Dr. R K Gupta
Ramkote was once known as the town of temples The place is about 85 Kms from Jammu well connected by road through Mansar, Suriansar, and Dayalachack. From Udhampur, it is about 55 Kms on the Dhar Road while the distance from Kathua is near 50 Kms via Dayalachak Road. The old name of this town was Mankote, a small state established by Raja Manak Dev, a contemporary of Raja Narsingh Dev of Jammu (1272-1314 AD). The oldest temple that existed in this state was located at village Khoon a village known for historic reference in Mahabharata. Nevertheless, when the state was extended up to Bhabore and Suriansar, it encompassed the oldest Bhabore temples as well. Later the temples were also built at Mansar, Badi Garh, Thial, Gari Tharakalal and Mastgarh fort Rajwalta. A brief account of the historical importance of these temples is presented in this article based on the inputs by the village legends like Jiwa Nand Deonia, Master Durga Dass and Darshan Khajuria a member of Raj purohit family of Ramkote, historical records and famous Dogra history books like Taarihke-Dogra Desh and Gulabnama. In the capital town, the oldest temple that still exists are Yogdhian temple, Shiva temple, Mahankali temple, , Murali Manohar and Radha Krishan temple while the oldest shiva temple that was constructed by Raja Manak Dev before he established the capital city of Mankote (Ramkote) is now completely destroyed, Another Mahankali temple is now fortunately rebuilt by Mankotia clan of Rajputs. Some of historic temple-like Murali Manhor was shifted from Mankotia mahal to the present location near Shiv Nandigan mandir. Fortunately, another Mathura style temple, Radha Krishna is still in good shape and is probably about three hundred and fifty years old. The historical details of these temples are detailed in this article.
This is the oldest temple situated on the bank of a pond in Ramkot also known as Shri Jagannath temple. It is difficult to estimate the exact date of its establishment as it has been reconstructed many a time. However, most of the residents opined that it was constructed before this town became the capital city of Mankote state Probably around 12th -13th century. It is orally translated from the forefathers of residents of Ramkote that a shepherd (gaddi) was carrying Sri Jagannath idol from its native place i.e Badri Nath to establish it at his native place. He carried the idol of Sri Jagannath Ji on his back. When he got tired he sat in the shadow of a Ber tree on the bank of a natural pond at that time. He rested there for some time and put the idol of Sri Jagannath Ji on a stone. After some time he got ready to move for his destination. He tried to put the idol on his back but he could not move the idol. He tried his best but could not do that. After that episode, the people gathered there and asked about the story. The shepherd told the whole episode. Then people suggested him to leave the idol there because the deity does not want to go from there and its idol of black stone was established with a small temple constructed by the public money. It is also believed that there is a blank place there in original Badri Nath JI temple from where the idol was taken off. As the condition of the temple became dilapidated, it was reconstructed many times. For example, when this state came under Maharaja of Jammu, he donated 50000 Rupees to make a huge temple for Baba Yogdhian. Recently about ten years back, the priest of the temple Ved Parkash, with the collaboration of people of Ramkot, reconstructed the temple again. A fair is organized there every year on the occasion Rath Khada, a day in the solar calendar when day hours begin to increase. In the past the fair was very big but now it is small with the passage of time. But the resident of Ramkot who left the Ramkot due to their personal reason come every year to seek the blessing of the Baba Yogdhyan. The people living around this temple offer their first harvest to the idol and seek blessing before performing any ritual or function. A small Sheetla Mata idol is also worshipped by them.
When Raja Manak Dev founded the new town of Mankote around 14th century and built Kuldevi (Mahakali temple) inside Mankotia Raj palace. This temple was in good shape and spirit until Last Mankotia ruler Chatterpaul singh was defeated by Jamwals of Jammu and left to Himachal Pradesh in 1825. Recently Mankotias started to revamp the dismantled temples and rebuilt the Mahakali Temple wherein members of Mankotia clan has started organizing annual congregation of Biradari with effect from 2017. A huge number of people from Himachal, J&K, Delhi and Punjab participate in this gathering.
