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Purmandal, an important pilgrimage centre lying towards the south east of Jammu city at a distance of 40 km, is located on the bank of the river Devika. This pious town is, infact, situated in the Siwaliks, which are known as southern most Himalayas. The Devika is prominently known as the Gupt Ganga which bifurcates this highly sacred town into two equal parts. The Devika is known to have originated during the last phase of Dwapar period which stands adduced in Vana Parva part of the great epic.
In many scriptures the Devika river is held sacred even more than the the river Ganga. In Padma Puran, the Lord Krishna has stated that when Ganga becomes too heavy with the sins of the sinning bathers in it, she herself bathes in the Devika to get rid of these sins. In the Great Epic Mahabharta Brahamrishi Pulastya told Bhishma of the merits of visiting of different pilgrimage centres in India. About the river Devika he said “it is one of the pilgrimage centres that stands accepted and celebrated all over the world especially by the Hindus. This pious place is popularly known as small Kashi as a large number of Hindus perform many rituals for the peace of departed souls. Hence in a way it is the sacred Ganga of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Popularity of the place dates long back with its original name as Pur or Puri but to the passage of time, the Mandal an adjoining village to Pur got suffixed in its name and now the place is known as purmandal.
There are numerous legends associated with Purmandal, a sacred place for the Hindus. According to one legend, it is held that in the last phase of Dwapar period, Kashaypa Rishi performed ardous meditation for a long time to Lord Shiva to purify the sins of the earth dwellers, especially of the people of Duggar Desh. As Kaliyuga will be an epitome of great evils, there are no means for the emancipation of the people of this region. When Lord Shiva pleased with his devotion, appeared before him, he requested to Lord Shiva to purify the sinners. Lord Shiva then asked his consort Uma (The Goddess Parvati) to flow in the land of Dogras as Devika and ordained that who so ever bathed in this river would become free from any kind of sins. Lord Shiva himself mainfested as Shiv Lingum at a number of places on the banks of Devika, of which Sudhmaha Dev, Udhampur, Purmandal and Uttarbehani are well known, so a great importance was attached to bathing in its water on special sacred days, for the purpose of obtaining moral cleansing by bathing in its water. The Devika originating from Gouri Kund of Sudh Maha Dev (Man Talai) flows through Udhampur, Purmandal and Utterbehni and finally meets the Ugh river. The Devika is believed to have appeared on Phalguna or Phaguna chaudash i.e. Shivratri at the end of Dwapur Yug.
Another legend is that when one day Uma had to take bath, she prepared a statue of soil and provided life in the form of, “Ganpati Ganesh”. She ordered him to stand on to the door and not allow anyone to enter the room including the Lord Shiva. Immediately, the Lord Shiva came and tried to enter the room but Ganesh did not allow him to enter. On this, the Lord Shiva became very angry and cut Ganesha’s head and entered the room. When the Goddess Uma came to know this incident she wept bitterly and asked the Lord Shiva to revive Ganesha again. The Lord Shiva called for his Shivgans and sent them to bring head of male child from such a mother who had slept with her child in backside. The Shivgans could not get a such type of head from any women. On reaching the forests of eastern side (which is presently known as Bhuvneshwar – Orissa) they came across a female elephant who had slept with male child on her backside. They cut the head and brought it to the spot. The Lord Shiva placed this “brought cut head, on the head of Shri Ganeshand with the blessings of Lord Shiva, he became alive. The Goddess Uma became very happy on this occasion. Then both the Lord Shiva and the Goddess Uma longed for that every year a big fair will be used to celebrate on “Chaitra” Chatrodashi, which usually falls on March or sometimes on first week of April.
Temple and its Importance
The main attraction of Purmandal is an old Lord Shiva’s Temple, having no lingum and is known as “Svayambhuvalinga”. A number of stories are well connected with this sacred temple. The temple is said to have been built by Raja Veni Dutt of Kashmir who is identified with either Vinayaditya or Avantivarman who ruled over Kashmir from 855 to 883 AD. The statue of Vixen at the back of the main temple serves as an interesting aspect to explore in light of the popular tale indicating the daughter of King Veni Dutt to be re incarnation of the jackal which was shot in the head by a hunter and died near the lingum. The daughter of King Veni Dutt is said to have suffered from incurable headache since childhood which could be alleviated after the arrow from the Skelton of the jackal at Purmandal was removed. The arrow was searched out by a hunting party guided by astrologers. Raja Veni Dutt who visited the place accompanied by a number of persons including the family members is said to have worshipped Lord Shiva at Purmandal and built the central shrine. A hooded stone serpent jutting out of a cistern in the rock in the central shrine is an object of religious attraction as it is believed to be the only menifestation of Lord Shiva of that kind anywhere in the country.
The present complex of Purmandal shrine was built by Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of Jammu and Kashmir state. He took lot of interest in the renovation of this holy place. He made the oblation of golden ewers to Lord Shiva. He also established a Sanskrit vidyalya on the banks of the river Devika. Havvelis constructed on Devika’s bank are still in prominence.
A special provision was made in Ain-I-Dharmarth to look after the shrine. Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857-1885) son of Maharaja Gulab Singh, known for his patronage of art and learning built numerous temples and shrines. The Bhairva Temple, Kartikya and Ganesh Temples and Lord Shiva’s Temple of Purmandal were also constructed by Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
Purmandal was also a centre of Sanskrit learning where great Sanskrit Scholars from the country and abroad were called to study scriptures. Another attraction of Purmandal is the large numberof wall paintings done extensively on the walls of the old buildings, the theme of the painting is slightly different from other wall paintings of Jammu, because paintings of Jammu were mostly of Ramayana and Krishna theme but at Purmandal the figures of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Ganesha etc; are painted. Purmandal appears more sacred because some people immerse the ashes of the departed soul in Devika, which according to Hindus customs should be immersed at Haridwar or Kashi. This clearly indicates the comparison of Purmandal with Kashi in Uttar Pardesh.
The fame of Purmandal as a religious centre had spread for and wide through the ages. A large numbers of dignitaries having association with different faiths visited here, Even some Muslim rulers held it high esteem. It is said that Maharaja Ranjit Singh was also among the great devotees and made huge offerings there.