The revered shrine of Papharan Nag is located in villages of Panzmulla-Salia in district Anantnag. The ancient shrine dates back to the Mahabharata period and is about 16 Kms from the district headquarter.
On the Kahanbal-Pahalgam road comes the village of Seer from where a link road of length 3.5 kms leads to the shrine, popularly known as Nagbal. The shrine is quite visible from the road and persons visiting for the first time can easily locate it near Zal Kul (name of a stream). The religious place houses the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Papharan Nag (Sin Removing Spring), other springs and Dharamshala- all in shambles. Like many other Hindu shrines, the Papharan Nag shrine was also left abandoned, as the Kashmiri Pandit community left the village during their mass exodus in 1989-90. Today, this shrine is in dilapidated condition and is in utter need of preserving its glory and sanctity.
Pap means “sin”, haran means “to remove” and nag in Kashmiri means spring. Therefore, Papharan Nag signifies sin removing spring. It is a unique shrine with such an immense religious significance. There is a strong belief among Hindus that having a bath in Papharan Nag and also drinking its water cleanses all the sins. However, bathing directly in the spring is strictly prohibited and devotees have to take a bath in other springs which received water through a tunnel from Papharan Nag.
There was a black coloured Shivlingam in the Papharan Nag on its north-east side. This Shivlingam was not visible as it was totally under water. Devotees worshiped this Shivlingam on regular occasions.
The Papharan Nag is rectangular in shape and presently in rundown condition. The embankment of the spring is in shabby form with some stone blocks dislodged and has fallen into the spring. The downward springs are also in shambles. There were several idols and sculptures of Gods and Goddesses installed in premises of Papharan Nag which are right now either missing or not visible. Saints like Swami Hem Raj Ji, Swami Anand Ji, Swami Pream Nath Durani, Swami Janardhan and others meditated at the shrine and achieved material and spiritual benefits.
The third Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh was an ardent devotee of the Papharan Nag who used to visit the shrine barefooted to have a holy dip in holy spring on the occasion of Anant Chaturdashi.
The legend associated with Papharan Nag dates back to the Mahabharata era when Ashvamedha yagya was to be performed. Brahman scholars on the earth were to be invited to conduct the ritual. The Pandava warrior Bhimsen or Bhima was also sent to Kashmir for giving an invitation to a Kashmiri Brahman for participation in the yagya. He was told not to fight with anyone during his journey. But, when Bhima reached the periphery of Salia village he found an elderly kind lady wailing as she had to feed a demon on the very day. The food for the demon comprised of a young man, fruits, milk, cheese etc. Unluckily, on this very day it was the turn of an elderly woman’s son. She was in deep pain and despair as she had the only son to look after her whom she had to feed to the demon. On hearing the painful story of an elderly woman, Bhima assured the lady that his son would be safe.
Subsequently, he got off the food packs and proceeded to the cave in Ashmuqam where the demon was residing. When the demon came out of the cave, he saw a healthy person and was ecstatic to have such a bellyful food for that day. As soon as the demon tried to hold Bhima, a fight arose between the two wherein Bhima killed the demon and made all the mothers of adjoining areas very happy as of now they had not to feed any of their children to the cruel demon.
However, Bhima regretted after killing the demon for having broken the promise of not getting involved in bloodshed and he started getting realisation of having committed a sin. This made him very unrestful and he fell asleep. He got divine advice in his dream where he was guided to visit Papharan Nag in Panzmulla -Salia villages and had a dip in the sacred spring to get his sins washed. It is believed that the spring in which Bhima took dip in the morning was the day of Anant Chaturdashi and also the day of emergence of Papharan Nag. The auspicious day of Anant Chaturdashi falls on fourteenth day of the Shukla Paksha of Bhadrapada. This day is considered as one of the most auspicious days in Hindu religion.
According to tradition, the festival of Anant Chaturdashi had been celebrated as ‘Divay’ which means illumination of the Papharan Nag with candles and earthen lamps in the evening. The Bajan-Kirtan, devotion, prayers and gaiety continued the whole night. The moment Purnima morning arrived; devotees took holy dip in the springs besides performing Puja. Earlier, a large number of devotees began to throng the shrine on Anant Chaturdashi. Majority of Kashmiri Pandit families living in the villages of Panzmulla and Salia witnessed arrival of their relatives, friends and guests before the occasion, who later participated in the festival.
The most important ritual associated with Anant Chaturdashi festival involves offering of Tahar (rice cooked with turmeric powder and mixed with mustard oil and a pinch of salt) to the deity of Karkut Nag shrine, located some 5 Kms away from the Papharan Nag. According to the ritual, it is a religious obligation to offer Tahar to the Karkut Nag deity on the day of Purnima after the culmination of Anant Chaturdarshi festival. It is obligatory for devotees to have a bath in Papharan Nag before proceeding towards Karkut Nag for Puja and offerings. First time in 32 years, the Papharan Nag- Karkut Nag trust reviewed the tradition this year by offering Tahar to the deity on the day of Purnima after performing Hawan in Papharan Nag on Anant Chaturdashi. The ritual was participated and performed by a good number of devotees.
The sacred spring of Papharan Nag is in dilapidated condition with its banks broken and defaced. Another spring which is receiving water from Papharan Nag was used by males for having a bath. The third spring which had almost disappeared was used by females for bathing in the open but with sufficient privacy. There were also some wash rooms which got water from these holy springs. A Number of idols of gods and goddesses installed in premises of shrine were neither found anywhere nor visible. The traces of the Dharamshala are found nowhere. However, a small cell is seen constructed over its place. There were some majestic Chinar trees in the shrine land which have been chopped over the years by some unscrupulous elements. The shrine once sprawled over 6 Kanals, has now shrunk to 2 Kanals. The revenue records mentioned 5 Kanals and 10 Marla land registered to the shrine but unfortunately its major portion of land is under illegal possession of encroachers who so far have not vacated it despite legal notice served to them by the concerned authorities. However, the Ahale Hanood land registered mentioned about 16 Kanals and 15 Marlas The Papharan Nag -Krkut Nag trust is working hard to rebuild the shrine and restore its past glory. The trust performed Hawan at the shrine last year on the day of Anant Chaturdashi after a gap of 30 years and this year too on the same auspicious day. It has also started several maintenance works of the shrine on its own assistance.
The trust constructed a concrete boundary wall on one side of the religious place but could not get it completed due to insufficient funds. Actually, the dearth of funds is the main obstacle in the development of the shrine. The members of the trust wrote to the government seeking assistance for rebuilding and renovation of the Papharan Nag shrine but so far neither funds nor preventive measures were taken to save it from further deterioration. The shrine is without basic facilities such as accommodation and convenience which is a great concern for pilgrims visiting the shrine on various occasions.