Land of beautiful Bowlis

Ashok Sharma
The city of Udhampur-named after the Dogra prince Udham Singh, has been gifted with many rich natural resources. There are majestics now clad mountains, beautiful and mighty murmuring rivers having crystal clearwater, lush green and vast meadows, and big fertile fields. But the most beautiful of all these divine bounty to the land of Udhampur are the bubbling natural springs of water, called Bowlis in the Dogri language. These gurgling springs have traditionally been used as the main sources of water by people since times immemorial. But it was probably during the Dogra rule that these beautiful springs were developed into Baulis to enable the people of the neighboring villages to use them as a source of water on the one hand and provide the tired travellers and theRoyal entourage to take rest under the cool shade of the trees Peepalplanted there. There are a number of Bowlies in Udhampur which are known for their pure and odour less water. Some of them located in the city and surrounding areas have gained more prominence than the others. For instance, the ‘Saakan Bawli’ near the Railway Station, Udhampur, attracts a large number of people from the adjoining villages as well as Udhampur city.
The water of this spring is digestive, pure and free from any odour. There is also a temple and a big Peepal tree under the shade of which people take rest, especially during summer. There is cluster of Bowlis called ‘Billan Bowli’ located in Sial Sallan village. People visit this Bowli in large number and offer prayers in the temple built there.SomeoftheseBowlis are used for the purpose bathing and washing clothes. The ‘SallanBauli’ in Barrola has a cluster of many Bowlis which have a lot of water which is used for drinking and irrigation of the adjoining villages. The’ Rani’s Bowli’ in the village of Salmerhi has a unique design and architecture. It is very deep and the water of this Bowli is not used for drinking as this Bowli, being very deep is very difficult to clean. There is also an inscription on this Bowli, which probably dates back to the early Dogra Rule of the nineteenth century.There are a number of Bowlis in Mela Bagh about a dozen of which are used for the purpose of drinking,washing clothes and irrigating the adjoining areas.
Located in the midst of the fruit trees of mango, litchi, guava, papaya etc, these Bowlis give out a large amount of water. A number of Bowlis in Mela Bagh are also believed to be buried under the earth. The local people also perform rituals such as kharkas on these Bowlis by offering grains and pulses to Devtas and Gods after the harvest of every new crop.TheseBowlis have a special attraction in summer when the other sources of water in the adjoining villages dry up and water supply from the P H E Department also becomes erratic. People from as far as two kilometers throng these Bowlis in large number and also use the occasion to savour fresh and delicious mangoes by dipping and washing them in the cool water of these Bowlis. It is a festive and exuberant sight to watch people gossiping and playing cards on these Bowlis in summer in this fast life. Women carrying pitchers on their heads discuss routine household matters enroute the Bowlis.
There is also a big Bowli in the village of Chakrakwalan, called Kollar Bowli which is located amidst the tall mango trees. The water of this Bowli is used for drinking by the local people and the students of the schools near by schools. It is also used for the purposeof irrigating the adjoining fields. The local people also use these Bowlis for the observance of rites such as10th day of the deceased Hindus. Then, there are a number of Bowlis located on the banks of the holy rivulet Devika. The water of these Bowlis, notably of ‘Mangu Di ‘Bowli’ is used for drinking purposes by the people of Udhampur city and those living on the bank of Devika
These Bowlis are also used for ablutions before offering prayers in the nearby temples. Some of these bowlis are earmarked for bathing and washing clothes and alarge number of people also take bath in these Bowlis every day after performing the funeral rites of the dead. Every year a three day fair called ‘Baisakhi Fair’ is organized on the bank of Devika. This fair attracts lakhs of people from across the state as well as from the neighbouring states states. Yet another prominent Bowli in the out skirts Udhampuris the ‘Lound ana Bowli’ which has a religious and cultural significance. This spring has a large amount of water which is believed to cure skin diseases. People throng this Bowli especially on Sundays to have a Darshan of Baba Loundana after purifying themselves with a holy bath. It is also considered auspicious by many people to perform the Mundan ceremony of their sons on this Bowli.
Some people also organize short picnics and Bhandaras on this spring. The ‘Dallah Bowli’ located at the foot of the village of Gangeda is yet another Bowli at the foot of the picturs que Gangeda hills. It serves as a source of water for a large population of neighboring villages of Dallah, Ganeda, Gangeda etc. The people of this region also use the water of these Bowli for the purpose of bathing and washing clothes. The other important Bowlis of Udhampur are Sansoo Bowli, Rani’s Bowli at Dabreh, Cluster of Bowlis at Khambli (Pangara Jagir), Bartang, Padanoo, Jaganoo etc. The water of all this Bowlis is warm in winter and cool in summer.
These Bowlis are a part of our rich cultural and historical heritage. They speak a lot about the beliefs and art of the times gone by. The carving of Gods, Demigods, serpents` on the stones used on the Bowlis speaks volume of our religious beliefs of the old times.These Bowlis are also the site of gathering of people on special occasions such as Bhandaras, observance of the 10th day/kirya of the deceased Hindus. In rural areas people use the water of these Bowlis for cooking food in times of functions such as marriages, Mundan and observance of first/fourth death anniversary of the deceased Hindus. People also use the water of these Bowlis for circumambulation of the Peepal tree which is generally planted near the Baulis. In view of their historical and cultural importance, It is imperative that sincere efforts are taken by the Government, local bodies, Panchayats and the people at large to preserve these Bowlis. These prominent Bowlis need to be handed over to the Archaelogical Survey of India so that these monuments having exquisite sculpture and finest architecture are restored to their pristine beauty. As a large number of people use the water from these Bowlies for the purpose of drinking, it is imperative that water of these Bowlis is tested for impurities, if any, and the results are published in leading newspapers for the information of the people using the water of these Bowlis that they do not fall ill by consuming the pure and contaminated water.