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Down The Memory Lane - 105

The memories of Vittal Bhairav Temple

May 2012

I was really shocked to learn that this historic religious shrine has been demolished and the entire area (land) attached with the temple taken under possession by a person hailing from Pampore in connivance with the Dharmarth Trust and local administration. Now, where can I find Vittal Bhairav temple of Rainawari, Motiyar? My childhood memories are associated with the Bhairav temple.

By G L Jalali

A fortnight back, I received a telephone call from a young Kashmiri Pandit who informed me that Vittal Bhairav temple has been completely vandalised by some anti-national elements. The informant was once my neighbour in Rainawari. The news was very shocking for me, indeed. I have no words to express my anguish over the vandalization of this centuries old temple dedicated to Vittal Bhairav. The temple was situated on the bank of a canal that served as a waterway between Rainawari and Shalteng in our childhood days. One could travel in a rented Shikara (a special type of boat) right from Rainawari to any part of the down town. Those were the days when a horse drawn tonga was the only means of transport in the city whose population did not exceed four or five  lakhs.

The Hindu-dominated Rainawari locality is on the suburb of Srinagar city. It is about 4 kilometers from the historic Lal Chowk, the hub of business activities once called Chotta Bengal, by Walter Lawrence. Rainawari has its own natural beauty. It is flanked by the world-famous Dal Lake and Hari Parbat hillock. In our childhood days the canal flowed through the middle. We had at least seventeen temples in Rainawari. Almost all of them were managed by local managing committees. The Dharmarth Trust that managed big temples in the city had no role in managing Rainawari temples. The members of Motiyar (also called Panditpora) looked after the up-keep of the Vittal temple to the entire satisfaction of the Pandit community. The temple was visited by a large number of Kashmiri Pandits every day.

The temple commanded landscape beauty. Imagine a tall leafy centuries old mulberry trees and scores of poplar trees whose leaves rustled in the morning breeze and a dip in the crystal-clear water of the running canal in the scorching heat of the summer sun, lady devotees singing "Lelas" in praise of the deity. That is the picture of my Vittal Bhairav temple in my youthful days.

It was, no doubt, a dream like experience intoxicated with religious fervour generated partly by the locale of "Vittal Bhairav's" cosy abode in Motiyar. Referring to innumerable temples in the valley, Walter R Lawrence, remarks. "There is hardly a river, spring, or hill side in Kashmir that is not holy to the Hindus, and it would require endless space if I were to attempt to give a list of places famous and dear to Hindus. (The valley of Kashmir, page 297)

According to the Hindu mythology, the city of Srinagar was the abode of Hindu deities & Gods who would spend their time in Saadhana. It is said that Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati had great fascination for the valley. They resided & visited various places in the valley. Their favourite haunt was the Mount Kailash. Lord Brahma had deployed eight Bhairavas to guard the city to ensure tranquility which was essential for the attainment of spiritual perfection. These eight Bhairvas were named as Bhatukeshvara Bhairva, Amareshvara Bhairava, Mangalaraja Bhairva, Hatakeshvara Bhairva, Puranaraja Bhairava and Vaitala Bhairava. Of these Bhairavas, Vitalraja Bhairava occupied a prime place in galaxy of eight Bhairavas. He is considered  very close to Lord Shiva.

In my birth burg there is another temple dedicated to Vittal Bhairva. It is in close proximity of the temple at Motiyar. People called it Bodi-Vittal because of a spacious area attached to the temple. It did not attract as many worshippers as Motiyar Vittal Bhairav temple attracted. Long back, Bodi Vittal Bhairav temple was looked after local Muslims, but just two decades earlier the mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits a local committee, headed by Late Dr Shambu Nath Kalpushu looked after the temple. It was completely renovated and  a new Dharamshalla  was constructed close to the temple.

Vittal Bhairav temple of Motiyar is a historical shrine.  It is said that during the Afghan rule in Kashmir, Motiyar temple was the only Hindu temple where Kashmiri Pandits were allowed to pay obeisance and perform their religious rituals. A huge ghat is attached to the temple. In the morning hours we would see devotees performing their rituals on the ghat doing their Sandhya upasna and taking their morning bath amidst Chanting of Mantras in praise of Lord Shiva Vittal Bhairva.

I remember that my mother would attend the temple twice a week -Tuesday and Saturday to worship the deity. Sometimes I would accompany her to this temple where she would do her Puja at least for two hours. She would often relate me some interesting stories about the deity. My mother would say that the  great mystic (Yogi) saint Swami Jeewan Sahib, whose shrine is hardly three hundred meters away from this Bhariva temple would attend the temple every day and perform his morning Sandhya Upasna every day in this historic temple in Rainawari.

