Anantnag is located between 33020' to 340-15' north latitude and 740-30' to 750-35' east longitude, bounded in the north and north-west by Srinagar and Pulwama districts respectively and in the north east by Kargil district. It is the most fertile district in the Kashmir valley and is called as “The granary of Kashmir”. Anantnag is also known as the “Gateway to Kashmir valley”.
The district is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and hospitality. It is also a symbol of secularism and tolerance. These qualities have bound the people of the district together for centuries. All sects of the society live in harmony without any prejudice. They are credited to have unity in diversity.
Anantnag has for long enjoyed the status of the second largest city of the Valley. The name of Anantnag District according to a well known archaeologist, Sir A.Stein from the great spring Ananta Naga issuing at the southern end of the town. This is also corroborated by almost all local historians including Kalhana according to whom the town has taken the name of this great spring of Cesha or Ananta Naga land of countless springs. The spring is mentioned in the Neelmat Purana as a sacred place for the Hindus and Koshur Encyclopedia testifies it.
Before the advent of Muslim rule in 1320 A.D., Kashmir was divided into three divisions, viz; Maraz in the south, Yamraj in the centre and Kamraj in the north of the Valley. Old chronicles reveal that the division was the culmination of the rift Marhan and Kaman, the two brothers, over the crown of their father. The part of the valley which lies between Pir Panjal and Srinagar now called the Anantnag was given to Marhan and named after him as Maraj. While Srinagar is no longer known as Yamraj, the area to its north and south are still called Kamraz and Maraz respectively. Lawrence in his book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ states that these divisions were later on divided into thirty four sub-divisions which after 1871 were again reduced to five Zilas or districts.
Anantnag like the rest of the Kashmir Valley has witnessed manyvicissitudes and experienced many upheavals from time to time. Hugel found here some monuments of the Mughal period in ruins when he visited Kashmir in 1835. No significant ancient building or archaeological site is found in the district today except the Martand temple. What must have once been magnificent architectural show pieces like the Martand complex of temples situated at a distance of nine kilometers from the district headquarters or the palaces of Laltaditya and Awantivarman at Awantipora lying midway between Srinagar and Anantnag town are now in grand ruins. The majestic Martand temple is one of the important archaeological sites of the country. Its impressive architecture reveals the glorious past of the area. Martand temple is the clear expression of Kashmir’s pristine glory. The Mughal Emperors especially Jehangir developed many beauty spots of the district, but of their noble and magnificent edifices only fainted traces survive. All the same, even in their present ruinous conditions, these monuments do not fail to feast the eye or excite the imagination of admirers at large.
Anantnag district is bestowed with religious wealth in the forms of numerous shrines and places of worship. These worth visiting places include Mattan (Bawan) Temple, Martand Temple, Holy Cave of Amarnath Ji, Ziarat Hazrat Zain-ud-Din Wali, Nagbal, Khir Bhawani Asthapan (Devibal), Uma Devi of Uma Nagri, Bumzu or Bhaumajo Caves, Chapel of John Bishop and Nagdandi.
Ancient monuments of very great archaeological interest which disclose the existence of a lost civilization are, numerous in Kashmir. The devotion of kings, the reserves of the kingdoms and skills of master artists in the past combined, to raise the magnificent and the beautiful temple edifices in Kashmir. They were built to endure for all times. Their solidity of construction and their gigantic size strike one with wonder that man could have built them. Many kings have come and gone and civilizations have bloomed and vanished since they were built. People go and pace around them and gaze on them with amazement and awe - amazement inspired by the stupendous might and skill of their builders and awe excited by the ruins of these edifices which look as if weeping over the departed glory of their founders.1
Bumzu is a place at a distance of 1 km from Mattan enroute Anantnag. The place is famous for three cave temples situated on the left bank of Liddar, 60 feet above at a close distance to each other. The entrance to one of the caves is carved architectural doorway, which through a passage leads one to the cave temple. The temple, 10 feet square, is on a raised platform and is reached by a flight of steps. The old square doorway had statues, which were defaced. The second cave temple is close by and is slightly bigger in size but without any architectural designs and is said to be dedicated to Kaladeva. An Icom exists in this cave temple. Nearby is alsos the third cave temple, which is also without any architectural design.
