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Khir Bhawani Spring

By Samsar Chand Koul

Kashmir in the olden times was known as Reshi Bhumi or the land of saints. Cut off as it was from the outside world by its mountain ramparts, its means of communication were difficult. The people had developed their own script called 'sharda' and their own literature and philosophy. They cultivated various branches of knowledge, and worked for humanity preferring action to theory.

Surrounded as the country is by the snow-clad high mountains, water absorbed in the soil gives birth to numerous springs scattered all over the country. Those springs are known as Nags (serpents). They are dedicated to different gods or goddesses, hence some of the towns are named after them, such as Anant Nag, Vetsar Nag, Tsandi Gam (after Tsandi Nag in the Lolab Valley) and Ver Nag in Anantnag district. Special days are set apart in the calendar to commemorate the story of those springs and fairs are held and public worship takes place on such occasions.

One of these mysterious springs is situated near village of Tulamulla. The whole place round Tulamulla is swampy and for miles around there are rice fields. By the side of acqueducts grow a large variety of wild flowers, the most common being Mentha sylvestris (Vena) which is used in worship and the sale of which brings money to the peasant population.

It appears that Tulamulla is a sort of floating garden, as the natives say that if they dig a whole in the ground, they find fish coming from the tributary of the Sindh which drains the place. The village is girt round by the tributaries of the Sindh which carry water from the Amar Nath and Gangabal glaciers. There is also a stream of pyre water which rises from the springs round the eastern side of the village and passing under a bridge enters into the Sindh canal (also called Gangkhai).

The numerous islets are covered with willows and poplars while the main island on which the spring stands is shaded with chinars, mulberry and elm trees. Lately, the place paved with dressed sandstones, but there is much scope for the improvement and tidiness of the spot. Water and vegetation being very abundant, mosquitoes are ubiquitous in July and August. In summer, the birds nestling on trees produce melodious music at dawn. The golden oriole, the thrush, the ringdove, the paradise flycatcher, the bulbul are conspicuous by their song and plumage. In winter the wild fowl, the shoveller, the mallard, the gadwall, the widgeon, the teal, the paddy bird, the coot and such other birds are found in the Anchar Lake and round about the swamps.

The Anchar Lake

The Anchar (Atsar - means good conduct) Lake must have once touched the skirts of the Lar and Ganderbal mountain ranges and the alluvial soil wrested from the lake is the outcome of the silt which the Sindh and rain have deposited here for hundreds of years. This process is still going on and extensive tongues of land in the form of deltas between several distributaries are being formed continually. About seventy years ago the Sindh changed its course, flowed over Gadura village and thence entered the lake. A tributary from here joins the Vetasta (Jhelum) at Shadipor. Two canals drain the water of the Dal Lake into the Anchar Lake. The Nala Bal flows past the north of Hari Parbat via Amda Kadal, and the other canal used to flow through Bohri Kadal during summer months. The later canal has been filled up under the master plan and does not exist now. The best lotus blossom is found towards the southern side of the lake called Khushal Sar during the months of July and August. It is fascinating to watch the pheasant-tailed Jacana in gorgeous plumage and the paddy bird in sombre colour. The lake yields large quantities of lotus seeds and lotus roots which are eaten as a vegetable. Fishing is also carried on in it. It supplies fodder for animals to the city.

There are two important springs on the eastern side of the lake. Amrishwar spring in Amburher which was a great place of pilgrimage in olden times and a spring in Biyhama which is highly prized for digestive water.

The lake is about 3.5 miles long and 2.25 miles broad and covers an area of about 7.5 sq. miles. There are better floating gardens here than in Dal Lake.

Before wheeled traffic came into being the pilgrims to the spring went on foot or by boat. The religious-minded preferred the journey on foot. From Srinagar they either went to Sowura Ghat or to the Gron Kadal where they engaged boat and crossing the Anchar Lake landed at Gadur. From here they walked through rice fields in about 4 or 5 hours arrived at Tulamulla.

