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Shrine of Baba Balikaran
Holy Shrine of Baba Balikaran devoted to Naag Devta Baba Balikaran Ji is situated in the border village Panjgaraien Brahmna near Sherpur in tehsil Hiranagar of District Kathua. Situated in the vicinity of Indo-Pak international border, it is a holy place of great attraction for the devotees. The place lies at a distance of 15 km from the tehsil headquarters and at 8 km distance from the National Highway 1-A. It can be reached through different means of transportation from Hiranagar, Loundi Morh as well as Ghagwal upto village Sherpur. The Shrine is surrounded by the villages Sherpur, Sadwal, Sadheychak, Kattal, Lalley Chak, Loundi etc. It is one of the places in the area that has been an abode of great faith, trust and supports brotherhood.
The sanctum sanctorum of Baba Balkaran ji whom the place is devoted to lies in the temple inside the shrine. As per the caretaker of the shrine, naag devta Baba Balikaran ji is believed to be one of the sons of Sri Vaasuki Naag and Mata Naavla. Within premises of the shrine near temple, there is a holy natural burmi in which devotees offer dalassi (sweetened water and milk). People from all walks of life have profound faith and throng this religious place to pay obeisance and seek blessings. The divinity of Baba Bakaran ji is popular not only in the area but also in the entire Jammu and adjoining state of Punjab.
Farmers and cattle owners especially those possessing milch cattle consider this place of much significance. They have profound faith and firm belief that human beings and cattle working in the fields will be shielded by the Baba Balikaran Ji from all natural and biological odds. At the end of cropping season, farmers start filling or selling of their produce only after devoting some share to Baba Balikaran Ji. Likewise, in the adjoining area, the first milk of the cattle after parturition is offered to Baba Balikaran Ji and afterwards its consumption or sale is started.
A mammoth fair is held at the shrine on the occasion of Gugya Navami. It is also pronounced as Goga Navmi or Guga Navmian and is a festival celebrated in North India dedicated to Lord Goga- the Snake God. The day falls on the ninth day of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of moon) or dark fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada of Hindu calendar. Simply, it comes a day after Janamasthmi. This year the fair will be held on 6th of September.
A huge rush of devotes can be seen during fair. People participate with great enthusiasm and zeal, pay obeisance at the shrine and seek blessings for them and their families. On the occasion, a langar is also organizsed for devotees. Besides, programmes are also held on the occasion of naagpanchmai and rathkhadda in which numerous people throng the place.
On the day of fair, people from adjoining villages spare the milk of their cattle and do not use it for consumption, sale or other purpose which is kept exclusively for making “kheer” to be served at langer. The management of langer has a unique peculiarity which involves each adjoining village to contribute one particular commodity in the langar and it is the sole responsibility of that village to cook and serve that commodity to the devotees as well.
A local committee for the management of the shrine has been formed voluntarily by the prominent persons from the village and adjoining villages. Shrine management committee arranges facilities for the devotees during the fair programme and works for the upkeep of the shrine. The committee has been working relentlessly for up gradation of infrastructure and facilities at the shrine. A langar hall and accommodation facilities opposite to the temple have been got constructed by the committee.
(The author is from SKUAST Jammu)