The Legend of Stones in Jammu and Kashmir || LIVE IMAGE

Myths , mythology, fables and Folklore   are striven all over the Satisar.  That has interwoven its history, culture  and the pathos. Foot prints are visible wherever one moves far from the  madding crowd. Every step has a story to reveal, share and make one to ponder over it. What made this tale and what would have happened then   to make it an immortalized event. August last, this writer ventured into  a virgin   up hills. Eastern  side of Pir Pasthal. Towards north the ridge and below it the valley up to Aditragh Stream. 

Beyond Dubjan, drained  by Rambhiyar, Shakro, Ramshoo and Aditarg streams .Bifurcating the Pulwama from Badgam, is most enchanting beautiful  valley but neglected. It is between the left side of Rambhiyar  to the right side of the Aditrag streams. Almost hidden from the general gaze unknown except the locals. Even concerned officers from Revenue or the Forest has hardly visited it .As it appeared and verified from the locals.  

Which a wanderer wants feel  a part of it.To explore  , feel and enjoy to its fullest.   Camping   at Sungarwani,  opposite  south  of  Pakharipora.  Can be reached  from Pakhiripora, in Badgan district near famous shrine Charari Sharief or from Keller in Pulwama district. While  trekking one day  with an intention to view the source of Ramshoo stream .  Down flows from the Kaachaa Gali.Gali means mountain pass. 

Nestled in north of Pir Panjal Range . Where a number of meadows, serving summer pastures to tribes are located. Leaving Sangarwaini in the morning it was drizzling. Used to keep going under inclement weather for decades now. Could not   dampen my spirit rather it is thrill.Only  a wanderer can feel and enjoy.  It is a basic principle move on till one reach the destination in far flung inaccessible areas. Which Hillman follows besides rest on top of the hill not in between.Moreover every known or unknown Gujjar Kotha is home to me. 

Because of about 40 years  close acquaintance with them from every corner of the state. Who is who, where married or their relation with others. First stop from Sangarwani  after covering a few miles was Andewali (Inders abode). Once a dense forest like Sangarwani it has fairly habitated . Also a  loading depot of State Forest Corporation is there . Logs are mostly Budloo, no Kail or Deodar. Barometer for the status of the forest now. 

A  small patch  called Fodder Nursery of the Agrostology  Wing of the Forest Department was shown .  A pity to call so a perfect mirror of  the concern  of this wing  these days.After another a few km   found as place called   Ratapani,. Track is almost plain as one finds in meadows. Rich forests on both sides .Across the stream  untreated landslide in calling for treatment .

A stich in time save nine afterwards. Ratapani means red water. But nothing such is observed as stream has purest cascading water flowing down .Soothing to eyes.Must have some  calamity took place .Which reddened the water then.Still  name reminds of that tragic event. Enjoying the nature its richness, moved on to Brahndob from there to Kahroot.And  then comes Goodi wala Beela.Means Horses  abode. Must have been  one of the routes for  the travellers  on the both sides of the Panjal. 

Which  was called earlier times Vir Panchal. Later Pir in place of Vir. Poonch which was part of Kashmir as referred by Rajtrangini. In the 6th Century AD, the famous Chinese traveller Huien Tsang passed through this area. According to his observation, this region was known as part of Kashmir also known as mini kashmir. 

According to RajtranganiRaja Trilochan Pal of Poonch gave a tough fight to Mahmood Ghaznvi, who invaded this area in 1020 A.D.Paanchali of Mahabarata  was from this area as said.Also was once  kingdom of Lohran deynisty. Rajouri called those days, Rajapurm. A gate way to Kashmir. Moreover it was called Salt route too. There must have been number of routes to cross the Panschal.Hence a resting place being about half way from the Kaachaa  Gali. Must have been one of the routes. 

This spot across the stream is immortalized with a story. Which goes on from mouth to mouth for  centuries it seem. Stones are part of the legend. That once a prince from this side solemnized a marriage with a princess across the Mountains. She was the prettiest and her beauty was known far and wide. Prince  longed to have her  and succeeded   in marrying  her. On return after solemnising the marriage near this place near  a curse fell on the entire marriage party.  

