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Temples Of Kashmir Valley

Shankracharya
Pir Pandit Padshah
Sharadha Tirtha
Shree Sharika Peetham of Kashmir
Pandrethan
The Mysterious Cave of Amarnath
Vaishno Devi Yatra
Mamleshwar Temple at Pahalgam
Some Marvels of Kashmir

 
Shankracharya
Shankarachar is a detached ridge of igneous rock to the south-east of Srinagar, separated from the Shilamar Range by the Aita Gaj Gap. The summit of the hill is crowned with a picturesque edifice. This hill was called Jetha Larak and afterwards it was named Gopadari Hill. Some are of opinion that the temple at the top was originally built by King Sandiman (2629-2564 B.c.). There were 300 golden and silver images in it. About 1368 B.C. King Gopadittya founder of Gopkar repaired it and bestowed to the Brahmans of Arya Varta, agrahars which he built on its top. King Sandimati (34 B.C.-A.D. 13) improved and added to the temple. Zain-Ul-Abdin (1421-1472 A.D.) repaired its roof which had tumbled down by an earthquake. Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-Din, a Sikh Governor (1841-46) also repaired its dome. Recently, the dome was repaired by Swami Shivratnanand saraswati at the request of a Nepali Sadhu who gave him financial aid. 
The temple is under the control of the Dharmartha Department. They have built two small buildings for the sadhus who live there. There is at the place an old stone shed which is called ‘Parvatihund bana koth’ (the store-house of goddess Parvati).
The present name owes its origin to the great philosopher Shankaracharya who visited the valley about ten centuries ago, and lodged at the top of this hill, where it appears there were small sheds of Brahmans who looked after the temple. There is a small tank built of slabs of stone just behind the temple. In those days the Acharya or the Chief Preceptor or, in modern parlance, the Chancellor of the University of Srinagar was Swami Abinaugupth. A discussion took place between the two sages and according to the local tradition Abinaugupth initiated Shankaracharya into the Shakti cult. 
On the 20th April 1961 Shri Shankaracharia of Dwarika Pet installed the white marble statue of Adi Shankaria just near the temple arranged by the Dharmartha Department. 
A climb to the hill from the Mission Hospital (now Government Hospital for chest diseases) will take about 40 min. The path is a pony-track. The descent towards the Gagribal spur is gentle. En route is the tomb of Mian Dullo who is said to have squandered away all the money which his father had given him to trade with. He was enamoured of the charms of the Dal Lake which he selected as his favourite haunt for the gratification of his epicurean appetites. 
The panoramic view of the valley in early April when the snow is deep on the mountains, or after rains on a summer day from the summit of the hill is one of the best that could ever be witnessed. The mountain ranges on the south, west and north rise one above the other and the peaks, varying in height from 13,000-15,500 ft., jut out like the teeth of a saw cutting through the sky. On the south lies the Banahal Pass (9,250 ft.) the chief highway to Jummu, and a number of other passes and depressions. The Brahma Shakri peaks, a group of grand cones viewed even from Lahore, the Aliabad Pass (11,44o ft.) leading to Gujrat, the Romesh Thong (Sunset) Peak, Tata Koti (15,540 ft.) guard the Chhoti Gali Pass (14,450 ft.) the highest in the range, come one after another. We now turn our eyes to the west where lies the vast plateau of Tosa Maidan, the paradise of sheep, and where the eye meets the depression of Ferozpor leading into Punch (Prunts) and Apharwat (13,542 ft.) giving shelter to Gulmarg and affording thrilling sport for the votaries of skiing in India. 
Beyond the Baramula Pass, towards the north-west, the range is continued in Kaj Nag and Khagan mountain. In between the Tragbal (9,500 ft.) and Zoji La (10,500 ft.) appears the beautiful candy cone of Harmoukh (16,842 ft.) in the north, while the eastern range culminating in Mahadiv (13,013 ft.) and Western peaks completes the enchanting circle. At the foot of these mountains lie the alluvial plateaus with rich yellow soil yielding maize and rice where water is available. The swamps, marshes and lakes of the valleys stretch as far as the Wular Lake in the extreme north of the valley. The Baramula road bordered with poplars, the sinuous course of the Vetasta (Jhelum), cutting a clean almond called Shivapor Phur, the green house-tops now disappearing with the introduction of galvanised iron sheets for roofs, the minarets of churches and mosques and the shining surface of the temples present a picturesque sight. 
Turning now to the Dal lake we see the Moghul gardens of Nasim, Shalamar and Nishat densely shaded by the deep green foliage of Boin (Chinar) trees, the floating gardens and the houses situated on the islands in the lake encompassed by poplars, willows and quince trees. The two expanses of deep blue water are separated by the causeway like two great eyes, each with its pupil of an island. The eastern shore is embellished by the magnificent Royal Palace with their crystal sheen, by newly-laid gardens and the boulevard skirting it. A part of the palace has been converted into a hotel with a superb view. 
The Government has made the hill a resort and it is hoped that it will one day be clothed with dense herbage and trees Providing charming bowers for lovers. A number of paths has been marked out and platforms with suitable seats have been made for visitors. In fact, every effort is made to attract people to the hill. 
In olden days a great festival used to be held by the Hindus on the ioth day of the lunar fortnight of Baisak which corresponds to March. Just above the Dal Gate they would come in doonga’s to bathe. This was called Monda daham, probably in memory of the killing of the demon Mond by the goddess Sharika. But this festival has now been entirely forgotten as if nothing like it ever existed.

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Pir Pandit Padshah
“The Puff That Kindled The Divine Spark In Him”
Rishi Pir Pandit was one of the greatest saints of Kashmir of the 17th Century A.D. He was a Karmyogin type of a Saint who helped people both in spiritual and temporal pursuits and he became famous as “PIR PANDlT PADSHAH HARDU JAHAN MUSHKIL ASAN” i.e. Emperor of two worlds and answer to difficulties of all kinds. 
His father was Pandit Gobind Kaul resident of Batayar Mohallah Ali Kadal Srinagar (Kashmir). He was a well-to-do man but could not get a girl to marry. What worried him was that he was advancing in age. However, he ultimately succeeded in marrying a girl in Gushi Village of Handwara Tehsil. When the bride-groom came for the marriage ceremony to Ghoshi Village, his mother-in-law noticing some grey hair on her son-in-law’s head fell into a swoon. After the wedding, the mother prayed at a nearby “Sacred spring” for her daughter. One day while praying earnestly at the spring, she heard a voice telling her “Oh old lady-go to your house and get your daughter to this spring. A bunch of flowers will come out of the spring let your daughter smell this bunch of flowers and your ambition would be fulfiled and your daughter will get a holy son”. This was done by the lady and Pir Sahib’s mother smelt the coloured bunch of flowers. When the time of delivery was approaching she left her parents house to go back to her husband. While travelling in a boat to Srinagar, she delivered a male child in the boat itself at Sopore in the year 1637 A.D. This boy was given Reshi as his name. A temple has been constructed at this spot and is known as “Resh Sund Mandar”. Pandit Gobind Koul was extremely happy when his wife and child reached his home in Srinagar. When Reshi was 7 years old he was married and his father died soon after. By the time he attained the age of 12 years he became indifferent to wordly affairs and devoted his entire time to Sadhana in temples, visiting saints and searching for a Guru. With this predominant idea in his mind, he started circumambulation of Shri Sharika Bhagwati Shrine situated on a hillock in the city of Srinagar during nights for 40 days crawling all the way on his knees (a distance of about 3 miles). On the 40th day when he was in Deviangan (an open space below the hill) Godess Sharika Bhagwati gave him Her Darshana and enquired of him as to what he wanted. He prostrated himself before Her and implored Her for being granted the boon of a Guru. The Devi ordained that the first man he would come across henceforth would be his Guru. After he left Deviangan and reached the place known as Hari on the northern side of the Hillock, he encountered a “MASTANA” saint sitting on a big stone and bowed to him, but he – the saint bolted away without saying a word leaving Reshi Pir far behind. The Mastana saint reached Reshi Pir’s house before he himself reached there, asked Reshi’s mother to give him Reshi’s Hokka and smoking a puff or two told her to give the Chellum to Reshi for smoking after he returns home, and left the house. As soon as Reshi reached his home, his mother told him that a Mastana had come, who asked for his Hokka, smoked a puff and said the “Chellem” should be given to him (Reshi) for smoking. Reshi had a puff. The second puff kindled the Divine spark in him, his Jana Nitra opened and he became a God-intoxicated Trikaldarsh. This “Mastana” saint who initiated him was Pandit Krishna Kar. After his initiation he continued his intense Sadhana for 14 l/2 years. It is said that for a bath he would throw live red hot charcoal on his shoulders and body daily, for a number of years. After this period he became famous as “Pir PANDIT PADSHAH” as he helped many people out of their worldly difficulties. This news reached Aurangzeb who disliked his being called king “PADSHAH” and sent his messenger to Srinagar to arrest him and get him to Delhi. As the massenger met Pir Sahib, he made arrangements for his food. etc. and told him that he would accompany him the next morning to meet the king. By his miraculous powers he went to Delhi during night and enquired of Aurangzeb what he wanted of him. On seeing Reshi Pir, Aurangzaib trembled, became convinced of his spiritual prowess and greatness and wrote to Saif Khan Governor of Kashmir not only to cancel the orders of his arrest but also to keep a Jagir in his name in Devsar Village. Pir Pandit had fixed 14 pies as Niaz or offering to him. This practice is continuing even to this day among Kashmiri Hindus. 
A contemporary of Pir Sahib, Mulla Ahmad Badkhshani used to have discussions with him on spiritual topics. Dara Shikoh was his (Mulla Sahib’s) pupil. It is believed that he “Reshi Pir” influenced Mulla Sahib greatly with Vedantic thought and he induced his pupil Dara Shikoh to translate it in Persian and named the book “SAIR-I-AKBAR”.

