Prof. (Dr) R D Gupta
Whenever we consider the three regions of the Jammu and Kashmir State, namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, what always comes to our mind is their cultural heritage. An old temple of the Goddess-Mata Mahakali in the Bahu Fort, situated on the left bank of the river Tawi, just opposite to the old Jammu city, is one of the glaring examples in this respect of Jammu Division.
Bahu Fort, infact, is one of the sacred places that is quite associated with revered person Raja Bahulochan brother of Jambulochan. Bahu Fort shrine is just akin to the Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi or like the Chichi Mata temple that falls under Samba District. Bahu Fort temple can also resembles Sukrala Mata temple that lies in the Kathua District.
Some of the historians, believe that Goddess Maha Kali’s temple was built on an elevated platform dated back to 3400 BC. This temple houses a black stone image of Sri Goddess or Mata Mahakali, which is popularly known as one of the oldest temples of India. It is believed that this black stone image of the Goddess Mahakali was transported from Ayodhya much earlier than this temple came to fore. The temple of “the Bawe Wali Mata’’ , is however, very small in which not more than a dozen people can be accommodated at a time.
Legends : Although there is not any well established fact with regard to construction of Sri Goddess Maha Kali’s temple inside the Bahu Fort yet a number of legends are available in this connection which are as follows :
Attributed to Bahu Lochan: It is believed that the temple of Goddess Maha Kali inside the Bahu Fort was constructed by the king Bahu Lochan during 8th century AD or during 14th century AD. Thus, according to a few historians Sri Mahakali Temple dates back to 3400 BC. And is regarded as one of the oldest temples in the country (India) together with the temple of the Goddess Mahamaya confined to the thick forest popularly known as Bahu Rakh, is now visited not only by the local pilgrims but also by a large number of the Vaishno Devi pilgrims during their return journey. As a matter of fact, it is trusted that at least seven generations back, Bahu Lochan’s predecessors migrated from Ayodhya (UP) and settled in submountain hills of Siwaliks in the later part of the Vedic period. The King Bahu Lochan was the elder son of the King Agni Garbh and the elder brother of Jambu Lochan. It is point to mention that the King Jambu Lochan was the man, who while hunting in the Jammu Rakh, saw a lion and goat together drinking water on the bank of the pond (Talab). This pond was believed occur near Ranbireshwar Temple Shalimar, Jammu. On this spectacle, he longed to have a place for human beings, which later on developed as Jambu or Jammu after Lochan’s name. The word Jambu was later on changed to Jammu, now Jammu old city. However, the name of Jammu cannot be over locked after the name of Jambant who used to reside in the cave (Pirkho) during Dwapar Yug along with his daughter.
The king Bahu Lochan used to rule over the “Duggar Sovereign (Dogra Desh)’’ falling between the rivers of the Ravi and the Chenab and built a defensive fort at the bank of the river Tawi (Surya Putri-Daughter of the Sun), known as Bahu Fort. His capital was at Babpur till the 9th century AD and is now called as Babbpur. Thus, the king Bahu Lochan is considered to be the “Architect of Bahu Fort as well as Bahu town and Goddess Mahakali’s temple inside the Bahu Fort’’.
Bringing and installation of Idol : There are two views with regard to bringing of Idol (Murti) for installing inside the Bahu Fort Temple. Firstly, the Bahu Fort Temple that houses a black stone (Idol) image of the Goddess Mahakali was transported from Ayodhya much earlier than this temple came to fore. It is also believed that the idol of the Goddess Mahakali was brought from Calcutta (Now Kolkata) capital of West Bengal, where the temple of Goddess Mahakali exists and a large number of people come daily to worship her. Thus, Bawe-Wali-Mata is also known as “Maha Kali Kalkate Wali’. Although this temple is believed to be very old yet very old yet the temple appears modern. In the past, animal (Goat) sacrifice was practised at this temple, but now this practice stands stopped. These days, a priest performs a few rites uttering a few religious hymns and sprinkles holy water over the goat and then lets it to go free.
