H C Katoch
The journey onwards from Pehrd Devta takes us to other important heritage site at Manwal. Here, the Pandvas stayed and constructed temples where amongst others Shiv temple is quite famous. At this site the shivligam is stated to be App Shamboo and it is of uneven shape. There is another temple called Bani Devi which, too, is also a place of reverence. These were constructed in Dwapar Yug by Pandvas. For the rest of the five temples the Government has formed a trust that looks after these in Manwal. It is said that a big city existed in olden times. This area is in abundance of having over three hundred bowlies. We had conversation with Trilochan Giri Saint living at present at this place. He is disciple of Keshwanand Ji Giri Maharaj who arrived in 1967 at this site of the temple which was in a damaged condition. With the miraculous powers of the saint, the local community joined hands to rejuvenate this old heritage. This place is steeped in legend that reminds the Mahabharata period when Arjun, the great hero known for his excellence in arrow shooting was defeated and he succumbed to the arrow of Babbar Ban. The fighting place was “Khoon” near Manwal. Babbar was the son of Arjun and Ulipi, the Nag Kanya, but he was ignorant of this fact. When Babbar Ban approached his mother and narrated the story of his bravery that he has defeated Arjun the world known unbeatable archer. She rushed to the spot along with him and to her surprise found Arjun lying on ground counting last breaths.
She prayed to Sri Krishna to help her to save Arjun. Sri Krishna appeared and advised her to get “Mani” from Patal Lok so that Arjun could be cured with the help of this Mani. To achieve this, Babbar Ban shot an arrow at Surangsar, now popularly known as Surinsar Lake that provided passage to reach Patal Lok where he fought a battle with Nags and secured the Mani. In order to come out from Patal Lok, he shot an arrow that pierced the earth and paved way to reach the surface of earth. This place was known as Manisarie. Sarover of Mani which is now known as Mansar. Our inquisitiveness further drove us to see the habitations on both sides of Surya Putri. The Villages on way are Kuthar, Sangar, Tute Di Khui, Cholana, Patyari, Kishanpur, Ze, Dadsoo, Dudar, Roun Domel and Jaganoo Morh. Another destination of Pehrd Devta was located near Manwal on Tawi River where similar practice of offering wheat flour to the fish was found. However, there was no explanation or background of this site even with the elderly people of the area were ignorant.
The other villages falling on left and right side of River Tawi are Thall, Doa, Baba Pehrd, Manwal, Dhanas, Largan, Phergrar, Chilla, Bhatyari, Kishan Pur, Jaganoo, Ladan, Bali, Samroli, Chenani, Mandir Dausala.
On the way from Baba Pehrd to Manwal there are certain villages like Largan, Chilla, Bhatyari, and Kishanpur, the water of Surya Putri has brought prosperity by way of immense cultivation of vegetables by the villagers over large chunks of land that fall in District Udhampur.
Further, when we reach Jaganoo it presents a centre of good economic activity covering many surrounding villages. Here we find presence of PehrdDevta with large group of fish in the river that are worshiped. Beyond this point comes Udhampur town that receives drinking water from river Tawi.
Proceeding further, we reach Laddan where exists ancient monument, the Laddan Kotli Fort that is built centuries old. Although this fort is under the control of Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums of the Union Territory of J&K, yet despite this, heritage site is in ruins. The Archives, Archaeology Museum Department of J&K UT appears to have never visited this site after taking it over for repairs, maintenance and development as heritage site. It has its own scenic beauty and refreshing environment that could attract people.
Although Pandvas visited and stayed at numerous places in erstwhile Dogra estate at many places in Udhampur District, yet we are concentrating our journey on the banks of Surya Putri. An ancient temple built by Pandvas was found at Laddan nearby Laddan fort. Here, the ancient temple is well maintained by the descendants of Pandit family. At present, their descendant Pandit Duni Chand looks after this temple. There is a stretch of over seventy kanals land attached to this temple. The temple was constructed by Pandvas and it is unique in the sense that Durga Murti is riding on the lion and Nandi is beneath it. Besides this, there is one Pindi of 5 feet height representing Mahakali in this temple.
The stretch from Jakhani to Chenani is 24 kms. At Jakhani Flouriculture department has established a beautiful park over 100 kanals of land on the right bank of Tawi. It is visited by even passer byes and also by locals. Children enjoy the musical joy rides in this park. At Toldi Nala there is an ancient Shiv Temple of “Shiv Udasin Akhara” which is centuries old and is visited by large number of people.
A legend goes that there is very ancient temple of Sharda Mata at a distance of about 2 kms at Jakhani on National Highway. It is said that in olden times, kings used to halt their journey at this place. Once a king carrying his deities stopped at this place and the deity was placed to rest in hollow stem of the legendary Jamun tree. After taking rest when the king tried to lift this deity which is in the form of “Pindi”, it could not be lifted. As such, the Pindi was not moved from this site as mark of respect and wish of the divine power. This legendary tree still exists with green live branches, while the stem is dry. Some of the visitors claimed that they saw Nag and Nagin couple near this Pindi. The latest story related to Gopal Sadotra who was an employee of Public Health Engineering Department about 40 years back. He stated that the Devi Maa appeared in his dream and directed him to serve Her at this place and as such he continues to do so till now. A spring flows from below the point of this Pindi similarly as in case of Sh. Mata Vaishno Devi Cave. People take this water for drinking. When people need rain, they take earth and add water from the pond making paste of it and apply on the Pindi. This practice becomes fruitful as the rain occurs. Gopal Sadotra takes Chhari during 9th day of Navratra from Udhampur to the temple of Sharda Mata. This place has become now a pilgrimage for the people.
Moving forward comes Samroli that provides good market and eatables like Kalari, where passengers halt for luring taste of local “Kalari”. Next comes Chenani town, which had been the seat of power for 52 generations of Kings starting from Raja Ram Chand and ending with Raja Ram Chand the last king in series. Later on, this kingdom used to be Jagir under Maharaja Gulab Singh. Chenani town has the grace of Pawan Puttar Hanuman. There is a very big sized idol of Hanuman ji on a rock. All the kings were popular during their regime that preserved and maintained the spiritual heritage in their kingdom.
In 1964, Sarvanand Giriji Maharaj arrived at Chenani where Hanuman Temple is situated opposite Chenani Town on the banks of Surya Putri Tawi. This temple was called Bandar Jodi Mandir in earlier times. Presently, it is called Hanuman Temple. The Saint Sarvanand Giri ji remained here till he entered into Samadhi. Presently Bahadur Giriji Mahant is looking after and managing this temple. Pilgrims from about fifteen Panchayats surrounding this place on both sides of river bank gather to pay their obeisance by offering share of crop after harvesting the same in their lands.
The author is Director Planning J&K Govt (Retd)
H C Katoch