Prominent Temples of Pir Panchal region

A view of temple Poonch Navgrah temple.

K D Maini
The references of Pir Panchal Region are available in prehistoric books with different names. The natives believes that during Mahabharata period, this area was known as Panchal Desha. The name of the king of Panchal Desha was Panchal Naresh while the name of his daughter was Panchali. Panchali was married to Pandavas. This was the reason that during exile period Pandavas had passed most of time in this region to escape themselves from Kauravas. During this period, Pandavas constructed Bawlies almost in all the villages of this region. They also constructed Pandhav Mandir Kalakote, Panchav Mahal Mendhar and Pandav Dheri at Mandhol (now in PoK). The Bawlies with idols and inscriptions are still the witness of Pandavas presence in this region.
As per Neelmat Puran, the presence of Pulsat Rishi who had meditated in this area was a great sculptor of his time and erected a number of Idols of God. One reference of Neelmat Puran is as under:
‘By seeing the Goddesses erected by Pulasta, one feels free from all sins and gets highest knowledge’.
He was so popular among the natives that after his death the natives named this area as Pulasta Nagar which became Poonch with the passage of time. Kalhana, wrote in Rajtrangni that the warrior Raja Lalitadittya had constructed Ram Temple Mendhar (present Ram Kund) in memory of visit of Lord Rama of Kashmir. The inscription at Veer Bedrashwar Temple, 66 Kms in the south of Rajouri town reveals that this Temple was constructed by Emperor Kanishka in 141 AD. As per Rajtarangni of Junaraj, there is a reference of Bherogal (now Behramgala) near presently Shivalaya Temple (earlier Chandi Temple). The name of Girgan, Nandansar, Chandansar, Neelsar, Baghsar, Sukhsar and Akaldachanni reveals the Sanatan civilization in Pir Panchal in the ancient time. The details of some important temples are as under;
Ram Kund Temple Mendhar
Ram Kumd Temple Mendhar is a symbol of our cultural traditions. This is the oldest temple of Pir Panjal region. As per Rajtarangni of Kalhana and the Archaeological survey report, this attractive temple was built by Raja Lalitadittya in between 724-761 AD. A deep history is embedded in this shrine. Originally, it was constructed by Lord Rama in memory of his visit of Kashmir. With the passage of time the temple had come under landslide. Raja Lalitadittya after excavation had recovered the temple alongwith idols of Lord Rama, Sita Ji and Lakshman.
Temple Veer Badreshwar
Temple Veer Badreshwar is the oldest shrine in Rajouri District. This temple is located on a peak of mountain surrounded by thick forest near LoC which is 66 Km in the south of Rajouri town. The shrine is known for bells. The devotees who visit the temple offer bells. As per inscription available at the shrine, it was built by Kanishka in 141 AD. Presently the temple is looked after by Army because Hindu population is negligible in the area.
Channi Parat Temple
Before 1947 Poonch-Rajouri was linked with Jammu and Reasi via Channi Parat township which was a business centre and halting station in the past. In this township Maharaja Ranbir Singh got a double storeyed Raghunath Temple constructed through a Mahatama Ji. This is a unique temple due to its construction in Pir Panchal region. The idols of Lord Rama and Sita Ji are in place and the walls are full of religious paintings including paintings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj. Every year a Mela is organized in this temple.
Temple Mangla Devi Seri Nowshera
Mangla Devi Temple is 17 Kms in the North of Nowshera and 07 Kms from Seri Township. The Mangla Devi Temple is located in Mangla Devi Fort on the top of mountain near Seri. This Fort and Temple was constructed by Raja Dhayan Singh (1827-39), the Prime Minister of Punjab Darbar to whom Poonch-Rajouri principality was given by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. During Navratra days the devotees from Nowshera, Seri, Kangri, Bija Ban, Sunderbani participate in the mela organized at Mangla Devi Temple in Mangla Fort.
Pandu Mandir Panjnara Kalakote
Pandu Mandir Panjnara is 11 Kms from Kalakote. This was a historic Pandu Temple with 05 springs. Presently springs have disappeared but the ruins of temple exist. This temple resembles Delta Mandir Bunayar Baramullah. As per legend, the Pandavas with their mother Kunti had visited this place during exile period and their mother had asked for water. After ascertaining that no spring is available in this area, Bhimsen Pandhu had struck his knee against hard rock and a stream started gushing from that very place. This stream is still known as Ban Ganga. Two Melas are organized at this temple during May and October known as Crop Mela.
