Lolab Valley: Shrines and Legends
By Dr. R.K. Tamiri
Lolab, one of the most beautiful valleys of Kashmir,
is located to the north-east of Srinagar. This valley, 15 miles long and 3 miles
wide, is traversed by stream Lahwal, which flows down from the
surrounding hills. Lolab has many pasture lands and a rich forest cover.
Presently, it forms a part of Kupwara district. Locals call it Lolab. In
Lok Prakasha, it is mentioned as Lulavaka, Pandit Sahib Ram in his
Tirathasamgrapha, calls it Laulaha.
Lolah has three valleys: Kalaroos valley,
Potnai valley and the Brunai valley. Enchanting Nagmarg meadows
separate Lolab from Bandipore. Sogam is the headquarters of Lolab region. In
ancient times Sogam was ruled by a Kotraja and had over hundred villages under
its jurisdiction. As per a legend, popular in Lolab, Sogam was so densely
populated that a sheep, which climbed the roof of one house, situated at one end
of the village, could reach the other end (Zaipora) without having to come down
in between. During the rule of chaks, Sogam extended from Kralmiyach to Wovura.
The Chak king stayed at Tangchak, near Aramurang. Kalhana refers to a King, who
founded town of Lolora (Lolav) and "constructed eighty four lakhs of
stone-buildings". There are also references to Damaras of Kamraj, who dug up
force in Lolav to avert certain defeat.
Lolab: A huge lake:
At the time when Kashmir was Satisar, Lolab too formed a
part of the huge lake. There are legends which link Lolab with Kashyap Rishi. In
the Rangvor forest, one Km. from the village Lalpur, is located samadhi
of the legendary Kashyap rishi. Presently it is indistinguishable. No one can
visit this place after having taken meat. In 1967, a villager had slaughtered a
bull. 2-3 days later there was a terrible hail storm, as never seen before. Hail
was as big as a piece of stone and looked like glass. The standing maize crops
were destroyed in the entire south Lolab region. To this day people remember
this calamitous event. Villagers bring yellow rice (Tahar) to samadhi and
pray for prosperity.
The legendary account credits mythical Raza Loh for
draining the waters and inviting people to settle down. The water got drained
through Goose side. King Loh is believed to be a Gujrati. To get rid of a curse,
the king had been busy doing 'tapasya' for twelve years in a meadow in
Lolab. Razdans of Razdan Kocha, Banamohalla, Srinagar are believed to be the
descendants of King Loh.
Every year the shepherds would bring their flocks of
cattle to the meadows in Lolab. At the end of the season either a shepherd or a
cattle would go missing. Many seasons later, one day the shepherds saw smoke
rising from a place in the forest. A voice emanating from this place called
them. Thinking that this could be the calling of some devil, the shepherds
ignored the call. When the calls persisted, the shepherds went to the place from
where the smoke was rising. They were face to face with Raja Loh. The shepherds
narrated their tale of woe. Raja told them hence forth neither any of the
shepherds nor their cattle would go missing. He also implored them to come to
stay permanently in Lolab. He told them on the day of Shivratri they should
reach Harvan Bal (Lord Shiva’s hill) and look for the smoke near the Kutiya. In
case smoke was present, they should presume the Raja was alive. Shepherds
belonged to Sopore and Zainagar.
Another legend refers to the discord between King Loh and
Kashyap Rishi. Once Raja decided to perform a havan and called Kashyap Rishi as
the brahmin. As Kashyap Rishi blew the conch-shell, Raja shouted ‘aavhan’.
Kashyap Rishi shouted back ‘Visarjan’. Raja Loh protested strongly.
The rishi told him, ‘It is my right to perform havan. How dare you
do it’. Havan remained inconclusive.
The place where havan was performed there is a
spring, named Lohnag or Lavnag, one km from Kashyap Rishi’s samadhi.
This beautiful spring with crystal-clear water is shaped like a Pranali and
is three-feet deep. Water comes out from the western end of the spring. The
spring is 10 ft x 10ft in dimensions.
