Places of Religious Interest
Kashmir is the land of Saints, Sufis and Munis and Anantnag district being part of the Kashmir Valley is no exception. The Anantnag is bestowed with religious wealth in the form of numerous shrines and places of worship enjoying reverence and allegiance of people professing different faiths. There are numerous sepulchers of saints which have enchanting environs, while visiting these shrines, one feels in close proximity of Almighty. Some of the shrines have historical importance in addition to religious significance attached to them. These shrines belong to both Hindus and Muslims and are visited by thousands of devotees. Some of the shrines are the world famous shrine of Amarnath Ji and other famous shrines of Reshis like famous shrine of Baba-Zain-ud-Din Wali (Aishmuqam), Baba Hyder Reshi (Anantnag), the last of the giants of the Rishi order in Kashmir about whose resting place the Alamda-i-Kashmir (Flag Bearer of Kashmir), Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Rishi had foretold his diciples, Baba Dawood Ghoni (Vailoo), Hazrat Noor Shah Bagdadi (Kund) and Baba Naseeb-ud-Din Ghazi (Bijbehara). Besides, the shrines at Kabamarg and Khiram share the distinction of possessing the Holy relice of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The devotees of the district and other places visit these shrines particularly on days when the fstivals connected with the shrines are celebrated.
Ziarat Hazrat Zain-ud-Din Wali
The shrine of Hazrat Azin-ud-Din Wali is situated on a hill lock, about 20 Kms. short of the famous hill resort of Pahalgam overlooking the bewitching Lidder Valley. The road to the shrine branches off to the right from main Anantnag-Pahalgam road. A few hundred metres walk or drive takes one to the foot of the stone stair leading to the shrine. The mausoleum is located inside a deep cave atop the hill, about 100 meters high than the main road. Village Aishmuqam is very well known in every part of Kashmir on account of the historical shrine of sheikh Zain-ud-din who lived in the 15th century A.D. and was one of the principal disciples of Sheikh Nur-ud-din, the leading Rehsi of Kashmir.
It is commonly known in Kashmir that Sheikh Zain-ud-din, who was known by the name of Zia Singh before his conversion was a prince and belonged to the ruling Rajas of Kishtwar. His father Yesh Singh, the then Kishtwar ruler, is said to have been assassinated when Zia Singh was only 13 years old. Zia Singh is believed to have been suffering from some disease which took a serious turn leaving no aspect of his recovery. Sheikh Nur-ud-din is said to have passed through Kishtwar just at that time and having heard of his miraculous performances, Zia Singh’s mother begged of the Sheikh to visit the patients and to pray for his recovery. The Sheikh agreed to pray on the understanding that Zia Singh would meet him in Kashmir after the recovered. Zia Singh did not however keep his promise and after sometime he was agsin confined to bed. His mother kept on crying day and night until she had a vision in which the Sheikh Zia Singh’s mother promised that she would fulfil her obligation this time if her son would recover again. With the restoration of his normal health, Zia Singh proceeded to Kashmir to meet his benedictor. The mother and the son undertook the hazardous journey from Kishtwar to Bumzua, a village about 8 miles south of Aishmuqam, where Sheikh Nur-ud-din was staying at that time. It was at this place that both Zia Singh and his mother embraced Islam under the maens of zain-ud-din and Zoon Ded respectively.
Among the local inhabitants the legend has it that Zain-ud-din medicated for a long time in village Mandjan of Tehsil Sopore where he attained spiritual perfection, It was at this stage that Sheikh Nur-ud-din advised him to migrate to the cave at Aishmuqam and to meditate there for the remaining period of his life. On his arrival, sheikh Zain-ud-din found the entrance to the cave blocked by snakes, cobras and reptiles, It is said that the saint carried with him a club which he had received from his master. Seeing the serpents he placed the club on the ground and it was instantaneously transformed into a dreadful cobra. The snakes in the cave got awestricken and not only surrendered to the Sheikh but also vacated it and migrated to the village Phuurpujan which is about 16 miles to the east of Aishmuqam.