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Sharadha Tirtha
Here are some facts about Sharada, the most famous and sacred of all the Kashmiri pilgrimage centers: 
1. The ancient temple of Sharada is located in Neelam (Kishanganga) valley just beyond the line of control in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The temple is located in a small village called Shardi near the confluence of Kishanganga and Madhumati rivers. As far as I can gather from my maps, its location seems to be 74.2 E and 34.8 N. It is located northwest of the Wular lake about 40 miles as the crow flies. Another way of getting an idea of its location note that Kishanganga and Vitasta (Jhelum) meet in Muzzafarabad. Shardi and Sopore are about the same distance from Muzzafarabad along two different rivers. 
2. It was important not only as a temple to Sharada in her triple form as Sharada, Sarasvati, and Vagdevi, it was also a centre of Kashmirian learning. The main pilgrimage used to be conducted on the 4th shudi of Bhadrapada. Shradha used to be performed by the Madhumati. 
3. The famous chronicler Al-Biruni (1130 AD) names Sharada, together with Somnath, Multan, and Thaneshvar, as one of the most important temples of Hindus in north India. In the 16th century, Abul Fazl, the author of Ain- Akbari, similarly describes this as a temple dedicated to Durga which is regarded with great veneration. He adds, “On every eighth tithi of the bright half of the month it begins to shake and produces the most extraordinary effect.” 
4. If you would like to read details about the temple see pages 279-290 in the second volume of RAJATARANGINI translated by M.A. Stein, who visited the temple in 1892. Stein has extensive notes regarding the temple and his own description of it. 
5. It is curious that during the fighting of 1948, the Indian army made no attempt to control this region. I presume this was because the memory of the Sharada temple was not very strong in the minds of the main actors in the drama. 
Remember the fame of Sharada was so great that the word became synonymous with learning. Also remember that the native script for Kashmiri is a script called Sharada. Some of you would remember the zataks written in it. Sharada is somewhat similar to Devanagari but not identical. 
PART II: THE SHARADHA SCRIPT 
 Here I summarize current knowledge on the Sharada script: 
Sharada, like other Indian and southeast Asian scripts, is derived from Brahmi which was in use in India at least as early as 500 BC if not earlier. New theories suggest that Brahmi, in turn, evolved from the ancient Indus (or Sarasvati) script that was in use in India in 2500 BC. 
The earliest records in Sharada have been dated to about 800 AD. You find them all over northwest India. Incidently, Gurumukhi, the script that was designed by one of the Sikh gurus for Punjabi, used Sharada as its model. The widespread usage of Sharada has been interpreted by scholars to mean that Kashmiri Pandits in ancient times, as now, were fond of travelling outside the valley. The script of the Dogras, called Takari, is also derived from Sharada. 
PART III: MORE ON THE SHARADA TEMPLE 
This information is abridged from Stein’s account: 
The temple is approached from the lower slope of the hill in the west by an imposing stone staircase, now half decayed, which leads up in 63 steps to the main entrance of the quadrangular court enclosing the temple. The staircase is about 10 feet wide and rises rather steeply in six flights between two flanking walls of massive construction. The entrance to the court is through a gateway with a double porch of Kashmiri design. 
The court of the temple forms an oblong accurately oriented and enclosed by a massive wall 6 feet thick. The north side of the enclosure measures 142 feet whereas the east side measures 94 feet and 6 inches. Thus the quadrangle has proportion of 3:2. In the centre of the northern wall is a small recess 3 feet 3 inches square inside which opens by a trefoil arched door towards the interior of the court. This recess contained two ancient lingas. 
In the centre of the quadrangle is the temple raised on a basement of 24 feet square and 5 feet 3 inches high. The entrance to this inner temple is from the west side and is approached by stairs five and a half feet wide with flanking side walls. The interior of the inner temple is a square of 12 feet and 3 inches and it has no decoration of any kind. The only conspicous object inside is a large slab which measures about 6 by 7 feet with a thickness of about half a foot. This slab is believed to cover a kunda, or spring, in which goddess Sharada appeared to the sage Shandilya. This kund is the object of the special veneration of the pilgrims. 
The main Sharada temple rises in a prominent and commanding position above the right bank of the Madhumati on the terrace-like foot of a spur which descends from a high pine-clad peak to the east. Immediately below this terrace to the northwest is the spot where the waters of the Madhumati and Kishanganga mingle. The view from the staircase to the outer temple is magnificent. Not only can you see the valleys of Madhumati and the gorge of Kishanganga but also a stream now called Sargan that falls into Kishanganga. 
The location of the Sharada temple in the village of Shardi is beyond the mountains, immediately surrounding the valley north northwest of Bandipur. It is beyond Lolab valley and beyond Drang so reaching it must take a few days. Although it is only about 35 miles or so from the northern reaches of the Wular, the journey in ancient times must have been carried out entirely on foot. I suppose now it should be possible to complete it rather quickly starting from Bandipur.

