The unexplored heaven

Avtar Mota
Name of book : Bhaderwah (A journey through time)
Author : Dharam Kant Dogra
Published by Aastha Prakashan, Jalandhar
Bhaderwah is known as Chhota Kashmir ( mini Kashmir ). It falls in the Jammu division of J&K UT. A beautiful valley with hills of Kishtwar in its north, Chamba ( HP ) in its east, Basholi area of Jammu near River Ravi in its south and Chenani area of Udhampur district in its west, one can safely call this place, ‘A Queen of Hills’. Perched at a height of about 5300 feet from sea level and surrounded by snow-clad hills with Deodar forests on all sides, this area has its unique history and culture. The Ratangarh Fort is one of the most historical and cultural constructions seen in Bhaderwah town. Located on a small hillock, this fort gives a scenic backdrop of pine trees and a complete panoramic view of Bhaderwah Valley. Built in the year 1733 by Raja Methni Pal, this fort changed hands several times. 1n 1821 it was captured by Chamba rulers.
In Bhaderwah, one finds Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Muslims, Thakkars, Wazirs, Kotwals, Dogra Rajputs, Punjabis, Mahajans and Bhaderwahi-speaking locals living in peace and harmony. The place remained a melting pot of many cultures and civilizations. It was an independent principality amongst the 22 Hill States of Jammu before it was annexed by the Chamba Kingdom in 1821. It was subsequently transferred to Dogras in 1846 under the Treaty of Amritsar.
The book under review has 176 pages for its text with additional 8 pages for 16 coloured photographs that depict the culture and scenic beauty of the place. The author has dedicated this work to the memory of his parents. Set in three chapters, Bhaderwah: The Ultimate Tourist Destination, Bhaderwah: The Cultural Hub and Bhaderwah: A Heaven Ravaged, the book gives the reader truthful information about the history, climate, landmarks, tourist spots, religious places, festivals, serpent worship culture, annual Yatras, music, dance, literature, folk songs and anything and everything that one wants to know about this town, its inhabitants and their rich culture.
The author has exclusively assigned five pages to describe the ancient Vasuki Nag temple of the town that has been a place of pilgrimage not only for the people of Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah but also for the Hindus of the J&K UT. A similar detailed description exists about the ancient Gupt- Ganga temple dedicated to Shiva- Mahadeva. The Chandi Mata temple overlooking the town has also been described in detail by the author. Designed on the pattern of the Mata Chandi temple of Machail ( Paddar), the author informs that this grand temple was built due to the foresight and tireless efforts of Thakur Kulbir Singh Jamwal. The temple has a commanding location. One can have a panoramic view of Bhaderwah town from the temple.
The festivals and Yatras of Bhaderwah bear the influence of the festivals and culture of Chamba and adjoining hills of Himachal Pradesh. From the book, a reader gets detailed and adequate information about the well-known Kailash Kund Yatra. Hindus believe the Kailash Kund is the abode of Nagraj Vasuki. The Vasuki Puran also upholds this belief. The author has devoted about nine pages to this important annual Yatra to Lake Kailash situated at an altitude of 14000 feet and about 21 kms from Bhaderwah town. While the author has taken great pains to describe other three popular Yatras known as Ashtapati or Shadu Yatra, Manimahesh Yatra and Machail (Paddar) Yatra, his gripping narrative about Mela Patt keeps the reader glued to the book. Mela Patt is the most famous and well-attended fair of Bhaderwah held every year in August/ September on Tritya of Shukla Paksha of Bhadrapada month as per the Bikrami calendar. The fair is held in honour of Vasuki Nag, the presiding deity of Bhaderwah. It is believed that Emperor Akbar had sent valuable gifts for Vasuki Nag temple through Raja Nag Pal of Bhaderwah. The Rajas of Bhaderwah especially from the Pal dynasty were ardent devotees of Sri Vasuki Nag.
The book gives its reader detailed information about many trekking routes in the Bhaderwah area, a place also known as ‘Trekker’s Paradise’. Apart from this, the book gives valuable information about various ancient temples of the area dedicated to various gods and goddesses like Bhadrakali, Sharika, Durga, Mahakali, Hidamba, Chandika, Shiva and Ganesha. A reader also gets enough details about prominent mosques and Ziarats of Bhaderwah especially Jama Masjid, Ziarat Syed Sikander Ali Shah, Ziarat Hazrat Syed Badshah Sahib, Ziarat Hazrat Saain Sadeeq Shah, Ziarat Moochh Maror, and Ziarat Hazrat Khaki Shah. The author informs that the old Gurudwara in the town was destroyed during the 1947 disturbances. However, a new Gurudwara has come up in village Kotli. This village has an Arya Samaj temple as well. Bhaderwah town had a small chapel affiliated with the Church of North India. The Buddhist sculptures found in the town stand stolen now.
In chapter 2, the author has also listed many religious festivals and fairs of Bhaderwah. Prominent amongst these can be listed as Makkar Sankranti or Maaghi, Dhundu Kundu, Gauri Tritiya, Sharari ( Nag culture), Nela Re Nouratan, Dharamdees, Tihaar, Chaitra Chyodeh, Baisakhi, Akshay Tritiya, Nag Panchami, Jagroo ( torchlight festival), Dhajje Ru Kodd and Jattar.
The author also introduces Bhaderwahi cuisine to the readers. Due to the presence of a sizeable Kashmiri population in the area, Bhaderwahi cuisine has now become diversified. It includes Roganjosh, Yakhni, and Dum-Alu, apart from the traditional Madra, Kadu, Ambal, Khatta meat, Barha, Chitloyee, Tahari( yellow rice), Mehri, Babroo etc. The author gives details about the development of Bhaderwahi literature and language and the influence of Kashmiri, Pahadi, Dogri, and various dialects of adjoining Himachal Pradesh on the Bhaderwahi language. We are informed about Vasuki Puran believed to have been written in Bhaderwah in Sanskrit. We are also informed about folk songs, dances, musicians, writers poets, and educationists of Bhaderwah.
In chapter 3, the author highlights the neglect and discrimination that was meted out to Bhaderwah by successive rulers post-1947. According to the author, the area was administratively truncated and amputated, discriminated in the matters of development of infrastructure and tourist spots by successive governments with the only exception being the rule of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. He attributes the economic backwardness of the area primarily to neglect and discrimination. However, he concludes on a positive note and remains optimistic about Bhaderwah regaining its lost glory. The book ends with the slogan ‘Jai Bhaderwah’ or ‘Victory to Bhaderwah’.
The author retired from a senior managerial position that he held in a public sector bank. He is a researcher, writer, and photographer as well. This book is certainly a great effort to trace the history, culture and scenic beauty of the place popularly known as ‘Chhota Kashmir’. A substantial part of the cost per book is being met by the author from his resources. Priced at rupees one hundred, the author is selling this highly informative book almost free to the readers. And I am sure this labour of love will never be lost.