The exact date of the death of the saint is not known. His urs or anniversary is, however , being celebration on the 13th day of Basakh corresponding to 25th of April. Two mosques on unknown as Khankah are also attached to the shrine. The Khankah besides being used for prayers is also a repository of the relics of the saint which are held in high esteem.These consist of a bow, a patten, a wooden bread, a rosary, a wooden club and a copy of Quran. It is said that the saint observed fasts frequently and whenever he felt hungry he licked th wooden bread to satisfy his appetite. These relics are publicly displayed whenever the village meets with some catastrophy, such as a femine, epidemic, etc. The shrine attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the valley every year. On the date of anniversary of the saint congregational prayers are held which are attended to by no less than 20,000 people.
According to the legend, the festival continues to be celebrated from pre-Islamic times and dates back to about 2,000 years. The shrine of Zain-ud-din is respected by all communities and they actively participate in the celebration of the anniversary. There is no restriction to the entry into the shrine which is open to visits by persons of either sex and of any community.
Ziarat Baba Hyder Reshi (Reshi Maloo)
The tomb of Baba Hyder Reshi popularly known as Harda Reshi or Reshi Molu, the saint at whose anniversary local people of the area abstain from flesh eating for one week, is visited by both Muslims and Hindus alike. The shrine is one of the famous places frequented by people from all over the valley. It is Situated in Mohalla Reshi Sahib in Anantnag Town. The body of the saint is enshrined alongwith 21 of his disciples in the tomb.
Born on 29th Rajab, 909 Hijri ( 17-1-1504) A.D. in village Dandar of Tehsil Anantnag in the house of Sheikh Abdulla a blacksmith by profession, Baba Hyder Rehsi is said to have performed graet miracles in his very childhood. He used a look after cultivation, tend cattle, and spent his life in complete celibacy. His spiritual guode had been Hazrat Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom Sahib, a great saint of Kashmir whose shrine is situated on the hill of Hari Parbat located in Srinagar city. From him, he is said to have received religious education and spiritual inspiration.
Baba Reshi came into prominence when the then ruler of Kashmir Ali Shah Chak and the prince Yousuf Shah Chak started paying courtesy calls on him. The one time graet scholar and chief Qazi of Kashmir Baba Dawood Khaki also used to visist him. Rehsi Saheb possessed graet spiritual powers and abstained throughout his life from eating meat and onions. Some of the miracles attributed to him are given below:
An eighty tear old devotee of the saint Ab.Rahim Badal who was a rich man had no issue and had given up all hopes to have one. One day he visited the saint asked for what was apparently impossible. The saint offered an apple to his devotee. After nine months a male child was born in his house who was named Mohd Sharief. However, the child’s mother died. The child refused to suckle any other breast. When brought before him, the saint put his own finger into the child’s mouth which he at once started sucking. The child in his own adulthood attained spiritual enlightment and later joined as one of the disciples of the saint. The saint is said to have passed away in 976 Hijri ( 1568 A.D.) at the age of 67 years in deep meditation. The relic has been passed from Khalifa Hazrat Ali to Shiekh Shahad-ud-din Sohrawardi and afterwards it is said to have been presented to Baba Reshi by Hazrat Makhdoom Sahib when the former accepted him as his spiritual guide. There is also a rosery and a walking stick of the saint preserved in the shrine of Reshi Sahib.
