Forgotten Temples of Kashmir
Photo series Part-8
An effort to preserve and record Hindu cultural and religious heritage of Kashmir
Brari Aangan…..The Abode of Goddess Uma
(Close veiw of the shrine. Now there are only wild shrubs around it formerly a path of salvation)
Exclusive images and report from a remote village in Kashmir provided for Shehjar by Chander M. Bhat
place, is a little away from the well known tourist resort of Achhabal in Anantnag. The explanation for the name Brari Angan could be scoffed at but it has solid foundation on historical facts.
Haji Karimdad Khan, who is mentioned in history as one of the harshest and most tyrannical Afghan Subehdars of Kashmir, deputed in 1772 A.D. a junior executive, Shri Ram Kaul Jalali, to collect land revenue and other taxes from the Kuthar pargana in the Anantnag tehsil. Shiv Ram had already been initiated by a ranking preceptor in spiritual discipline and on reaching Brari Aangan in Uttersoo he intensified his meditative practice. In the course of a few months he attracted the attention of the people around who frequently came to see him to seek initiation at his hands. Soon he resigned his job and devoted himself to meditation on Goddess Uma in the form of ‘Aumn’. Shri Mather Kaul of Uttersoo used to take milk as a food to Sh. Shiv Ram Jalali.
These facts were reported to the subehdar who summoned Shiv Ram to Srinagar. The latter did not go but put his heart and soul in meditation under a shady tree. The subehdar was annoyed and sent some troopers to ‘bring Shiv Ram to his senses’ and to drag him to the capital. On reaching Shiv Ram’s place of meditation they were dismayed to find him guarded by two leopards, one to his right and the other to his left. The mounted soldiers wanted to swoop upon Shiv Ram in the manner they were directed by the subehdar who considered Shiv Ram’s recalcitrance to grave offence, but had their mounts shied and backed, ran helter-skelter, and sustained injuries along with the riders. Crest-fallen, the soldiers reported the whole matter to the subehdar at Srinagar.
Haji Karimdad Khan was the hero of many battles in Afghanistan and India, including Kashmir. He went to Brari Aangan to check personally all that was reported to him. Catching a glimpse of Shiv Ram from a distance he found him flanked by two cats, but when he approached closer he was astounded to find two leopards instead. Nothing daunted, he spurred his mount to charge, but it fled in the reverse direction. The truth dawned on the Haji and Shiv Ram was no longer an average mortal but had attained stature under the protection of Divinity. He gave up his arrogance and approached the saint in all humility. The leopards instantly changed into docile cats. Shiv Ram who was all along in his meditation gradually returned to normalcy.
The subehdar expressed his appreciation of Shiv Ram by granting him land for a shrine and 1600 kanals of rent-free agricultural land for its upkeep and for a free kitchen for visiting pilgrims. Soon thereafter many people, Hindus and Muslims, settled on the land around. It came to be known as Uma Nagri but the common man called it as Brari Angan, the courtyard of cats, on account of the role of the feline species in the evolution of the village. Shiv Ram was also called as Shivananda. He used to lit Dhooni (sacrificial fire) every morning and the place of Dhooni was called Dhooni Sahib. After the nirvana of Sh. Shiv Ram (Shivananda) the local saints from Pandit family and Koul family took the reigns of Uma Nagri Shrine. The last saint of the shrine was Swani Satyananda who was a teacher by profession and belonged to the local Koul family. He was a bramchari and attained nirvana after the mass exodus of pandits from the valley. Two bandaras (yagna’s) are celebrated every year, one on the occasion of birthday of Goddess Uma during navratras and another on nirvana divas of Sh. Shiv Ram in the month of January-February. The two celebrations are now offered at Jammu by the ancestors of Koul family of whom Swami Satyananda belonged. One of the saints namely Swami Soimaanda of Ganpatyar, Srinagar who was blessed by the Goddess had also contributed a lot for the construction of the shrine at Uma Nagri and then at Jammu after the exodus. The yegna is also offered at Uma Devi Temple, Muthi, a replica of Uma Devi Shrine of Brari Aangan. Hawans are also offered at Sharadapeth, Bantlab, Jammu every year by the followers of Swami Satyananda.1
A tom-cat is referred to as bror (pl. ‘brare’) in Kashmiri and its female counterpart is braer (pl. brari). Braer is derived from Sanskrit word Bhataraka meaning ‘worshipful’ as in Bhattaraka Nadvala which is the present Brarinambal according to Stein. The name Brari Angan is therefore fully appropriate for the village.