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Shree Sharika Peetham of Kashmir
The valley of Kashmir is known as Deva Bhoomi i.e. the abode of gods. It is situated in the lap of the Himalayan mountains. The seat of Sharika Devi, the ‘Cosmic mother’, is one of such divine centres. It is the abode of three crore gods; hence in Sanskrit it is called Vaas Bhoomi of Trikoti devtas of the Hindu pantheon. The devout have always found great spiritual solace and bliss here. It is also known as “Pradyuman – peetham” – the wish-fulfilling seat of the cosmic Mother. 
Kashmir’s deshny is settled here at the lotus feet of Jagad Amba. This spiritual seat is situated on the western top of the mount Hariparbat. It was at this very spot that the Divine Mother destroyed the demon “Jaloudbhava” that existed in the deep waters of the Sati-Sar. This terrible demon used to give trouble to the inhabitants that lived then on the hill tops surrounding that pretty sea Satisar now called ‘Kashmir’. 
Kashmir has seen many natural calamities from time to time during its history in the shape of floods and rains. The cosmic Mother here represents the solar energy, having seven components. The number ‘seven’ represents seven colours of light, seven Rishis of the Veda vidya, the seven worlds. It is for this digit seven that the divine Mother’s seed letters are seven in number, corresponding to the seven basic ‘Swaras’ of the Sangeet Shastra. She is the protector of her Bhagtas from all the opposite aspects of existence. The energy here is personified as heat or the ‘Solar Energy’. 
The old city of Srinagar is situated at its foot hill in the west. The Divine Mother Sharika has all along been the ‘Ishta Devi’ i.e. personal goddess of the royal dynasties that ruled over Kashmir from time to time. One of the most famous among these kings was Pravar Sen, the son of the great Buddhist King ‘Megha- Vaahana’ who ruled the land at the end of the 6th century A.D. The city of Srinagar is known as Pravarpura i.e. the city laid out by king Pravara Sena. “Shri Chakra” is worshipped here as the cosmic form of Divine Mother. It is engraved on a green, circular shaped stone of Sapphire. The Bhawani Sahasranama says thus. 
The Meaning of Shri Chakra
The Mother exists here in the form of a diagram. She is within its orbit. Even the triangles that shape the corners of the Shri Chakra are the forms of Devi. All these 43 triangles and lotuses vibrate from the very basic central point that represents the core of the whole cosmos. It has 3 circles around it and 4 gates to enter into it. It originates from one central point. 
This diagram is also known as ‘Matra-chakra’ established here by king Pravar Sena. Historian Kalhana writes: <sanskrit sloka> 
There was a Murti of Sharika Devi made of glazed black stone. The same was taken away to Sarthal Kishtwar by king Ugra Deva in 1170. A.D. Kashmir was in a state of turmoil then. The following shloka throws light on this Sharika Murti <sanskrit> 
Sharika Devi’s Murti is beautiful. Her, image is made of black stone. She is Mother Durga having 18 arms. The Cosrriic Energy is beyond any name and form and She is Eternal force of God. She is matter (Sat), soul (chit) and bliss (ananda). I offer Pranams to Her to protect me, the seeker of asylum under her pious feet. 
The Surroundings of Hari Parbat
The famous Dal Lake is in the East of the Parbat and Rainawari, a township established by king Rana Ditya (hence its original name was Ranapuri, situated close to the southern edge of this hillock). An ancient Durga temple is at the top of this very mount. Hari Parbat is a big ancient fort site with all the required facilities, like availability of drinking water, a space for armoury, residential huts and a storage for provisions etc. etc. 
Its eastern foot-hill area was used as a cantonment for the army. This area is protected by an allround wall covering its adjacent land strip from the southern end to the northern end inclusive of the westem strip with a magnificent gate “Kashtadwar”. 
Its western strip is known as Devi Aangan where Kashmiri Pandits would collect in thousands to offer prayers to Devi on the Hora Ashtami night. 
It was at this very seat and shrine of the cosmic Mother tlhat MaharajaJai Sinha (1128 – 55) gave a start to his Vedic renaissance programme with the intention of inspiring confidence among his masses. He dug deep foundations for preservation and promotion of the Vedic Dharma. This renaissance programme was launched in the form of “Shakti- Upasana” The Maharaja gave a new direction to his masses. It was the Shakta cult that he stressed upon for his subjects. 
Before Jaya Sinha’s advent to the throne of Kashmir, the country had faced the first foreign invasion by Mohd. of Gaznavi. The Kashmiris had faced great trouble due to this invasion and multi dimensional devastation had taken place as a result of it. Later also the Kashmiris had seen bad days during the rule of king Harsha (1089-1101 A.D.) whom Kalhana calls a ‘Rakshasa’. He had indulged in plunder and destruction of the Hindu shrines. In his reign Deva Murtis were desecrated. He had recruited the Turks as his army generals and soldiers. He worked under the influence of some non-Hindu mendicants and took such steps to save his kingdom. This was all based on his wrong notions. The happenings compelled Jayasinha to follow the Shakta Marga. This back ground has been hinted at in the Bhawani Sahasranama thus. 
Here the word ‘dushta’ has been used for kings like ‘Harsha’ and the word ‘Malecha’ indicates the invader ‘Gazanavi’ who had surfaced during the rule of Sangrama Raja (1003 – 28 A.D.) . One more factor that had contributed towards this “Renaissance Movement” was the Historian Kalhana who had compiled his great work ‘The Raj Tarangini’ during the rule of Maha RajaJaya Sinha from 1148 to 50 A.D . MaharajaJaya Sinha’s greatness also has been acknowledged in the Bhawani Sahasranama: Jagad Amba Sharika is Herself Jaya’s Administration, Guide to his victory, the Bestower of victory and Sustainer and Supporter of this visionary king Jaya Sinha. Under the influence of the unmanly concept of non-violence, escapism and falsehood that were practised in the name of devotion and salvation with the advent of non-Vedic paths. This had compelled the Kashmiris to feel concemed about their social existence and preservation. 
The Bhawani Sahasra Nama
This grantha, composed in praise of Devi Bhawani’s one thousand pious names, throws enough light on the Shakta cult. All these names enable us to grasp the main features of the Vedic Dharma i.e. social consciousness, service to mankind, compassion, sympathy, moral values, etc. Shlokas from the granth use to be recited by the devotees regularly as they performed Parikrama (when there was normalcy in Kashmir). The text consists of three parts. The first part throws light on the creation of this universe, the eminence of the Bhawani Devi, the source of the elements that make up the existence or the Prakriti. This grantha tells us that even Lord Maha Deva is born out of the cosmic energy. Maha Deva is thus a devotee of the Mother. “Maha Deva” also happens to be the name of the Rishi who has given an account of his mystic experience, that he had got through the constant recitation of thisgrantha. 
Other Works on this Subject
Bhavani Sahasranama is a Samvada, comprising of questions put forth by Nandiji and the answers given by Maha Deva, the Lord. The word ‘Rishi’ used in the text suggests that it is a revealed book. The Vedas say in the “Vag – Ambhrani” sookta that it is the Mother’s grace that makes a person into a Rishi, who reveals the truths to the world. It is the Mother again that carves a heroic personality out of a simpleton besides giving birth to a great scientist. 
It was prior to the period in which Bhavani Sahasranama appeared that the “Panchastavi” was composed by Dharma Acharya. This work consists of hymns on the Devi and it lays stress on the Mother’s worship. Even the Adi Shankara had composed his great work “Soundarya – Lahari” with the same objective in view, to make the Indian society aware of the Mother’s eminence, four centuries before the Bhavani Sahasranama was revealed. 
A few names from the 2nd chapter of the work signify: That the mother is enlightenment, Mother of the whole cosmos, She is Mother of the Vedas; She is Courage, Love, Tradition, the Earth; She is the real ruler, Truth, Omkara herself. She is the mother of Buddha and Mahavira She is diplomacy and penal code, besides She is Ganga, Yamuna and all other rivers that flow through the Indian subcontinent, She is an Army herself and victory as well, She inspires the devotees to attain the four-fold aim of the human life. 
Other names convey that she loves dancing and singing. She is the composition of poets and the wise. She has great liking for the saffron flowers. She is the land known as Kurukshetra where the Maha Bharata was fought. She is both Shri Ram’s and Shri Krishna’s birth place. She is the social code, the digestive system, the system that is responsible for the creation of human body. She is beauty and the reverential feeling for the mother. It is she that shapes future generations. She is all forms of Expression. She is science and spirituality both. She is the service to mankind to sustain this world. She is armoury. She loves horse riding. She is the sheath and the sword. She is the heroic mother that gives birth to brave sons and daughters. She is herself the battle field. She is benevolent to all. 
The Third chapter deals with fal shruti. It mentions the set of benefits one derives from its recitation. These benefits are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. 
In the end, it is emphasised that we should make it our daily practice to recite the text with devotion and dedication. The set of one thousand names includes one hundred names from the “Lalita Sahasranama”, the pious names of Mother Lalita’s eminence. Cultural and territorial identity of India is the Divine Mother herself.

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Pandrethan
This place is about 4 miles from Srinagar. Here was the old capital of Kashmir, which was founded by king Ashoka of Buddhist fame. The word is a corrupt form of Purana-old, adhishthan-capital. There is now a cantonment at this pace. Not very far from the road there is a very low spring in the middle of which stands a beautiful stone temple. The roof of the temple consists of one stone artistically carved. This was erected by Meru, the minister of kinz Partha who ruled ashmir from 921-931 A.C. It was dedicated to Vishnu and was called Meru Vardhana Swami. It must have been a place of pilgrimage in the olden times. Mention of it has been made in the Amar Nath Mahatmva, but the place has now lost its sacred associations. 

Pandrethan (near Srinagar). One of the few temples of Kashmir with roof intact. Although miniature in size, it is ornate with structural symmetry. 
10th century era.

