Friday, September 21, 2012



I quote from page 25 Volume I English translation of Nilmat Purana by erudite sanskrit scholar Dr Ved Kumari Ghai

"Harmukuta or Harmunda is identified with Harmukh Peaks to the north of kashmir . about 17000 feet in height , these peaks are surrounded by massive Glaciers . The lake Uttarmanasa which is believed to be the source of Kashmiri GANGA , lies at the foot of the north eastern Glaciers of Harmukuta and the Tirthaa of Nandikeshtra and Bhuteshwara are near it."


  Again at canto 1289 page 323 volume II of Nilmat Purana , it is mentioned as under:-

" By bathing in Uttarmanasa ( Gangbal ) , one gets the merit of the gift of a thousand cows. "

Kashmir 's tallest Sufi poet Shams faqir says

"Shams faqir chhuyya par tseunn ye,
Chhuss naa Doggun Pattah Bronh Kaanh,
Yee sar Goam Tee me Vonuye ,
Harmokh su noan ye Draav "

( Shams faqir is cut of from this world,
He has none as his companion.
None ahead of him and none behind ,
So Whatever he feels he conveys ,
" The lord is clearly visible at Harmukh Peak "

Again this great sufi saint adds :-

Meer e sultaan hoshiar ,
Zeer o Bumm Mashrovnumm.
Tee Guvv Kaar az Kaar
harmokh Vuchhu Deedaar .

Peer e sultaan Asraar
Seer e Haq Taem Bhovnumm,
Hovnumm Noor e Anwaar ,
Harmokh Vuchhu Deedaar.
Amongst the high altitude treks in kashmir,the most satisfying and beautiful happens to be the one leading to famous and sacred lake GANGBAL ( altitude 13000 feet )or Uttarmanasa as mentioned in Nilmat Purana and Kalhana's Rajtaranagini . The lake lies below the hoary headed mountain Harmukha ( height 17000 feet ).It is approachable from many sides . The traditional route happens to be via Sonamarg _Nichnai _Vishensar and Kishensar lakes _Gaadsar lake and finally Gangbal lake . One almost covers a distance of about 95 Kms on foot in 4-5 days on this route .The shortest route or the route used at present by trekkers is to go via Kangan _ Naran Naag ( Sodar Tirthaa or Bhuteshwar Shrine as mentioned in Neelamat Purana and Kalhana's Rajtarangini ).At Naran Naag one has to climb a steep trek ( about 8 hours covering a distance of about 17 kms ) to reach Gangbal lake .At present there is a motorable road from Kangan to Naran Naag .Horses are also available at Kangan or Naran Naag for Gangabal top. I have also seen( in 2009) people going to Naran Naag by road after crossing sindh stream near the beautiful valley of Prang.You come across many Gujjars and Baklerwals in this area the way you meet Gaddis enroute Mani Mahesh Lake pilgrimage ( lying below Manimahesh Peak in Himachal Pradesh ) .

As per Dr Ved Kumari Ghai , Neelmat Purana has been composed in 6th or 7th centuary AD. Since this text makes vivid and detailed mention of Harmukuta , Harmukh , Sodar Tirthaa or Nandikheshtra pilgrimage , it is clear that kashmiris have been going for Pilgrimage to this area much before 6th or 7th centuary AD. Kashmiri Pandits have been visiting this lake for centuaries essentially to immerse Mortal remains of their dead relatives and also for performing Shradaa both at Gangbal and also at Naran Naag . .For a kashmiri pandit , Gangabal used to be equivalent to Sacred river Ganga .

Kanak Vahini ( as mentioned in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangini of kalhana ) or the present day Kreink Nadi which flows to the south of the temple complex of Naran Naag is formed by two tributaries flowing out from two lakes below Harmukh . These lakes are known as NundKol ( Referred to as lake Kalodka in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangini ) and Gangbal ( Referred to as Uttarmanasa in Neelmat Purana and Rajtarangini .Kalhana mentions Harmukutganga or Harmukha or Nandikheshtra or Nandisa repeatedly in Taranga I ( canto 36,113,148 ) , Taranga II ( canto 169 and 170 ).You can see views of Kreink nadi as it dances down the hills to join Sindh stream below near Kangan.
Entire area from Naran Naag to Harmukh Peaks or Har-Mukuta ( Shiva's Diadem ) is also known as Nandi kheshtra in all sacred texts of kashmiri Pandits . Here in these mountains , one comes across beautiful lakes full of rainbow trout fish in Crystal clear water, Alpine forests , Green meadows and valleys with colourful wild flowers.It is a unique experience to watch sunrise and sunset view of the Harmukh peaks . I am informed by Gujjars that one can easily trek to Gurez ( area inhabited by DARDS ) , Kargil and Holy Amar Nath cave from this area also .In fact Kalhana too mentions in Rajtarangini that king Bhoja of kashmir took shelter in Dard area through this route only.
About twenty years back these peaks were totally covered with snow and one had to walk over glaciers to reach Gangabal lake . Now things have changed completely . Glaciers have melted away to a large extent .
kashmiri Pandits go for Pilgrimage to this lake on Ganga Ashtami day in the month of Bhadrapada ( a month of Hindu Calender corresponding to August or early september ) . In olden days when Banihal Cart road was nonexistent , Kashmiri Pandits attached Haridwar Like importance to this Teertha and the Pilgrimage . Even after the opening of the Banihal Cart Road , the Pilgrimage to this Teertha continued unabated .I am informed that bones and ashes of dead relatives would be kept in earthenware pitchers in temples or sometimes in homes as well by Pandits to be immersed at suitable and convenient time in Gangabal lake .I am also informed by Gujjars and some elderly Pandits that a huge stone near the bank of the lake had a Shiva Lingam carved out on its surface .

Permit me to conclude this post with two Dohaas ( two line poem ) of Nirguna saint kabir .

Chaahun Diss Paaka Kot Thaa,
Mandir nagar Majhaar ,
Khidkee khidkee Paahru ,
Gaaj bandha Darbaar ,
Chaahun diss Thaade Soormaa,
Haath Liye Hathiyaar ,
Sab hi Yeh tan Dekhtaa ,
Kaal le Gayaa maar.

( Kabir )

I had built a strong and thick wall around,
I had my dwelling in the heart of the city ,
At every window , i did place the guards to protect me ,
At entrance , i did keep the mighty elephants for protection,
In all directions i placed brave soldiers ,
These soldiers had ammunition in their hands to protect me ,
Still i knoweth not where from and how this KAAL ( death ) sprang ,
To conquer and take away my body.
( Autar Mota )

September 21, 2012 Time 12.40 PM..
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