Others engaging a doonga or a house-boat in Srinagar in the Vetasta (Jhelum) reach Shadipor,where the confluence of the Sind and Vetasta takes place. This place is also called Prayag and is sacred to the Hindus. From here boat is towed up the canal along the delightful turfed banks and finally anchored at the island. The journey covers about 8 or 9 hours.

Now lorries and cars run to the place and cover a distance of 14 miles in about 40 minutes. The pilgrim, no doubt saves much of his time in this way but he actually wraps his vacation in a wet blanket and has, to his credit merely the satisfaction that he has visited the place.

Vetsar Nag

On the way to Ganderbal there is a spring called Vetsar Nag which is 8 kms. from Srinagar. It is said , that in the olden days the new calendar used to be discussed here before it came into circulation. Vetsar means discussion. The pilgrimage to this place takes place on the Amavasa (last day of dark fortnight) of Chet. This spring is also, called Ailapator after the high-altitude lake of Gulmarg. The spring was once cleansed. In the centre of the spring there is a stone cylinder about 3 ft. high on which rests a stone Shivlingam. The water gushes out from the north-eastern and north-western corners and fills the spring.

Ganderbal

Ganderbal is the terminus of the boat journey. Its lovely turfed banks, shady chinars, the graceful flow of the Sindh, the delightful mountain slopes in the distance and the refreshing breeze which blows from the pine-clad mountain slopes of the upper Sindh Valley are very soothing to the wearied body and mind. It lies at the base of the Sindh Valley and was originally called Doderhom. It is the official headquarters of the Sindh Valley and has a regular bazaar, a post office, a veterinary hospital and a hospital for men and a Government Higher Secondary Schools for Boys and Girls. Some visitors engage houseboats and spend some time under shady chinars. There are some interesting spots round about the place which can be easily visited from here. A morning walk of about 3 miles will take a person to the Khir Bhawani spring. About 6 miles from here lies the famous Manasbal lake. From Vayil bridge about 2.5 miles from here a glorious view of the Sindh Valley flanked by verdant mountain slopes can be had.

At Ganderbal there is an electric power-house which supplies light to Srinagar city and adds to the present electric supply of the valley.

Historical Reference

Mention of this place is made in the last chapter of the Ragyna Pradurbhava which is a section of the Bringish Samhita. It is stated there that during the early period of the Epic Age, King Ravana ruled Lanka, an island to the south of India. It was then a flourishing country having sixteen hundred towns. This island is beautifully described in the Ramayana.

King Ravana in order to gain temporal power and glory worshipped goddess Parvati (Shama) who manifested herself to him in all her nine aspects. For sometime he remained sober-minded and worshipped the goddess with all all devotion.

When Shri Rama King of Ajoydiya invaded Lanka and the generals of his army Sugrev and Hunuman killed King Rhvana's brother Kumbakaruna and his son Megnad, his wife Mandudhari entreated him to make peace with Shri Rama. He was kindled with rage and tried to invoke the blessing of the goddess by offering her various kinds of sacrifices. Thereupon the goddess, wrathful at Ravana's misdeeds, cursed in and ordered Hunumhn to take her to Sati Sar (Kashmir) on her vehicle along with 360 Nags. Hunuman selected a spot in the northern side of the valley within the space surrounded by the villages of Borus (Bhawanish), Ahatung (Tungish), Ladwun (Labdawan), Wokur (Bhageh). Here he installed the goddess with all her satellites. She was called Khirbhawani or Raji Ragyni, exclusively preferring milk, sugar, rice and all vegetarian forms of offerings. To quote from Stein's translation of Kalhana's Rajatarangini: " When he (Jayapida) was appropriating (the land of) Tulamulya, he heard, while on the bank of the Candrabhaga, that a hundred Brahmans less one had sought death in the water of that (stream)." .........

Tulamulya is undoubtedly the present village, of Tulamul, situated 74 deg 48' long. 34 deg 13' lat. among the marshes through which the Sind River passes before joining the Vitasta. The large spring of Tulmul is sacred as the habitation of Maharajni, a form of Durga extensively worshipped among the Brahman population of Kashmir, and is accordingly to this day the object of frequent and popular pilgrimages. The name is written as Tulamulaka in Fourth Chron. 527, 531 and in Rajnipradurbhavamah.