Lavnag has remained historically important, Gulab Singh
soon after conquering Kashmir visited it. He sanctioned a land grant of 113
canals for the upkeep of spring. His pet pujari, Pt. Gash Bhat, grand
father of late Prasad Bhat was in his company when the Dogra King visited the
place. Shav Ratangeer, an ascetic, who used to stay at Durganag temple, came to
Lav Nag and stayed at this place for 18 long years.
There is no specific day for puja at this historic
spring. On the western side of the spring is a Chinar with four branches,
Chakrabooni. It is a very old Chinar. Recently the Chinar was burnt. The
platform around the spring has been cemented and the spring connected to a water
In the vicinity, is another spring called, Gauirshari
Nag, dedicated to goddess Gauri. This spring is small, round in shape and
believed to be the resting place of the goddess, who had come to attend the
havan performed by Raja Loh.
A number of shrines in the form of springs dot the entire
Lolab area. Famous among these are;
Thanin, a spring dedicated to Vishnu is
located in the Kalaroos valley. It is 11x11ft and its depth is five feet.
Harinag spring is found in Varnav, near Sewer.
There are two springs in Krusen, a place founded by Raja
Karn. It is a place some distance from Maidanpora. The two springs are dedicated
to Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. There is a shivling in Siva's spring.
The spring dedicated to goddess Parvati is bottomless. Ladies are forbidden to
visit this spring. Lavalnag is another spring near Divar and is four
miles from Lohnag spring (Lalpur).
In Chandigam, the village named after goddess Chandi,
there are three holy springs. The original Chandinag spring is spread
over an area of 1½ canals in the forest. It is filled up now and has turned into
a swamp. Before 1947, when a little excavation was carried out here, earthern
lamps, small items, pottery associated with rituals were found, confirming the
antiquity of the place. Locals call this place as Kanzpov. Digging also
confirmed that springs lie underneath. Presently little water comes from the
sides of the swamp. Decades back Pt. Balbadar Bujoo was a tehsildar here. His
wife had gone to fetch some water. Her arm got stuck up in the mud.
The other spring in Chandigam is Kumarji's Nag. It
lies in Gujar basti, the people who originally hail from Abottabad. The spring
is situated on an elevated area near Dak bungalow. This is under the control of
PHE department. It is 7ft x7ft in dimensions. The water is clean and cold and
five feet deep. Water remains full throughout the year. The stones forming the
upper masonary are intact. The boundaries of the spring are fenced. Ladies are
not allowed to visit the spring. A big stone lining the spring cracked soon
after the visit of a lady. And the water rushed out. The old stones (sam) lining
the spring are 2½ ft long and well-polished. There is no fish in the spring.
Viceroy of India visited this spring when Pt. Bujoo was tehsildar. Swami Lalji,
a famous sadhu from outside often visited this spring to conduct puja.
His disciples included Pt. Arzan boya, Swami NandlalJi, Pt. Shivjee Bagati
and Pt. Ramchand 'Goban'. Pandits of Lolab visited this historic spring on
Amavasiya and Puranmashi days.
There are two more springs in Chandigam. One is called
Pir Nag spring of Chandibaba. The spring derives its name from the locality
of Pirs. Otherwise it is known as Niranjan Akhara. The spring is lined by big
old stones (sam), four in number. Throughout the year, the spring remains full
of water, which is crystal-clear. The spring is shaped like a Pranali. Chandi
Baba came here in 1956 and changed its shape. The other spring is Nahgee,
adjacent to Mirsar. It is a small spring. Before exodus Pandits used to offer
Half a km. to the east of Nahgee spring is Bren Sahr.
There is a bren (alm) tree and little water near it. As per local belief,
the place is full of snakes. Children would not play here, nor the villagers
would venutre out late at night. Evil sprits would haunt a person, who would
Nilakanth Spring is 15ftx15ft. Old stones line its
walls. Water is crystal clear and spring is 4½ feet deep. There are no fish in
the spring. It is known as Nagbal. As per local belief Lord Shiva used to sit
here. The spring is guarded by a hooded snake, yellow in colour. Elderly
villagers of Sogam claim to have seen the snake. If the snake is not disturbed,
it does not cause any harm. Pandits of Sogam used to take yellow rice, Tahar or
Satyideev on every Purnmashi day. In case there were no rains, Pandits and
Muslims of the village would offer niyaz together.
