The Shrine of Jawalaji Khrew

Chander M. Bhat

7Village Khrew, in Vihi Pargana is in the South-East of Srinagar at a distance of 20 km. This village is located at 34.02oN and 74.980E. It has an average elevation of 1,067 metres (5,272 feet).
Village Loduv is in the East of village Khrew. This village is famous for the abode of Jeevan Sahib and for two ancient temples. According to Guldastai Kashmir by Harpogal Koul, Loduv Pandit, a minister of Raja Saka during 2409-72 KE founded this village. Loduv Pandit also built a temple there which is presently under the control of Archaeological Survey of India. Total area of the village is 904.87 hectares and as per 1981 Census total population of this village was 2820 souls comprising of 369 households. Kashmiri Pandit community comprises 24 percent of total population of the village comprising of 57 households. Eight households have held back after the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in the year 1990.
Village Wuyan is about 2 km to the West of Village Khrew. It was known as Ovana formerly. The first factory in Jammu and Kashmir for the manufacture of cement was installed at Wuyan.  Ovana (Wuyan) was burnt during the civil war between the Kashmiris and the immigrant Syeds in 1484 A.D. The name of the village changed from Ovana (Uvana) to Vuyan and then to Wuyan. There were 15 Kashmiri Pandit families living in this village before mass exodus. All the families have migrated to other parts of India in 1990.There are few sulphur springs in this village besides a big and deep spring locally known as Kaiz Nag. It is said that a fish in this spring was having golden ear rings and the said fish was visible on the day of Ashtami only.
Balhom or Balhama village is in the South of village Khrew. This village is famous for Baladevi Shrine. Baladevi was the Isht Devi of Dogra Rulers. At present the temple is having a deserted look due to lack of maintenance and proper care due to forced migration of Pandit families from this village. Two pandit families are still residing in this village.
Village Shar lies in North East of village Khrew. This village is the birthplace of famous mystic poet Wahib Sahab (Khar). Kalhana mentions it by the name of Sanara as an Agrahara founded by King Sacinara.
Other small villages like Androssa, Bathen, Nagandar and Satpokhran are also to its surroundings.
Village Khrew has a population of 18,820 souls as per 2011 census. About 50 Kashmiri Pandit families were forming the part of population in this village before 1990. Khrew had a history of having 360 natural springs but currently only 7 springs flow through this town. Once known for their crystal clear waters, these water bodies have lost their traditional stature to one reason or the other. Village Khrew is also the best producer of saffron and has been graded as the fourth cultivator of saffron in India. Amanullah Khah Sahab, Baba Qasim Sahab, Sabir Shah and Syed Mantaqi are the holy places of Muslims in village Khrew.
Popularly known as Zaala Bhagwati, the Shrine of Mata Jwalaji at Khrew is one of the ancient shrines of Kashmir. Jwalaji is the Isht Devi of many Kashmir Pandit families. Kalhana refers to the village in Rajtarangini as ‘Khaduvi’ where according to him; there were three hundred and sixty fresh water springs. Kalhana further mentions that on the hill side to the east of the village, was a standing rock on which a mystical diagram was drawn. The shrine has a holy spring locally called Bod Nag or Aneek Nag or Anu Nag at the base of the hillock. It is also known as Nagabal. Pilgrims used to take a dip in this spring before making the ascent. This spring is 40 feet wide and 60 feet in length and 3 feet deep. Fresh and cold water is oozing at the South West corner of this spring.  Some idols believed to be some six hundred years old are standing at this oozing point.  This spring abounds in fish. Recently a small island has been constructed in the centre of this spring. This spring under the shade of three Chinar Trees presents a magnificent look. There is also a walnut tree on the bank of this spring. The water of this spring flows out into a stream, passes through the compounds of some Kashmiri Pandit houses and thereby is used for irrigation purpose. In my childhood days I alongwith my respected parents used to go to Khrew to one of our relatives and would stay there for four to five days. I still remember that this stream was flowing underneath the house of my relative namely Pandit Sarwanand Bhat.
The octagonal shaped temple has stairs of around 320 steps made with dressed limestone’s slabs (devri kaine) which lead up to sanctum sanctorum. The temple is a simple structure made from timer and iron sheets. The temple about 250 feet above ground level was built during Twentieth Century by Raja Daya Krishan Kaul. About one century before the construction of temple, Jwalaji manifested here in the form of flame (Jyoti). A legend has it that a group of demons, who tried to go to Dev Lok to grab the treasure of Kuber, were checkmated here by Jwalaji and thereafter She decided to stay here at the request of a Brahma Saddak who was praying here.
After a flight of 300 steps pilgrim pays obeisance at the Ganesh temple on the left side of the stair before reaching main sanctum sanatorium. The shrine of Jwalaji is situated on top of the hillock overlooking village KhrePopularly known as Zaala Bhagwati, the Shrine of Mata Jwalaji at Khrew is one of the ancient shrines of Kashmir. Jwalaji is the Isht Devi of many Kashmir Pandit families.w. The main sanctum sanctorum is 12 feet by 12 feet square shaped structure. The ceiling of the dome is decorated with Khatamband (Vaastalav/Wood Carving) design. The structure of the shrine resembles of the aspect and architecture of the pagodas of China, but the slope of the roof is straight instead of being concave.  Its basement, six to eight yards square, is of stone, raised a few feet from the ground. On the front side of the shrine wooden plates have been placed (called Voorusi in Kashmiri) and these plates can be placed on the top of the front wall and opens the front portion completely. There is a Shilla inside the sanctum sanctorum, in the form of a natural stone measuring 4 feet height, 4 feet length and 3 feet width, smeared with Sindhur. It is said that Jwalaji manifested herself all the time as a jyoti sometime in the past. There is no firm base over which this sacred shilla has been placed and it is believed that the Shilla is stationary and is floating in air. This sacred Shilla has naturally carved mystical lines forming triangles and hexagons in the shape of Sri Chakra. It is further believed that the Shilla turned black due to the occasional flames which sparked here from time to time. One has to flight some 6 stairs for making parikrama of the shrine. Above the main shrine, there is a small temple dedicated to Bhariava. Tahar (yellow rice) and Shooshnoor (lamb’s lung) is being offered to the Bhariava. A revered hill ‘Vishnu Pad’ is on the left side of this shrine. There is a foot mark at the top of Vishnu Pad. As per the legend this foot mark is believed to be of Lord Vishnu. In olden days pilgrims used to visit this hill also and but with the passage of time this practice was stopped.
After having darshan pilgrims can decent through a different route (leading to Daibdather, Dobi Ghat) which is rough. After descending a few yards, the pilgrim can slide on the slippery slope of the hillock (Rikinei Wosun) to reach Daibdather. It is believed that this slide on this slippery slope is the final stage of the pilgrimage.  Jwalaji is our Isht Devi and my respected father Pandit Dina Nath Bhat was a staunch worshipper of Jwalaji. I remember during my childhood, we used to go to village Khrew every year by hiring a horse driven cart especially Khaliq Tangeh from my native village Murran, carrying all the essential commodities and used to stay in open at Daibdather (Dobi Ghat) on the foot of the Zabarwan Mountain for three to four during Mela Jwalaji i.e. on 14th bright fortnight of Ashada (June-July).
The birthday of Goddess Jwalaji is  celebrated on Ashad Shukla Chaturdashi, fourteen bright fortnight of June-July also called Jwala Chaturdashi, every year and a grand festival is held at village Khrew. It was a routine that the relatives of the Kashmiri Pandits residing at Village Khrew used to come to this village for three to four days.