Chander M. Bhat
Sanyaasai Ha Gosaaney, Kuney Kaanay Yekh Na Vaaney,
VasakNag Tchu Yooni Kaanay, Kuney Kaanay Yekh Na Vaaney.
Krishan Joo Razdan
Vasuki is a Sanskrit word for a naga, one of the serpents of Hindu mythology. He is a great king of the naga and has a gem on his head. Manasa, another naga, is his sister. The famous legend in Hinduism in which Vasuki took part was the incident of Samudra Manthan, the churning of the ocean of milk. In the legend, Vasuki allowed devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons) to bind him to Mount Mandara (name of a mountain located on the highway between Bhagalpur and Dumka which was used as a churning rod to churn the ocean of milk) and use him as their churning rope to extract the ambrosia of immortality from the ocean of milk. In the Bhagvada Gita (Chapter 10, verse 28) Lord Krishana explains his omnipresence by proclaiming, “Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; among cows I am the Surbhi. Of causes of procreation I am Kamdeva and of serpents I am Vasuki.”
Vasak Nag also known as Sarsa is located in the erstwhile Devsar Pargana at the base of a mountain near Wagam in Kund area near Qazigund in South Kashmir. The holy spring is the ancient Vasuki Nag pilgrimage of Kashmiri Pandits. Vasak Nag is a fairly large spring and is dedicated to Vasak the satellite of Shiva. It flows for six months and runs dry for six months. A week before it begins to flow the wind blows very hard, there are rain and thunder storms, and people of the area say, “Vasak Nag is coming”. A large stream flows out of it and irrigates a large area. The water of this stream will run five water mills. This stream flows gracefully between willow orchards and turfy banks covered with yellow buttercups, columbines and forget-me-nots. As soon as the autumn irrigation of the paddy fields is over and the crops are ripe, it runs dry. A story goes that a monk took Vasak Nag away in his wallet to irrigate the arid parts somewhere during winter, but the legend is something else. My respected father Pt. Dina Nath Bhat used to tell me the stories about Vasak Nag when I was reading in 6th standard. He was a regular visitor to this shrine. I can very well recall one of his stories which go like this, “In the month of April, one elderly Kashmiri Pandit namely Pt. Neel Kanth Pandita of village Levdoora heard an un-usual sound during the day in the month of April. He became curious and went out in the fields to see the source of these sounds. To his surprise he saw a big snake crawling through the fields and going towards South. On the next day the news spread like a wild fire that Vasak Nag is full of waters. It is a belief that the water of Vasak Nag comes back on trithiur tray. According to Hassan’s account, though not confirmed, the water continues to ooze till the end of Bhadrapad, when paddy ripens, after which the water suddenly disappears and re-appears at a place at Bhaderwah (since the history of Bhaderwah for the pre-historic and pre-epic period is closely linked with the history of Kashmir) and flows there for six months. The phenomenon reverses for the next six months. The shrine is spread over an area of about 8 kanals of land and has a number of Chinar trees.
Now the question arises, where the water does goes for six months. There is a legend and a folk lore too that the waters of this spring goes to Bhaderwah during winter. Bhaderwah also known as “Nagon Ki Bhoomi”, the land of snakes, a land of natural beauty, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains enveloped with glistering snow peaks is the abode of the Vasak Nag for six months. Numerous Naga chiefs ruled Kashmir when the valley was a lake. One water borne dragon named Jallodbhava, started killing and eating Nagas living in the lake relentlessly with the result many Nagas and their subjects migrated to different directions for safety. Some went to Kishtwar and Bhaderwah, the nearby areas of the valley.
The folk legends and the Purnic traditions mention that notable Naga chief like Gamani Nag, Kali Nag and Pant Nag whose temples and springs still exist at different places in Kishtwar migrated to Kishtwar and settled there. Right back in Kashmir, after the death of Kashyap Rishi, succession dispute started amongst his sons born from two queens Kadru and Vanita. From Kadru were born Vasuki Nag, Shesh Nag and Mahel Nag and their elder sister Bhadra (Bhaderkali) while Garud and his brothers were born from Vanita. Garud the eldest son attempted to eliminate Vasuki and his brothers. Bhaderkali had already shifted to Bhaderwah and settled there as ruling queen. She extended invitation to Vasuki and his brothers to come to Bhaderwah for safety. Bhadra divided her territory amongst the three brothers. The Maon Bhaderwah valley on the left bank of Neeru was given to Vasuki.
The temples of Vasuki Nag at Bhaderwah are located at village Galtha, Nalthi, Bheja and Nagar Bhaderwah where many locals worship them as its ‘Kul Devi’ but at present it is believed that village Nalthi with more than 100 springs is the abode of Vasuki in Bhaderwah.
The idol of Vasuki at Nalthi is marvellous and a wonder of art and sculpture. Two idols of Nagraj Vasuki and Raja Jamute Vahan are made of black stone which stands at an angle of 88o without any support from either side.
After settling her brothers at Bhaderwah, Bhadarkali migrated back to Kashmir valley and settled at a village Wadipora situated at a distance of about seven km from Handwara, and at present the temple existed in the midst of pine trees on a hill top. This temple is being maintained by Rashtriya Rifles at present. Bhaderkali is the Isht Devi (family deity) of some Kashmiri Pandit families.
One more temple of Vasak Nag is located at Gandh Top, some 30 km from Ram Nagar on the way to Dudu Basantgarh in Udhampur District. The temple is located at an idyllic location on the top of a ridge, providing a magnificent panoramic view on all sides. Another temple of Vasak Nag forms the part of village Batyari near village Khagote some 13 km from Udhampur on the way to Ram Nagar.