There is story about Swami Jeewan Sahib. Legend says that Jeewan Sahib worked as domestic servant in the house of a Hindu family of Rainawari. It resembles the story of another mystic Meesha Sahib of Karapora Khushki of Rainawari locality. He, like Swami Jeewan Sahib worked as a domestic servant in the house of Krishna Kar, a Tehsildar of Kamraj district during Afghan rule. The owner of the house, where Jeewan Sahib worked as domestic servant was a Tehsildar by profession.  He would start working in the kitchen early in the morning. He would silently do "Upasna" in the kitchen and made the kitchen room his abode. Nobody knew about Swami's spiritual perfection. One night the wife of Tehsildar looked into the kitchen room. She was astonished to see the room glittering with dazzling light. She informed her husband who also saw the dazzling light coming out of the kitchen room where Swami Jeewan Sahib was performing his Upasana. The fame of Jeewan Sahib spread far and wide. Even the Afghan ruler came to know about the spiritual powers of the Pandit saint. Jeewan Sahib passed the last years of his life at Gousein Nar village in Pulwama Tehsil of Kashmir province.

It is said that he was born in Rainawari. He was, in fact, an outstanding saint of the 18th century. He was gifted with tremendous spiritual powers. In 1779 he shifted from Rainawari to Gousein Nar in Loduv. The ruler of Kashmir had allotted him a "Jaggir" of 80 kanals of land at Gousein Nar. It is said that Jeewan Sahib attained the spiritual perfection through his Upasana at Vittal Bhairva temple. I can well recollect that in our childhood days some of us would take our mid-day bath in the canal close to the shrine. We would usually go in for the bath in July, which is the hottest month in valley. We would sit on the ghat and finish our home-task assigned by our teacher. People (devotees) would make the special offerings of yellow boiled rice with cooked goat liver, dried fish and sometimes cheese and potato to the deity on particular occasion. Even my mother would make such offering once a year. Children sitting on the ghat would also partake the yellow boiled rice and cooked goat liver as "Prasad". One could not feel beneath ones dignity to ask for his or her share of Prasad. When any lady was seen coming to make any special offer to the deity, small children either sitting on the ghat or taking bath in the canal (Mar) would  scramble & solicit for their share of Prasad (Naveed) from the lady.

Piles of fruit & boiled yellow rice were seen lying in front a centuries old mulberry tree which symbolised the presence of Vittal Bhairva. Apart from this sacred tree, the idol of the deity was placed there for the devotees to worship. We were told by our elders that on a particular day the deity made his physical presence to satisfy the urge of his devotees.

Many tales and legends of this deity are galore, lending credence to the sanctity and curative capabilities associated with the very shrine. A story goes that once a small child in our Mohalla was taken ill seriously. Despite the best medical treatment given to the diseased boy by his parents, the ailment did not show any abatement. His condition was deteriorating day by day. Since their residence was very close to this Bhairav Mandir, they gave some offerings in the form of yellow rice & cheese to the deity at the behest of a devotee of Bhairav Sahib. The ailing child recovered fully within a week of offering "Prasad" to the deity.

In my childhood days local Muslims held this shrine in high esteem. They would never defecate or urinate either in the premises of the temple or in the very direction of this historic Bhairava temple. Some old Muslims living around the shrine had firm faith in the physical presence of Vittal Bhairav at this place that is why they desisted from making any encroachment on the land attached to this historic temple.

I have a faint impression of my mother, who along with two or three ladies, would invariably take a holy dip in the canal running close to this historic Bhairava temple on the day of Chandanshashti. On this day no man was allowed to enter the temple. The celebrations were meant for only women. I would, as a child, accompany my mother who used to observe complete fast on this day. Chandanshashti is the Karvachowth  of Kashmiri Pandit ladies.

Chandansashti is observed during two different periods in India. Some communities in western part of India observe it during the waxing phase of the moon in the month of Vaishakha Kashmiri Pandit ladies observe this ritual in the dark fortnight of Bhadun month". Pandit ladies break the fast when the moon rises during midnight. It is meant for the long life and prosperity of their husbands. I remember that my mother would perform "Puja" on this occasion on the canal ghat. After finishing this religious ritual, she would distribute fruit among children. So, on this day there was great rush of ladies in the temple .

In mid fifties a Sadhu from Tamil Nadu, Swami Kand Swami came from Tamil Nadu and made the temple his permanent abode. I remember we would often like to talk to the soft spoken Swami who could speak Kashmiri language fluently. Humorous by temperament, polite in his dealings with the public, Swami Kand Swami who was also called Kartikanand, was a very popular saint among the locals. One thing went to the credit of the Tamil Nadu Saint -he took great care of the temple and tried hard to develop it. It was on his initiative that another temple dedicated to goddess Parvati was constructed and the Pratima (idol) of goddess was brought from South India & installed in the newly constructed temple. I remember a grand Hawan was performed in connection with the installation of the idol in the temple.

