Bahwey Aali Mata

11 Jul 2016 15:16:20


Bahwey Aali Mata

Lalit Gupta

The Presiding deity of Jammu

Bahwey Aali Mata, the presiding deity of Jammu, has been a symbol of people’s unflinching religious faith and belief since ancient times.

Invoked by devout for spiritual bliss, general and individual prosperity, protection from enemies and natural calamities, she is protecting angle of Jammu.

One of the oldest ‘shaktipeeths’ in north India, ‘Bahwey aali Mata’, the Great Mother Mahakali, which is worshiped in the form of a ‘shila’, is enshrined in a stone temple within the Bahu fort complex. The fort is situated on the left bank of river Tawi towards south of Jammu—capital city of Duggar since circa 1400 CE.

According to folklore the Naga ruler of Jammu, Raja Vasak (Vasuki), asked his 22 sons to bring the divine mother enshrined in the form of rock at Bhadarwah and install the same at Bahu. After great competition and getting over numerous hurdles created by his brothers, Raja Bhed, one of Raja Vasak’s sons, ultimately succeeded in setting up the shrine at Bahu.

According to other oral accounts, the Bahu fort, a strategic location, is also associated with Bahulochan, brother of Jambulocahan, the legendary king and founder of Jammu. While the ‘Devika Mahatamaya’ puts the original temple to be constructed by Raja Sangram Pal and Parshu Ram during Jahangir’s period.

An inseparable part of Jammu’s religious and socio-cultural life, there are many legends about her divine prowess. She is also protector of the city from any enemy onslaught. For instance one of the popular beliefs that goes back to recent past is that it was due to protective shield of ‘Bahwe aali mata’, the Pakistani air force pilots during Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, failed to spot the Tawi bridge and thus could not target this vital communication link.

Being the kuldevi of Jamwal ruling clan, the Goddess Mahakali has been the center of faith not only for the royalty but also the masses. It is said that since royal family members chose specially the Tuesdays to visit the temple, the commoners were not allowed in the temple on that day while the Sundays were exclusively reserved for soldiers only. But during the Navaratras, when a festival was held at Bahu, all people irrespective of their social status were allowed to offer prayers at the Mahakali temple.

The Navratra festival held at the Mahakali temple in yonder days was an event of great celebration and gaiety for Jammuites who would cross the river Tawi on a boat or through a temporary bridge specially constructed for the occasion. Men, women, children, after crossing the river started the uphill climb to the temple on a zigzag path lined with make shift kiosks. This way-side market that sold clay and wooden toys, fancy make-up items for ladies, or minor household items, sweets, jalebis, pakoras and the famous extra sweet barfi, offered a unique kind of spectacle that had one or other thing for every one. In those days, the big ground in front of the fort also came alive with a full market of temporary shops that only stayed up during the Navratra days.

No doubt an ancient site, Bahu fort and the temple within its precincts seem to have been periodically reconstructed and renovated. The construction of the present Mahakali temple and the fort is credited to Dogra ruler Gulab Singh who rebuilt the complex as military stronghold in early 19th century. Later his son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh also undertook further renovations.

Comparatively of diminutive size and proportions, the Mahakali temple, built in small stone blocks stands on a raised platform. Facing south, the entrance door has the idol of Ganesha on its lalaat. There are also two other doors in the eastern and western walls of the temple. The garbhagriha, has three niches. The central one houses the idol of Mahakali in black stone. The Devi’s eyes and forehead are studded with gold sheets.

Though the fort has changed many hands and today is a protected monument But the Mahakali temple remains a center of public devotion and unflinching belief. Devotees come here with great expectation in Mother’s merciful and benign nature. Those devotees whose wishes get fulfilled due to Devi’s grace offer live ‘chhillies’—goats, as mark of gratitude and in consideration to her ‘saatvik rupa’ wherein any form of animal sacrifice is disallowed.

Presently the temple of Mahakali has emerged as major spot of religious tourism and attracts not only locals but also lakhs of devotees from outside the state who some times line-up for hours to pay their obeisance to Great Mother.

Especially the tourists who intend to take a round of different shaktipeeths in north India make it a point to pay obeisance at Mahakali temple of Jammu first, as it is generally believed that the same is must before going to the darshana of Devi Jwala ji in Himachal Pradesh.

Today, ‘Bahwey aali Mata temple’, the fort complex along with Bagh-e Bahu, one of the beautiful laid-out formal gardens in north India, has emerged as a major tourist destination where faith and nature offer an experience, which is both spiritual as well as sublime.

courtesy:-Daily Excelsior

 

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