The 1600 kanals donated by Haji Karimdad Khan continued to be utilized for the shrine from April 13 (Basakhi), 1781 A.D. for nearly a century and half. It was reduced to 964 kanals in the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh who sanctioned a grant in cash for the Dharmarth Trust for the area resumed. In the period around 1950s the estate was reduced to just 182 kanals under the agrarian reforms of the state. A separate forest area was also offered by the Dogra rulers to the shrine.
Haji Karimdad Khan’s land grant thus provides a historical explanation for the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the name Brari Aagan.
The common noun braer is occasionally invested with divinity as the expression Braer Maji (Mother Goddess) or in such lila songs as
Raji Reni rani Braeri Laga yai paeri paeri (All praise to her who, known as Rani (queen) Braer, is the consort of the Almighty.
It adds a new dimension to the place name which bridges historical facts with diving grace, reminding one of Goethe’s adulation:
Wouldst thou the earth and heaven
Tehrik Kashmir mentions another spot on the crest of the Zojila pass which also was known as Brari Angan. It states that from time to time many people felt carried away by the sound of music and minstrelsy, they imagined, they heard there. Their companions applied the rough and ready therapy of flogging to bring such an individual back to normalcy so that he did not lag behind the caravan and get frozen to death.2
1. Uma Jivani, Svamyananand Ashram, Srinagar 1975
2. Place Names in Kashmir by B.K.Raina and S.L.Sadhu published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
3. Interview dated 15.03.2010 with Sh. Pushker Nath Koul son of Sh. Niranjan Nath Koul resident of Uttersoo presently residing at Sector 2, Durga Nagar, Jammu
Main entrance to the shrine. Pathetic cruelty of the time.
One of the three springs in the lawns of the shrine. Resembling to netra of Lord Shiva
Once this was a Snan Ghat outside the temple. Unity of the commands of nature
|*Born on 20th March, 1960 in Murran a village in North Kashmir, Chander M. Bhat is presently working as an Assistant Supdt. Posts, in Department of Posts, Govt. of India. His articles regarding Posts and of non-political nature stand widely published in various papers and magazines of the country. A booklet 'How to Collect Stamps" published by the Department of Posts, has earned him genuine accolades. He worked on the project of tracing the roots of his co-villagers and of the village Murran, resulting into the culmination of a widely acclaimed book "Murran -My Village". Man with depth, Chander M. Bhat has also another book, "Ocean by Drops" (collection of poems) in his vase having colorful poems. His book "Ancient History of Jammu and Kashmir", confirms his researching capability. Various research papers like "The Splendor that is Amarnath" and "Vitasta" The Sacred River of Kashmir" are valuable additions to his works that has proved very fruitful and guiding force in the exile period of Kashmiri Pandits community of which the author is also a member.
Presently the author is working on "OOL - THE NEST" a six volume project on all the 595 (each volume of about 2500 pages)Kashmiri Pandit villages of Kashmir.
Swami Svyamananda ji of Ganpatyar made tremendous efforts to make the Shrine known by performing annual yagya everywhere since 1960s or so and also devoted most of his time and energy in getting the temple constructed there.But unfortunately, i find his efforts and zeal forgotten and sidelined. This hurts those who knew Swami Svyamananda ji and were a part of "havans" there. But i'm thankful to Shehjar for at least bringing our old glory to limelight anyway.
Added By Rakesh Raina
Chander Mohan's efforts to develop a repository of Ancfient Temples of Kashmir are simply laudatory.We shall have to be thankful to him and to Shehjar team for their tireless work to enable us to revisit our roots steeped in unique culture.
Added By pushkar ganjoo