Gone are the days when Navratra festival that lasted for one week was celebrated in the temple. Hundreds of devotees would participate in the special Puja performed daily all the seven days both in the evening & morning in the sprawling premises of Vittal Bhairav temple. The very environs of the temple reverberated with the devotional songs and leelas sung by ladies in melodious tune.

In fact some sort of "Godly atmosphere" was created all these Navratra days in the Pandit Pora locality, the birth place of saint Jeevan Sahib, scholars like Pandit Shredhar Koul Dullo, Pandit Sansar Chand Koul Ganhar (known as Bird Watcher), astrologer Pandit Keshav Nath, valleys leading journalist and author Pandit J.N.Ganhar, Dr. Sudharshan Mahaldar (first medical graduate), Pandit Ram Joo Abhay, Prof R.K. Zutshi, scout master Pandit Vasdev Koul, etc.

I fully remember that a number of Kashmiri Pandits from Pandit Pora locality would meet thrice a week in the temple premises and discuss some religious topics. It was called "Parivachan". All of them were Shiva Scholars. They would sit on the canal ghat start their "Parivachan". I had the occasion to attend this Parivachan and listen to their discussion. For me the subject was beyond my comprehension.

"Kashmiri Shaivism, a house hold religion is based on strong monistic interpretation of the "Bhairava Tantras" which were tantras written by the Kapalikas. There was additionally a revelation of the Shiv Sutras to Vasugupta. Kashmiri Shaivism claimed to supersede the dualistic Shiva Siddhanta. Somananda, the first theologian of monistic Shaivism was the teacher of Utpaladeva who was the grand teacher of Abhinavagupta who in turn was the teacher of Ksemaraja".

In my birth burg there was no dearth of Shiva-philosophers. Shaivism of Kashmir was developed between 8th and 12th centuries. This is corroboratively younger philosophy. "Like Advaitavedanta it is monistic, like Vaishnavism it is theistic, like yoga it is practical, like Nayaya it is logical as also appeasing like Buddhism. Kashmiri Shaivism is, therefore, idealistic in essence, strongly advocating a pragmatic approach to life."

Apart from serving as religious place, Vittal Bhairav temple premises served as a vibrant centre of cultural activities. It is pertinent to refer to the Vittal Bhairava Kala Kendra which coordinated cultural activities from time to time.

I vividly remember that on the eve of every Janamashtami this cultural body would stage a series of dramas that heralded 7-day theatre festival. It would open a window of opportunity to our talented budding local artists to exhibit their latent talent with regard to theatre and its allied activities. Since cinema was still at the initial stage of popularity in those days, people had a craze for the stage and liked to witness dramas on the local stage. It may be recalled that theatre in ancient Kashmir was at am advanced stage. One can find scores of references to it in valley's ancient literature. Music and theatre (Raga and Nartika) were the two important components of Hindu culture during the times of the ancient Hindu rulers, including Laltaditya and Avanti Verman. It received a great setback during the Muslim rule, as music was anathema to these alien-rulers whose puritanical views on drama music need no elucidation. I can recall that Vittal Bhairva Kala Kendra staged successful dramas captioned Raja Hari  Chander, Drua Bhat, Habba Khatoon etc. These became boxoffice hits; there was hardly any adult resident of Pandit Pora who did not witness these dramas. The proceeds of tickets were used for the development of the temple.

We can hardly forget the acting of late Nand Lal Kachroo, Late Nilkanth Sharma, Late Krishen Lal Handoo etc. They proved the best stage actors.

When I recall the memories associated with Vittal Bhairav temple, I remember the memories associated with Vittal Bhairav temple I remember how we used to hold "Shakha" in the sprawling ground attached with the shrine. I am reminded of my adolescent days when I was a zealous RSS activist. We used to have a special gathering of the RSS participants of the whole city at the place. It does not mean that the premises were used for political activities. It was purely a religo-cultural place for the Pandits of Rainawari locality.

Alas! I was really shocked and amazed that this shrine has been demolished and the entire premises taken under possession by a Muslim of Pampore in connivance with the Dharmarth Trust and local administration. That is the sordid tale of my "Vittal Bhairav Mandir of Motiyar (Pandit Pora) Rainawari.

I was really shocked to learn that this historic religious shrine has been demolished and the entire area (land) attached with the temple taken under possession by a person hailing from Pampore in connivance with the Dharmarth Trust and local administration. Now, where can I find Vittal Bhairav temple of Rainawari, Motiyar? My childhood memories are associated with the Bhairav temple.

  

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