Bitiyani Mata

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Bitiyani Mata

Hemant Dhrmat , Bityani Mata-Kul Devi of Dharmat Brahmins "Daily Excelsior" 23/4/2017

Jammu region is blessed with various places of pilgrimage associated with Goddess Durga, such as Vaishno Devi, Chichi Mata (one of the famed Shakti Peeth), Chandi Mata, Sukarala Mata, BhaveAali Mata and Mahamaya Mata. Bitiyani Mata a somewhat similar manifestation of the Goddess, is the ‘Kul Devi’ of Dharmat sub-caste of Dogra Brahmins, who trace their lineage to the eminent ShandilyaGotra. Not much is known about Bityani’s parents, not even their names save that they were residents of Jib and hailed from the warrior Kshatri caste. When she attained marriageable age, the parents became anxious to tie her matrimonial knot. Match-making through ‘purohit’s and barbers was a common practice during the medieval period. Her mother requested the family ‘purohit’ – a Dharmat Brahmin to look for a suitable match for her, whereas her father entrusted the responsibility to the village barber. Both the ‘purohit’ and the barber duly arranged suitable matches from reputed families. The parents didn’t have much interaction between them like most middle-aged couples of those times and as such badly messed up the issue. Whenever they consulted each other, her father presumed that the match arranged by the barber was the subject of discussion, while her mother felt that the conversation revolved around the one recommended by their ‘purohit’. Confusion having been worst confounded, two different marriage processions arrived at the wedding venue! ‘Barati’ on both sides were well armed with swords and bows and arrows, besides other weapons then in vogue. On getting the news, Bitiyani immediately understood the gravity of the situation. To avert the likelihood of the three parties perishing in the internecine combat, she fled from her residence, crossed the nearby stream and climbed the adjacent hill known as Phallaten. ‘Purohit’ Dharmat got a wind of her attempt to flee from Jib. Mindful of earning bad reputation if the ‘barat’ brought by him returned without completion of marriage rites, he began chasing Bitiyani. When she reached near a Banyan tree atop a small flat plain at Phallaten, she found the ‘purohit’ on her trail. She prayed before the sacred ‘Peepal’ tree seeking refuge. The tree trunk miraculously burst open and Bityani Devi walked in! It was a revelation to the ‘purohit’. As the trunk began to close, he ran towards the tree and caught hold of her ‘Dupatta’. He prayed to be granted ‘Vardakshina’ (prestimony) presuming that Godess may bless him with some magnificent boon. Bitiyani Devi directed Dharmat to build her temple at the same spot saying, “Henceforth neither you nor your descendants should adopt such priestly duties. The Mundan ceremony of the boys in your family be held here in my temple. From the very birth of the baby boy, both mother and son would desist from partaking of non-veg dishes nor sport yellow clothes until his hair is shorn. The boy would wear brand new yellow apparel during the ‘Mundan’ ritual. None would feast on his repast at the ‘Mundan’ ceremony until a crow nibbles at the offering made to the bird. Further, the marriage of the newly wed couples in your family would not be reckoned as consummated unless they take perambulations (‘Rakade’) around my temple.” The original temple was built by ‘Purohit’ Dharmat, which was reconstructed by Wazir Khojju Sha Dharmat. The dilapidated structure has recently been rebuilt by Dharmat community, whose annual meet was held on April 16 at the said temple with much gusto.

Bityani Devi Temple is located at Phalatte on a small plain perched on the slope of a foothill 13 km short of Jib on Jammu- Udhampur Highway. The temple exists alongside a pond with hundreds of pink lilies blooming around and the surrounding pine covered hills providing a panoramic view. A banyan tree in the vicinity gives the place a sacred setting. There are stone idols (‘Morre’) of Bitiyani Devi, Kali Beer besides that of the two grooms and a few ‘Baratis’ with varied weapons in the temple.

It is said that the first Dharmat came to Jammu from Ayodhya along with Raja Jambulochan. However, there is a village known as “Dharmat” 30 km south of Ujjain.

The origin of the community is, therefore, still a matter of research. Initially all Dharmats belonged to the distinguished Bhardwaj Gotra. In distant past, one Dharmat din’t have an issue. He prayed before Shandilya Rishi (the ‘Kul’-Guru of Lord Krishna whose Murti is still worshipped in Gokul), saying he would accept his Gotra for his descendants if he is blessed with a son. It is his descendants who draw their lineage from the Shandilya Gotra. Jib appears to derive its name from ‘Jeeb’, the Dogri word for ‘Jivha’ (tongue).

As per a popular ritual, a goat used to be sacrificed at Bitiyani Devi temple and its tongue offered to propitiate the deity that is no longer in vogue now. Presently an oil fried toy-like goat made from wheat flour is offered to the deity.Whereas Dharmats of Shadilya Gotrasettled at various places in the Jammu region originated from Jib, those of Bhardwaj Gotra spread from Raipur near Satwari Colony.

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