Murali Manohar temple
This temple is believed to be constructed around the start of 17th century by Raja Mahipat Dev who was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. Though The temple remained in good shape inside the shabby Raj Palace until 1851, it was shifted to a new place near Ramkote Talab. This temple is famous for the unique idol of Murali Manohar having black Diamond Eyes with the gold retina. Unfortunately, in 1851 one eye of this idol got stolen which forced the public to shift this temple from the barren fort to the village site.
Radha Krishan Temple
According to living legends of Ramkote, especially Jiwa Nand Deonia and Master Durga Dass, the temple was built by Mankotia Rajas but they could not be sure about the date it was constructed. However, looking through the archaeology and tracing the Mankot style of painting by the famous painter Meju, who worked at the court of Raja Mahipat Dev (r. 1660-90) of Mankot at the end of the seventeeth century, one portrait of a local ruler is still in display and can be accessed online https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/76077 which depicts Raja Mahipat worshipping Lord Krishna, at Mankot. He was the greatest devotee of lord krishna as evidenced by the paintings of Mankot style is still displayed in the British Museum of London. The notable pujaris of mandir were Krishna Pandit of Purmandal, Dina Nath and their offspring are presently served by Puran Panditji. A large number of devotee is perform Janamashtami puja in this temple with the display of Jhanki all over the town during the festival.
Narsinghdev temple (sandh): Narsingh dev is the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu to kill evil daanav and it took on the day of Rath Khada, it is the time of the year when day is smallest and the night is longest during the year. From the very next day, the day starts becoming longer and nights smaller. Hindu believe that Lord Vishnu moves this earth sitting on Rath but on this day he stopped this rath to come down to this planet to destroy the evil king Hirnakashyap. Since he was blessed with vardaan that he can neither be killed on day nor during the night, neither by a man nor by God, neither on the earth nor on the sky, so Lord Vishnu has to manifest time in the form of Rath khada, reincarnates Himself as Narsingh i.e head of lion and body of a man and killed him on his thigh. It is thought that this temple is an offshoot of Ghagwal Dham which is around 1700 years old. The pahadi people used to go to this temple for paying obeisance and Gand Mool puja while selling their items in the mela at Ghagwal. Later about 250 years ago some residents brought pindis from Ghagwal and established this temple along with a sandh which means dusk in Dogri where gentry of the town gathers there to have discussions; also a place for sadhus to stay. This was necessary as it was difficult to travel a long distance in older times especially with young babies for gand mool puja. Gand mool are six nakshatras, and if child happen to be born during these nakshatras gandmool puja was to be performed during 27th day of birth. Since. Rath khada is without nakshtra, the child is firstly gifted to Narsingh dev for blessing and then taken back. Actually, this mandir is located on the old bazaar but the Rath khada event was later shifted to place near old talab due to paucity of space and to ensure availability of water to devotees during the one-day mela organized at Ramkote. Notable pujaris of Narsinghdev temple were Mansu pujari (bhoti), Pandit Narsingh Dass father of Bhagat Ram. This mandir was recently rebuilt in 2020
This temple is also known as Chapatas Temple , a caste of Diwans of Ramkote state who served during Jamwal clan founded by Raja Dhruv Dev, a Jamwal ruler of Jammu during 1703 to 1870 by Moti Ram Dewan. The exact date of Mandir construction is not clear but it could be around 1850. This temple is again a shiva temple and it was used to be worshipped by large number of people because it was provided with bathrooms with taps around 1910 so that people can take bath and then perform puja. Also, there was a Dharamshala attached to it for enabling visitors to stay.
Shiva Nandigan temple
This temple was built by Raja Raghunath Singh of Ramkote around 1880-90. This temple is famous for Red coloured Shivling and a unique idol of the Nandigan. It is told that once this shivling erupted with a broken line in the middle. The Rajpujari was afraid of its consequences. Therefore, he performed a special puja and then pressed the ling which came to the original shape. A line is still traceable in this shivling. Another feature of this temple is black stone Idol of black Nandigan with a unique style of ears.
(The author is professor Entomology SKUAST-Jammu)
Dr. R K Gupta