Ziarat Baba Naseeb-ud-Din Gazi
Hazrat Nassar-Din (RA) popularly known as Naseeb-ud-din Gazi (RA) as per an article issued by Jammu and Kashmir Cultural Academy, was basically from Rawalpendi and has come with his father Mr.Hassan Eazi to Kashmir, But Baba Nasseb described himself as “Naseeb Kashmiri” which indicates that Baba Naseeb was perhaps born in Kashmir when his father came to Kashimir from Rawalpendi. According to the article, Baba Naseeb, at the age of 7 years only went to Hazrat Sheikh Hamza Makhdoomi for attaining spiritual teachings, later Hazrat Makhdoomi handed over Baba Naseeb to Hazrat Sheikh Dawood Khaki. Baba Naseeb was an able Kashmiri and Persian writer. According to Prof.Ghulam Mohamad Shah, Mugal King Jahangir on hearing about the pious life of Baba Naseeb Gazi , invited him to his kingdom which was turned down by Baba Naseeb and sent a poetic letter to the King Jahangir. During preaching of Islam, Baba Naseeb Gazi visited most in-accessible areas at that time which include, Tibet, Karnah, Iskardu, Dardistan, Baltistan, Kishtiwar, Doda, Bhaderwah, Poonch, Rajouri, Nowshera etc. He constructed 1200 mosques, bathrooms, Musafir Khanas, bridges and planted trees on both sides of roads wherever he went to apprise people about the teaching of Islam. Baba Naseeb-ud-din Gazi according to some reports left for abode at the age of 82 years in 13th Muhhram 1047 Hijri and was buried at Bijbehara, 07 kilometers from Anantnag town. A mausoleum was constructed there by Haji Baba ( Sheikh Fateh-ud-din Abdual Rehman) but later it was reconstructed by his son Baba Mohd Zahid in 1715.
According to reports, Baba Naseeb Gazi has written about 22 books mostly in Arabic and Persian. Baba Naseeb Gazi and several disciples the famous among them are, Sheikh Momin, Haaj Baba, Baba Abdullah Guzaryali, Mohd Amin Sofi, Mula Zehri Kashmiri, Khawaja Mohd Amin Gazi, Mulla Tayub Tahiri etc.
Masjid Baba Dawood Khaki
Masjid Khaki is one of the oldest mosques in the town and is situated in Reshi Bazar of mohalla Kakhi sahiban in Anantnag town.It is more than 600 years old and is named after Hazarat Sheikh Baba Dawood Khaki the chief disciple of Hazarat Sheikh Hamaza Makhdoom. Sahib Baba Dawood Khaki has also been the chief Qazi of Kashmir and a scholar of great repute. It is said that Shah Hamdan the great saint of Hamdan in Iran who had come to Kashmir about 600 years back, visited the town and offered prayers at a platform where now the present mosque of Hazrat Sheikh Baba Dawood Khaki stands. The ground floor of the mosque was completed in 800 Hijri (1397 A.D) by Mir Mohd Hamdani, the son of Shah Hamdan. It is reported that Baba Dawood Khaki undertook the construction of the first floor of the mosque in 987 Hijri (1579 A.D) while the second floor of the mosque was completed in 990 Hijri(1582 A.D) under his own supervision. The saint propagated the ideology of Islam and constructed number of mosques in different villages of Anantnag district, which even now remains named after him. The saint died in 995 hijra(1587 A.D) after staying in the district for about ten years.
The legend as it is, that after a period of three weeks of the death of the saint, then Mughal Governor of Kashmir had a dream in which he saw Mukdoom Sahib directing him to bring the body of Babd Dawood khaki to be laid his side at Srinagar .The Governor therefore secretly planned to bring the body of Baba Dawood back to Srinagar .He proclaimed that the Royal party from Srinagar would be visiting the town and that the ihabitants of the town should remain indoors till the Royal party had returned Srinagar. The party was accompanied by an army contingent. They visited the shrine of Reshi Sahib and dug out the body of Baba Dawood in complete secrecy and placed it in a coffin and left for Srinagar. When the party had just reached Khanabal-a place on the outskirts of the town a-word went round among the inhabitants of the town that the body of the saint Baba Dawood Khaki has been stealthily removed from his grave by the Royal party and that they were on there way to Srinagar. A big crowed of townsmen rushed to meet the Royal party to snatch away the coffin. A big scuffle ensued. Finally it was decided that the body would be awarded to the group which could lift the coffin from the grounds. Inspite of all efforts the inhabitants of the town failed to lift the coffin. The Royal party on the other hand lifted it comfortably and carried it away to Srinagar where the body of the saint stands buried by the side of the grave of Hazart Sheikh Hamaza Mukhdoom Sahib.
