Mela Ramkund Temple

K.D Maini
Ramkund is the symbol of our ancient culture, art and traditions. This is the oldest temple in Poonch region. As per the archaeological report, this beautiful temple was built by Raja Lalitaditya (i.e. between 724 AD and 761 AD) because the style, architecture and the age of the temple is the same as of those temples built by Raja Lalitaditya in Kashmir. This temple having very attractive look and history is embedded in the past from the religious point of view, but remained out of sight due to locational disadvantages. Now this old shrine is regaining its erstwhile status.
Ramkund temple is located at a sleepy village Narol of Mendhar tehsil 62 kilometers from Poonch township. This important religious place is located in a deep gorge at the foothill of Shah Star Range of mountains from all sides. At present there are three sacred ponds apart from the ancient temple. They are known as Ram Kund, Lachman Kund and Sitakund.

(19th and 20th March 2023)

Ramkund is bigger in size (25? X 25?), then Lachmankund and Sita Kund and a bit elevated from the other two. A spring water emerges exactly on the northern side of Ramkund. The water of this spring pours into Ramkund which overflows to Lachman Kund and at last Sitakund. The latter is the smallest in size. These kunds have been excavated in such a way that the water of spring after filling all the kunds flows out in nallah. On the eastern side of Ramkund, there is a historical temple of 8th century. Stone structure stair case begins from the eastern side of Ramkund upto the entrance of the temple. At present, there is an idol of Hanuman which was installed in the temple in the recent past. On the northern side a small structure houses the residence of Pujari and a cowshed. A ‘Kutiya’ has also been constructed near the temple for ‘Sadhus’ and pilgrims. The western side of this Holy place is surrounded by banana trees and small garden of plums which gives this place look of an ‘Ashraam’.
As per Rajtringani of Kalhan there is a very interesting story behind the construction of this temple. Kalhan narrates that Raja Lalitaditya who was a great warrior and had converted Poonch town into Chawani (cantonment) of his forces and named this place as Purn-Utsva (with the passage of time, this name became Poonch from Purn-Utsva). Kalhan writes that once Raja Lalitaditya left for hunting in the jungle and reached this place, in the evening. At this very solitary place he saw in the nearby a girl singing a devotional song while a beautiful girl was dancing. When the song was over, both the girls bowed their heads at this place and left. The next day also the same happening was repeated by the same girls. Then Raja Lalitaditya came before these girls and enquired from them why they were dancing and singing their devotional song at this lonely place in the jungle. The girls replied that they were Devdassies and doing so on the direction of their mothers and grand mothers. “This is our traditional job but we do not know the reason of our dancing at this place”. Raja thought that there may have been some sacred place in the past at that spot. Next day he ordered for the excavation of that particular place where the DevDassies were offering prayer in the evening. After some excavation, two old temples came out on the surface from the earth whose doors were shut. When Raja opened the door, he saw that two idols of Keshav were installed there. On the back of these idols, it was engraved that these idols were installed by Ramchander Ji during his visit to Kashmir. Raja Lalitaditya took out these idols to Kashmir along with him and he installed the idol of Ram Chander Ji in the temple of Vishnu Parihas in Parhbaarspur, while the second idol was taken by the Queen and she installed it in Chakrshveri temple.
It appears that while taking the original idols from Ramkund temple, Raja Lalitaditya got renovated or reconstructed the original excavated monument with some additions and converted this place into the important religious shrine. No doubt that Raja Lalitaditya had built Poonch city but at present, there is no such building existing on the ground of Lalitaditya’s time except Ramkund temple Mendhar. This is the only temple in this region which indicates the construction undertaken by Lalitaditya in Poonch district.
Stein visited Poonch in 1892 AD and identified a number of places like Loharkote (Loran), Attalika (Atoli), Saramber (Chamber Kanari) Sawvernik (Surankote) mentioned in the Rajtringani. But he could not identify the Ramkund Temple of Raja Lalitaditaya’s time because this temple was located in a very unknown place which was far away from the main route leading towards Kashmir in those days. All the habitants of this area were non-Hindus. Even most of the Hindus were knowing very little about this shrine in the past. Therefore, they could not talk about this temple to Stein but guessed that this temple can be located in the Southern side of Kashmir.
The other proof is the Devdassies information to Raja Lalitaditya that they belong to a nearby village known as Sover Dehmana at that time. This village is still existing near Narol (where temple exists) and known as Dharana instead of Dehmana. Therefore, on the facts given above, it is clear that Ramkund is the same temple which was excavated and reconstructed by Raja Lalitaditya in 8th Century.
Before 1947 the local Dogra Rajas of Poonch had annexed a Jagir with temple, however presently all the agriculture land of temple has been occupied by the land tillers. Therefore there is no source of income except donation from Yatris. This is the only ancient temple in Poonch area but due to locational disadvantages very few people visit the shrine in routine. The condition of road from Chajla Bridge to Ramkund is not satisfactory. No doubt that this road was mettaled by the department recently, however the work was so substandard that presently it becomes difficult for the vehicles to ply on the road. There is also the need of preservation and rehabilitation of this heritage monument, publicity from tourism department through pamphlet and recovery of temple land illegally occupied so that the past glory and glamour of this centuries old religious place could be restored.
A big Mela known as Mela Chatar Chodus will be organized on the occasion of Navratras. The devotees from Poonch, Rajouri, Jammu and abroad usually take part in this Mela, have a dip in the holy water of Ramkund, Lachman Kund and Sita Kund, then participate in Havan, Yagh and Arti of Ramkund. This year Mela shall commence on 19th March 2023 with the start of Chaddi Mubarak Yatra from Hanuman temple Mendhar with the collaboration of Vishav Hindu Prishad, Bajrang Dal and Sanatan Dharam Sabha. The procession shall lead towards Ramkund in between chanting of Slogans, Bajans and Kirtan and would reach Ramkund at about 11:00 am where Chaddi Mubarak shall be received by local Administration, Police and Army authorities and Mahant Ramkund Temple. Immediately after that Ramayan Path shall start which will continue upto 20th March. After the Bogh of Ramayan Path, Havan and Yagh the devotees will start Bajjan, Kirtan and bathing in holly Kunds and participate in Langar. After that the devotees shall start dispersing. The full security arrangements and safety of devotees have been made by local authorities and Police in collaboration with the 37 RR Jawans.