Gita Bhawan Poonch
Before 1947, a 03 storeyed big building was purchased by Hindu Community with 25,000 Rupees for religious purpose. The building was renovated with certain additions, alterations, and converted into religious centre for Hindus and named it Gita Bhawan Poonch. Khaterpaul Sharma, President Sanatan Dharam Sabha Poonch told that all important religious activities are organized in Gita Bhawan Poonch.
Nav Grah Temple Poonch
Late Yashpal Sharma, the then MLC popularly known as Sher-e-Poonch had a dream for the construction of NavGrah Temple near the LoC on an elevated ridge across Betar river from where the view of whole Poonch valley is visible. Therefore, during 2017 Sharma Sahib started the construction of NavGrah Temple and devoted himself fully for its speedy completion. During 2019 this glamorous complex was completed which includes the main NavGrah Temple, a Langar Hall building and a Vishnu Temple. Presently NavGrah Temple is considered the finest religious building of Poonch. Yashpal Sharma Ji passed away in 2021 and after that his dedicated son Dr. Udesh Paul Sharma is looking after the management, running langar and converted it into a centre of religious congregations and social activities.
Kalka Temple
Kalka Stone Temple was constructed by Raja Moti Singh of Poonch (1852-1892). It is said that the idol of Kalka Mata was brought from Jodhpur in a Palki in a procession. However, Raja Moti Singh was in Srinagar in those days and the idol was kept in a room in Bagh Devdi with full respect. Since, Raja was busy in Srinagar he could not install the idol in the temple. Therefore, abruptly and epidemic spread in the town and a number of people lost their lives. Then Moti Singh rushed to Poonch and tried to control the disease but he did not succeed and the families started migrating from the town. During this time he had a dream that he should immediately install the idol of Kalka Ji in the Temple. Then Raja installed the idol immediately with full respect, and people got relief from the epidemic.
Dashnami Akhara Poonch
Dashnami Akhara Poonch was the first temple constructed during Muslim Rule in Poonch. It is said that during the rule of Raja Rustam Khan (1760-1787) a hermit came to Poonch and started meditation at a location where presently Akhara exist and became popular among the natives due to spiritual deeds. When Raja came to know about this hermit, he also visited his Kutias and was very much influenced by hisspirituality. Therefore, he encouraged the construction of temple and annexed a big Jagir with the temple. Basant Ram, President Dashnami Akhara told that during Dogra Rule (1852-1947) Dashnami Akhara remained patronized by local Dogra Rajas of Poonch. The Raj Tilak was also given to new Rajas in this temple. On the eve of Raksha Bandan Festival, the Chhari Yatra starts from Dashnami Akhara and leads towards Swami Budha Amarnath Ji Temple.
Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Temple
Shri Budha Amarnath Ji Temple is situated in the main belt of Pir Panchal Range at Rajpura Mandi. The original temple is constructed of one stone. There is a natural Shivlinga of white stone inside the temple. The management of temple is being looked after by a Committee headed by advocate Gulshan Kumar.
Kakha Navan Temple
On the slope of Raghu Nath Temple exists a historic Kakha Navan Temple. This ancient temple was constructed by Khukran Rajputs before Dogra period. As per Rajtaringni these Hindu tribes ruled Poonch and old capital of this area Lohar Kote for centuries together before Muslim rule in this area.
Apart from above near Parade Ground, exists Lakshmi Narayan Temple which was constructed by Rani Vilaspur but before installation of idol, Rani passed away. Then Raja Jagatdev Singh (1927-1939) brought a marble idol from Rajasthan and installed it in the temple. Nishu Gupta told that in Shiv Khori Temple in Upper Khorinar, a Mela is organized by his organization in collaboration with Army on the eve of Shivratri every year. The other noted temples are Shri Krishan Temple Dungus, Raghu Nath Temple Kakha Navan, Chandi Temple Dhundak, Narayan Khori near Draba, Radha Krishan Temple on a rock near Salani stream Rajouri, Bhavani Temple Bhavani near Jhanger. There is a need of proper looking after these historic monuments and temples properly.