Forgotten Temples of Kashmir - Part2

Forgotten Temples of Kashmir
Photo series Part-2

An effort to preserve and record Hindu cultural and religios heritage of Kashmir

Exclusive images and report from a remote village in Kashmir provided for Shehjar
by Chander M. Bhat

Bala is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘the girl child.’ Worship of Sakti or the Mother Goddess is a very ancient practice in India. Of the several aspects of the Divine Mother Parvati, Lalita or Lalita-Tripurasundari is very important and popular. Bala (also called Bala-Tripurasundari) is an aspect of this Lalita. Sometimes she is described as the daughter of Lalita who helped her to destroy the army of the demon Bhandasura.

As her very name suggests, Bala is pictured as an eternal girl of nine years. Iconographical works describe her as red in colour like hibiscus flower. She has four arms carrying sosary, noose, goad and book. Bala is specially worshipped, by those desiring psychic powers.” [A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism by Swami Harshananda]

The abode of Bala Devi in Kashmir valley is at Village Balhama which is about thirteen kilometers from Srinagar. This village is surrounded by village Wuyan in the east, Khunmoh in the north and Pampore town in the west. This village is about 3 km on the right side near Pantha Chowk, a link road near Pampore Joinery Mill.

According to the local folk lore the original abode of Bala Devi is in South India. It is said that the saint of the temple had a dream in which she told him to visit Kashmir where he could have her darshana. The saint along with his devotees as per the divine blessings visited the village of Balahama which was a dense forest at that time. The goddess gave darshana to the saint in a spring. In order to keep the sanctity of the shrine she directed him to plant five saplings of Devdar trees around the spring which in the course of time grew to full size Devdars. The five Devdar trees are believed to be more than five thousand years old and is the principle object of veneration. The spring in later years faded away under the trunk/girth of Deodars.


Ghulam Qadir, present Chowkidar of temple
The temple around these five Devdar trees was built by the Dogra rulers in the year 1942. I was told by a Pandit who still resides in the village that once the temple was renovated by the locals with a roof and after the work was completed suddenly the roof of the temple fell down and from that day the temple is without a roof.

Thirty Kanals of land is attached to Bala Devi temple and the temple has been built in the right side of the plot/land facing towards east. There is a small hut having only one room which is believed to be the residence of the Chowkidar. The temple has been built by constructing a circular brick pillars covering the five Devdar trees and thereby joining the pillars by steel fencing.

At present there are five Hindu families who are looking after the temple. A local namely Gh. Qadir has been engaged as the Chowkidar by the local Pandits on Rs. 600/- as monthly remuneration.

At present the temple is having a deserted look due to lack of maintenance and proper care due to forced migration of Pandit families from this village.

Main entrance of the temple

Icons near the gate

Inner View of the hall

Five deodar Trees inside the temple

Deserted Temple Building

Icons of faith now unattended

Shiv Lingam inside temple

Top of the Deodar which was once source of cool shade for Kashmiri hindus

A big Deodar at the Southwest corner of the temple

*Born on 20th March, 1960 in Murran a village in North Kashmir, Chander M. Bhat is presently working as an Assistant Supdt. Posts, in Department of Posts, Govt. of India. His articles regarding Posts and of non-political nature stand widely published in various papers and magazines of the country. A booklet “How to Collect Stamps” published by the Department of Posts, has earned him genuine accolades. He worked on the project of tracing the roots of his co-villagers and of the village Murran, resulting into the culmination of a widely acclaimed book “Murran …My Village”. Man with depth, Chander M. Bhat has also another book, “Ocean by Drops” (collection of poems) in his vase having colorful poems. His book “Ancient History of Jammu and Kashmir”, confirms his researching capability. Various research papers like “The Splendor that is Amarnath” and “Vitasta…The Sacred River of Kashmir” are valuable additions to his works that has proved very fruitful and guiding force in the exile period of Kashmiri Pandits community of which the author is also a member.

Presently the author is working on “OOL…THE NEST” a six volume project on all the 595 [each volume of about 2500 pages] Kashmiri Pandit villages of Kashmir.
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Chander M. Bhat is doing a great job by appraising the younger generation about our cultural heritage in Kashmir.
Added By Manoj Koul
Appreciable job by the author. I would like to request him to capture "MANGLESHWER TEMPLE" near M.P.School Srinagar.
Added By K.L. Tickoo
Mr. C.L. Bhat is not only doing a great work for the KP community but is also making the present generation understand what we have lost. I know Mr. Bhat personally and I can say that His work is self less and beyond compare.
Added By Vimal Bhat
I'm a devotee of Bala, CHandika and Sri Lalitha.Since the time i had read about the Bala temples in Nemili in TN and Balahama, J&k, I somehow felt that before i die, I should make a darshan of the Devi at both these places. I also would like to contribute some money for the upkeep of this temple in Balahama. Let me know the best way.
Added By Meru Savarni
Thanks Sir for soothing my eyes after seeing Baladevi again....
Added By Archana Bhat
thanks sir,its really very nice to see baladevi after so long time.I was almost back to my childhood,after goin thru these pictures.
Added By Bindu Ritesh Koul
I think it is excellent job to recall the forgotten monuments,memories. It was really the golden period in which the belonging to various faiths, ideologies, strata of life presented a multi-coloured culture. A beautiful glory! By these images I recall my childhood, my class mates, my friends and my Pandit mentors. I can't express it in words!!! Thanks to the compiler. My good wishes for my excellent teacher, Late Pandit Brij Nath, Late Dr. S. N. Koul, Late Deena Nath.
Added By Mohammad Ibrahim