There are also a number of kunds named after Ram,
Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. Ram and Sita Kunds are linked together and the water
collected serves as water supply to the village. A part of the area has been
Gangabug Spring is dedicated to goddess Ganga. In
shape the spring resembles Omkar. The spring is believed to be the abode of
mother Ganges. It is 5½ ft deep. Special occasion for Puja is Gangashtmi or
Sardashtmi day. On this day Pandit Arzan Bayu would clean the spring. The
cleaning process, as per convention, was to be carried out only by Pandits.
After the spring was cleaned, Pandits of Sogam would bring Kheer and Satyideev
and conduct puja, Prehpiyun. Gangabug spring is located in Peer mohalla.
Dardnag (Durganag) spring is 8ftx10ft and
three feet deep. It has clear water. Pandits would take Kheer here on Durgashtmi
and Jyethashtmi day.
Ganesh Nag springs are two in number. One of these
is 10ftx10 ft and 4½ ft deep. The other one is 14ftx10ft and 5ft deep. Both the
springs are lined by polished old stones. The branch of a big bren (alm) tree,
hangs down to cover the spring like the trunk of an elephant. (hsihkara). The
branch is 10-15 ft long and has a Ganesh idol in it. There is another spring
outside, the water of which is used for washing purposes. Around the spring is a
Ganesh temple, the roof of which was damaged in 1947. Pandits used to perform
havan on Ganachodah day and offer 'Bread' (Choht). It has been
reported that of late during the evenings a lamp, chong is seen burning here.
In Sogam there is a place called Sardikul. Here in
the hollow of a walnut tree there is a very old idol of goddess Sarda. Its
dimensions are 2ftx1½ft with height 1½ft. There is an old stone here, which
carries the imprint of goddess Sarda. It is believed that the goddess halted
here during her journey to Sardi, the place where massive temple stands today.
Around the walnut tree stands erected a temple.
The Ishtadevi of Ramchand Goban's family was originally 'Zala
goddess. One day Ram Chand's mother, then a girl of fourteen years, happened to
pass by. She saw goddess Sarda sitting in the hollow of a walnut tree. She bowed
before the goddess. The latter asked her what she wished. Ramchand's mother said
she desired a child. The goddess told her in that case the child should worship
Sarda as Ishtadevi. After nine months Ramchand was born. All other uncles of
Ramchand have Zala as Ishtadevi, while Sarda is Ishtadevi of Ramchand's family.
Mata Hari asthapan is located in a forest in Sewer
village. A small rivulet which emanates from the forest forms a spring, 8ftx8ft.
The spring is square in shape with a very old Shivling and few idols in it.
Pandits of Sewer used to go every morning, have bath and would then apply tilak
of white clay found there. At eastern end of Sewer village on a Karewa is a
place called Haran, derived from Hari. There is no habitation there. After the
harvest, Pandits would prepare yellow rice from new paddy and take it to Hari
Naranag, in Sewer, has three kunds with
idols in these. Water comes from under the idols. The idols were broken during
the turbulence of 1947. Naranag is situated one km away from Sewer on way to
Vernav in Chak village, in Tantrey mohalla. It is believed any desecration
invites trouble. A person had slaughtered a cock. He turned blind and was
afflicted with leprosy. None from his family survived. The deserted house of
this family is a perpetual remainder of the strong Vaishnav character of this
spring. Pandits would visit this spring on ashtmi and purnima
Amarnath cave, called by locals as Ambriyun is
located on a hill, towards Vernav, two kms from Sewer. The cave is 15 ft. down
and requires the use of a special staircase, or Kengur. One has to find way
through stone debris. Because of debris, the other end cannot be reached. As per
local tradition, this cave is older than Amarnath, located in Pahalgam
‘Raaz Kath’ Tradition:
There are a number of asthapans near Dardnag nullah
adjacent to Saridkul. ‘Raazkath’ ritual is also performed here. ‘Raaz Sahib’ or
Nandkeshwar of Sogam has come to Sogam with Bal Sogami, the ancestor of late
Lakshman and Kailash Reshi. This family was appointed custodians of Ganesh nag
by Maharaja Pratap Singh with Rs three as pay per month. They also looked after
As per legend, Bal Sogami belonged to Sogam and was a
patwari by profession. He had to visit the headquarters at Srinagar of and on.