In the midst of the wide water-logged tract of the Sind Delta we find the ancient Tirtha of Tu-lamu-lya at the village now know as Tulmul, situated 74 deg 48' long- 34 deg 13' lat. The Purohita corporation of Tulamulya is represented as a well-to-do and influential body already under King Jaydpida. (A.D. 85 and 88) The large spring of Tulamulya is sacred to Maharajni, a form of Durga, and is still held in great veneration the Brahman population of Srinagar. It is supposed to exhibit from time to time miraculous changes in the colour of its water, which are ascribed to the manifestation of the goddess. Owing to its convenient position the Tirtha attracts large numbers of pilgrims from the capital. Abu-I-Fazal notices the place and its marshy surroundings. About two and a half miles to the east of Tulamul lies the village of Dudrhom on the main branch of the Sind which have become first navigable. It is repeatedly referred to by Srivara under its old name of Dugdhasrama.

"The worship of the 'Mothers', which is identical with that of the Saktis, plays a great part in the Tantra ritual flourishing in Kashmir from ancient times.

It is said that Ravana's father Pulasti Reshi lived in Kashmir.

The land was all swampy, made as it were of floating gardens, it was light and bumpy, hence it was called Toola Mulla, from two Sanskrit words. 'Tool' meaning 'cotton' and 'Mulla' eaning 'value ', 'worth'.

A person aged about 90 (in 1948) told me that he knew the time when reeds were placed alon be swampy foot-path from Hur Mengin Wor to enable the pilgrims to walk to the island.

(Hur Mengan was a Spirit who sometimes possessed the bodies of the persons travelling during the night and he was a dread to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.)

After some time a road was constructed by Mahant Dharm Dass. Shah Radha Krishen, a merchant, paved the edge of the spring with Baramulla stones and Dewan Narsingh Dayal built the big dharmshala on the north of the spring during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. Later on, during recent times the road was metalled (macadamised) and made fit for wheeled traffic. The old dharmshala has been dismantled, new ones erected and the place made more beautiful.

There is a legend that a long time ago the goddess appeared to Pandit Govind Joo Gadru who arranged to go in a boat from Sowura Ghat to the swampy side of the Anchar Lake. He took with him a number of earthen vessels full of milk and when he found the spring, he poured milk into it.

The following is another version of the process which is said to have brought the spring to light.

A pious Brahman Krishna Pandit saw a vision in which he was informed by a Deva (an angel) that the spring of Khir Bhawani lay among the swamps of Tulamulla.

'How shall I be able to find out the spring?' He asked.

'Engage a boat as far as Shadipor, and from there a serpent will guide you. When you will reach near the spring, the serpent will jump into it. That is the spring ', was the reply.

He did as he was told, engaged a boat and came as far as Shadipor.

Khirbhawani

A snake was seen swimming over the water of the swamps. The boat followed the snake, which halted at a particular place where Shri Krishna Pandit fixed a long stick to indicate the position of the holy spot. After the snake moved in an oddly rectangular direction, the space thus covered by it was demarcated with the fixation of sticks over the marshy area. Thus was the divine spring discovered.

The swampy area around the spring was led up with dry earth carried in boats for this purpose. Shri Krishna Pandit along with other persons and devotees from Srinagar the worship of the goddess. At the conclusion of the puja, it is said that a piece of birch bark was seen floating over the water of the spring. Shri Krishna Pandit took it up and found the sloka written on it. The verse described the divine form of the goddess Ragni.

<verses>

Translation
I make obeisance to that one goddess who, having taken the position of the Supreme God is the Queen in reality, whose form is made of light and is adorned by (the lustre of) twelve suns, who cannot be observed through senses, who is seated on a throne and is wrapped with serpents.

He composed a poem of as many stanzas as there were letters in the sloka and this poem is still extant. He would pay a visit to the spring on every 8th day of the bright fortnight as long as he lived.

Gradually, this place became known all over Kashmir and people began to gather there to worship, while the people round the place sold milk, flowers and fuel to the pilgrims which gives them a good business.

