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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



The Serpentine Vitasta

by Prof. K. N. Dhar

From times immemorial rivers in India have been treated as sacred.

After the Aryan occupation of the North when towns and cities began to be built on the banks of rivers, their utility could not be over looked. Hence by way of gratitude the rivers were deified and varied mythological background was woven around these to justify their deification. It was believed that the violent form of rivers in the shape of floods etc could be averted by propitiation; Hence their being elevated to godly position can be easily understood. Whatever the religious importance of these rivers, it cannot be gainsaid that the economic gains the people derive from these rivers are immense. The Nature worship as extolled in the Vedas is the patent manifestation of the gratitude the Aryans owe to her salutary aspect which provided them peace and comfort in every sense of the world. Hence in the Rgveda the Rsis have all praise for the rivers.

In this Sukta direct reference to Vitasta has been made along with her prominent rivers of North India. Even in the Mahabharata this river has received mention and its sanctity even in those times attested. These references go a long way in proving that this river of Kashmir was very well known in India and it was held in great respect being a Tirtha of repute.

Nilamatapurana deals profusely with the ancient geographical History of Kashmir. This river has also been called the "Nilja" the daughter of NilaNaga which establishes its link directly with Nilanaga the son of Kashyapa who drained out the water from the "Satisar" and the land thus reclaimed was named "Kashmir," and then handing over the authority to his son, the Rsi set out for pennance.

Kalhana also corroborates this account. However, when the valley had become waterless the need for water for maintaining life was felt all the more, and in an allegorical manner the birth of Vitasta has been desrcibed in the Nilamata. The contact with pisacas had made the inhabitants of the valley unclean, hence to purify them Kashyapa requested Lord Siva to prevail upon his consort "parvati" to manifest herself in the form of a river. The Goddess asked her lord to make an opening through which she could come to surface after assuming the form of a river. Thereupon Lord Siva struck the ground near the abode of Nilanaga with his trident which measured one "Vitasti" and through this fissure the goddess parvati gushed forth in the form of Vitasta. The name Vitasta was given to her (this river) by Lord Siva himself. Lord Siva made a fissure measuring a Vitasti and brought forth this holy river out of the underworld. However, Kalhana describes clearly that this "Nila Kunda" was circular in shape which acted as a "Royal Parasol" for the King Nila. Different names given to this river are Nilija, Nilakunda, and Vitasta, wheras last is more famous and current from the earliest times as shown earlier:


The shape of this "Kunda" is now octagonal perhaps due to the rennovations made in it by later Kings especially the Moghuls. No less than sixty rivers of Kashmir and Madra have been referred to in the Nilamata. But amongst them Vitasta wields the highest importance and respect which can be testified by an account in the Nitamata that this river twice disappeared and only consented, to flow permanently when given the company of other goddesses i.e. Ganga in the form of Sindhu in Kashmir, Godavari in the form of "Gudar" and Vishoka in the form of Lakshmi. This very river Veshav has been described as having come form the mousehole which at present forms the waterfall of "Aharbal" famous throughout the world.

This legend of manifesting and then disappearing perhaps alludes to more than one source of Vitasta. On second appearance it began to flow from the Naga of "Panchahasta" modern Panzeth in the Divsar Tehsil of Anantnag district. The third appearance took place from "Narasinhashrama". Even in the "Vitastamahatmya" does also mention its second source at "Vitastatra" the present "Vethavotur" sit uated some two miles below from Verinag to the north-west.

Next to Nilamata in antiquity and credence is the Kavya of thirty two cantos "Haracaritacintamani" by poet Jayadratha Rajanaka brother of Saivacaraya Jayaratha, who composed the saiva-treatise named a "Tantra Lokaviveka". This Kavya of Jayadratha gives a vivid description of piligrimages of Kashmir and also reproduces faithfully from "Nilamata" of course, the origin of Vitasta-how it earned such a name.

It has been owned by Kalhana himself that he had Nilamata before him when he undertook to pen down his chronicle of Kashmir kings. Therefore he follows faithfully the account regarding the origin and the name of Vitasta as given in Nilamata:-


"This Kashmir is protected by the king of all Nagas Nila, whose Royal Umbrella represents the circular spring (Nila Kunda) with Vitasta oozing forth form it as its handle." However, he is silent about other sources of this river after its disappearance twice. This fact conclusively establishes that in his time only Nilanaga was taken as the source of Vitasta.

The texts eulogising the places of piligrimages in Kashmir or even outside are called Mahatmyas. Naturally such a sacred river as Vitasta should have a Mahatamya. In this respect, only two Mahatmyas in extant form are available in the Kashmir Govt Research Library.

There might be other Mahatmyas on this subject; if so, they are confined to the personal libraries of the pandits. Unfortunately these two Mahatmyas are not historically dependable in as much as their antiquity and contents are disputable. The text in both with minor difference claims to narrate the Tirthas along the course of the Vitasta. At the very outset the Mahatmyas locate the source of the river as Verinaga instead of Nila Naga the established source by tradition and fully described in Nilamata and Raja Tarangini. The author has given the name of the village Veri Naga in which this spring is situated. In course of time this spring did come to be known as Verinaga but it is of comparatively recent origin. It is totally unknown in Nilamata and RajaTarangini and Harcaritacintamani, the oldest texts. First reference to this epithet "Vera" is found in Moghul times.

So these Mahatmya's can roughly belong to the sixteenth or seventeenth centruy A.D. This is corroborated by the fact that the name Saradapur or Shadipur occurs in it at the confluence of Vitasta and Sindhu.

