Prof (Dr) P K Koul
Human feet are the symbols of human movement, of life, advancement from the hoary past to the wonderful present, achievements, progress and learning. We try to follow the lifestyle and achievements of those greatmen who had lived ahead of us. We try to copy them and get inspiration from their life style.
A sence of respect and admiration is generated in our mind which makes us to bow before them. All greatmen, the world over, have struggled hard, in their life times, to follow the path of progress, goodness and humanity. We follow them on their path and foot prints to acquire similar results that they had achieved. And thus, foot prints, the symbols of one’s journey and progress of a celebrity become the objects of respect and reverence for others. Lord Rama’s younger brother, Bharat carried Ramas wooden sleepers (Charan Paduka) on his head, placed them on the throne of Ayodhya and ruled in his name for 14 years. Such is the respect for those foot prints in the common man, for the greatness of the great souls. The reasons for this devotion of people for footprints is thus simple to understand.
The journey of life, like the journey to a station or destination has always been covered on foot and therefore, glorified, praised and symbolised with life. There is hardly any life without movement, without journey or foot. All the greatman have worked for the goodness of humanity, and therefore their life journey symbols, their footprints have also been compared and symbolised with the goodness, beauty, charm and fragrance that of a flower, especially of Lotus. In Indian literature and carvings, we find extensive use of this comparison of feet of greatmen with Lotus flower, as in Padkamal, Charan Kamal, Pad Pankaj Padambuj etc mentioned in Puranic literature, devotional prayers, rock and slab carvings, care roofings, temple floorings at various religious or historic places and hermitages. These can be seen throughout Indian subcontinent, right from ancient times to the present day and includes foot print traditions of Jains, Buddhists, Shavites, Vaishanavites and Shakti traditions, as also of smaller local or regional deities.
In Indian tradition, the reverence to and worship of footprints, goes back to much earlier times than Christian era (B.C) We have the carved footprint marks on slabs and rocks, at various places in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Lord Buddha’s footprints are worshiped in ceylon monastry, (Perhaps Anuradhapuram), Nagarajun Konda Monastry, and in Bihar and many other places of Buddhist World. In Indian devotional and Bhakti literature, pertaining to Lord Rama and Krishana and also in Kashmiri Shakti worship (Sharika, Durga, Ragnaya etc) We find extensive foot worship in literature (Sanskrit and Kashmiri) in the words as Padambuj, Pad Kamal, Padpankaj etc etc.
In Jammu region also we find extensive presence of carved footprints of gods and godly persons, saint, hermits, historic identities, local deities, goddesses, throughout the region.
The ancient most and historic footprint, of one, literate shephard (Gop Pasha) is found from the ancient cave temple (Buddhist) of Gupt Ganga on the bank of river Neeru, in Bhadarwah. This carved footprint on the cave roof, along with a carved cisterm on the floor, also carries a few letters in Brahmi script on the roof top, which reads “Gop Pash Dev Dham Yam Ketu’’ indicating thereby the visited place, was a religious place as well as a crematory, which it is even today after some 1500 years. The Brahmi script of the site is of 4th-5th century A.D, and thus this carved footprint in Jammu region is perhaps the oldest one found in the region.
Next mention can be made of the ancient region of Sudhmahadev, from where footprint marks have been reported from some places, Buddi Sudhi etc Sudh Mahadev Shrine in Chenani tehsil is an ancient as Gupt Ganga of Bhadarwah, of 4th-5th century A.D, with an eight mettled alloy (Ashat Dhatu) Trishul (Trident), carrying carving in Brahmi letters of 4th, 5th century AD. The trident is said to have been offered by a king of Padamavati (Gwalior) indicative of the sacredness of the place as Shivas abode as early as 4th/5th century AD and the offering was made by a King (Vibhu Nag) from the Nav Nag dynasty, son of Gampati Nag various foot prints reported from this ancient sacred Tirtha have not been investigated and evaluated so far. Sudh Mahadev region in ancient times had been considered a sacred Shavite pilgrimage and religious site, on account of many religious traditions, associated with this place, and its name associated with Shiva legends, and local place names, i.e Rudra Dhar, Shiv Garh, Sudh Mahadev, Gauri Kund Kailash, as also a very long tradition of Shaivite peers, jogis whose samadhis can be seen at the sites of Veni Sangam, Gauri Kund and Sudh Mahadev Shrine. The footprints from this region need to be properly evaluated.
Next comes the footprints relics, available from the rich archaeological site of Devika stream, bowlis, temple site near Udhampur town itself. Here we come across a finely carved footprint slab of some important celebrity of his times un-identified so far. Devika near Udhampur town is an important site of rich antiquity of Jammu of an unspecified period, and has many statues and icons of traditional and local deities which need technical and specialised attention and protection. But the negative side of the preservation effort is that some very enthusiatic persons with, political, religious and casteist affiliation do a great harm to this great regional heritage by interfering with it, in their own ignorant and non technical way, by painting and cementing them and placing them at the wrong places or in an unscientific way.
Another carved footprint slab has recently been acquired by State Archives Department Jammu from somewhere in Pancheri block of Udhampur Distt close to historic Krimchi temple site, perhaps not evaluted and identified so far but in a very good condition.
These few but very important foot prints carvings of the region are indicative of a great living tradition of respect and reverence of the common folk for the enlightened elders, religious and saintly people, and others who always, in their own way or capacity tried to help the people in need or in difficulty of pain.
Prof (Dr) P K Koul