Before we enter on the main island, we see two important places, one is the Ziarat of Mir Baba Haider, a Muslim saint and the other is the Samad of Lobu Shah who had miraculous powers and lived some 150 years ago.

Mention has been made in the Rajatarangani of Raja Jiyapida (A.D. 850-88) confiscating the lands of the Brahmans of Tulamulla. The Brahmins troubled by the misdeeds of the Raja went in a body to see him. They were detained by the courtiers. Thereupon, they raised a hue and cry and were called by the Raja. They attacked him vehemently and one of them cursed him with the result that there and then a golden rod from the royal canopy fell on the Raja, causing him a wound which proved incurable and brought about his death.

Spring

The spring is situated in the centre of the island round which the Gangkhai a canal from Sind makes a circuit. It is said that this spring is surrounded by 360 springs. Most of hese have fallen into oblivion and are covered ith rushes and silted up.

Before the main spring came to be known the goddess was worshipped at Solur where under a chinar tree a spring still exists. This spot is called Devot Wol boin. One mile north-east of this island near Lodwan village is Ganesh Bal or Vodjen where Ganesh is worshipped. The other springs which are still known are: Ashta Rudhar to the south, Tsandar Nag to the south-east. Machi Nag, Naga Rad, Gokhin Nag are to the east.

The main spring dedicated to Goddess Khir Bhawani or Ragyni has an irregular septagonal shape with apex called PAD (feet) to the east. The northern and southern sides are longer than western side which is called SHER (head).

In the centre is an islet on which a temple have existed once. There also grew a mulberry tree here. Now there is a small marble temple which was built by His late Highness the Maharaja Partap Singh. The small flags and miniature silver umbrellas presented to the goddess by the votaries are placed in the temple.

Here is reproduced an extract from "Talks with Swami Vivekananda" about the Holy Spring.

"Then Swamiji said, on the way back, he returned to Srinagar by the common route by which the pilgrims return. A few days after returning to Srinagar he went to visit Kshir Bhavani Devi and staying there for seven day worshipped the Devi and made Homa to Her with offerings of Kshir (condensed milk). Every day he used to worship the Devi with a maund of Khir as offering. One day, while worshipping the thought arose in Swamiji's mind: " Mother Bhavani has been manifesting Her Presence here for untold years. The Mohammedans came and destroyed Her temple, yet the people of the place did nothing to protect Her. Alas, if were then living, I could never have borne it silently. " When, thinking in this strain, his mind was much oppressed with sorrow an anguish, he distinctly heard the voice of the Mother saying: " It was according to desire that the Mohammedans destroyed the temple. It is My desire that I should live in dilapidated temple, otherwise, can I not immediately erect a seven-storied temple of gold here if I like ? What can you do? Shall I protect you or shall you protect me! " Swamiji said: "Since hearing that Divine Voice, I cherish no more plans. The idea of building Maths etc. I have given up; as Mother wills, so it will be." disciple speechless with wonder began to think " Did he not one day tell me that whatever saw and heard was but the echo of the Atma within me, that there was nothing outside? " and fearlessly spoke it out also -" Sir, you used to say that Divine Voices are the echo of our inward thoughts and feelings ". Swamiji gravely said: " Whether it be internal or external, if you actually hear with your ears such a disembodied voice, as I have done, can you deny it and call it false? Divine Voices are actually heard, just as you and I are talking."

The disciple without controverting accepted Swamiji's words, for his words always carried conviction.

Natural Phenomenon

Such a mysterious spring is found nowhere in India. The water of the spring changes its colour from time to time. I have observed and found it rosy red, faint rosy, light green, lemon yellow, milky white and grey white on various occasions. There is no special time or definite period for this change of colour. Any shade of black colour is supposed to be inauspicious.

I have seen bubbles rising out of the water of the spring and, forming three lines round the islet not regularly complete, but a part here and a part there though in perfect order. These lines are said to be the Dwara of the Chakra.

