The sacred shrine of Shiva Vijayeshvara, Bijbehara, Kashmir
By Virendra Bangroo
town of Bijbehara or Vijbror is 28 miles from Srinagar and two and a half miles
from district headquarters Anantnag. Vijbhor is derived from Vijayeshwar and was
the site of an ancient sacred shrine of Shiva Vijayeshvara. The site was one of
the famous tirthas of Kashmir.
The place has a hoary past and king Ashoka, as per the
account of Kalhana, replaced the stuccoes enclosure of the Shiva Vijayeshvara
temple with that of stone. The king built two temples within this enclosure
Being a famous tirtha of Kashmir the temple must have
gone through a number of additions and alterations. During the time of Raja
Susala (1112-1120) the rebels used the temple premises as fortification. The
temple and the town were burnt down during the reign of king Ananta. King Ananta
at that time was residing in the tirth of Vijayeshwara. Raja Kalasha (1163-1189)
restored this shrine and embellished the temple with a golden Kalasha.
The temple and the ancient linga of Vijayeshvara were
completely destroyed by Sultan Sikander.
Aurel Stein visited the place in 1889 and found some
ancient slabs and architectural fragments on the bank of vitasta. According to
him the local Purohits also confirmed to him about the ancient site which was 15
feet below the surrounding terrain. General Cunningham visited this place in
1847 and found the ruins of an ancient temple, which he attributes the temple of
Vijayesha. The story of the ancient site mentioned in Mahatmyas and the
historical accounts of Kalhana and Jonaraja does not end here. The sanctity of
the area remained alive in the oral traditions (shruti).
The traditions never die and the same is true about the
sanctity of the Vijayeshvara shrine. The local Purohits, as stated by Kalhana,
were aware of its exact location: the river bank, opposite the bridge, though
the site was destroyed hundreds of years ago by the Muslim fundamentalists.
The temple being situated on the pilgrim route to Martand
and Amarnath never lost its importance. In 1859 Dogra ruler Ranbir Singh built a
temple a furlong away from the old site on the National Highway. The temple is
presently known as Harischandir temple but Stein refers it as the new temple of
Vijayeshvara. It is said to be built of the stone materials of the ancient
The temple is made up of stone and stands on an 8 feet
high adhistana. Instead of the pyramidal roof, the stylized ancient architecture
of Kashmir, it has a curvilinear roof, which was adopted by the Dogras from the
temple architecture of north Indian plains. Three golden Kalsas and a pointed
spire surmount the temple. The temple has a circumulatory path. Inside the
temple there is a pitha having eleven lingas called Ekadash Rudr, which is the
main pitha for worship. Besides it, there is an idol of Ganesha, which is of
There are three huge Chinar trees in the compound of the
temple. There is a sculpture of Nandi or Vrashab in the temple compound besides
many fragmented sculptures of ancient date. A peculiar stone called Kah-Kah pal
is a curiosity for the pilgrims and tourists alike. As per the local belief the
stone could be only lifted by eleven individuals using only index finger. In
Kashmiri the Kah-Kah pal means a boulder lifted by eleven individuals. Nothing
is known about the origin and historicity of this boulder but it has been there
since times immemorial, fascinating the public and also issued a message that
unity is strength.
Pandit Harijilal was looking after the temple till 1990.
Dogra ruler Pratap Singh gave his forefathers the charge of temple maintenance.
160 canals of land were also attached to the temple as Jagir. The land is
located in the nearby Pazalpora village. The revenue collected from the land was
used for the upkeep and maintenance of this temple and also to arrange food and
accommodation for the pilgrims and sadhus on their way to holy cave, Amarnath.
The Chari Mubarak used to reach the temple on the sixth of Shravan Shakul Paksh.
In the close vicinity of the temple is the Mughal garden.
Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru is said to have visited the Mughal garden a number of
times and relaxed under the shade of the Chinar tree. The place as mentioned
earlier gives boons. Bathing in the river vitasta one gets rid of crores of sins
and attain salvation in the either world. By dispersing ashes of the departed
souls, one could achieve moksha. Smt. Vijayalakshmi Pandit as per the wishes of
her friend Ms. Naidu dispersed her ashes at the Gath of the temple and performed
her last rites. The state government made the arrangement for her visit and a
priest and friends accompanied her.
As per Sh. Trilokinath Tikoo, age 62, resident of
Bijbehara, he along with his three friends. Sh. Ved Lal Tikoo, Sh. Bansi Lal
Tikoo and Sh. Dwarka Nath Raina were the first to visit the temple around 4 AM
and offer worship regularly till the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990.
In 1986 there was widespread violence against the
Kashmiri Pandits. The fundamentalist mob of the nearby villages damaged and
desecreated the temple and broke the sacred linga and threw it in the river. It
was only after the repeated appeals by the locals the government came into
action and ordered the restoration of the temple. Professional divers were
called and the lingas were collected from the riverbed and restored back in the
temple. Till 1986 the temple was covered with a mud compound wall and later on
it was replaced by a concrete one with iron grills and barbed wire.
In the aftermath of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990
these abodes of god were left unattended. Pandit Harjilal and his family also
left the place in March 1990 to an unknown destination.
*Pandit Trilokinath Tikoo presently resides at
Laxmipuram Colony, Jammu; Pandit Vedlal Tikoo expired in 1998 at Bijbehara;
Pandit Bansilal Tikoo presently stays at Burnai, Jammu; Pandit Dwarka Nath Raina
is presently residing in Udhampur.
*Virendra Bangroo, Documentation Officer, Indira
Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, New Delhi.