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Tales and Legends of Aragam, Bandipore

By Upender Ambardar

The legends, fables, oral history accounts, tales of supernatural spirits, heresy stories and stories of tutelary forest spirits etc. are deeply rooted in the traditional historical and cultural opinions of a place or a region. They are passed on to the posterity mostly orally and form a connecting link between the past and the present times. They sometimes become narratives of a particular place and it's people. They may possess elements of divinity and supernaturalism, though they may not be evidenced by documentary and supporting facts. They usually have an element of mystery and may  possess a legendary pull and fascination for the native people.

In a plain speak, they can be said to be based on diverse emotional offshoots and legacy of centuries of faith and belief.

Aragam is an obscure picturesque village nestled in the lushness of the green foliage, being located about 50 kms from Srinagar on Srinagar-Bandipore route. Now a part of the newly carved-out Bandipore district, it is at a distance of five kms. from Bandipore town and about twenty five kms. from Sopore. Aragam mainly comprises of plain lands and is surrounded by wooded mountains on three sides, locally known as Animbar, Fakhnar and Lungmarg forests. The village derives it's name from a riverlet which flows through the village. Adjacent to the lungmarg forests is a vast stretch of imposing grazing ground called 'Ziasun'-which is a lively ambience of pastoral life. The surrounding mountains support majestic pine and Deodar forests, whileas wild walnuts, chinar, willow and popular trees can be spotted everywhere in the village lands. Paddy constitutes the main staple crop of the village though isolated pockets also support maize and oil seeds.

Aragam also has substantial stretches of orchards bearing apple, pears, cherry, walnuts, and almond fruit trees. The village has about 2,000 households, out of which about ten were Kashmiri Pandit families; the rest being Muslims. All the Kashmiri Pandit families prior to their forced migration in 1990 were agriculturists and orchardists with livestock forming an additional source of income. Aragam has a high literacy rate with most of the Pandit families serving in Government departments.

The family of late Sh. Tika Lal Tikoo, who was a head munshi in the forest department during Maharaja Hari Singh's time is a well-known family of the village. He had three sons, namely Sh Dwarika Nath Tikoo (agriculturist), Sh. Manmohan Tikoo, an ex-servicemen of the J&K light infantry and Sh Chaman Lal Tikoo, who retired from the BSF. The family of Sh. Divram Tikoo (agriculturist) likewise had three sons, namely Sh. Rattan Lal Tikoo (M.A, M.Ed) being first position holder in M.Ed) who served in the state education department, Sh Girdhari Lal Tikoo (a retired employee from the J&K Secretariat) and Sh. Kanya Lal Tikoo (M.Sc. Physics) a senior Lecturer in the State Education Department. Another Pandit family was that of Sh Gulab Ram Raina (agriculturist), who had two sons namely Sh. Somnath Raina ( a retired police inspector) and Sh. Manmohan Raina, who worked in the Block Development Office. The remaining Pandit families were those of Sh. Shamboo Nath Nehru, Sh. Madhusudhan Nehru and Sh. Shyam Lal Nehru, all of them being real brothers. Their children Sh. Bushan Lal Nehru and Sh. Ashok Nehru served in the state departments. In contrast to the Tikoo families, the Nehrus are not original residents of the village. They are said to have migrated to Aragam village about two centuries back from Naroo village in tehsil Kishtwar of Doda district. The village Aragam has been a witness to three plunders locally known as 'Baem Loot', 'Pathan Loot' and 'Qabali Loot'. The 'Baem' were ferocious war tribe men of the frontier areas, who are said to have resorted to loot and plunder hundreds of years back.

During the Qabali tribal raid in 1947, the Kashmiri Pandits of Aragam could save their skin as they fled to the adjacent mountains. But in the nearby Bandipore Kharpora town, nine members of a Kashmiri Pandit family of Sh. Sansar Chand Sadhu (Choudhari) were brutally murdered by the tribal men. They were lined-up in a row and subjected to a hail of bullets. Late Sansarchand nicknamed as Chowdhari was a well-known trader of his time, whose business interests extended upto Gilgit. He used to trade in 'Kishmish', dates,  hazzle and cashew-nuts business and in return would send Kashmiri spices to the frontier province.

As per the village lore of Aragam, about two and a half centuries back, a Kashmiri Pandit namely Sh. Gash Ram lived here and was endowed with spiritual powers. Besides being a known agriculturist, he had about nine hundred livestock. He had acrimonious relations with Akal Bhat, who in order to settle scores with him invited the professional tribal plunderers called 'Baem' to Aragam village.

To escape from the wrath, Gash Ram packed off his two daughters and two sons to the neighbouring place, while the remaining two sons along with their entire livestock took shelter in the Lungmarg forests. They hid themselves in the mountain cave, which even today is now as Gash Ram's hut. Gash Ram was caught and as punishment he was suspended from a tree by means of his skull hair-luft (chaog).

Astonishingly, he survived the near-death ordeal. Later-on he was handed-over to a executioner for being killed. He bribed him by giving an appreciable part of his cattle and in the bargain got a lease of life. Sh. Gash Ram had five sons--Sahaj Ram, Prakash Ram, Raja Ram, Siraj Ram and Balram. Among them late Sh. Raja Ram and Sh Sahaj Ram had saintly disposition and possessed exceptional spiritual powers. Both of them were ardent devotees of Sagar Raz Bhairav, the presiding deity of the village Aragam.

