Gupt Ganga, Nishat Ishbar

Forgotten Temples of Kashmir
Photo series Part-23

An effort to preserve and record Hindu cultural and religios heritage of Kashmir
Gupt Ganga, Nishat Ishbar- Kashmir
was visiting the Kashmir Valley after a gap of nearly 8 years. My matamaal (Maternal Grandparents) was located just meters away from the shrine so have a connection with the Gupt Ganga Naag. I remember my Grandfather taking me there and we used to bathe in the spring. There is a rickety path adjacent to the left hand corner of the square spring which takes you to the inner chamber, where a Shivlingam is placed along with a few other granite idols. Now a days the Shivlangam is completely submerged in the spring water and is hardly visible from the roof top (which is open and has a tin roof). As a young kid I always wanted to go in the inner chamber and do the pooja, however the doggy path was so slippery even in the good old days that only a few would went up to the inner temple.

I went to see the Naag (spring) and was very upset to see its appalling condition. Even the Shivlingam was hardly visible from the roof top and was covered under years of debris and mud. I asked the security services responsible for the site if anyone ever went to the inner chamber and if the old path is still in use. I was told that they had never dared to go any further than a few feet and advised me that the submerged path was very weak and had some missing steps which are not visible. There was a lot of dead leaf debris accumulated there and everything looked very dark. I was lucky enough to arrive there on a sunny day and there was good visibility so I thought that I should try to go in the inner chamber and clean the shivlingham. The security personnel had never been asked for such a request and somehow I was able to persuade them to allow me to go there. My mother who was accompanying me was shocked to hear the idea of going through this path which was submerged with slippery moss and algae over it. I did not give anyone a chance to think and before anyone could stop me i was in the water.

The moment I stepped in, I realised that it was not safe and my feet were sinking in the muddy slush. The colour of the water was black and nothing was visible even the path which I knew was there from my memories. Now I had taken the plunge and there was no looking back, during the November month the water is very cold so I was shivering. Then as soon as I reached midway I thought what situation I have placed myself into. I was scared to my bones and then I started chanting “om namah shivai” repeatedly. The security personals gathered around the spring to see what was happening. Today sitting back comfortably in Scotland, I can still feel the emotions i was going through at that time and now realise that it was a very adventurous thing to do. Anyhow through this mud and deep waters I reached the inner chamber for the first time in my life. The water there was up to my waist high and it took an effort to clean the submerged shivlingam. The love for lord shiva was able to give me strength to reach there. I cleaned the shivlingam which was covered with deposits from years of neglect. After cleaning it looked as if made of silver and the sight was very comforting. I said my prayers and cleaned the other idols. Then I just realised that I have to go back through the same way and do the odious journey. Lord shiva was with me on every step and I reached back with joy on my face and a lot of wet clothes.

The whole experience was aesthetic and blissful, it remind me of how we undertake our spiritual journeys and encounter various hurdles en route. However with the grace of your guru and Lord shiva every obstacle can be tackled and your goal achieved.

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