Masjid Syed Sahib
The mosque of Syed Sahib has been constructed in the memory of one Hazrat Syed Mohd. Inayat-ullah Qadiri Samnani who came to Kashmir along with other disciples from Samnan city (Central Asia) in the year 936 Hijri (1528 A.D.). He undertook the construction of the mosque in the town in the same year which is now situated at the foot of the Anichteep of the Martand Plateau. The saint died at the age of 75 years in 995 Hijri on Friday the 6th Shaban (27-1-1587) A.D. His body is buried in the nearby shrine. The death anniversary of the saint Hazrat Syed Sahib is observed every year according to Islamic calendar on 8th of Shaban.
Mattan (Bawan) Temple
The Valley of Kashmir is the ‘Holy Land’ of the Hindus and there is hardly any village which can not show some relic of antiquity. In Anantnag District there are several temples of historical as well as religious importance. Bawan temple is one among them. Some 8 Kms. from Anantnag town, on the north side is to be seen a spring, a very sacred spring, near a small village called Bawan, a name derived from the water, which gushes out from a fissure in the limestone rock.
Of all the interesting sights in the vicinity of Anantnag, the ruins of Martand hold the first place and they are easy to access, being just 10 Kms. from the main town Anantnag. It lies on the krewa above Islamabad , and is easily reached from Anantnag.(Islamabad), Bawan and Achabal. The runis of the Hindu temple of Martand or, as it is commonly called, the Pandu-Koru, or the house of the Pandus and Korus—the Cyclopes of the east- are situated on the highest part of a krewa, where it commences to rise to its juncture with the mountains. About 3 miles east of Islamabad, Occupying, undoubtedly, the finest position in Kashmir, this noble ruins is the most striking in size and situation of all the existing remains of Kashmir grandeur. The temple itself is not now more than 40 feet in height, but its solid walls and bold outlines, towering over the fluted pillars of the surrounding colonnade , given it a most imposing appearance.
There are no petty confused details, but all are district and massive, and most admirably suited to the general character of the building. Many vain speculations have been hazarded regarding the date of erection of this temple, and the worship to which it was appropriated , It is usually called the House of the Pandus by the Brahmins , and by the people “Martand”, or the sun, to which the temple was dedicated. The true date of the erection of this temple—the wonder of Kashmir is a disputed point of chronology; but the period of its foundation can be determined within the limits of one century, or between A.D 370 and 500, The mass of building now known by the name of Martand consists of one lofty central edifice, with a small detached wing on each side of the entrance, the whole standing in a large quadrangle surrounded by a colonnade of fluted pillars with intervening , trefoil headed recesses. The length of the outer side of the wall, which is blank, is about 90 yards; that of the front is about 56. There are in all eighty four columns—a singularly appropriate number in a temple of the sun, if as is supposed , the number eighty four is accounted sacred by the Hindus in consequence of its being the multiple of the number of days in the week with the number of signs in the zodiac. The colonnade is recorded in the Rajatarangini as the work of the famous king Laltaditya, who reigned from A.D.693 to 729 . From the same authority we gather though the interruption of the verses is considerably disputed that the temple itself was built by Ranaditya and the side chapels, or at least one of them, by his queen, Amritaprakha . the date of Ranaditya’s reign is involved in some obscurity, but it may safely be conjectured that he died in the first half of the fifth century after Christ. The remains of three gateways opening into the court are now standing. The principal of these fronts due west towards Islamabad. It is also rectangular in its details and built with enormous blocks of limestone, 6 or 8 feet in length, and one of 9, and of proportionate solidity, cemented with an excellent mortar. Fergusson gives the date of Martand as A.D.750, and fixes the reign of Ranaditya as A.D.578-594.