There is a legend, which gives the origin of these cave temples and links the Bumzu caves and the shrine of Chakradhara with King Nara. Walter R. Lawrence while giving reference to Hugel says that King Nara succeeded his father Vibishana in the year Kali 2108 (993 BC0. One day, he beheld Chandrasaha, the daughter of Susravas, a serpent-god, whose place was in a lake and decided to carry her away from her husband, a Brahmin. The plan failed, upon which the enraged Brahmin asked Surravas to avenge the insult. A storm was called up and the earth oopened and swallowed the king and his whole Court. The sister of the serpent-god assisted him and hurled on the city huge stones from the Martand Mountain. The cavern of Bhumju are said to be on the spot where these rocks were uptorn. According to Aurel Stein, “A young Brahman, who had found occasion to assist the Naga and his two daughters when in distress, was allowed to marry in reqard one of the latter. He lived in happiness at Narapura until the beauty of the Naga lady excited the passion of the wicked king. When Nara found his advances rejected, he endeavoured to seize the beautiful Candralekha by force. The couple thereupon fled to protection to their father’s habitation. The Naga then rose in fury from his pool and “burned the King with his town in a rain of fearful thunderbolts.” Thousands of people were burned before the image of Vishnu Chakradhara, to which they had fled for protection. Ramanya, the Naga’s sister, came down from the mountains carrying along masses of rocks and boulders. These she dropped, as we have seen, along the bed of the Ramanyatavi or Rambiyar stream, when she found that Susravas had caused, removed to a lake on a far-off mountain.” The Nag where the couple took shelter came to be known as Zamtiur Nag. The lake mentioned in the reference is known as Takshak Nag at Zewan, named after Takshak Raza, the Lord of snakes.2
According to Sir Walter Roper Lawrence, “Bhumju or Bumzu or Bhaumajo lines at the mouth of the lidder valley, and easily reached from Islamabad. These caves are situated on the left bank of the Lidder river about a mile north of the village of Bawan, the largest is dedicated to Kaladeva. The cave-temple stands at the far end of a natural but artificially enlarged fissure in the limestone cliff. The entrance to the cavern, which is more than 60 feet above the level of the river, is carved into an architectural doorway, and a gloomy passage, 50 ft in length, leads from it to the door of the temple. It is a simple cella, 10 ft square , exterior dimensions, raised on a badly moulded plinth and approached by a short flight of steps. The square door way is flanked by two round headed niches despoiled of their status and is surmounted by a high triangular pediment reaching to the apex of the roof, with a trefoiled tympanum. There is no record nor tradition as to the time of erection but from absence of all ornamentation and the simple character of the roof, which appears to be a rudimentary copy in stone of the ordinary slopping timber roof of the country, it may with great probability be inferred that this is the earliest perfect specimen of Kashmir Temple, and dates from the Ist. or 2nd century of the Christian era. Close by is another Cave of still greater extent, but with no architectural accessories and about half a mile further up the valley at the foot of the cliff, are two temples. Both are , to a considerable extent, copies of the Cave Temple but may be of much later date.
The shrine of Baba Ramdin Reshi and the tomb of his disciple Ruku-din-Reshi are also close by. Hugel statues that the Bhumju caves occupy a very conspicuous place in the fables of the timid Kashmiris, and are supposed to have originated from the following causes, In the year Kali 2108 ( 993 B.C) Raja Nara succeeded his father, Vibishana; during his reign certain Brahman espoused Chandrasaha , the daughter of Susravas, a serpent-god, whose place was in a lake near the Vitusta , and near a city built and inhabited by Nara. One day, as Raja Nara beheld the beautiful daughter of the serpent on the shore of the lake, moving gracefully through the calm waters, he was struck with the deepest admiration, and endeavored vainly to inspire the same sentiments he himself felt. At length he resolved to carry her off from husband, but the plan failed ,and the enraged Brahman called on her father to avenge the insult. A storm was accordingly called up ,and the earth open and swallowed up the King and his whole Court. The sister of the serpent-god assisted him ,and hurled on the city huge stone from Bawan Mountain. The caverns of Bhumju are said to be on the spot where these rocks were uptorn (Hugel, Growse)”.3
Notes and References:
- The Temple Legacy of Kashmir: Account from Burried History by Sh. S.N.Pandit published in Vitasta Annual Number, Volume XXXV (2001-2001).
- Encyclopedia: Kashmiri Pandit: Culture & Heritage by C.L.Kaul, published by Ansh Publications, 2009.
- The Valley of Kashmir by sir Walter Roper lawrence.
- Place Names in Kashmir by B.K.Raina & S.L.Sadhu, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai & Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, 2000.
- Ancient Monuments of Kashmir by Ram Chand Kak, published by Aryan Books International, New Delhi, 2000.
- Kalhan’s Rajatarangini….A Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir, Vol: II by Stein, Aurel, published by Motilal Banarasi Dass, 1979.
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