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The Mysterious Cave of Amarnath
Man’s search after God began with the dawn of creation. This search has assumed various forms, some seekers have concentrated on the teachings of the great prophets of religions, and others have gone on pilgrimages to the birth places of saints and prophets and visited localities where the different gospels were preached. Thereby they seek inspiration to help them in their quest. 
The grandeur of Northern India lies in its glorious mountain ranges . . . the Himalayas. It is on these ramparts of Nature that the prosperity of India depends. Shri Krishna says in the Bhagwat Gita, ‘I am the Himalayas among mountains’. The Indians look upon them as the abode of celestial beings. It is said that in the caves of Himalayas live sages who have been in meditation for hundreds of years. They occasionally reveal themselves in disguise to pilgrims. Among the many holy places in the side-valleys of these mountains, two . . . Kidar Nath towards the south and Amar Nath in the interior of Kashmir Himdlaya’s . . . stand out prominently. There art also a number of mountain peaks which are dedicated to certain gods or goddesses. The most sacred spots in Tibet on the further side of the Indian border are Mount Kailas and the Manasurwar lake where adepts in spiritual lore are supposed to be living in their subtle bodies. These Masters are ever ready to guide the travellers on the spiritual path. I think one of the reasons why men go to these places is to see the Hand of the Creation in scenes of Nature’s impressive grandeur. As these places are not easy of access, and as they are thousands of feet above the sea-level, beyond the dust and din of the world, man’s soul gets elevated at the sight of their sublime beauty and thus he is brought closer to the object of his quest. 
There are special days fixed according to the lunar calendar to visit these sacred places. The pilgrims assemble on a certain date in a certain place and start together. Such a rule is applicable only to those places which lie in mountains and the going is difficult. The Government provide facilities as far as possible everywhere for pilgrims. 
The most famous of these pilgrimages is the Cave of Amar Nath which is an All-India Holy Place. People visit it from every corner of India. Mention of it occurs twice in the Raiatarangini (the history of Kashmir), first where the King Ram Deva is stated to have imprisoned the debauch King Sukh Deva and to have drowned him in the Lidder (Lambodheri) among the mountains of Amar Nath about 1,000 B.C., and a second time where King Sandimati (34 B.C. to 17 A.D.) is described as visiting the ice-lingam. 
This shows that this sacred spot was known to the people in very early times. One can only guess as to how this cave was discovered. The villagers of the Kashmir Valley generally send their flocks under a shepherd’s care to the pastures in summer. Each shepherd has his own pasture which he inherits from his father. The word Pahalgam means ‘a village of shepherds’. While grazing his flock round the pastures of Pantsatarni, some shepherd may have lost some members of his flock. In search of these he may have climbed the mountain and found this cave with the Shiva-lingam in it and communicated the news to his brothers who in turn must have made it known to others. The maliks as the guides to the cave are now called, have a share in the offerings to the deity. Formerly, in absence of tangas and lorries the whole journey from Srinagar was done on foot. There were a large number of springs, places and streams in the way where the pilgrims had to bathe, and drink water. Since the introduction of wheeled conveyances many of these places have been abandoned being out of the way, and much time is thus saved. For the information of the reader I give a detailed list of places which a pilgrim is expected to visit for a bath and other ceremonial purposes. 
Old Route. According to the Amar Nath Mahatmya a pilgrim is expected to bathe or drink water at the following places before he enters the Holy Cave. As some of the places are not accessible to wheeled conveyance, they are not now visited by pilgrims. 
Srinagar. Shudashi Khetor, the modern Shurahyar about 2.5 miles from Srinagar. It is said that in ancient times there was a stone staircase leading from this place to the top of the Shankarachar. Lately a temple has been built here. 
Shivpor. There must have been a temple here, but there is no trace of it now. 
Pandrenthan. The old Panthdreshti about 1.5 miles from Shurahyar. There is a temple in the middle of the spring built by Meru the Prime Minister of King Paratha (921-31 A.C.). Kak is of opinion that this is the temple of Shiv-Rilhanesvara erected by Rilhana, the Prime Minister of Jayasimha, about the year A.D. 1135. 
Padampor. This was the favourite haunt of Rajank Acharyas the present Razdan family. It is 5.5 miles from Pandrethan. It was here that Shri Lalishwari lived. There is a spot here which is called Lalatrag. 
Javati. The modern Zewan. It is 7 miles from Srinagar. The road is metalled. There is a spring here dedicated to Vasak Nag. There are regular buses running now. 
Meshitoud. It means sweet water, the modern Petwan. 
Avantiporika. It is known as Seda Khetor, the modern Avantipor. There are at this place old temples built by King Avantivarman (855-883 A.C.). 
Barsu. There is a stream flowing through the village called Rudara Ganga. 
Jaubror. There must have been a temple here in olden times. 
Mahawarishwarn. The old Mahawaras. 
Haridrak Ganapati. Known as Hari Ganish. 
Belihar. Known as Belyar. This was known as Lakhmi Khetor. 
Wagahama. The place is known as Hastikaran. 
Tsakrish. The modern Tsakodar. This is a plateau on the right bank of the Vetasta near Bijbihara. It is 28 miles from Srinagar. 
Dewak Tirth. The modern Dewakivar. 
Hari Tsander. It is the southern ghat of the Bijbihara stone temple. It contains a huge stone lingam. 
Sthalwat. The modern Thajwor. It is 2.75 Miles from Bijbehara and here water drips from the southern side of the plateau through maiden-hair on the Shivlingam. 
Suryi-Gohawati. The modern Sriguphvara. It is 4.75 miles from Thajwor. 
Lambodari. A stream in which the pilgrims have to bathe. 
Sirhom. Here is a spring called Surya Ganga where worship takes place. 
Bodrus. The place is sacred to Ganpat whose worship removes all obstacles. 
Tsatrus Bodrus. The place is now called Hayi. 
Shirshi Ashram. The Woter Nag Ganga flows by this Spot. It is 2 miles from Sriguphvara. 
Sallar. Here the people bathe in the stream. The place is 3.5 miles from Tsatrus Bodrus and is reached by a pony track. 
Bala Khelyan. Known as Vishna Khetor, the modern Bala Khellan. 
C.anish Bal. 10.5 miles from Sallar. Here Ganish is worshipped. It is on the right bank of the Lidder below Pahalgam. 
Mamalishwar (Shiva Lingam)
On the right bank of the Lidder is a spring and an old temple containing a Shiva Lingam at this place which is about a mile from Pahalgam. It is said that when Shiva removed His seat from Thojwara to Mamalishwar Ganish who was his door-keeper did not allow devas to visit Him. Hence the name of the village Mamal – don’t go. 
On one occasion Indra sought permission to visit Shiva. Ganish did not allow him. So there followed a quarrel, Ganish became furious and thirsty. He drank the river which became dry. Shiva while playing at his tabor poked the stomach of Ganish with it and out flowed the stream again, hence Lambodari. 
In my opinion the source of the Lidder is the Kolahoi glacier. A stream joins it at Lidderwat which is the corrupt form of Lambodar wat-a rock dedicated to Ganish who is also named Lambodar and it is from here that the river was named Lambodari the modern Lidder. This must have been a place of pilgrimage in the olden times. An affluent from Tarsar enters the river at this place. 
Bragapati Khetra. It is a spring in Pahalgam. It is said that Vishnu was pleased with the worship of Brago whom He embraced. Brago perspired, which gave rise to a spring. This spring is behind the village. 
Nila Ganga. It is about 3 miles from Pahalgam. Close by the foot of Pisu Hill was the tirth of Sthanishwar where pilgrims had to bathe. One day Shiva kissed the eyes of Parvati to which antimony had been applied. He washed her eyes in water which turned dark-blue, hence Nila Ganga. There was a great fight between the Devas and the Daityas. The Devas did not allow the Daityas to see Shiva. The Daityas were defeated and ground down to tiny bits. Hence Pisu Hill. 
Sheshiram Nag. A certain Daitya’s body was entirely made of wind. He became very powerful. He troubled the Devas every way. They all entreated Shiva to rid them of the monster. Shiva told them that he was his disciple, and that they should approach Vishnu, which they did. Vishnu sent his Wahan, Sheshi Nag who sucked all the wind from the Daitya’s body and the Daitya was killed. Pilgrims bathe in the lake. 
Vaovajen. Some of the Daityas still concealed themselves in the lakes around the place. These lakes, were dried and the Daityas were killed. Hence Hoka Sar (dried lake). The Deva’s were told to build small houses of stones as a shelter against the wind. Hence pilgrims also make toy sheds of stones. 
Pantsatarni. This is believed to represent plaited hair (jata) of Shiva from which the Ganga flows. It is said that Shiva told one of his Rudhragans to beat the drum every evening. He forgot to do so one evening. Thereupon he was cursed and turned into a mountain which is now known as Bairau Bal. 
Garbagar. On the other side of the Bairau Bal is Garbagar popularly known as Garba Yatra. Nandi complained to Shiva that he could not stop the rush of Devas coming to visit him. He ordered Nandi to get a huge rock and make a hole through it, so that every one desirous of visiting him would have to pass through that hole while Nandi would be standing near the hole. 
Amaravati. All living beings besought Shiva to disclose a method which would render them immortal. Thereupon Shiva rinsed His plaited hair (jata) and out flowed the Amaravati-the stream of immortality. Some of the drops fell here and there giving birth to some of the gods, while himself he turned into Sudhaling (immortal emblem) in a corner of the cave. Every one being satisfied praised Shiva. 
Sangam. The confluence of the Amaravati with the Pantsatarni is the place where a pilgrim has to perform Shrada (a ceremony for the dead). He is required to make a pedestal of barley flour with four golden nails struck in the four corners and a pure pearl set in the middle which should be given in charity to a Brahman who is supposed to be Shiva’s form. When returning from Pahalgam the pilgrims revisit Mamalishwar and bathe in the nine springs of Naudal. 
Patal Ganga. This is the last place where a pilgrim has to bathe. This is a spring near Nishat Bagh. 
Chhari Saheb
IN the Bragish Sahita it is said that after Reshi Kashap Ji reclaimed the Kashmir Valley from the waters it became populated through the agency of Nag Raja Takhek. It so happened once that Bragish Reshi roaming through the Himalayas arrived here. It was he who gave a clue of the cave of Amar Nath Ji to the people. He gave them a detailed account of the Tirthas and the places on the route to the cave. 
After some decades the Daityas had the upper hand here and this place fell into oblivion, and the people forgot all about the route. Thereupon Bragish ji reappeared. He told the people that he had propitiated Bhagwan Mahadiv from whom he had obtained a sceptre which he had entrusted to Nag Raj Takhek. They should go and get this sceptre from Nag Raj, and while ruler of the country shall make arrangements for the Pilgrims who should start in a body from Srinagar with the holy sceptre in front. There would be no hindrance nor any trouble on the way. The sceptre called the Chhari Sahib wielded at present by the Mahant under the supervision of the Dharmartha Department has led the procession of pilgrims ever since. 
In 1819 A.C. Pandit Har Dass Tiku founded the Chhawani Amar Nath at Rambagh where the Sadhus from the plains assembled and where he gave them free rations for the journey, both ways from his own private resources. This cost him about two lakhs. 
The Mahants who wield the divine command of holy plac have always been the carriers of two holy sceptres which symbolise that command. Wherever a Mahant visits a place and takes his seat with ceremony a man holding one of the sceptres stands on his right and the other on his left. 
The whole Amar Nath pilgrimage procession is conducted under the auspices of the Chhari Sahib. No pilgrim is allowed to go ahead of the Chhari, which is guarded by the Dharmartha Department, Kashmir. I am told that the Chhari in Srinagar was first wielded by Mahant Atwargir near the present Shital Nath buildings. After some time Mahant Sarswatigir visited Kashmir and stayed at the spot Dashnami Akhara. He erected a platform and some buildings and began to entertain Sadhus who came from the plains to Amar Nath. He took the Chhari from Atwargir. 
In the meantime Shivratananand Saraswati improved the Durga Nag Ashram to such an extent that most of the Sadhus bound for the pilgrimage stayed in his ashram and were much cared for and warmly entertained. He put forth the plea that the Chhari must belong to his ashram as he was the Shankarcharia of the place. Thereupon started a dispute over the Chhari. Shivratananand Saraswati marched to the Amar Nath pilgrimage. A compromise was made between the two claimants and Mahant Saraswatigir considered Shivratananand a Sadak chela. The latter then naturally became the wielder of Chhari Sahib. Under his command the arrangements for the sadhus were excellent. There were enough tents and pilgrims were much cared for. But a section of the Sadhus of the place was not satisfied with the agreement. They protested to the Government and made demonstrations. After the demise of Shivratananand, the Chharipassed into the hands of a Chela of Saraswatigir who now wields it under the control of Dharmartha. 
The Chhari generally leaves on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of Sawan. A state official is always present to perform puja at Dashnami Akhara on the eve of its departure. The carrier of this holy sceptre must walk on foot. They visit Hari Parbat and Shankarachar before departure. They go by stages as pilgrims did of old but by a different route by-passing the places of interest mentioned in Amar Nath Mahatmya. The first halt is, at Pampor. At Bijibehara all sadhus accompanying the Chhari are given a dinner by the pujari of the temple. Villagers call it ‘Gosain Mela’, the fair of hermits. Bijbehara to Anantnag-5 miles. 
Anantnag. A great festival is celebrated for the townspeople who come to see the sadhus. 
Anantnag-Bawan 4.5 miles. Here is the famous spring of Martand where in the intercalry month or on vijaya saftami shradhas are performed. 
Bawan to Aishimuqam 9.5 miles. 
Aishimuqam to Pahalgam 11.5 miles. 
Near Pahalgam village there are sheds for pilgrims. All pilgrims coming from various parts of India assemble here and wait for the Chhari Sahib. They arrange with contractors for ponies or coolies for their luggage. It is necessary to have a tent and some warm clothes. Religious-minded people abhor putting on leather shoes. If leather shoes are used they must be nailed. Formerly pilgrims. generally used grass shoes. They are most useful in going over glaciers. In this journey however, there is only a small bit in the Cave Glen. A water-proof coat is very useful. A staff with an iron spike would prove useful. It is also advisable to keep handy some ready-made food. Cinnamon should be used along with tea. 
Poorly clad people from the plains having no conception of the severe cold of the place, suffer a lot. The Government makes excellent arrangements for the convenience of pilgrims. A civil officer regulates the whole affair. Medical aid is provided and security measures are enforced. Some schools and colleges despatch batches of scouts to look after the weak. There is a regular bazaar held at the stage. The shop-keepers, confectioners, grain-dealers, vegetable-sellers sell their commodities at a high price. The contractors arrange for fuel. As the fuel is not available beyond Pisu Hill (11,081 ft.) it is advisable that the coolies or pony-men be instructed to carry one or two bundles of wood. No wood except juniper is procurable for the next two stages. 