Chakra or Yantra of Rajni Devi (Tulamulla)

What is a Chakra? It is a mystic symbol. Every goddess has her own Chakra. The Chakra of Kshir Bhavani consists of seven parts enclosed one within the other. The Chakra popularly known as Yantra embodies Mother Goddess with Her Shakties.

The people well-versed in various forms Tantric cult take this mystic symbol to represent the inward psychic centres of the body and concentrating on it under proper guidance a supposed to acquire various superphysical powers.

Tantrikism is the content of the Vedas a Agams and differs from one place to another challenging many syntheses. This is found amply in Agams in different system as invocations female deities identical with Shakties. A speci Power of goddess representing it is the time-honoured-form of worship. The worship offers a mystic blend of Brahmanical and Buddhi practices.

The Tantrikism has much influenced countries, all ages, all places and all systems philosophic thoughts and all ritualistic practic Innumerable are the systems of Tantric worsh called by different names, forms and systems. It has its own mine of literature with its celebrated authors. A few of them are enumerated below:

Agama Tantrikism
Yamala Tantrikism
Samyachara Tantrikism
Vajrayana Tantrikism
Kapalika Tantrikism
Saiva Tantrikism
Siddha Tantrikism

Like all other metaphysical reorientations Tantrikism is a way of worship. Tantrik symbolism and rituals elevate a man to a state of bliss leading to salvation. The Tantrik psycho-physical discipline formulates the diagram known Chakra, Yantra and Yoga.

Rajni Devi (Kshir Bhavani Devi) has Her prescribed diagram for worship in Tantra Shastra which is reproduced here. It embodies the system as right-handed Tantrikism. The following is the system of Rajni Devi's diagram (Chakra) with her Shaktis as borne by the descriptions in the relative manuscripts and available literature on the subject.

Puja of the Devi or Worship of Goddess Rajnidevi

Dwara (Gate) (Outer line) (Siddhis)
1. Animah Siddhi Namah
2. Mahima Siddhi Namah
3. Lagima Siddhi Namah
4. Eshata Siddhi Namah

Middle Line (Mudra)
1. Sarva Sankhobini Mudrayay Namah,
2. Sarva Vidrawani Mudrayay Namah
3. Sarva Karshani Mudrayay Namah Mudra
4. Sarva Vashankari Mudrayay Namah

Innermost line (Shaktis)
1. Brahmi Shakty Namah
2. Maheshwari Shakty Namah
3. Kumari Shakty Namah
4. Vaishnavi Shakty Namah

Ashta Dal (Adhishtratri Devis)
1. Brahmey Namah
2. Maheshwaryay Namah
3. Kumarey Namah
4. Vaishnavey Namah
5. Varahey Namah
6. Narsimhey Namah
7. Indriyay Namah
8. Chamundey Namah

Shath Kon
1. Saraswatyay Namah
2. Lakshmeyay Namah
3. Ashta Dash-Bojayay Namah
4. Ashta Bojayay Namah
5. Dashannayay Namah
6. Gowriyay Namah

Trikon
1. Maha Kaliyay Namah
2. Maha Saraswatyay Namah
3. Maha Lakshmeyay Namah

Bindu (The Point)
Shree Mah Rajniyay Namah
We meditate upon Shri Maha Rajni
"The Great Empress"
Who is the embodiment of peace and
Who is the giver of wealth that is sought

The people living round the island whether Hindus or Mohammedans have a great veneration for the goddess. They never eat meat when they have to go over there. They go there with their bodies and clothes washed.

1. Bindhu A point.
2. Trikon (3 angled) A triangle with its apex downwards.
3. Shatkon (6 angled) Two triangles inverted. The vertices of the one resting on the side of the other.
4. Valai  A circle.
5. Ashta Dal  Eight lotus leaves resting on the circle.
6. Tri Valai  Three circles.
7. Dwar (gate) Three lines with half triangles in the middle, enclosing all other parts and completing the Chakra.

