarnath Yatra) starts. It is 3 km. away from Achhabal.

GOSAYEEN GOND:
An attractive neat and clean Ashram is found here. During Amarnath Yatra a number of devotees visit this Ashrama and stay and mediate for a few days.

VISHNU PAD:
Known also as Kaunsarnaga. It is about 14 miles away from Aharbal fall. It is a hazardous journey.

JWALA MUKHI:
This Teertha attributed to Goddess Jwala is situated about 20 kms. from Srinagar in Anantnag district. A temple of Jawalaji is situated on a hillock there. Annual festival is held on "Jwala Chaturdasi" (fourteen day of the dark second half of Asharh).

KURUKSHETRA:
It is near Pampore (famous for saffron, where famous mystic Poetess Lalleshwari or Lal ded lived). Festivals are held here on the occasions of solar and lunar eclipses.

BALADEVI:
This famous Teertha is attributed to Bala Bhagwati. She is considered to be the 'Istadevi' (presiding deity) of the Dogra rulers, hence the Teertha is managed by the Dharmarth Trust. This place of pilgrimage is situated in Balahama near Pampur.
 

DISTRICT BARAMULLA:

KOTI TEERTHA:
It is situated on the right bank of the Vitasta at Baramulla. It is believed that the holy water of one crore of teerthas reaches here through Vitasta and therefore is very sacred.

SHAILAPUTRI (Devibal):
This Teertha is situated on the left bank of the Vitasta at Baramulla. This is a miniature Ksheer-Bhawani.

NANDKESHWAR (Seer-Jagir):
A famous place of Nandakeshwar Bhairava situated on the left bank of the Vitasta at Sopore. The annual festival is held on Jyeshtha Amavasya here.

NANDKESAWAR (Sumbal):
A place for worship of Nandakeshwar Bhairava situated in Sumbal village. GOPHABAL: Situated near Langet, Handwara.

BHADRAKALI:
The Teertha attributed to Goddess Kali is situated in a thick pine forest near Vadipora (Handwara).

TAKAR (Gushi):
Situated near Kupwara this teertha attributed to the Divine Mother (Maharajna) is found here.

CHANDIGAM:
Situated in the picturesque valley of Lolab in Sogam, a Niranjani Akhara is established here.

GOSAYEEN TENG:
Situated on a hillock at Baramulla. Some springs attributed to Bhagwan Ramchandra are found here.

SHARADA JI:
It (now in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) is situated on the bank of Kishanganga famous throughout the country before partition. This is considered as a "Siddha Peetha" like Sharika Chakreshwar temple at Hari Parbat. It was a place of learning also and students as well as scholars from far off places used to come here. Some monuments still exist there.
 

DISTRICT SRINAGAR:

SHANKARACHARYA:
A beautiful Shiva temple exists on the hillock called shankaracharya hill. Annual festival on the day of Amarnath Darshan is held here.

HARI PARBAT:
A hillock in Srinagar city, it has many temples around it. The main temple is of Goddess Sharika, the presiding deity of Kashmir. Annual festival on the first Navratra & Ashadh Navami is held here. This is considered as a 'Siddha Peetha'.

KSHEERABHAWANI:
Twenty kilometres away from Srinagar a spring in which a temple is constructed dedicated to Mother Rajna. Annual festival held on Jyeshta Ashtami.

GANGABAL:
A lake situated near Harmakh peak is the most beautiful lake of Kashmir. Annual Yatra is held on the Ganga Ashtami in Bhadra month. People immerse the ashes of their deceased there and also perform Shradha. The journey is most hazardous but much rewarding.

GUPTAGANGA (Nishat):
Just adjacent to Nishat garden is situated the GuptaGanga. On the Baishakhi festival devotees from all over Kashmir have a dip in the spring here. A Shaiva Mathika is also attached to it where Sunday classes on Shaivism were conducted by Shaivacharya Swami Lakshman Joo.

JYESHTESHWARA:
A temple attributed to Jyeshtha Devi is located in between Shankaracharya and Chasma Shahi. A pilgrimage to this place on thursdays of Jyeshtha is considered auspicious.

GANGAJATAN:
Situated in tehsil Badgam; on Ganga Ashtami day people go there and have a dip there. It is almost a dry spring but on this particular day at a particular hour water gushes out and devotees have their holy bath.

BADIPUR:
Situated in tehsil Chadura near Nagam, it is a miniature Ksheer Bhawani. Annual Mahayajna on Vaishakha Shukla Ashtami is held here.

MAHAKALI ASTHAPAN:
Situated by the side of famous Khanaqah of Shah Hamdan; it is believed that a magnificient temple of Mahakali existed here. The annual festival is held here on Pausa Krishan Paksha Ashtami.

VASKUR:
Dedicated to a mystic poetess Roopa Bhawani, considered to be an incarnation of Goddess Sharika; Annual festival is held here on Sahib-Saptami.

VICHAR NAG:
Situated on Srinagar-Leh Highway at a distance of about 10 kms from Srinagar, the annual festival is held on the last day of the Kashmiri calender i. e. Chaitra Amavasya. The famous Kashmiri Pandit-Shirya Bhat-responsible for the change of heart of Sultan Zainulabidin, later known as Budshah (the Great Monarch), also lived here.

JAMMU:

VAISHNO DEVI:
It is as famous as Amarnathji or Ktheer-Bhawani in Kashmir. Thousands of Pilgrims mostly from northern India visit this place. Divine Mother in Vaishnavee form is being worshipped here. The main temple is 11 kms. above Katra, a town on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. Devotees prefer to visit the shrine on Nava-Ratra Days.

SARTHAL DEVI:
It is situated in Doda district of Kishtwar. There is a popular belief that mother Sharika (Hari Parbat) shifts during winter to this place. There are other places of pilgrimages in Jammu region also such a Burha Amarnath, Sudh Mahdev, etc.

 

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