The central building is 63 feet in length by 36 in width,, and alone of all the temples of Kashmir possesses, in addition to the cella or sanctuary, a choir and nave, termed in Sanskrit the antarala and arddhamandapa; the nave is 18 feet square, the sanctuary alone is left entirely bare, the two other compartments being lined with rich panellings and sculptured niches. As the main building is at present entirely uncovered the original form of the roof can only be determined by a reference to other temples and to the general form and character of the various parts of the Maratand temple itself. It has been conjectured that the roof was of pyramidal from, and that the iterance chamber and wings were similarly covered. There would thus have been four distinct pyramids, of which that over the inner chamber must have been the loftiest , the height of its pinnacle above the ground being about 75 feet.
The interior must have been as imposing as the exterior. On ascending the flight of steps, now covered by ruins , the votary of the sun entered a highly decorated chamber, with a doorway on each side covered by a pediment with a trefoil headed niche containing a bust of the Hindu triad, and on the flanks of the main entrance , as well as on those of the side doorways, were pointed ad trefoil niches, each of which held a statue of a Hindu deity. The interior decorations of the roof can only be conjecturally determined, as there do not appear to be nay ornamented stones that that could with certainty be assigned to it. Baron Hugel doubts that Martand ever had a roof, but as the walls of the temple are still standing the numerous heaps of large stones that are scattered about on all sides can only have belonged to the roof.
Cunningham thinks that the erections of this sun temple was suggested by the magnificent sunny prospect which its position commands. It overlooks the finest view in Kashmir, and perhaps in the known world. Beneath it lies the paradise of the east, with its sacred streams and glens, its orchards and green fields , surrounded on all sides by vast snowy mountains, whose lofty peaks seem to smile upon the beautiful valley below. The vast extent of the scene makes it sublime; for this magnificent view of Kashmir is no petty peer in a half mile glen, but the full display of a valley 60 miles in breadth and upwards of 100 miles in length the whole of which lies beneath the “ ken of the wonderful Martand”.
Khir Bhawani Asthapan (Devibal)
Devibal temple is situated in Mohalla Khaki Sahib and is just adjacent to the mosque of Hazrat Sheikh Baba Dawood Khaki. It is dedicated to the holy spring of Khir Bhawani which issues here and is now enshrined in a small stone-built one storey temple. It attracts a good number of devotees and is considered a holy place by the entire Kashmiri Pandit community. It attracts a large congregation every day and is said to have the same importance as that of Khir Bawani temple in Tulamula of Srinagar district. According to a local legend it is believed that once the famous saint of the town Reshi Molu, held in great esteem by Muslims and Hindus of the valley alike, had prayed for the holy “Darshan” of Goddess Durga and requested her to show her presence in the town. She is believed to have acceded to his request and later appeared in his dream in which she is said to have communicated to him that She is already present in the from of small spring. According to another belief it is believed that Wazir Panu had a dream in which Goddess Durga told him that She was living underneath the spring. He located the spring and asked one of the priests namely Balkak to look after it. Maharaja Pratap Singh while on his way to Jammu or Back to Srinagar would stop here and pray in the name of the Goddess and offer lot of milk in the spring. He also donated some cultivable lands in the name of the shrine. The water that issues from the spring is reported to be changing colours.
Uma Devi of Uma Nagri
Goddess Uma is said to have selected Her abode in the lap of great Himalayas in Kashmir in Umanagri, Uttersoo in Anantnag Tehsil. She is believed to have manifested herself in in the form of a stream and appeared in the shape on “Omkar” in five springs. It is said that one Shri Shiv Ram Ji who later assumed the name of Swami Shivananda had attained the high reputation and sincerity and that while supervising the collection of paddy in the adjoining village of Brah, one of the peasants pointed out to him the grain husks sticking to his shawl and reminded him to swift them off before leaving the grain-store. This sarcastic remark had a shocking effect on him and he is said to have thought of detaching himself from the worldly things and started meditating round the clock at Snusha a secluded place near Brah. He is then said to have had a divine vision of Mother Uma directing him to go to her abode at Village Uttarasoo. Accordingly, he located the place and went into deep meditation on the specified spot. He lit a continuous pyre (Dhooni) at the place of his meditation near the spring. A Vedic Yagh is since then being performed on the anniversary of the Swami Sivananda in the month of ‘Phusa’ every year and the relics of the Swami are still preserved at the Dhooni Sashib which are worshipped by numberless devotees. The situation of the shrine comprises 5 springs located in the form of divine Omkara. Out of these springs, 2 merge into a single spring thereby signifying the communion of Shiva and Shakti. The sacred shrine attracts large pilgrims and is revered by all faiths.
