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Kaptesvara Tirtha: History and Legend

Dr. R.K. Tamiri

Many pilgrimages lose their importance over time. Presently pilgrimmages to the holy cave of Lord Amarnath and the shrine of Tulmulla have the greatest sanctity for Kashmiri Hindus. Visits to Sarada shrine, Harmukta ganga, Bheda tirtha and Papsudana-Kaptesvara spring were highly reverred in ancient Kashmir. Papsudana (sin-removing) spring enjoyed great reputation for its sanctity for many centuries. This Tirtha is located a short distance above the village of Kother, situated two miles above Achabal. The name of the village is a contraction of KAPATESVARA, an apellation of Siva to whom the spring
here is sacred. Siva is worshipped here under the name of KAPATESVARA, having shown himself there according to the legend under the disguise (Kapata) of pieces of wood floating on the water. Large number of ancient glass fragments are strewn on the road that leads from the village Kother to the Papsudana spring. This indicates the existence of a flourishing glass industry in the bygone times.

ARCHEOLOGICAL REMAINS:

The sacred spring now rises in a circular tank, at least sixty yards in diameter. It is enclosed by a massive stone wall, still extant partially. Steps flanked by side walls, which are surrounded by cornices lead down to the water. From the formation of the ground, it is evident that this tank has been formed by closing artificially the gully in which the spring rises on the hillside. The dam, which effected this forms the western side of the tank. Depth of the spring is quite considerable. There are two small temples, which seem to be contemporaneous with the stonewall of the spring. Internally the larger temple measures 8' 4'' and faces south-west. The smaller temple faces west and measures 6' 4'' internally. Its lower part is buried underground. There is a long stretch of wall 246ft long and 12ft wide on the north side. It originally formed part of the enclosure wall round the temples and the tank. The fragment that is above ground on the east side shows that this surrounding wall is in reality a cellular peristyle. The top stones of the cells are visible. State Archeology department carried out excavation work in this area in 1932-33. It revealed a cellular quadrangle and a number of shrines belonging to the tenth to eleventh centuries. It also showed that there was an older stratum of buildings, upon which these structures were superimposed.

LEGEND OF KING MUTUSKUND:

Like the Sarada shrine, the construction of the Kapatesvara tank and its stone enclosure are credited to the legendary King Mutuskund. This king cursed by nature with a pair of buffalo's ears, was anxious to rid himself of this disfigurement. He had in vain sought relief by visits to numerous sacred sites. At last he learnt about the miraculous powers of Kapatesvara spring. When near Kapatesvara he noticed that a wounded dog was healed by entering the water of the sacred spring. The King followed his example and got rid of his cursed ears. In gratitude, the King expended his treasures upon the foundation and upkeep of the temples and the spring.

THE LEGEND OF KING MUTUSKUND IS QUITE POPULAR IN THIS AREA. IT SAYS:

Mutsakand razas manshihandikan
Tim kati tsalanas' Kuther van

TRANSLATION: King Mutuskund has buffalo's ears; where will he get rid of these' In the forests of Kother. A curious legend reports that a treasure lies buried somewhere in or near the spring and that there was a stone slab embedded in the wall of the spring on which were inscribed directions for its discovery. This was meant as compensation for the person who would undertake the repairs and upkeep of the spring and its dependent shrines. Sir Aurel Stein corroborates the traditional reference to treasure. He says that an inscription in various characters' had existed until Sikh times near a door in the stone enclosure on the northern side of the tank. It is believed that this inscription was thrown into the tank by a local Muslim Jagirdar during the times of King Ranjit Singh. Sultan Shahabuddin is also reported to have carried out repairs of the tank and an inscription relating to it was found by the State archeology department during one of its surveys.

The identity of King Mutuskund is shrouded is mystery. Close examination of the legend in relation to Sarada legend indicates that this King was a gauda warrior from Bengal. In the case of Kapatesvara tirtha, Raja-tarangini identifies King Mutskund with King Bhoj of Malwa. He was contemporary of King Ananta (1028-1063 A.D.) of Kashmir. King Bhoja of Dhara, who ruled over Malwa for four decades was a great patron of litterature. He was a prince of uncommon ability and laid out Bhojpur Lake near Bhopal. This lake, once covering 250 sq miles was formed by massive embankments and testifies to the skills of his engineers. King Bhoja, who had heard about the sanctity of Kapatesvara spring, had vowed that he would always wash his face in the water from the Papasudana tirtha. He engaged the services of merchant Padmaraja for the construction of tank and the stone basin at Kapatesvara. King sent heaps of gold for this. Padmaraja used to despatch water from this spring in big glass jars on a regular basis to King Bhoja.