The Government allots about ten thousand rupees for the maintenance of the weak Sadhus and children and makes every possible effort to give them comfort and ease. 
The Public’ Works Department looks after the upkeep of the road and the bridges over the torrents. Lately an excellent arrangement for the baths of men and women has been made near the cave. Also an iron railing has been erected round the Shivaling in the cave. 
On the night of the 11th day of the bright fortnight of Sawan (July-August) all pilgrims assemble at Pahalgam. They all are now in full equipment including picturesque awnings of all sorts and forming an artificial village march like the Aryan of old, in a deeply devotional spirit, reciting the praises of various gods and of goddesses, introspeciing and meditating the inward vibrations of their minds and this is the purpose of their journey. The procession is best described by Swami Vivekananda in the following words: ‘The procession of several thousands of pilgrims in the far-away Cave of Amar Nath, nestled in a glacial gorge of the Western. Himalayas, through some of the most charming scenery in the world, is fascinating in the extreme. It strikes one with wonderment to observe the quiet and orderly way in which a canvas town springs up in some valley with incredible rapidity at each halting place with its bazaars and broad streets running through the middle and vanishing as quickly at the break of dawn, when the whole army of gay pilgrims are on their march once more for the day. Then again the glow of the countless cooking-fires, the ashes covered Sadhus under the canopy of their large geru (orange) umbrellas pitched in the ground, sitting and discussing or meditating before their dhunies (fire), the Sanyasis of all orders in their various garbs, the men and women with children from all parts of the country in their characteristic costumes, and their devout faces, the torches shimmering at nightfall, the blowing of conch-shells and horns, the singing of hymns and prayers in chorus, all these and many other romantic sights and experiences of a pilgrimage, which can be met with nowhere outside India, are the most impressive and convey to some extent an idea of the overmastering passion of the race for religion. Of the psychological aspect and significance of such pilgrimage, done on foot for days and days, much could be written. Suffice it to say, that it is one of those ancient institutions which have above all, kept the fire of spirituality burning in the hearts of the people. One sees here the very soul of the Hindu nation laid bare in all its innate beauty and sweetness of faith and devotion. 
Pahalgam to Tsandanwari (9,200 ft.) 8.5 miles. The pilgrims rise early and in a long string walk one after another. Some old ladies are carried in palanquin. The palanquin-bearers sing in chorus to avoid fatigue. Some rich people ride on ponies, while most of the people walk. It is a good pony-track which runs along the right bank of the torrent. The mountain slopes are densely forested. The flow of the blue waters rushing against the rocks, making delightful pools and dashing cataracts infuse new life into the onlookers. Occasionally they hear the sweet music of the whistling thrush or see the gorgeous plumage of the white-capped redstart or a dipper diving in the swift torrent to get its food. The shady path under the pines which emit delicious fragrance lessens the fatigue of the traveller. Some pilgrims take a little rest, against a huge fir and with closed eyes meditate on the beauties of the skilful works of the Author of the Universe. Others open their thermos flasks and while enjoying the beauties of Nature which abound in these lovely spots take a cup of tea to exhilarate themselves; while others again hold the hand of an old man to help him to go ahead. In the way they have to bathe at the Nila Ganga. Some pilgrims walk straight on and halt at Tsandarwari and pitch their tents there. It is a wise plan to be early at the stage, to pitch the tent, make a drain round it and get coolies to collect wood in good time. A small hatchet is of much use. Ponies carrying luggage should not be allowed to move away from oneself and coolies should not lag behind. 
There are sheds at Al these stages, but except during pilgrim traffic they are not well cared for. It would be desirable that the sheds at Pahalgam and Tsandanwari be placed direct under the Public Works Department and the sheds at Vaovajen and Pantsatarni entrusted to shepherds living there for summer months. They should be paid for that. In that case the sheds will be kept clean, tidy and in good repair. I wish more sheds were built for the comfort of the pilgrims. 
This stage presents a moderately difficult ascent. From Tsandanwari to the foot of the Pisu Hill (11081 ft.) is about 1.5 miles. There is a snow bed to pass over. The ascent up the hill is somewhat steep. It is better to make an early start, as with slow and steady steps, the ascent can be easily negotiated. When taking rest it is advisable to look below at the same time not missing the glorious panorama of densely forest-covered mountains and snowy peaks about which eagles and vultures hover in circles to find their food. Close at your feet, right and left, are nature’s gems of various colours-flowers peeping from underneath trees and bushes till you reach the top. You are now above the tree-belt (in the alpine region). Take a little rest and have something to eat. The going from here to Sheshiram Nag is easy. In between about two miles from the top of the Pisu Hill is Zoj pal a nice camping ground. The path goes along the shore of Sheshiram Nag (11,730). The Nag lies in a depression surrounded on one side by mountains about 16,ooo ft. high. There are two small glaciers on the flanks of these mountains and the water from these glaciers feeds the lake. The silvery streaks of water flowing over the worn rocky precipitous slopes move like the Shesh snake and disappear into the lake. The pilgrims bathe here and some of them prepare tea. The colour of the water is lovely to look at. The lake on one side is silted up. The stream from the lake has carved out a deep ravine covered with birch trees. One finds beautiful flowers peeping out of juniper bushes. Rhododendrons are not scarce. The account of the lake given in the first book of Raiatarangani and that occurring in the Amar Nath Mahatmya do not agree. At sun down the snow on mountains turns pink and its reflection in the lake makes the beholder mute. 
It is said that once upon a time there was a man named Sodwani running a shop at Drugajen. To him children of the village would come for a pinch of sugar everyday. One day a boy asked him for a second pinch because he said that there was another boy riding on a bull coming to play with them. This statement excited the curiosity of the shopkeeper who told him to show him the boy. When the shop-keeper was taken there, the children did show him the boy but he could not see him. He entreated them to put in his hand the tail of the bull. So at evening when the boy went back, the shop-keeper caught hold of the tail and over bush, rock and rough path he was dragged. In the way, the boy told the shop-keeper that was not the proper way for him to go. He should come to Sheshiram Nag on Shivratri day and then he would take him along with himself. It was not easy for the shop-keeper to go such a distance and to a place at such a height in mid-winter when the snow lies very deep on the ground. However, he managed to sell all his belongings, went to Pahalgam and collected a large party of peasants. He paid them lavishly and told them to guide him to Sheshi Nag. In those days the path was very rough and snow fairly deep. The winters in those days were very severe. Somehow the peasants were able to guide him and they reached Sheshiram Nag. There he saw Shiva and Parvati waiting for him in a well furnished shikara on the shore of the lake. They beckoned to Sodwani to get into the boat. No sooner he went in, than the boat disappeared. 
An ascent Of 500 ft. will take you to the camping site of Vavojen (12,730 ft.). Due to its height above the sea-level and the exposed nature of the place the wind here is very strong. Hence the ropes of the tents should be tightened firmly and the body wrapt in warm clothes. The only available wood is juniper. 
The Mahant of Chhari does not permit any pilgrim to go ahead of him. I remember that once we started at early dawn for the next stage. The Mahant shouted, ‘Who are you? Where are you going? ‘ ‘We are confectioners and are making for the next stage’, said we. ‘All right’. 
So a lie, sorry to say, saved us from a papal bull. My friends and I went straight to the cave. There we saw some Public Works Department coolies and some cowboys. The pilgrims build here toy huts of stone, as a propitiation to the forces of Nature to save them from the wind. 
Vavojen (12230 Ft.) to Pantsatarni – 8.25 Miles
On the 14th day of the bright fortnight of Sawan (July-August), the procession starts under the leadership of Chhari Sahib. They ascend Ashad Daki then Mahagunas which is a plateau where the herb of the same name once used to grow. Physically exhausted and tired, making halts at short intervals, the pilgrims walk slowly when the gradual descent of the path takes place from Hokasar and Kalinar where the route from Pahalgam via Astanmarg which is four miles shorter meets the main route. From here two miles onward is Nagara Pal, a huge boulder, up which the pilgrims scramble with two pebbles in hand beating the rock as if beating a drum to proclaim their arrival. Walking one mile and a half they stand on the bank of the Pantsatarni stream. They take off their clothes and bathe in all its six or seven tributaries, the last being the main and the largest one. The water of some streamlets is pure because they rise from springs, while others come from glacial sources and hence contain minute sandy particles. When all these streams unite they form a mighty river which it is impossible to ford. If one had the time, it would be worth while to explore the main stream. I remember once camping here and suggesting to my friends to explore the source of the main Pantsatarni stream, but they were very anxious to see their friends at Pahalgam and so did not agree. 
The whole region is rich in herbs. It is a pity that the sheep and cattle graze everywhere in it, hence the flowers cannot be much observed. The herbs can only be recognized by their leaves. Here and there one might find a flower which has escaped being nipped by an animal. Even then some people conversant with eastern medicines, get a lot. 
On their arrival the pilgrims hasten to pitch their tents. Cooking fires are lighted; the smoke from the green juniper bushes rises higher and higher in streaks. There is hustle and bustle everywhere. The ponymen are shouting for their ponies, the masters are yelling at their coolies, the mothers are looking for their children, the clients are enquiring about their priests. Some people after having tea, have a look at the landscape round the valley. The sunset on the snowy peaks is marvellous. 
Pantsatarni to Cave (12,729 Ft.) 4 Miles
On Purnamasi Sawan (July-August) the visit to the cave takes place. The old route has been condemned by the Government. The pilgrims used to climb the Bairau Bal and going round the summit reached the cave after descending the precipitous slope through Garba Yatra. The cave is at a distance of two miles from Pantsatarni. 
The Present Route being easier, known as Sant Singh’s route has been adopted for years past by the pilgrims. It is plain going for 2 miles and then there are 2 miles of very gradual ascent, part of it over a small glacier. Turning round the corner and looking up the glen one discerns a large hole in the mountains. That is the cave. 
A narrow defile leads up to this cave which is nestled among mountains between 16,000 ft. and 17,000 ft. above sea-level. This small valley must have been scooped by glaciers which now have receded. A small torrent drains the valley, while a streamlet shimmers down from the top of the cave and joins the torrent below. This spot where Nature’s basic material, rock and water are abundant, gives bliss to millions of Hindus. Their eyes marvel at the skilful hand of Nature, and this handiwork of hers the mysterious cave, the destination of their long, long journey. Their souls find peace. Every particle of sand, every drop of water, every thing hereabouts to them the emblem of Shiva a sign of peace. They direct their thoughts to things spiritual in this frame of mind they undress themselves. First they wash themselves in this torrent; then they bathe in the Amaravati and besmearing themselves with the chalky sediment of the stream, become all white. They put on new loin cloths and thus, so to say draped in white from head to foot enter the cave, in a way become for a moment one with the Supreme and having no consciousness of the physical world. 
<verses> Translation 
Immersed with eyes closed in the bliss springing from inner love ‘ would that I attained to Shiva-consciousness so that while I bowed to my own self as Shiva, I would also worship a blade of grass as a manifestation of the same Supreme Reality. 
Returning to physical consciousness they look around the interior of the cave. Towards the north-eastern corner they see Sudha* Lingam (immortal emblem) of pure greenish-white ice in a recumbent position on a natural pedestal (peth). The water drops from the top of the cave fall on the pilgrims and in some places the images of Ganesh fi, Kumar Ji, and Parvati are formed by these drops. The Mahant of the Chhari Sahib sits close to the Pedestal with two silver staves placed on either side of the Amar Nath Lingam (immortal emblem). The pilgrims offer to the deity, camphor, candles of clarified butter, raisins, candy sugar, black pepper, clothes, silver and gold ornaments. The recitations from the Vedas and Tantras echo through the spacious cave and snow pigeons which nest in the mountains make their appearance at this juncture and fly froth their perches. Seeing these birds the pilgrims clap their hands and shout: ‘Ishwara Darshan Pa’ya re (we have seen the manifestation of the Lord’). A part of the offering of raisins, crystalized sugar and black pepper they bring along with themselves in order to distribute the same among their relatives and friends. They also take silt from the Amaravati or limy pebbles from the cave as Babuti for their relatives and friends. 
From this highly spiritual atmosphere steps are now retraced towards the material world. The descent to the lower altitudes now begins. The pilgrims do not go to Sangam where in olden times Shradhas were performed in memory of dead ancestors. The pilgrims return to their camps for breakfast (they eat only one meal on this day) and precipitately begin the downward march. It is a pity that people do not stay here for some time. There is a sea of glaciers on the north and cast of the Amar Nath Range. Some of the peaks are much higher than Kolahoi. Hence this area is worth exploration. It is true that weather conditions are uncertain in these altitudes. A cloud passing from one mountain peak to another may bring a shower of rain, may discharge a hail-storm or envelop the valley in a snowy shroud. But such conditions do not last long and when we are well-equipped, a short stay at the place is well worth the hardship of weather. 
The return journey via Astamnarg is prohibited by the Government. The Sasokot is not safe in bad weather: it is all sand and shale. So the pilgrims hasten their downward journey to Tsandanwari and the next day make for Pahalgam. It is said that the pilgrimage to Amar Nath Ji is not complete until the pilgrim washes himself in the nine springs of Naudal (nine leaves), which is 22 miles from Pahalgam via Bugmor pass.