Patwaris of Kamraz would go together to Srinagar by boat from Sopore. Once
Sogami missed the boat when he reached late in the evening. He proceeded on
foot. It was dark when he reached Noorbag. He saw a fire lit there and sat down
to warm himself up. There was also a sadhu, who was roasting meat and
eating it. He also offered a piece to Sogami. The latter would take it but would
not eat. He kept it in his pheran pocket. The sadhu asked him if he had
taken the meat. Sogami said in affirmative. The sadhu asked him to give
that back. He obeyed. Astonished, the sadhu asked him, ‘you have remained
hungry’. He added, “I will sleep now. Put this white sheet (Kapar Chadar) over
Bal Sogami put the sheet over sadhu. The sheet
failed to cover his whole body. Sometimes his legs would lengthen and at other
times his head. Sogami then decided to cut the portion of the body not covered
by sheet, with knife he was carrying with him. Sadhu asked, “what the hell you
are doing". Sogami replied, "sometimes you are elongating your head and
sometimes your legs. I will cut the portion not covered by the sheet".
This impressed the sadhu that Sogami was a
strong-willed person and spiritually elevated too. He entered into discussions
with Sogami. He handed Sogami a twig of a mulberry tree, Tulmoor. Sadhu further
instructed him, “when you reach home, next morning at sunrise a crow on the
branch of a tree will crow. At that, you plant the ‘Tulmoor’ from the opposite (tihri)
side. I will come there”.
Next morning, when Sogami was preparing to leave for
Sopore, Sadhu (Raaz Sahib) asked him to close his eyes and stand on his wooden
sandal, khrav. Sadhu instructed him to open his eyes only when he
ordered. After fifteen minutes the wooden sandal had disappeared and Sogami was
standing at the Reshipeer temple ghat, Yarbal, Sopore. There is a nine-feet
Shivling here in the temple. The other patwaris who went by boat reached
only by noon.
Sogami planted the Tulmoor as instructed by sadhu
at Nandkeshwar. Today this Tulmoor has grown into a big tree with branches on
all sides. There are throny bushes, Zand all around. Sogami clan had to
sacrifice one sheep every year in the month of Poh. The day chosen is Tuesday or
Saturday. The skin of the sheep is hung on the mulberry tree. Feet (patchi) and
head (Kalheer) are also mixed because it is Bhairav Buzan. No turmeric or
masala is added. The meat is prepared at home in the afternoon and later brought
to place, where Tulmoor was planted. Puja is done. As per tradition meat
prepared is to be taken in clay plates, Takus. In Sogam even for one-day old
children Bhog is kept. Only earthern utensils are used for cooking. It is cooked
in wok, leij. In Sogam people are allowed to take home the prasad, navid.
Ladies are not allowed to go to Nand Keshwar. Only unmarried girls below ten
years of age can visit Raaz Sahib.
It is said Raaz Saab was so kind to Sogami’s family that
they did not have to purchase rations for twelve years. Every morning the lady
of the house would take out from earthern drum, mati the rations to be cooked
for the day. One day the secret was divulged by the daughter-in-law of the
family. The divine kindness evaporated. As per Sogam Pandits, the similar
benevolence had been bestowed by Sardamata on Ram Chand ‘Gobans’ family. His
mother used to take out rations from the store, Kuchi everymorning for ten long
years. The rations never finished.
Recently, an armyman during patrolling might have
committed some descration near Raaz Saab’. He turned mad. Ganai, an old wise man
of the village suggested to the army that they should offer a sheep to ‘Raaz
Saab’. The armyman was cured. It has been reported that few Muslim families have
also offered sheep to Raaz Sahib during these turbulent days.