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Rajinder Singh Rana , Holy waterfall “India Today” 2/7/2017

The Siard water fall is not only popular for its heartful music, enchanting beauty, shimmering, falling and breaking of water into a thousands of shards of spray but it also appears a sign of great peace of mind and soul. The stern belief of visitors brings a surprise when their wishes get fulfilled. The Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir is house to many holy shrines like Mata Vaishno Devi, Bhairon temple, Shiv Khori, Aghar Jitto, Nav Deviyan, Salal Shiv Gufa, Devta Chanena etc where lakhs of tourists across the world visit every year to enjoy their scenic views and spiritual beauty. These shrines are so popular due to some connected legends and their being situated just in the lap of nature. The vivid faith of visitors compels them visit these shrines to invoke blessings. Among all Siard Baba also offers very unique experience to the visiting pilgrims and devotees.

Situated amid hiking mountains and rugged terrains, Siard Baba Shrine comes at a distance of around 30 km from Katra and only 2 km from Zero Morh Talwara on Katra-Ransoo route. Whole of the journey can be covered in buses or small vehicles. The shrine is located very close to Salal hydro electric project and if we travel from Zero Morh it falls on left side of the river Chenab. The holy shrine is popular for multiple reasons.

One is huge water fall while other is temple to guard Mora (natural stone) locally considered as Nag devta. The pilgrims take holy dip in the stream under the water fall and perform darshan of Nag in the temple. While standing before temple after holy shower, they are seen making wishes

and desires to be fulfilled. The pujari offers them benediction, sweets and parsad. The stream flows throughout the year over solid rock in continuity and does not dry in any season. It exults and gives magnificent view to the onlookers who stare from opposite side on series of drops of stream falling down from considerable height. The word ‘Siard’ is attributed to Dogri language of local farmers of Talwara village and other areas who had once associated this word with furrow (Siard) or trench cut in the soil by animalpowered plough. Later, this name became

famous for all others including pilgrims and devotees. It is only due to firm faith and belief of local people, the holy Siard water fall attained pious glory and fame world over.

The visitors arrive here for one or the other reasons. Some call it a spiritual symbol with divine powers while others label it with entertainment spot. Many other consider this water fall enough sacred for treatment of skin and other ailments. The place is believed to be charmed by a higher power and open to visitors of all walks of life. The issueless women make wish to have child while bowing before temple. In olden times, there was common practice to take women under water fall by pujari for making wishes. Usually one can witness hundreds of people taking bath in the holy stream and mainly on holidays and Sundays when heavy rush of all age groups is seen over there. As per the folk tale, this twin stream water fall is named after two brothers ie Siard Baba and Tiard Baba who were attributed to Nags (snakes).

One of them named Tiard Baba was taken to some other area which was experiencing famine while other named Siard Baba preferred to stay there and on whose name water fall came to be known. This water fall was initially a milk stream. But when local people carried out such practices like fetching of milk from this fall at their own followed by camping nearby to exploit it fully, the holy Baba became angry over malevolent acts of local people and turned whole of the milk stream into water with his divine powers. Initially, pujaris from clan of Kerni Pundits of Talwara area continued to perform holy rituals of the shrine. Besides Khajuria Pundits of the same village also performed the holy task till long time.

Later, when control of shrine was shifted to government and accordingly pujaris including two from clan of Kerni pundits were selected on remuneration for performing routine duties of the shrine. After this no person is allowed to exercise his individual control over Siard Baba shrine. Before entering the taxi stand of the holy shrine of Siard Baba, we come across tiled extension on right side of the main road from where very catch view of fishes rare of its kind on bank of river Chenab is noticed. At this place stream of Siard Baba has confluence with river Chenab. One can witness thousand of fishes exhibiting variety of movements like swimming, diving and speeding a head by wriggling their tails. The scene compels everyone to stand there to watch these creatures. Some visitors feel it very sacred to feed fishes with flour or grains and are seen doing so after descending to the river bank from the road passing through very narrow passage. As per legend, this is original place of nose-ringed fish who was sister of Siard Baba. It is also gathered from the locals that before one km on right side of road from Siard Baba, there was Surg Ashram temple or Nadi Wala Mandir of Kirtan Das Sadhu. While dying sadhu gave vachan (promise) to his followers that his dead body would be kept in the Chenab for disposal by fishes. After death, the dead body of this sadhu was kept in river at a place which is believed to be habitat of nose-ringed fish. There is also number of trekking spots near the Siard water fall elevating towards upper reaches with panoramic views. If we move along another stream adjacent to the holy water fall, many other small waterfalls and flowing steams refresh our mind and give pleasant experience

ever. The relaxing and soothing sound of streams offers ecstatic feeling to the trekkers. The main

trekking route leads to towards Lodhra and Nomal side from Siard Baba. The Government is planning to develop Siard Baba as one of the major holy tourist sites in the district for which funds to the tune of 221.26 lakhs have been allocated to the tourism department for overall development of the place. The main components of the development are construction of cafeteria, landscaping, pathways, parking and lightening facilities. The district administration has also taken some decisions for proper development and management of this tourist site. As far as other arrangements are concerned, there is availability of plenty of eatables at Siard Baba but one has to move back to Reasi town for night stay because there is lack of any night halt facility at the shrine. If required one can also move direct to Shiv Khori after taking dip at Siard Baba. On a close vicinity, we can witness Durga Temple towards Salal Hydroelectric project. Enroute, one can also visit Laxmi Narayan Mandir amid Talwara NHPC quarters, Shiv Mandir Zero Morh, Bhim Dev spiritual spot, Kasi Patta, Sullah Park, Baba Dhansar, Dera Baba, Kalika temple, Bhim fort etc. All these places force visitors to spend some days at Reasi. Much more is rafting over river Chenab for enjoyment of pilgrims.

(The writer is serving as District Information Officer Reasi and Ramban)

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