The shrine of BawE Wali Mata

                          Prof (Dr) R.D. Gupta
An eighth century temple of the Goddess Mahakali popularly known as Bawe wali Mata is confined to the Bahu Fort. The Bahu Fort is situated on the left bank of the river Tawi just opposite to the old city of Jammu, located on the right bank of the said river. The Bahu Fort is considered as one of the most mighty and sacred shrines of the Jammu city.
The Bahu Fort which was  demolished time and again, was eventually reconstructed by Maharaja Gulab Singh in the early 19th century after he had seen the Goddess Mahakali in his dream instructing him to build the temple immediately. Its renovation was then restarted during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh son of Maharaja Gulab Singh who ruled the Jammu and Kashmir state between 1856 to 1885. Prior to constructing of the other buildings in the fortified area, the Chieftains  were determined to construct the temple of their Kuldevi (Jerath, 2006). Thus, on the upper strata of the Bahu Fort, we find a temple to their Kuldevi, Bhawani.
As a matter of fact, the idol or image of the deity was installed long ago but the temple housing the image was built up afterwards by Maharaja Gulab Singh, the first Dogra ruler of whole of the Jammu and Kashmir State.  Mahakali temple dates back to 3400 BC, and  is one of the oldest temples in India together with Mahamaya Temple in Bahu Rakh.
The Mahakali temple has been built  on a elevated platform and houses a black stone coloured idol of the Goddess Mahakali. The temple is a small one, which cannot accommodate more than a dozen people at one time. The Dogra rulers as well as Jammuites held it in high esteem and now a days heavy rush of devotees is seen here daily. During Navratras, the people have to wait for at least 4 to 6 hours or even more for having darshans of the Goddness Mahakali.
Although sweets, pudding (Halwa or halva) puffed rice, floral wreaths and cash etc, are offered to the Goddess Mahakali,  now no offerings of animal sacrifice are made. The animal sacrifice  ceased when a saint who used to mediate in an adjoining temple of Narsimha, threw the idol of Mahakali or Kali in the river Tawi. It is believed that thereafter the Goddess Mahakali appeared in a dream to Maharaja Partap Singh (Son of Maharaja Ranbir Singh) and exhorted him that wishes of the saint be immediately fulfilled by stopping animal sacrifice. When the Maharaja Partap Singh prohibited the animal sacrifice totally, the saint reinstalled the idol of the Goddess Mahakali at the appropriate place. Now, instead of sacrificing a goat to please the Goddess, a goat is purchased with a small amount and after the priest has muttered some incantations, the devotees sprinkle  a handful of water on it. When the goat reverts to its own side, the offering is believed to be fulfilled/and or accepted by the Goddess Mahakali. According to Archaeological Survey of India sources, the temple structure belongs to the 8th century AD and even earlier than 8th century AD.
A legend says that the temple of Bahu Fort was constructed by the King Bahu Lochan. According to Suraj Saraf (2010), the erstwhile Dogra ruling dynasty of Jammu and Kashmir belonged to Suryavanshi clan of Kashatriyas and was founded by one Agnibaran (Descended from Kush, son of Lord Rama) who  migrated from Ayodhya. He settled at Parolnowan important village in Kathua district in Jammu region. From  his descendants  started these  conquering areas.  Bahu Lochan who seized these the Bahu area (obviously previous name must be something else but later on named after him)  began ruling there.
Some of the historians opine that idol of the Goddess Kali was brought to this place by the kings of Suryavanshi (Kings of Solar Dynasty). It is further opined that Bahu Lochan and Jambu Lochan were two brothers. This is further mentioned in  by many songs and Karaks sung by local people. As Raja Bahu Lochan had no issue, so after his demise, the kingdom of Bahu went to Jambu Lochan his younger brother. At that time there was a vast dense forest across the river Tawi. One day, when Jambu Lochan was on hunting and poaching, he saw a lion and goat drinking water together from the same pond or spring. An idea of settling people there struck his mind after clearing the forest and he settled a small town named as Jambu which later on became Jammu. Similarly with passage of time, the Bahu became Bawe. So the Goddess kali is also known as Bawe wali Mata. Since the temple is present inside the Bahu Fort so, it is called Bahu Garh Rani also.
Two big fairs or melas are held during Navratras on Ashtami and Navami, which come during October-November and March-April each year. Although now people come in vehicles,  in ancient times devotees used to come on foot by crossing the river Tawi through boats or temporary bridges built on the river especially during Navratras. Now the pilgrims of Vaishno Devi, Sudh Maha Dev and Shiv Khori have also started visiting  this shrine and its popularity has spread far and wide. A Samadhi of Baba Amboo near Bahu fort is also visited by its devotees, particularly the Khajuria Brahmins. Besides the Bahu fort, there is a famous Bagh-e-Bahu garden and a newly constructed aquarium which adds to the beauty of the Bahu fort  Apart from Navratras and holidays many of the pilgrims throng the temple on Tuesdays and Sundays.
A remarkable feature of Bawe Wali Mata Shrine is the presence of monkeys in its premises. They subsist on sweets, grams etc, offered to them by the devotees. The monkeys are very active and often snatch away the materials from the hands of the unwary.
Another note worthy point to mention here  is that  many local girls visit the temple premises during early in the morning and the pilgrims worship them as kanjaks and pay them sweets, bangles, chunnies and money etc. A number of Langers are arranged by devotees of the Goddess to serve parshad among the devotees. Jammuites have a staunch belief that Bawe Wali Mata has always protected Jammu city from Pakistan air attacks. They further believe that every desire is fulfilled by visiting Bahu fort shrine of Bawe Wali Mata.
It is point to mention that when Amir Timur attacked  Jammu during 14th century AD, the Bahu fort and the temple existed at that time as has been mentioned in his autobiography, known as Malfuzat-I-Timuri .
Some suggestions for future management
Development of Lawn: A beautiful lawn is required to be developed where multi variety flowers like marigold, chrysanthemum, roses, dahlias, gladioli and several others can  be grown. Some ornamental trees like amaltas, neem, kachnar, shatoot, dhaman, bel etc, are required to be planted.
Building of parking zone: As there is continuous flow of traffic so a big parking zone requires to be built up. For this purpose Government is needed to take some urgent initiatives.
Provision of Toilets:  A large number of toilets both for ladies and gents are required to be built up.