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Vaishno Devi Yatra
This cave temple has a very popular following from people of all faiths. Among the most revered of shrines, and the oldest in the region, it entails a 13.5 km trek from Katra which in turn is 50 km from Jammu. The route up to the shrine consists of both tiled paths as well as steep staircases, and the devout often walk barefeet up the Trikuta mountain. Several shrines, wayside stalls for snacks and beverages and water-points dot the route. An important temple, midway at Adhkunwari, marks a major centre of obeisance where the goddess is supposed to have spent nine months on her journey up the mountain.

Vaishnav Devi Temple at Katra, Jammu
Vaishnav Devi Temple at Katra, Jammu

The cave shrine is narrow and pilgrims have to walk through a running stream of cold water Charan Ganga to get to the sanctum sanctorum. Within, three rock-cut idols of the goddesses, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati are venerated canopies of silver and gold. Coconuts and red scarves are offered.

Legend has it that Vaishno Devi took the cave for her home upon being chased by a demon, Bhairon, whom she slayed outside the shrine. A visit to the temple dedicated to Bhairon who was absolved of his sin before he died, is an obligatory part of the pilgrimage.

Vignettes of a 'yatra' to Vaishno Devi

 
Vignettes of a ‘yatra’ to Vaishno Devi

All pilgrims are required to get passes at Katra for the ‘yatra’ which continues round the year. In the winter, snow can often block the route, but summer nights are ideal for the uphill ascent. To facilitate pilgrims the entire route has been electrically lit, and there is overnight accommodation available at the shrine.

 

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Mamleshwar Temple at Pahalgam

Mamleshwar Temple, PahalgamMamleshwar Temple, Pahalgam 
 Mamleshwar Temple, Pahalgam

Mamal
This spot is also about a mile from Pahalgam. It stands across the Kolahoi stream up towards the mountain side. There is an old temple here the pinnacle of which was adorned with gold during the reign of one of the early kings. There is also a spring beautifully banked with long dressed stones of about 8th century. This was dedicated to Shiva and was called Mamalishwara. It is said that Ganesh was placed as doorkeeper not to allow any one to enter the temple without his permission. So it was called Mam Mal – Don’t go. There is a priest to look after the temple. In summer the place is regularly visited by the populace of Pahalgam.

