Jammu, Ancient site of celestials through millennia

Suraj Saraf

Raja Jambu Lochan founded the city of Jammu as a site excelling in virtue and camaraderie as on a hunting spree he observed a tiger and goat drinking water from the same pond. He named the city after him as Jambu.He was ruling at Bahu, just across Tawi river and facing present capital city of Jammu and was on a hunt in the forests across Tawi river. But whan did it happen? Till some decades back chroniclers and researchers were not sure about that and Jammu’s history seems to have been lost in the mists of time because they could not find any historical records in that behalf. Their only source was Vansavali of which, too, they could not lay their hands on the original and the copy they found belonged only to last century prepared in the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh (1822-1857) which last century founded the present state of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, they also had not found any ancient sited here as they said. However, the mists shrouding the long ancient past of Jammu are lifting, albeit slowly, by painstaking research over the past few years. In the first place Epics had hitherto been ignored till some years back a local Sanskrit scholar delving into Mahabharta hit on interesting references to Jambu in it (interestingly researches till then were looking in ancient records only for Jammu and not Jambu which may have been converted into Jammu only during the past about a hundred years). Brahamrishi Pulastya while giving details of tirthas (places of pilgrimages) in Bharat Varsha mentions Jambu marg saying,” one who goes to Jambu marg, which is resorted to by the celestials, the rishes and pitris (departed souls) acquires the merits of horse and the fruition of all his wishes. The man that resides there for five nights has his soul cleansed of all sins. He never sinks into hell, but acquires high success, “At yet another place Rishi Dhaumya describing sacred sites all over India says about Jambu marg that it “constitutes the retreats of ancestors and souls under control.” A highly significant reference to Jambu and Vaishno Devi shrine (visible from Jambu) occurs together in Mahabharta at the time Lord Krishna was about to drive Arjun into the battle field. There Krishna asks Arjun to worship Durga for victory. Ther Pandva hero wants to know from the Lord as to where was she located. The lord replies that he was referring to Durga located in slopes of Jambu mountain (Jambukatak in the actual word used by Krishna). It would be interesting to reproduce here a part of Arjun’s hymn to the deity. Supplicates Arjun,” I bow to thee, O highest of Yogins, O thou that are identical with Brahma, O thou that are free from decrepitude and decay. I bow to thee, O bringer of benefits to the devotees, o thou that rescues from dangers. O thou that are endowed with every auspicious attribute. O thou that deserves the most regardful worship. O fierce one, O giver of victory, O victory’s self. O thou that are dressed in yellow robes.O thou that are white in hue, o thou that are black in hue, o thou that are diverse eyed, I bow to thee. O thou that are the Vedas, the Shrutis, and highest virtue. O thou that are knowledge of the past, O thou that are ever present in the temple on the slopes of the mountain in Jambu. Thou are the science of Brahma among sciences……. O thou that dwells in inaccessible regions. Thou are Swaha, Sadha, Kala and Kashta, Saraswati,Savitri, the mother of the Vedas, and the science of Vendants”.
There’s quite a few other references to places near about Jambu (present Jammu) in the Great Epic, two particular being to a stream Devak, considered holy of the holiest even till now (where according to some scriptures even Ganga comes to shed itself of the sins accumulated in it by bathing of the sinners in it) Akhnur and Ambaran, an ancient site where in a large area Pre-harappan, and post-Harappan remains had also been found in recent years, a clan known (after Ambaran) as Ambisht in Mahabharta had participated in the great war on kaurav side. Later is situated on right bank of Chenab. It is interesting that in “History of the Panjab Hill States” by J. Hutchison and J. Ph Vogel (later a renowned archaeologist, too), three incidents regarding Jammu had been mentioned about !st century. Two of them relate to Sialkot ( now in Pakistan and not far from Jammu) and one to a ruler of Kanauj. Whereas Hutchion and Vogel underscore that it was but natural that the two border states of Jammu and Sialkot came often to war for encroaching upon each other’s territory they do not point out why a ruler from such far off site as Kanauj should invade Jammu. However, it is paradoxical that in spite of their mentioning the above wars of remote wars, Hutchison and Vogel hold according to Vansavali the town of Jammu is of ancient origin (founded by Raja Jambu Lochan) but this seems improbable as there are no ancient remains or evidence of antiquity.” However, at the same time they also say, “further evidence of the great antiquity of the state (Jammu) is furnished by the extensive ramifications of royal clan. They are ten in number, each of which ruled over a separate principality.” Morever, setting up of the Bhau fort, facing Jammu on the other side of river Tawi, is also ascribed by Vansavali to Bahu Locahn, elder brother of Jambu Lochan, which must have been before Mahabharta as Jambu, as said above, is mentioned in the Great Epic. That fort still stands imposingly though obviously it must have been repaired, renovated and undergone changes several times. It is significant that Bahu fort is also mentioned in about 1st century A.D. at the times of invasions from Sialkot and Kanauj mentioned above. Later it is also mentioned in the late fourteen century at the time of Timur’s invasion of India. He also attacked and ransacked jammu and mentioned Bahu fort, too. In the presence of all this it is strange how could an eminent archaeologist like Vogel say that Jammu lacked any antiquities. Moreover, the fact that Timur was attracted to Jammu indicates that Jammu must have been quite well known and prosperous area that time. Some other interesting ancient sites in Jammu may also be mentioned here. One is Shiva Cave shrine mythically connected with Mahabharat and Ramayan and named Jamwat cave. Jamvat was a boar and was among the grandees of Rama’s army against Ravana. Again Jamwat is named in Mahabharat period his daughter Jamwati was married to Krishna. Historically the cave about a hundred feet long just above river Tawi, is said to have been visisted by Guru Gorakh Nath.