As per the village lore, both the brothers would enter into divine communion with Sagar Raz Bhairav. To ensure wrinkle free smoothness of the turban cloth, both Raj Ram and Sahaj Ram would hold it in their hands till Sagar Raz Bhairav tied turban on their head. On special occasions, they would keep offerings of food in a thali for Sagar Raz Bhairav. The thali would immediately vanish from sight and it had to be collected afterwards from the adjacent cremation ground obviously after Sagar Raz Bhairav had accepted the offering. The village cremation ground (Razbal) was about a hundred yards away from their residence. Adjacent to it was a piece of land where Raz-Kath the sacrificial religious offering of sheep was performed in honour of the presiding deity of the village. This piece of land is even now known as 'Rajun', signifying the ownership of it to the saint Raj Ram Tikoo. An attempt made sometime back by a native Mohammad Tilwani to cultivate it made him bedridden for a couple of months.

It was seen as an expression of displeasure and annoyance shown by Sagar Raz Bhairav. The latter regarded as the presiding deity of the villages of Aragam, Garoora, Brar, Chittibandi, Gund, Dechan, Tantraypora and vast area extending right upto the Wular Lake.

The Late Tika Lal Tikoo, a direct descendant of the said family was also a man of spiritual pursuits. Being a great devotee of the village Bhairav himself, he had immense faith and reverence for him. He was said to converse with the Bhairav in his dreamful state during night as strange and ununderstanble discourse could be heard near his room. The villagers believed that late Sh. Tika Lal would often be spotted in the village cremation ground (Razbal) in his astral form in the company of Sagar Raz Bhairav and his associates. It came to light when a Muslim lady inadvertently stepped inside the village cremation ground in search of her lost cow. She was bewildered to spot late Sh. Tika Lal sitting in the company of persons supporting white cloaks (pheran) and white turbans.

Due to his spiritual powers, late Sh. Tika Lal was quite popular in the village Aragam and its neighbourhood as a spiritual healer for he could successfully cure persons afflicted with various ailments like infectious boils, jaundice, headache, high fever and those possessed by evil spirits. Once a neighbour, Mr Ghulam Rasool Bhat's daughter Shama got possessed by an evil spirit. She was taken to a local Muslim priest for cure. After having failed to drive-off the evil spirit, the Peer suggested Shama to be taken to Tika Lal for cure. On hearing his name, the civil spirit is said to have communicated not to bother Sh. Tika Lal as he would leave Shama's body provided her father promised to make an offering of turmeric rice at the 'Razbal'. Sh. Tika Lal departed from this world in July 1990. The Pandit community of Aragam also became the victims of the militants' furry in 1990, when the wife of Sh. Kanya Lal Tikoo namely, Mrs Girja Tikoo (Babli) was killed by the militants. She was a laboratory assistant at Govt. High School, Trehgam. (Kupwara). At the height of the militancy she was abducted and subsequently killed when she had gone to collect her salary at Trehgam.

On her way back, she had to make a night halt at Tikker village in the house of her childhood female friend. Tikker was also incidentally her parental village. She was kidnapped by her friend's militant turned kins. She was taken to an adjacent electric saw-mill and mercilessly cut into two haves upto her chest by the electric-saw and her dead body was later-on thrown near a bridge in Tikker. This brutal slaying sent a chilling message to the Pandit families of Aragam and the adjoining villages, who were left with no alternative but to migrate from their ancestral homes in order to save their honour and skin.

The village Aragam has an ancient temple by the side of a holy spring, which has a Shivling and a stone idol of the Goddess Parvati. The village temple complex has plenty of willow and popular trees. Another village holy spring called 'Brari Maji Hund Nag' has one kanal of land attached to it, which abounds in majestic chinar trees. The villagers irrespective of their caste and creed would offer the milk of their first delivered cow to the holy spring out of reverence for it.

About four kms away from the village Aragam is a hillock known by the name of Shank Paul. A hermit of the same name is said to have done hard penance here hundreds of years back. It had a few pious springs in it's vicinity, some of which have now dried-up. The village lore says that any unholy misdeed committed in the area would result in instant rainfall in earlier times.

A well known Muslim saint and Sofi poet, Lala Sahib Aragami was a native of Aragam village. He lived upto the year 1984. In one of his Kashmiri couplets, the poet eulogises the virtues of a Kashmiri Pandit,

"tan darith.......tah zahnar".

In another Kashmiri verse, the said poet exhorts a Kashmiri Pandit girl to have unrestrained devotion for her God as her favourite deity i.e. enshrined in the stone idol itself,

"Bata Koori Vate Kanie Manj Chuai Dai,

Karee Pooja, Yinai Mushravak Lai."

Likewise being a devotee of the Goddess Parvati, he expresses his reverence for the Goddess in the following lines,

"Haran Doh Gaie Praran Yaeti Parvati Lo,

Sonihaer Paad Yaepaar Trav Lotie Parvati Lo".

A single Kashmiri Pandit family of Sh. Manmohan Nath Tikoo, an agriculturist and an ex-serviceman still resides in the village Aragam. One of his sons Sh. Rattan Lal Tikoo is presently working as a government teacher there, whileas the second one Sh. Rajender Tikoo who has done Diploma in weaving and tailoring is a migrant at Batal-Ballian, Udhampur Migrant Camp. The Isht Devi of Tikoo families of Aragam is Tripur Sundri and her birthday called 'Tikchoram' is celebrated on Magh Shukla Paksh Chiturthi by offering turmeric mixed rice and goat's liver (Tahar-Charbvan) to the family deity. The Kashmiri Pandits of Aragam and the adjoining villages used to celebrate all the religious festivals with the usual  religious fervour prior to their forced migration from Kashmir.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 
 

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