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Some Marvels of Kashmir
by Prof. C. L. Sadhu
The happy valley of Kashmir is well known throughout the world for its Natural beauty. Here nature has been prodigal enough in crowning this ancient land with all its splendour and glory. Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Mughal gardens attract visitors from all over the world. Its lakes, green meadows, dancing and foaming streams, majestic forests full of fir and pine, snow-capped peaks are common attractions to the outsider as well as to the native. 
Besides this, the valley being sacred and called Rishi wari till now, abounds in sacred places, Tirthas and Asthans. Long ago at the dawn of civilisation when the sons of Rishi Kashyapa from plains came to settle here they brought with them their traditions, religion, mythology etc. etc. These early settlers named the confluence of river Sindh and river Jhelum as Prayag, equal to holy Prayag at the confluence of the Ganga and the Jamna in India. They named the tallest mountain peaks here after their Gods and deities such as Brahma, Vishnoo and Mahadev. These settlers must have felt surprised to see the hide and seek of water in the Spring of Trisandya; melting of snow around the spring of Bedaba Devi and other marvellous places With the passage of time, these places became Tirthas or places of worship and has continued so upto the present time. The tradition being like this R. L. Stein who has translated Rajatarangini into English writes, “Kashmir is a country where there is not a place as large as a grain of seasam without a Tirtha. Time and conversion to Islam of greater portion of population has changed but little in this respect. ” Pandit Kalhana while writing introduction to Rajatarangini names the miraculous springs of Trisandya Saraswati lake on the Bheda hillock, Self created fire at Soyambhu etc. etc. ” 
In this small article I have made a humble effort to sift and choose certain marvels and wonders shrouded by myth and mystery, hidden and lying in oblivion from the eyes of the outsider. I have made an effort as to what is myth, heresay and what is real. These wondors, now as Tirthas ( places of pilgrimage ) have been verified by me personally. These wonders consist in the shape of springs, temples, caves, boulders, and other things which lie scattered throughout the length and breadth of the valley. 
I have not included such things which lack corroboration and verification. For example in the vale of Sonamarg people refer to a cow carved out of a rock and from whose uddersmilk-white water issues forth. The locals also claim a couple, of waters lying transformed into stone far up in the Jungle. I have also excluded such objects where people seem to have exaggerated things such as Nakwarlbal in the village of Seer Kanligund on way to Pahalgam. They claim that a stone-head lying on an allevation gives out water by right Nostril during the bright fortnight and by left Nostril during the dark lunar fort- night. Nakwar in Kashmir means Nostrils and therefore the name Nakwaribal. On verification I found it simply false, though the stone head, with Nostrils exists near the villages. 
The Holy Spring At Tullamulla ( Kheir Bhawani )
(Its water changes colour) 
One maryel of Kashmir is the mysterious holy spring of Kheir Bhawani which is widely known to change its colour from time to time. It is towards the north of Srinagar at a distance of about 14 km. and can be reached within an hour by bus. 
Before we enter the main islet to have Darshana of the holy spring of Bhawani we come across two important sites – one is Ziarat of Mir Baba Haider (a Muslim saint) and the other is the Samadhi of Shri Labhu Shah, a saint who lived some 150 years ago in Kashmir. 
The main spring dedicated to Goddess Kheir Bhawani hasan irregular septagonal shape with its apex called Pad ( feet ) to the East. The northern and the southern sides are longer than the western side which is called Shir (Head). In the centre of the holy spring where once stood a mulberry tree, there is one marble temple which enshrines some idols found at the time of cleansing the spring. In January 1970 an electric pump was installed to conduct the cleansing operation of the spring. Besides removal of mud and mire which had accumulated since long at the bottom of the spring a number of gold ornaments and silver pieces offered to the Goddess were recovered. As a result of the silt clearance a huge volume of milky white water bubbled out. During recent times regular clearance is being made after each festival when huge quantities of floweres, lotuses, mentha sylvestries (Vena) offered by devotees collect at the surface of the holy spring. 
The water of the Spring changes its colour from time to time. It takes on various hues like red, pink, orange, green, blue and has often light green, red rosy and millky white shades. Abul Fazal in 16th century and Swami Vivekananda in the year 1894 have testified this fact. Any shade of black colour is supposed to be inauspicious for the inhabitants of the valley. This colour was prominent in the year 1947 when the Pakistani raiders attacked the peaceful valley. Many times rising of bubbles has been observed which form the mystic Chakra on the surface of the water. In my infancy I had a strange experience here. An outstretched hand from the holy spring offered me a beautiful pen in a dream. In the morning when I woke up I found the same pen under my pillow which I retained for many years with me as a sacred relic of the Divine Mother. Such a sacred and mysterious spring is found nowhere else in India. The people living round the holy spring have great veneration for the holy shrine. A Hindu or a Muslim will not enter the premises of the holy spring if he happens to have taken meat on the day. In 1947 when the Pakistani marauders attacked the valley the local Muslims led them astray to save the shrine from their unholy hands. 
Various legends and stories are current among the people regarding the holy spring. One such legend is that when Ravana was killed at the hands of Bagwan Rama the Goddess Bhawani ordered Hanuman to carry her to Satisar-Kashmir along with 360 Nagas. Hanuman selected the site and installed the Goddess in the Northern part of the valley. She came to be known as Kheir Bhawani or Ragyna Bhagwati as her favourite offerings consist of rice cooked in milk and sugar, and all other vegetarian forms of diet. 
How did the existence of the holy spring come to light among the people ? It is related that one pious Brahmin named Krishna Pandit of Habba Kadal in Srinagar had a vision wherein he was informed by a Deva to offer Puja to Kheir Bhawani in the swamps of Tullamulla. How shall I locate the Goddess and her holy abode was the query on behalf of the saintly Brahmin. Thereuponhe was asked to hire a boat at Shadipora wherefrom a snake would guide him to the destination. Krishna Pandit did the same and was extremely happy when the snake guided him through the swampy and marshy land, until he reached the hollow trunk of a mulberry tree. The snake made a dip and disappeared from sight. The saint took the clue and after performing Puju poured milk which he had brought for this purpose. It is thus that the holy spring was discovered and was known to Kashmiries. It is believed that the discovery of the holy spring has been made on Ashadha Saptami, the 7th day of the bright fortnight of the month of June-July. Kashmiri Hindus come here on every Ashtami – 8th day of the bright fortnight of each lunar month and majority of Kashmiri Hindus consider Kheir Bhawani as their guardian Goddess. 
Such is the brief history of the holy spring, the abode of Goddess Kheir Bhawani which has been eulogized by a poet in the following words : 
“I make obeisance to that one Goddess, who having taken the position of the supreme God is the Queen in reality, whose form is made of light and is adorned by the lustre of 12 suns who cannot be observed through senses, who is seated on a throne and is wrapped with serpents .” 
The Cave At Beerwa
To the south of Gulmarg there is a village known as Beerwa which is the tehsil headquarters of the surrounding area. The village is flanked by a mountain range on its southern side. At the eastern super of this mountain is located the celebrated cave connected with life of Acharya Abinav Gupta, the greatest Shiva philosopher of Kashmir. The Acharya was called Bairwa meaning the fairless one. The village comes to be known after this title of Bairwa and has now become Beerwa. 
The celebrated cave is located at the height of nearly 300 meter on the super of the ridge overlooking the crescent shaped narrow valley of evergreen Jungles with a Sukh Nag Nalla flowing through it. 
One Haji Mohd. Sultan Dar ( 75 years ) who guided me up to the cave said ” Hindus used to assemble here upto year 1947 on the 12th day of the bright fortnight of the month corresponding to the month of June. In 1947 the valley was attacked by Pakistani raiders and so the tirtha was given up for security reasons. Since then a Government employee or some research scholar is seen occasionally visiting the cave.” 
The entrance of the cave is like a rectangular room where some 8 or 10 persons can accommodate themselves. Going further, the cave begins to narrow and opens to another smaller room where a stone Shiva lingum is visible. One can go further sideways but nobody proceeds further because of darkness and narrowness of the passage. On right and left vermilion covered rocks-adds can be seen. 
Nearly one thousand years ago Acharya Abhinav Gupta who flourished at the beginning of the 11th century A. D. and is the exponent of Kashmir Shivaism known as Trika, entered this cave. The locals and the Hindus in the valley hold the legend that the Acharya entered the cave with 1200 disciples following him. None of them returned. Even at present while offering prayers, the Kashmiri Hindus recite the same prayers which the Acharya and his followers recited while entering the cave. It is believed that they entered Shivaloka in their earthly bodies through the cave. It is since then that the cave is held in great veneration by the Hindus of the valley and till recently it was the place of annual pilrimage. 
Shankerun Pal or Boulder of Lord Shiva
On the way to Mahadeva the pilgrims leaving Harwan behind, come across a huge boulder which they shower with flowers as token of reverence. This huge boulder is known as Shankerun Pal meaning the boulder of Lord Shiva. 
In Shivsutra Vimershima, it is recorded that sage Vasugupta – the founder of Shiva philosophy of Kashmir – lived in Harvan in a hermitage. One night he saw lord Shiva in a dream who seemed moved with compassion at Vasuguptas helplessness in arguing before Buddhistic scholars. To enlighten him the Lord disclosed to the sage, the existence of a rock on which some sacred Shiv Sutras were inscribed. Vasugupta was further directed to proceed on spot early before sun rise, when by his mere touch, the rock would overturn by itself and expose four Shiv Sutras to him which he should learn and teach to worthy pupils. The huge boulder with almost smooth surface is still pointed out as one on which the sage Vasugupta found the inscription. 
At present there is no trace of any inscription on it, and it is believed that the boulder over turned after the inscriptions were copied by Vasugupta. According to Kshemendra the very sutras became the foundation of Advaita Shaivism of Kashmir known as Trika. 
Budbrari Or Beda Devi Spring
(Where snow does not fall within a radius of 350 ft. ) 