All turmed in to the stones..And all were mortified in to stones. As customary in the lead of the marriage after the marriage   it is the palquin carrying bride. Followed by the marriage party. Lastly, the Groom. Here is so in that order. Down the bride, marriage next marriage party and last the Groom on horse. Whatever may be facts story is still currency. The people of the valley also believe in the truth of such transformation.

As such worth visiting exploring the legend .The transformation of human beings in to stones in consequence of a curse or calamity is called  ‘Watis Gachhun” in kashmiri.  In his memories “Ladhak, My Journey Up , Down and across “  by Late Pushkar Nath Kaul, who retired as Chief Secretary of the stae has mentioned such a incident.

 “The legend goes on to say that the Zoji-Lahmo organically belonged to , and lived in ,Kashmir. She was  betrothed  to a God Ladhakh.The marriage ceremony was fixed for being performed on a particular day.It is customary  for the Buddhists not to carry the Bridegroom  to the bride’s   house.Some persons from his side go to the bride’s place  and get her to  the groom’s house.In keeping  with this practice the groom’s party from Ladhakh left for Kashmir and got the bride  there from.

When they reached as far as  the  place  where the Zoji-La stands now, a member of the groom’s party  who lacked manners insulted the Bride telling her that  her mouth gave out a foul smell.The Bride got annoyed and decided not to proceed any further and to stay there.The members of her party comprising sylvan  gods and goddesses also stayed there with her on the valley side of the present Zoji-La. The Groom’s party was cursed and got converted in to stones..

That is why Forests are  found on the Kashmir side only of the Zoji-La, the Ladakh  side remaining  barren of all  verdure.Teshi tells me that the humans –converted- to- stones do stands even now on the Zoji-La  a little away from the highest point on the top of the pass. The stones have definite  human shapes and figures.The Buddhists have a great reverence for the Zoji-Lhamo. Thet bow to her every time they strat for or return from the valley or cross the pass.Their folklore and some of their songs are full of respect for  and sing the   praises   of the Zoji-Lhamo.An extract from one of their songs say:

“ now we leave for Kashmir safely;

 For the Zoji-Lhamo is kind to us;

What harm can  ever come our way;

When the Zoji-Lhamo is pleased with us” and so on.

Even now –a-days Buddhists make sacrificial  offerings of sheep and goats to the Zoji-Lhamo on the pass near where the stones figures are said to be .When they begin some work also they make the offerings of some-thing or the other to or in the name of the Zoji-Lhamo. All this indicates  the difficult nature of the pass that is Zoji-La . In his ingenuity  men have conjured up mightiest and woven legends round hills, rivers , trees etc. That  he got impressed by. He has even attributed life, sacredness and divinity  to many of these objects.

.“Hamboting-La is well known for its height, its cold and its severe  wind. It is  said to be of the same height as Zoji-La.A local legend  says  that  the Zoji-La and the Hamboting-La are two sisters. Both are of equal height and there is nothing in-between their high Peaks to stop the wind going from the top of one to the top of the other. 

La in Balti means a god and its famine, Lhamo, a goddess. Almost all the hills and the passes here have their guardian gods and goddesses etc etc. The names of goddesses of the Zoji-La and the Hamboting-La  are respectively Zoji-Lahmo and Hamboting –Lahmo.The two sister goddesses occasionally send gifts to  each other the Zoji-Lahmo sending birch leaves ( boj pater) to the Hamboting –Lahmo and the latter making the gift of a herb to her sister. Every year numberless birch leaves and the birch-bark are found on the Hamboting-La and similarly  one finds on the Zoji-La  the dry herbs flown from here. Far down the nallah below to or right some birch trees are  also said to  flourish. These constitute a permanent gift made by the Zoji-Lahmo to her sister here. These are regarded as sacred by the people, particularly the Buddhist and nobody cuts them.”

Stones depicts, Groom, Bridegroom and the Marriage party

 Bushan Parimoo
(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist and a regular contributor to this Website .)
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