According to a Sanskrit stanza by an unknown author, the discovery of the spring was made on Ashara Sapthami*, seventh day of bright fortnight in June-July, but pilgrims from all parts of Kashmir come here on every eighth day (Ashtami) of the bright fortnight of every lunar month, while the chief festival is held on Zetha Ashtami (about May). They light candles made from ghee (clarified butter), and bum dhup (incense), to the accompaniment of the music of ringing of bells played by the priest. The offering is Khir (preparation of rice in milk and sugar), with sometimes admixture of ghee, raisins, dates, coconuts, and pieces of sugar candy in odd numbers. The recitation of Sanskrit hymns from scriptures along with offerings of flowers and rice in spring completes a form of worship. A portion of these offerings is distributed among relatives and friends.

At dusk, hundreds of people assemble round the spring with candles waving. The head priest also waves a candle, while the other priests blow conch shells and horns, beat timbrels, ring bells, and wave morechells (peacock's tail feathers). All pilgrims recite hymns, producing a singular mixture of sounds, and creating a religious atmosphere diffusing spiritual vibrations everywhere. The whole congregation standing in a devotional mood concentrates on the image of the goddess and seeks to merge itself in the Primordial Energy pervading the universe. I think, this united form of worship more impressive if some set verses were selected and recited toether than individual for sometime. After this had been done every person could follow his own way according to his-own peculiar bent of mind.

Every Kashmiri Hindu has his own guardian goddess. When a child is born to him or when his son is married, he has to take him to his guardian goddess for thankoffering. Khir Bhawani is, the guardian goddess of the majority of the Kashmiri Brahmans.

(* On this day the Brahmans of the Valley draw figures of the sun in all seven colours on the floors, kitchens, compounds of their houses. This is probably done t6 show that the sun occupies its highest position in the heavens on this day.)

The Cleansing of Khirbhawani Spring

The spring has been cleansed twice within living memory and some of the idols (murties) taken out of it, have been placed in the temple.

Once again the Khirbhawini Spring was cleansed. The operation which began on the 30th of January 1970 lasted till July 10, 1970. An electric pump conducted these operations round the clock. The mire and sediment which lay at the bottom were removed. A large quantity of water flowed out making the spring fresh and sparkling. As a result of this operation, the spring bubbled out in several directions. In the middle of the spring, milky water flowed out. While the mud and mire were being removed several golden ornaments and silver pieces offered by the devotees from time to time were collected, from the bottom of the spring. The spring was thus cleansed for the fourth time.

Improvement of the Shrine

The holy Khir Bhawani Shrine at Tulamulla (Ganderbal) besides invested with sacred associations since very ancient times is also a place of great tourist interest. Situated as it is, in the peaceful surroundings of bountiful nature, caters to the requirements of devotees seeking spiritual peace and calm as also those fond of sight seeing. In the recent years the Dharmarth Trust of the State has done a good job in improving the surroundings of the shrine and also has provided comfortable accommodation for devotees and yatries-cum-tourists who come every year in millions to worship at the shrine of all India fame.

Formerly the shrine was confined to about 50 kanals of land and the influx of people on festival days was so huge that they could not be accommodated within this limited space. The Dharmarth Trust, under whose care the shrine is, felt the need for acquiring more land for the shrine in view of the difficulty faced by the devotees on the festival days. Therefore, more land was acquired and the area extended. Dharamshalas have been constructed for conveniently performing Puja during rains and in the scorching heat of the sun. A Puja Mandap of 34' x 17' size in front of the sacred Kund has been constructed at a cost of Rs. 52,000. Hawan Sheds have been constructed to cater to the needs of the public for performing Yagna. A 3 H.P. Motor has been purchased for bailing out water from the sacred Kund which is generally cleaned after 2-3 years, and a pump shed constructed for the purpose.

For beautification of the shrine, marble walling has been raised on all the all sides of the Kund which has been enclosed by an iron railing. Stone platforms around the chinar trees have been built up. Electric arrangements have been very much improved and street lights provided.

With the addition of 18 kanals of land outside the shrine premises a main gate of good design has been constructed at a cost of Rs 73,000. On the whole the Trust has been doing very good constructive work in respect of providing facilities to devotees-cum-tourists who come to worship the shrine from all over the country though there is much room for improvement still.

 

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