Towards the south of village Kellar, high up in the small valley of Birnai Nallah which connects Drubgam by a direct route with the Pir Panchal pass of the old Moghul Road, there is a stone lined spring bubbling with milky water. It is situated on a hillock with low-lying area on all sides and so is free from mountain torrents. It is 7800 ft. above thesea level in the Romeshi Forest Range. Snow does not fall within 125 Hastas a radius of 350 ft. from the spring. The holy spring is square shaped and in measurement is 50 ft square. The water is milky white and is shallow near the banks. The source of the water is in the centre and is very deep, so much so that once a buffalo got swallowed there leaving no trace behind. Because of this incident shepherds do not let their cattle stray near the holy spring which accounts for the clean and tidy premises of the fount. The spring is full of water through out the year. It has a beautiful forest full of fir and pine for its background. While going up to reach the holy spring from Keller one comes across a small hamlet known as Shukroo. From the hamlet upto the sacred spring a number of mounds can be seen under which bricks lie buried which show that long ago thereexisted some human habitation near the holy spring. Some three chains away from the sacred spring there is a small waterfall which emits a sulphuric smell. The local gojars told me that patients suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases get relieved by having a bath in this water. Lime is also found buried here and there. There are no idols nor any ruins of any temple here except a boulder on which Shiva Lingas are carved. The sacred spring must have been a very popular Tirtha in the Kashmir Valley. Kalhana in his Rajatarangini writes: “There the Goddess Saraswati was believed to have shown herself as a swan in a lake situated on the summit of the hill “. Though in the present era it is forgotten by people, the old Mahatmya of the sacred lake has survived and Shri.M. A. Stein who visited the Valley in 1890-95 and has translated Rajatarangini into English has identified the site known at present as Budbrari. At the end of 16th century when Hindus still made pilgrimage to the Tirtha, Abu Fazal has recorded; “Near Shukroo is a low hill on the summit of which is a fountain, which flows throughout the year, is a place of pilgrimage for the devout. The snow does not fall on this spur.” 
It is related that in ancient times Rishi Pulastya performed long penance here and made the holy Ganga push forth near Ashram. He further craved for a boon that it may rest forever by his side which was granted. It is thus that Ganga Behda Tirtha got created. The Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of speech ) appeared to him in the shape of a swan which the Rishi worshipped on the 8th and 9th of the bright fortnight of Chitra of each year. Ever since the Goddess Saraswati has been receiving worship at the Ganga Behda Tirtha. Nilmat Purana recounts the Tirtha as Ganga Behda and is included in the list of Tirthas mentioned in the epic of Mahabharat. This establishes the antiquity of the Tirtha. 
I visited this holy Fount in Oct. 1976. From Srinagar via Pulwama regular bus service is available upto village Keller wherefrom one is to cover a distance of 9 km. either on horseback or on foot. The enchanting scenery, the green meadows with Nallah Birnai flowing at the foot of the hillock, the spring bubbling with milky white water is a thing to be ever remembered. The site if connected to a pucca road from Keller Masapora will prove the greatest attraction for tourists and will provide means of livelihood for poor Gujjars who inhabit the neighbourhood of the sacred spot popularly known as Bujbrari. 
The Chinar of Prayag
Which Neither Grows Nor Decays With Time 
Early settlers in Kashmir named their new places of settlement after the names which they cherished most in India. Such a place is Prayag at Shadipur, situated at a distance of 18 km. in the north west of Srinagar city. It is situated at the confluence of the river Sindhu and the river Vitasta, similarly as Prayag in India stands at the confluence of the river Yamuna and the river Ganga. The place has enjoyed exceptional sanctity as a Tirtha since times immemorial. Here, as a Prayag in India, Hindus immerse the sacred ashes of their deceased relatives. Opposite to Shadipur village once there stood a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. 
At the confluence of the river Sindhu and the river Vitasta there is a small island built of solid masonary on which an old chinar stands, which shelters a few idols and statues. The chinar neither grows in size nor decays with time. It has taken the place of the famous Ficus Indica. There is a popular legend among people here that the island rises when the rivers get swollen with flood waters so as rising tides cannot touch the Chinar. The Chinar has found its place in the vocabulary of Kashmiri dialect and is referred to when the size of a boy or a girl is found stunted ! 
Kah-Kah-Pal
The stone which rises up when persons numbering 11 touch it with their index fingers. 
Kah, Kah, Kah,…. (11,11,11, …) stone at Avantipora Temple 
At a distance of 32 km. towards the south of Srinagar city on the National Highway there is a town-Bijbehra on the left bank of the River Jhelum. At the southern tip of the town there is a massive stone temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. In the compound of the same temple there is a conch shaped stone tapering at one end which is popularly known as Kah-Kah-Pal. The stone does not weigh more than 60 kilos or more and one adult person can move it from side to side. 
The marvel of the stone gets apparent when 11 persons encircle it, and apply their 11 index fingers to the base of the stone. While repeating Kah-Kah ( eleven-eleven ) the stone gets lifted above the ground. The stone is popularly know as Kah-Kah-Pal which in Kashmiri means the digit eleven. The stone is in the custody of the pujari of the temple. Many stories and legends about the stone are attributable to it. For example it is related that once it was thrown into the river and next day it reappeared on the bank of the river. I have dismissed such legends as mere heresay. 
Takshak Nag
At a distance of 10 km, towards the east of Srinagar city there is a village known at present as Zewan. The spring known Takshak Nag is situated in this village. It is said that saffron has originated from the spring and that its cultivation has spread in its neighbourhood. It is related that the Lord of the Spring offered Hakim Waga Bhat, the saffron bulbs as a token of reward for curing his eye ailment. 
Bilhan the great Sanskrit poet who flourished in 11th century and was born at Khunmoh ( a village at a distance of 5 km. towards the east of Zewan ). He described the spring as “A pool filled with pure water sacred to Takshak the Lord of snakes “, Abdul Fazal records the facts that this spring is held to be the place wherefrom saffron originated and flourished in the neighbourhood. 
In the time of Akbar, the cultivators worshipped at the spring at the beginning of each spring season. To get successful crops it was customary to pour cow’s milk in it. As a local divinity Takshak Naga retained sanctity and importance for long with cultivators. Pilgrims when on their way to Harishwar cave offer Puja at the spring on the twelfth of the dark fortnight of Jeth corresponding to the month of June. 
Where relating the story of Chander lekha-the beautiful Naga damsel-the great poet Historian, Kalhana mentions the name of the spring in the Rajatarangini as a place of pilgrimage. The inclusion Or the spring as a Tirtha in the list of Tirthas recorded in Mahabharata signifies its antiquity. 
At present the spring stands intact with embankments of chiselled stones full of pure and sweet water. The spring measures 50′ x 50′ and has depth of 3′. The water source is in the North east corner of the spring. 
Lal Trag at Pampore
In the South of Srinagar at a short distance there is a small town as Pampore, at present famous for saffron cultivation. In the centre of this town there is a pond measuring 50′ x 250′ with varying depths of 2′ to 5′. It is known as Lal Trag. The pond is held in great reverence by Hindus as well as Muslims of the locality, since the tank happens to be connected with an important event in the life of Laleshwari popularly known as Lal Ded in the valley. 
Laleshwari flourished in the 14th century. She sang of divine love, tolerance, secularism and universal brotherhood when Persia lay prostrate under conquering feet of Timrlane and Black Death hovered over the British islands. The great mystic poetess chose the common man’s language for expression of her subtle spiritual ideas. She was the harbinger of new patriotic awakening and laid the foundation of Kashmiri song and poetry. Her couplets are so popular even at present times that a Kashmiri gets spell-bound when he hears some village minstrel singing them for some audience. 
Lal Ded was born at village Sempore in the year 1317 A. D. and was married at Pampore. Her married life was most unhappy. She had initiation from her spiritual Guru known as Sedu Mole as the practice in vogueat that time. Her mother-in-law at the time of serving mealswould keep a round stone in the dish and cover it with a little of boiled rice for Laleshwari. She was subjected to this mal-treatment of near starvation for not less than 12 years, untill her father-in-law came to know about it. Her husband under the provocation of his mother would always find fault with his saintly wife. One day when Lal Ded returned from the river with one earthen pitcher full of water on her shoulder, her husband hurled a stone on the pitcher which broke into pieces and fell on the ground. To the amazement and horror of mother and son, the water remained intact like a frozen piece on the shoulder of Lal Ded. Instantly all the empty pots got filled with water and the rest of the water was thrown away from the window on to the ground where it assumed the form of a pond and is existing there till today. The tank became known as Lal Trag. The fame of the miracle spread like wild fire in the valley and Lal Ded began to shine like a pole star over the spiritual firmament of the Kashmir Valley. 
Among Hindus of Pampore, on a marriage ceremony the bridegroom offers Puja at the tank before he enters the house of the bride. Muslims pour cow’s milk into it as a token of respect. Some locals bathe their children in order to cure them of scabbies and other skin diseases. The elders in the locality saw that the tank never get dried even when the valley happened to be in the grip of severe drought. This holy pond is in dire need of repairs and renovations because of its national importance in the valley. Such is the legend of Lal Trag at Pampore. 
Harmukh
Towards North-East of Srinagar city there stands one conspicuous hoary headed mountain overlooking the Gangabal Lake. It is known as Harmukh meaning thereby that the peak appears same from all sides. It is situated at an elevation of 16890ft. The reverence which ancient Greeks had for Olympus,the Kashmiris have for Harmukh since they believe that on its top is the abode of Lord Shiva. Shamus-Faqir a well known Kashmiri poet in one of the songs says, “Thou knower of truth if you want to see Him face to face you can see Him at Harmukh.” 
Sir Walter Lawrence, the Settlement Commissioner of J & K State, has recorded about 100 years ago in his book “Valley of Kashmir” that Kashmiris in general believe that there is a mine of jewels and rubies in Harmukh. The inhabitants of the valley believe that wherever the Harmukh peak is visible in the Valley, the serpents of the place happen to be quite harmless, and on the other hand, the peak is not visible the serpents of the locality are poisonous and their bites are fatal. In Illaqa Pulwama where the peak is visible the snakes are quite harmless and at village Lar where it is invisible the serpents are poisonous. 
At the foot of Harmukh there is one beautiful lake known as Gangabal Lake. In the month of September corresponding to the bright fortnight of Bahadun, Kashmiri Pandits immerse the urns ( ashes ) of their dead relatives in this lake after performing their Shraddha. No sooner are the ashes cast in the crystal clear water of the lake, than swarms of small red worms appear on the surface and render the water unfit for drinking purposes. The pilgrims know it, and therefore, cook their meals before casting ashes in the lake. 
Long ago some pilgrims gave me to understand that they saw a small channel with mercury flowing down the mountain side into the lake. Having no container with them they collected a little quantity of the same in a dried piece of cowdung. On reaching their destination they found ~he mercury slipped down somewhere on their way back. 
Once a hermit tried to reach the summit of the Harmukh to see Lord Shiva face to face. For twelve years long he tried to scale the summit, but failed until one day he saw a gojar descending the summit. When the gojar approached him, the hermit enquired as to what he saw there. The gojar whose goat had strayed and for whom he had been searching, said that he saw a couple milking a cow and drinking the same in a human skull. They had offered some milk to him, which he refused to drink and when they departed they rubbed a little of the milk on his forehead. As the gojar indicated the spot on his forehead where the milk was rubbed, the hermit was extremely joyful and rushed to lick his forehead. It is said that the hermit got Nirvana and diasppeared from the place, to the entire surprise of the gojar. The legend is known as Hurmukhuk Gosoni. 

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