Excavations are a must for Jammu city and bahu Fort area to ferret out if any more antiquities are there to support the literary and historical records described above.
An exquisite Gorakh Nath statue in white amrble is installed in one of the two main temples at the well known pilgrimage centre of Sudh Mahadev. It faces the main Shiva temple. Other ancient landmark in Jammu city is the tomb of Pir Roshan Shah Wali. It is also known as Nau Gaza (nine yards) Pir’s tomb on account of the extraordinary length of the tomb. Both the above spiritual dignitaries are said to have come to Jammu around 7th century A.D. Still another important landmark of the ancient times in Jammu city is Kali Jani literally meaning black stone. It is a huge stone historically recorded to have been carried up from Tawi bank by Raja Mal Dev in the late fourteen century, at the time of his coronation, to prove his prowess ro be a deserving ruler. The Sisyphean stone is now installed as a sacred symbol worshipped by people and the mohalla round became known as kali Jani. Raja Mal Dev also got constructed his mansion with rbicks which he had brought after his conquest spree. This site in purani mandi (literally meaning old ruling seat) area of Jammu city continues for some centuries as a spot for performing Raj Tilak or coronation of the succeeding rulers till early 18th century when new royal palaces were set up known as Mandi Mubarak that continued to be added to later on. These are, indeed grandiose buildings in Rajput, Islamic as also occidental styles and are, no doubt an enviable achievement in exquisite/ornamental architecture.
Much has been made of two factors said to detract from the claims to very ancient age of Jammu city. One as pointed out by Hutchison and Vogel in the “History of Panjab Hill States” is “ According to the Vansavali the town of Jammu is ancient origin, but this seems improbable as there are no ancient remains or evidence of antiquity. “However, they contradict themselves when they also say at another place,” That Jammu is an ancient principality seems hardly open to dount, though it is not referred to by that name in Sanskrit literature or any ancient records. “But even their contention of absence of name Jammu in Sanskrit literature is only on account of the fact that they were looking for Jammu and not Jambu (of which Jammu later on was the derivation) which as said above occurs in Mahabharat and interestingly even till late 19th century was being used by many. Even Dr. Grierson, the great linguist in his linguist survey of India referes the name as Jambu and Jammu. It is also germane to undersore here that even till the day never any attempt has been made to take up any excavations in Jammu city perhaps because the areas inhabited earlier had long back become so congested that no such work has been possible. But it is pertinent that nearby suburban areas have been yielding rich archaeological finds down to Harappan era or even earlier. Second factor stressed by some writers is absence of mention of Jammu in Kashmir chronicle Rajatarangini. But jammu city has an interesting situation vis last of the plains and last of the hills. Rajtarangini mentions by and large only those sites in the mountain which were on the periphery of Kashmir or near about or which fell on the old route to the valley. But Jammu principality in these times was not on the way to the valley nor was it on its (valley’s) periphery but far away at the end of the mountains surrounding the valley. It is, therefore, no surprise that Jammu does not figure in Rajatarangini. In the view of all related above, it can be said with certainty that Jammu city, indeed has a hoary past. The Vansavali of Jammu principality has a long broken string of rulers from Jambu Lochan to hari Singh who was last of the hereditary rulers of the line. Hereditary ruler-ship was terminated with the freedom of India.To sum up, Jammu was a prominent sacred site during scriptural period but being far away from the centre it went into oblivion fro many centuries later on. It re-emerged to the horizon with last Hindu rulers of India in about tenth century. With the rise of Sikh power in neighboring Panjab, Jammu fortunes again plummeted and old ruling line was broken for some years. Then in the early twenties of the last centuries rose Gulab Singh from the old line, who consolidated not different old independent principalities that constitute the present Jammu province but also Kashmir valley, Gilgit and Ladakh, founding the modern state of Jammu and Kashmir. His illustrious son Maharaj Ranbir Singh, who had been compared by historians with Akbar, turned his capital Jammu city and a nearby ancient pilgrimage centre, Purmandal-Uttar behni, into a temple extravaganza. He built temples also at many other places in the state so much so that Jammu city is still better known as “City of Temples” or Varanasi of the North. It must be emphasized here that excavations are a must for Jammu city and bahu Fort area to ferret out if any more antiquities are there to support the literary and historical records described above.
(Article written by Late Sh. Suraj Saraf and further compiled by Amiay Saraf from Jammu.Views are their own, amiay_saraf@yahoo.com)

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