TIRTH YATRA:

Pilgrims visited Kapatesvara tirtha every year in the month of Baisakh. Now the pilgrimage has lost much of its importance and only Kashmiri Pandits of the neighbouring villages visit it regularly.

SOCIO-HISTORICITY:

The importance and the socio-historicity of Kaptesvara tirtha has been recorded in Nilmatpurana, Srikanthcharita of Mankha, Kitab-ul-Hind of Alberuni, Rajatarangini of Kalhan, Harcaritacintamani of Jayadratha, Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazal and in our own times by RC Kak, an outstanding archeologist. Alberuni mentions that pieces of wood sent by Mahadeva appear annually 'in a pond called KUDAISHAHR to the left of the source of the vitasta, in the middle of the month of vaisakha'. Kudaishahr is a corrupt derivative of Kavadevsar, a prakritised form of Kapatesvara. The date mentioned for the yatra by Alberuni coincides with that given in Kapatesvara Mahatmya. About Kapatesvara, Kalhana writes in the first taranga of Rajatarangini. Where, within the santuary of Papasudana, those who touch the husband of Uma in wodden form secure for reward the pleasures of life and liberation.

The great Kashmirian poet Mankha was a contemporary of Kalhana. In his celeberated Kavya Srikanthacarita, he gives description of important temples of Kashmir. About Kapatesvara tirtha, he says the temple is situated in water and in it are present the wooden images of Lord Shiva. He also mentions about its great importance. Jayadratha, the author of Haracaritacintamani (32 cantos), devotes the entire fourteenth canto to the story of Kapatesvara. This has now become the official Mahatmya of the tirtha. The author was a great poet and belonged to the Kashmiir family of Rajanakas. He lived at the end of 12th or the beginning of the thirteenth century. In Ain-i-Akbari, Abul Fazl writes 'in the village of Kotiyar is a deep spring surrounded by stone temples. When its water decreases an image of Mahadeva in sandalwood appears'. RC Kak in his 'Ancient Monuments of Kashmir', has recorded the legend of King Mutuskund and has given detailed description about the
architectural aspect of Kapatesvara spring and temples.

NILMAT STORY:

By far the most detailed description about the origin of Kapatesva area is given in Nilmat Purana. It describes the sanctity associated with taking a bath in Kapatesvara spring. Nilmat records: One attains the world of Rudra by taking bath in Kapatesvara. In the famous dialogue on the sacred tirthas of Kashmir, which takes place between King Gonanda and Sage Brhadasva, two names Bhutesvara and Kapatesvara arouse Gonanda's curiosity. This leads Brhadasva to narrate Bhutesvara mahatmya and Kapatesvara mahatmya explaining the storyof Siva who appears before the sages in the guise of logs of wood. Gonanda asks the sage Brhadasva as to why the venerable Sambhu is called Kapatesvara. Brhadasva then narrates the story in detail.

Once many sages stood in great penance on the sacred bank of Drsadvati in Kuruksetra to have a sight of Rudra-the lord of the gods. Impressed by their devotion, Lord Mahadeva told them in a dream to go soon to Kasmira where there is a spacious and immaculate abode of the naga. He told them that there he would be visible in disguise. Having heard him in a dream they all reached that abode of the naga. They could not see even a little water, for the water was all over covered with pieces of wood. Moving the wooden logs with their hands, the best sages obtained Rudrahood with their bodies by merely taking bath.

However, one Vasistha Brahman, named Gauraparasar neither took the bath nor touched the wooden logs. He went on prolonged fasting and made his body decay. Hara then spoke to him in a dream and advised him to obtain Rudrahood quickly by taking bath and touching the wooden logs. Gauraparasara persisted, 'that you can be visible after the attainment of Rudrahood is a fact, 'O father of the world! But my mind is not satisfied without the sight of the lord of the gods. You have said that you would be visible in disguise in the abode (of the Naga)'.

THE BRAHMAN REFUSES TO LEAVE AND CONTINUES FASTING, SANKARA REPLIES:

I have already provided to them, my manifestation in the form of wooden log. Merely by seeing me, they attained Rudrahood, O twice-born! Now, due to your penance which is greater, I give you the desired boon. Ask for what you desire and obtain Rudrahood. Gauraparasara demands that Mahesvara should manifest itself in the form of a wooden log, to all the human beings, as it did to the sages. Mahesvara agrees and remarks. O best among the twice-born, all those people who will see (the god) standing in the form of wood, (will see the gods) not always but only occasionaly. With a desire to do favour to them, my gana--this Nandi in the form of wooden log shall always be visible to the human beings. And having seen (him) they would attain Rudrahood with their bodies. As I shall appear in disguise before men, so I shall obtain the name, Kapatesvara.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 

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