Attack of Amir Timur : Another legend stands that towards the end of medieval period (1398-1399 AD) when Bahu town was attacked by Amir Timur. Buildings of town were destroyed badly and many of them including Maha Kali’s temple were set on fire. The Mahamaya temple which housed prestigious educational institution could never be saved. Bahu township and Bahu Fort were also damaged badly during 1545 AD when these were captured by Salim Suri. Afterwards, the township fell under the control of Mughals and began developing though in isolation. After Mughals, it remained under Sikh Ruler, who had established the hold over the whole of the Punjab during the beginning of 19th century. It however, remained neglected and was installed only when Sri Gulab Singh became as Raja of Jammu. The destroyed Bahu Fort was reconstructed during early 19th century i.e between 1822 to 1857. A stone idol of Sri Maha Kali was also installed in the old temple of Bahu Fort. This temple then became a worship place not only for the people of Bahu but also for those of Jammu as well as Punjab.
Bagh-E-Bahu : Although Jammu city cannot boast of having the best scenic beauty in the country yet this city possesses a number of scenic spots that always attract and will allure the tourist. The Bagh-E-Bahu in Jammu city is one such place i.e garden that does not only boast of lavish greenery but also allows the people (both local and tourists) to have a sneak view of the Jammu city. The visiting tourists cannot see merely the garden but they can see, the flowing river Tawi – Surya Putri.
Celebration of Bahu Fort Fair : Bahu Fort Fair locally known as , “Bahu Mela’’ possesses a great religious as well as commercial significance. Every year, two such types of “Melas’’ are held, one in the month of Chaitra-Baisakh (March-April) Navratras and the other in Aswayui (September- October) Navratras.
The word Navratra indicates a festival which is dedicated to worship the Goddess Durga.In Sanskrit the word, “Nava’’ refers to nine and “Ratra’’ denotes nights. Thus, Navaratra indicates nine nights. Each of these nine days as well as nights is dedicated to a particular Goddess or Reincarnation of the Goddess power.
“Bahu Mela’’, is one of the most popular festival in Jammu region. It is celebrated on the auspicious occasions of Durga Ashtmi and Ramnavmi. The festival is very colourful and the celebrations begin with people in large numbers visiting the Bahu Temple of Goddess Kali to seek divine blessings. One can see the large gathering in and around the famous Bahu Fort. There are all sorts of entertainmens and eatables for all age group (kids, young men and women, and old persons). For enjoyment, there are a number of temporary slides and turning Boards which are organized during the festival. For eating, there are a large number of stalls consisting of ice-creams, kulfi, malai-barfi, orange and sugar-cane juice, barfi-jalabi, aaloo-cholay, kachaloo etc.
It is worthwhile to mention that prior to construction of road to run vehicles from Jammu to Bahu Fort i.e before 1967-1968, devotees of Goddess Mahakali used to come either through Tawi bridge and after following the path made on the bank of the river Tawi or through boats which used to be at the bank of the river Tawi opposite to Pacci Dhakki and other opposite to Pir Kho or to Graveyard.
The villagers first came to Jammu city either on foot or on Tangas and after reaching Jammu city, they followed the routes either via boats or the path as stated above. These people always started their journey when they listened the voice of canon fire from this Fort which fired at 4 AM and then after every 4 hours i.e 6 times a day i.e 24 hours. This phenomenon remained upto 1948 and, thereafter, only once a canon fire was at 12.00 AM. This practice continued even up to 1955-1956. People of Jammu city also used to come via boats.
Construction of Temporary Bridge – It is also a point to mention that during the Navratra instead of floating or swimming the boats the temporary bridge were used to build. Such bridges were mostly built between the cremation ground and graveyard.
Protection of People of Jammu : Devotees always believe that Bawe-Wali-Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu. It is because of Goddess Maha Kali always protects the people of Jammu city from any mishaps and evil spirits. It is believed that whenever Air Force personnel of Pakistan tried to destroy Tawi Bridge during the year 1965, India- Pakistan War, they became blind and as such could not succeed in their objective.
(The author is former Associate Dean-cum Chief Scientist KVK, SKUAST -J)
Prof. (Dr) R D Gupta