About two kilometres away from the historical and picturesque town of Achabal, on the right side of the road to Uma Devi (Brari-Aangan), there is the Ramakrishnan Mahasammelan Ashram, which was founded by late Swami Ashokananda, more than forty years ago. It is a fairy big Ashram now, a compact complex of some buildings and a small temple dedicated to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, at the foot of wooded Achabal hills. The Samadhi of Swami Ashokananda is within the precincts of the Ashram.
Bumzu or Bhaumajo Caves
Bhumju or Bumzu or Bhaumajo lines at the mouth of the lidder valley, and easily reached from Islamabad. These caves are situated on the left bank of the Lidder river about a mile north of the village of Bawan, the largest is dedicated to Kaladeva. The cave-temple stands at the far end of a natural but artificially enlarged fissure in the limestone cliff. The entrance to the cavern, which is more than 60 feet above the level of the river, is carved into an architectural doorway, and a gloomy passage, 50 ft in length, leads from it to the door of the temple. It is a simple cella, 10 ft square , exterior dimensions, raised on a badly moulded plinth and approached by a short flight of steps. The square door way is flanked by two round headed niches despoiled of their status and is surmounted by a high triangular pediment reaching to the apex of the roof, with a trefoiled tympanum. There is no record nor tradition as to the time of erection but from absence of all ornamentation and the simple character of the roof, which appears to be a rudimentary copy in stone of the ordinary slopping timber roof of the country, it may with great probability be inferred that this is the earliest perfect specimen of Kashmir Temple, and dates from the Ist. or 2nd century of the Christian era. Close by is another Cave of still greater extent, but with no architectural accessories and about half a mile further up the valley at the foot of the cliff, are two temples. Both are , to a considerable extent, copies of the Cave Temple but may be of much later date.
The shrine of Baba Ramdin Reshi and the tomb of his disciple Ruku-din-Reshi are also close by. Hugel statues that the Bhumju caves occupy a very conspicuous place in the fables of the timid Kashmiris, and are supposed to have originated from the following causes, In the year Kali 2108 ( 993 B.C) Raja Nara succeeded his father, Vibishana; during his reign certain Brahman espoused Chandrasaha , the daughter of Susravas, a serpent-god, whose place was in a lake near the Vitusta , and near a city built and inhabited by Nara. One day, as Raja Nara beheld the beautiful daughter of the serpent on the shore of the lake, moving gracefully through the calm waters, he was struck with the deepest admiration, and endeavored vainly to inspire the same sentiments he himself felt. At length he resolved to carry her off from husband, but the plan failed ,and the enraged Brahman called on her father to avenge the insult. A storm was accordingly called up ,and the earth open and swallowed up the King and his whole Court. The sister of the serpent-god assisted him ,and hurled on the city huge stone from Bawan Mountain. The caverns of Bhumju are said to be on the spot where these rocks were uptorn (Hugel, Growse).
Chapel of John Bishop
A small Chapel located in the premises of John Bishop Memorial Hospital, Anantnag is situated in the eastern end of the town in mohalla Sarnal and is the only praying ground for the Christians of the town. The Chapel was built in 1942 primarily to meet the needs of protestant Christians of the town and the Christians employees working in the John Bishop Memorial Hospital as also the then high protestant Christians officials posted in and around the town.