Monday, January 11, 2021



( Painting source: Website of  "The Jammu And Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages" )


River Vitasta finds mention in Rigveda , Kathasaritsagara , Natyashastra ,Varahpurana and Mahabharata . In Mahabharata we read this :-

“If anybody bathes in the waves of the river Vitastā, with vow and fasts, for seven days he would become as pure as a hermit.”

 (Mahabharata Anusasana Parva, Chapter 25, Stanza 7)

 The Vitasta Mahatmayas inform  that Goddess Uma, Laxmi, Aditi, Sachi, Diti and Ganga along with their spouses  had come to Satisar  to witness  the draining out of the water and killed  of the demon Jalodbhava . Rishi Kashyapa had also requested them to bless the land. The Rishi approached Goddess Uma or Parvati  first who in turn sought the concurrence of Lord Shiva. In Vitasta Mahatmayas, we read this:-

“ Parvati requested her consort Lord Shiva; "O, father of the World, I shall assume the form of a river but make a stroke with your spear near the abode of Nila, where O Lord while breaking the mountain was placed the pointed end of the plough. By that stroke, I shall flow to meet the great river, Sindhu."

And then while agreeing, Shiva struck his trident on Bhadra Shukla Trayodashi the 13th lunar day of the month of Bhadrapada to make way for the Vitasta to flow out of Vitastatra or Vyeth Vothur, its source--- the Neel Nag. Vitasta has flowed down for centuries over which the ancient civilization of Kashmir flourished. Kashmiri Pandits still observe the day Parvati manifested herself in the form of Vitasta. 

 Also known as Vetha Truvah, the day was celebrated by making offerings of cakes made of rice flour while reading Sholkas from Vitasta Mahatmayas. In the evening, the women would go down to the banks of the Vitasta and illuminate them with Diyas ( earthen-ware lamps ). Thus for the Kashmiri Pandits, the Valley remains the land of Shiva while river Vitasta is not only a symbol of Goddess Sati (Parvati ) but also the cradle of their ancient civilization.

   The festival of Vetha Truvah also finds detailed mention in Tuzik -i -Jahangiri as under:-

“On the night of Thursday, 19th, the Kashmiris had lined up with lamps on both sides of Bihat ( Vyath ). It is an ancient custom that every year on this day, everyone. whether rich or poor, whoever has a house on the bank of the river, should light the lamp as done on Shab e Barat. I asked the Brahmans the reasons for this, and they said that this day the fountainhead of the River Jhelum was disclosed and the custom had come down from old days that on this date must take place the festival of Vyath Truvah. Vyath means Jhelum and Truwah means thirteenth: As this day is thirteenth of Shawwal, they light Lamps. In this way, they call it Vyath Truvah. Undoubtedly, the lamp lighting was good. I sat in a boat and went round to see it .”

( Source page 167 and 168 of 
The Tuzuk –i- –Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir translated by Alexender Rogers )

 In ancient and mediaeval Kashmir, river Vitasta was accordingly treated as sacred as Ganga. In the Kotitirtha Mahatmayas of Kashmir, we read this:-
 “Here in Kashmir exists Sati ( Goddess Parvati ) herself personified as river Vitasta, who destroys all sins and by merely thinking about whom, one gets the same reward as is received by bathing in holy places of worship. The water of river Saraswati takes three days to purify a man, that of Yamuna takes seven while the water of Ganga purifies a person instantly, but the water of Vitasta has the power to purify even by a mere thought of it.”

 Each Hindu deity has a particular Vahana or vehicle on which it travels. These vehicles are generally animals or birds. While painting the deities, artists have also painted respective Vahana. Generally, the deities are shown riding their Vahana, However, the Vahana ( bird or animal ) is also shown pulling the chariot of the deity or walking alongside the deity. A Vahana may enhance the powers of a deity and the deity's Vahana can be seen as a symbolic representation of his or her "power" or meaning within the pantheon of Hindu deities. In painting, we have seen Goddess Saraswati’s vehicle is a beautiful peacock or a swan while Shiva is shown riding a Nandi bull. Similarly, Ganesha’s carrier is shown as a mouse. The Vahana or vehicle of Durga is a lion. The chariot of Aditya or Sun god is driven by seven horses while the Vahana of Vishnu is shown as a Garuda or sometimes the Sheshnaaga.

In Kashmir, based on Nilamata Purana, Vitasta Mahatmayas, Kotitirtha Mahatmayas, Sharda Mahatmayas, Harmukatganga Mahatmayas and the folklore, river Vitasta is shown with Matsya or fish as its Vahana ( vehicle ). In painting , Goddess Vitasta with four arms is always shown seated on the Matsya   or a fish as its Vahana. 

In many  paintings , Matsya as a golden horned fish is  shown  pulling the boat with Rishi  Manu and the seven sages and saving them from floods. 

Matsya or fish is  an Avtara of Vishnu . In this appearance,   Lord Vishnu saved the world from a great flood. It was Lord Vishnu, who took the form of Varaha (wild boar) to pierce the mountains in the North West of Varahmula (now known as Baramulla) and drained the water  of Satisar lake to create Kashmir,  a land submerged under the lake.

( Avtar Mota )

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