Rajeev Kumar Nagotra
Rivers are the life lines of the habitats that develop on their banks. Indus, Ganga, Nile, Euphrates and Tigris have all nurtured great civilizations and sustained human settlements for thousands of years. The rhythms of the river currents punctuate the basic chores of life. The chores become habits over the years, and habits, over the ages, shape the beliefs, norms, traditions and cultures of the people. The rivers are thus intricately woven into the labyrinth of a culture. Little wonder, therefore, that the name of Indus is inalienable from India and, the name of Tawi is inseparable from Jammu. An editorial in the paper earlier this month highlighted the contemporary issues of Tawi namely the fall in the quantity and quality of its water. This was followed by a nostalgic letter in which the author discussed how a trip to Tawi by myriad groups of people marked every morning of this city of temples. The present article adds further to our understanding of how Tawi used to impact our social, spiritual and cultural life until about twenty years ago.
The landscape of the old city of Jammu stretching from Panjtirthi to Peer Mitha has stepped streets (Dhakkis) leading to Tawi. Dhounthali Dhakki, Pakki Dhakki, Jullaka Mohalla, Nai di Dhakki, (lower) Mastgarh and Peer Mittha are all dense neighbourhoods characterized by steep steps that connect the main city with the river front. Water being the necessity it is was largely available from Tawi and accessible predominantly through these narrow lanes. Jammuites of all the age groups and social strata used to go to Tawi via these Dhakkis. Young men would visit the Hanuman Akhara near the PHE office, Panjtirthi to work out and practice Indian style of wrestling. With the changing lifestyles and pursuits the youth of the city have long stopped visiting this Akhara. Infact, as the facility receded from the eyes of the general public, the traditional place was butted out by a semi-modern gym which came up slowly and surreptitiously.
Women used to throng at the Tawi banks on every Hindu festival. A dip in the laps of the Suryaputri used to be mandatory on every Ekadashi or Purnima. Infact they used to fetch water from here for their daily consumption too. Older groups would go to Tawi for their daily bath and on the way back would visit the ancient temples constructed on the sides of the Dhakkis. Baldau temple and Shiva temple deserve a particular mention in this context. Baldau temple has Lord Krishna’s elder brother, Balram, as the chief diety. Apart from Jammuites visiting this temple on a daily basis on their return journey up the Dhounthali Dhakki, multitudes of people used to gather here whenever the Dudhadhari Baba ji would organise a Yagna and Bhandara here. The entire Dhakki and the Tawi banks would assume the looks of a Kumbh fair of sorts on such occasions. But not anymore. As the times changed, the only people who visit this temple are the ones living on its premises. A Shiva temple stands a few meters further up the Dhakki. This temple unlike the Baldau temple does not receive patronage from the Dharmarth Trust and, therefore, has suffered more in view of the changing times. No priest officiates here and virtually nobody visits this serene and exotic temple now. Individuals have, from time to time, tried to resuscitate this temple. One devotee got the inner walls of the temple covered with marble a few years ago. Another tried to revive the rituals, clean the sanctum sanctorum and organize an evening arti daily. And, more recently, a local devotee has reinforced the old floor and the entrance steps with marble slabs. However, one facility is of supreme importance in any temple and more so in a Shiva temple – a regular supply and storage of water. PHE supplies water to the couple of households (one Sikh family and one Hindu) living next to the temple, but the pipeline reaching the temple premises is always dry. In the last two years the only time a continuous water supply reached the Shiva temple was when some renovation was being carried out in a neighbouring household for which water was required. The privilege lasted for hardly a week or two and, then, the things went back to square one. Through this article it is requested that PHE must ensure a continuous supply of water into the courtyard of the temple so that devotees who do visit it do not have to go from door to door in the neighbourhood for a bucket of succha water. This precious structure risks losing its place in public memory from continued disuse.
The upper Dhakki has become a filthy site, the steps which were always clean and well used can hardly be recognized under the heaps of garbage and the uncontrolled vegetation. Roads are always nice and a welcome milestone in the development of a city, but in this particular case, people stopped using the Dhakki and the ancient temples that lay midway along them ended up becoming deserted and forgotten. The river has shrunk over the years – the baddi Tawi and the nikki Tawi have respectively become a nikki Tawi and a no Tawi. Whatever water flows through
Two views of the Dhounthali Dhakki it is highly contaminated. A slum of construction worker has cropped up along the lower Dhakki and these 500 odd families defecate in the open on the Tawi basin. The water which was fetched by the Jammuites for daily consumption in old days, can no longer be put to any direct use now. Perhaps this Suryaputri is going to go extinct like Saraswati or become a poisonous marshland like Yamuna. However, a great deal has already been written and said about the pollution of Tawi and, therefore, it is only hoped herewith that some action would presently be taken by those at the helm of affairs. The natural resources do bear the brunt of an ever expanding and aspiring human settlement but it does not have to be necessarily so after all. Civic bodies must sit down and come up with workable plans to rejuvenate this area of Jammu so that the Dhakkis regain the status they enjoyed in the folklore, so that the bells and the conchs in the temples reverberate the air again and the open-air Akharas are saved from becoming air-conditioned gyms. Perhaps events like the Jammu/Baisakhi Mela in Mubarak Mandi complex should be extended to cover wider areas of the Panjtirthi area and the entire Dhakki be maintained, illuminated and decorated and people encouraged to visit the ancient temples, the ashrams and the Akhara on the banks of Tawi. This could be a welcome step in making the old city a heritage place.
Rajeev Kumar Nagotra