Vasuki Nag temple , Bhaderwah
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Vasuki Nag temple, Bhaderwah
Serpent worship has a very ancient origin and was rife in many countries of the world. Serpents figured predominantly in the religious pantheons of ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Japanese. In India serpent worship dates back to the time of the Indus valley civilization i.e. 3000 years B.C . A number of seals found at Mohen-jo-Daro contain figures with hooded snakes at their backs.
The Naga or Serpent is an important powerful symbol in the iconography of both “Shiva” and “ Vishnu” and images of Shiva prominently display a serpent around his neck symbolizing his cosmic energy while Vishnu is often depicted reclining on the endless coils of the serpent “Ananta” , upon whom the world is believed to rest.“Krishna”, a human incarnate of Vishnu is sheltered by the multiple hoods of the Snake-Demon-Kaliya Nag.
It is considered a sin to kill these reptiles and particularly the Cobra or “Nag”. Moreover, certain families hesitate even to think of causing damage to the snakes. It has been noticed from several Hindu traditions that they started propitiating those from whom they had a fear and had no control over them. For e.g. the man had no control over fire, floods or wind and so our ancestors considered them as deities namely Agni Devta , Jal Devta, Varun Devta etc. and worshipped them believing that they would not be harmed by these if they are appeased. Many peoples were also killed by snake bites and so it may be the reason that they also worshipped snakes.
One such annual pilgrimage is dedicated to seven headed Lord Serpent ‘ Vasuki Naag’ held annually from Krishna Paksha Saptami in Bhadrapad month (August- September). The yatra begins on the seventh day during the waning phase of moon in Bhadrapad and ends on the no moon day in the month as per traditional calendar followed in North India.
Kailash kund(Kaplash) also known as Vasuki kund, is abode of Nagraj Vasuki and is situated at a height of 14500 ft. above sea level. It is a famous place of pilgrimage and the Kund is a big lake of cold, crystal clear water having a circumference of 1.5 miles. Every year thousands of pilgrims from districts of Chamba, Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Jammu and outside states participate in Kailash Yatra which commences on the 14th day after Shravan Purnima. Every Nag has his yatra when people go to the Naga shrine in colorful processions, pilgrims keep awake all nights singing Bhajans, Kirtans, shouting Jai Ghosh and dancing to the melodious tune of Dhakku.
Main yatra starts from Gatha, Bhadarwah as the Vasuki Nag or Wasak is regarded as the Kul-Devta, tutelary deity of Bhadarwah. The track from Seoj passes through the spot called as Shank Padar & Ramtund which is known for its religious legends called ‘SHAGARAN’ (Two stones which exactly resembles the face of Hanuman). Huge stone contains etch mark and an etched line which are believed to be the spot where the fleeing Vaski Naag’ wept while taking rest on the said stone. Enroute join a number of Yatras, besides yatras from Chamba and Duggan Vasuki temple which join main yatra at Kailash.
From Vasuki Nag Temple, Duggan in Bani the yatra happens on every alternate year amidst chanting of holy hymns along with the chief priest of the temple. From Duggan the yatra reaches Mankot and then Bablehr, where the yatris stay put for night. On the second day of their pilgrimage, all the yatris start their journey early to the miraculous, enchanting and enthralling spiritual spot of ‘Kailash Kund’. The sacred kund epitomizes a rare of rarest combination of spirituality in the heart, mind and soul of all those who trek the pilgrimage to the sanctimonious sacred kund which is so conveniently called as the holy kund. Here the pilgrims come with utmost reverence to pay obeisance and obtain blessings.
In 1629, Raja Bhupat Pal of Balaor(Basohli) annexed Bhadarwah and interactions between Basohli and Bhadarwah happens through Chattar Gala Pass but there is a famous folklore which relates Panealagh with the revered Vasuki Nag and how the temple of Vasuki Nag was built in Panealagh, a little known place of Bani in Kathua district. According to the legend, Raja Bhupat Pal of Basohli went to Kailash Kund and tried to traverse the Kund by using an air filled bag made from the skin of Buck unaware of the presence of Serpent King, Vasuki Nag in Kailash Kund. As the King reached in the middle of the Kund a giant Nag appeared from inside the Kund and clinged Raja Bhupat Pal. The Raja regretted his ignorance of daring to traverse the Kailash Kund which is the abode of Nag Raj Vasuki and vowed in front of the Nag Raj that he will stop his voyage mid-way and will return back.
To give honor to his vow the Raja offered his ear-rings to the Serpent King and pledged in front of him that he will build a temple in Basohli where people can worship Vasuki Nag, an incarnation of lord Vishnu. While going back, Raja Bhupat Pal was worried about realizing his vow and thought that who will construct the temple and from where he will get the idol of Vasuki Nag. Since, picturesque Bhadarwah with Ashapati mountain rising at the back has a temple devoted to Vasuki Nag having exquisitely carved images of Vasuki Nag and Jimut Vahan, who, as we know, offered his own flesh to appease the infuriated Garuda while he was chasing Vasuki Nag.
The black-stone statues of Vasuki and his benefactor are about six feet tall. They are placed on an elaborately carved pedestal about two feet high. The images are life-like and exude grace and tranquility. After knowing about this magnificent temple of Vasuki Nag, Raja Bhupat Pal directed the sculptors of Bhadarwah to carve the same idols for the temple which he wants to construct at Basohli. Soon after, the King left for Basohli via Chhattar gala pass, the most famous and intensively used route in the past connecting Basohli with Bhadarwah. When the King reached Chattar Gala Pass he felt thirsty and started drinking water from a stream. While drinking water the King noticed that something has struck in his hands and when he took his hands out of the stream he found the same ear-ring in his hand which he had given to the Vasuki Nag at Kailash Kund to honour his oath that he will not traverse the Kailash Kund besides constructing a temple at Basohli. Feeling astonished to see the ear ring in his hand and the serenity round the stream, the Raja named the place as ‘Wasak Chala’. With time the place got religious reverence and is frequented by number of devotees who want to pay their obeisance to Vasuki Nag.
Few months later when the idols were carved, Raja Bhupat Pal gave instructions to bring these idols to Basohli from Bhadarwah. The craftsmen packed the idols with utmost care and placed them in a palanquin and started their journey towards Basohli. On the way, through Lowang(in Bani) the craftsmen along with the palanquin reached Panealagh(in Bani), Panealagh in Dogri means Paani-Laagh i.e. near water, where they stay put for the night. In the morning the craftsmen tried to lift the palanquin but to their surprise they were unable to uplift that palanquin which carried the idols of Vasuki Nag. A passerby, after witnessing the efforts of craftsmen who were toiling hard to elevate the palanquin, suggested them to call the chief priest(chela) of Vasuki Nag. The chief priest when reached the spot paid his obeisance with utmost reverence to the idols placed in the palanquin and obtained blessings from Vasuki Nag and told them that the Serpent King does not want to go to Basohli so it is better if they build the temple of Vasuki Nag at Panealagh and install the idols here.
This is the second temple in Bani, devoted to Vasuki Nag built by Raja Bhupat Pal where as the temple in Duggan was built 40 years prior to the temple at Panealagh. The king patronized the priest of this temple by allotting them free of cost land so that they can utilize the land to make their end meets besides serving at the temple of Vasuki Nag.