On the authority of Jona Raja we know that this name was given to it by Sultan Shahabudin patently a corruption from "Shahabudin pura". The aim of the author seems to bring it in line with its present name "Shadipur". This pertains to the fourteenth century A.D. it is probable that the author being of recent origin had lost contact with the old tradition and pretended to write "Saradapur" etc only to anryounce his antiquity while he actually knew that it was called "Shadipur" in his time. Not only this, the name of the famous Moghul garden, "Shalamar" occurs in it, which was built by Empress Nur Jehan wife of Jahangir, Emperor of India (1605-1627). This conclusively proves that the author belongs to seventeenth century A.D. However, in spite of their comparatively recent origin, the Mahatmyas do display a thorough familiarity with the older texts and the current tradition prevailing in their time.

Both these Mahatmyas narrate at length the origin and source of this river on the lines given in the Nilamata. It has also furnished us with a lengthly list of Tirthas located on its right and left banks.

So it becomes lucidly clear that "Nilanaga" is acknowledged to be the source of Vifasta by Nilamata, Haracarita Cintamani, RajaTarangini and the Mahatmyas. We have no justification in rejecting this most ancient evidence.

However, there is one moremarshy lake some three miles south of Yusmarg a tourist spot, known as Nilanaga nowadays. This is probably the source of Duda Ganga ancient Dugdhaganga or 'Ksirasindhu.' Nilamata refers to it as 'Ksiranadi' and the Mahatamyas as SvetaGanga. This lake seems to be fed by snow and small rivulets coming down from Pir Panchal range. It is not defintely a Naga or a spring - a perennial waterbasin, but an inundatory receptacle. It has not enjoyed any significant sanctity, so the Mahatmyas are silent about it. Abul-Fazal being taken in by the similarity of the names has ascribed all the legends to this lake instead of Verinag. This confusion on his part has to a large extent influenced the ancient tradition. Even though in Nilamata itself two Nilanagas are mentioned, but by no stretch of imagination, the Vitasta can be taken as flowing from it. The route of the Vitasta is quite different and the waters from this lake meet it just below Srinagar. Till then there is no contact between the two.

The present Shahabad in Anantnag district was known as 'Vera' in the ancient times. Abu-1-Fazal also records this very name for this Pargana. " Hence it is no surprise that the spring Nilanaga came to be known as the 'spring' of vera or Verinaga also. The name of the village came to be associated with this spring and it could be located easily thus. Such Nagas-springs which have the name of the village or the locality in which they are situated prefixed or suffixed with them are legion in Kashmir. Abu-1-Fazal testifying to its sanctity has recorded that many temples of stone were erected near it. However, these massive temples of stone are not there now, but a small Shivalaya exists still there. These stones must have been used for rennovation and enlosing the spring by later kings. This fact can be easily discerned even now. Moreover, a hamlet in the close vicinity of this spring is still known as Verinag even now. It has been explicitly mentioned in Nilamata (762-66) that Vitastosava or the birthday of Vitasta falls on the 13th of bright half of Bhadrpada or Bhadoon, known in Kashmir as 'Vyetha truvah." On this auspicious day offerings of scents, garlands, and eatables are to be made into the river itself. In Kasbmiri the Vitasta is called " Vyetha" to-day.

It can easily be surmised that the small stream coming out of Nila Naga or Nila Kunda could assume the form of a big river only when being fed by other streams coming in its way. So a number of streams or rivulets join it close to Anantang and the actual Vitsasta begins to take shape. The present " Bringi " stream called "Bhrngi" in ancient times is the first to join its waters. From the northeast " Arpath " stream mentioned in Nilamata as Harsapatha, and from the west waters issuing from springs of Achabal (ancient Aksavala) meet the waters of Vitasta at Khanbal. From the north ancient Ledari (modern Lider) also rushes down with its voluminous waters to join this confluence and the Vitasta flows down majestically to Srinagar in all her glory.

From Khanbal the river becomes navigable and in ancient times this was the only dependable and profitable means of transport to and from Srinagar, and so, many important towns Tirthas and capitals came to be built on its bank. Down below Khanbal on the right bank of the Vitasta is situated the ancient Tirtha of " Vijyeshvara " modern " Vejbror. " Kalhana says that this Tirtha was built by king Ashoka (Raja I, 105). About 3 miles down below Khanbal the Vitasta is joined by 'Veshiva' (Visoka) and Rembyar rivers and this junction known as " Sangam " at present was in olden times called " Gambhira Sangani." "Gambhira " can literally mean " deep, " since three big rivers meet at this Sangam, hence it was called "Deep" (Gambhira). Dr. Stein contends that the " Gambhira " river as mentioned at different places in Raja Tarangni is the short united course of " Vesav " and Rembyar before it meets the Vitasta but no such name occurs in Nilamata in the description of rivers. In course of time the prefix " Gambhira " has dropped and only " Sangam" has remained uptodate. No ruins whatsoever of the old Tirtha are seen above ground these days. If excavations are taken up we might unearth the temples built at this site by the Guru " Mihirdatta " of king Candrapida (A.D. 686-695).

Some miles below " Sangam " the Vitasta with its replenished waters flows close to the old city of Avantipur founded by king Avantivarman (A.D. 855-883). Ruins of two temples built of stone are seen there now. The Srinagar - Jammu National Highway passes very close to these. This town was very famous even after the death of its founder and finds mention in many chronicles including Raja Tarangini. In the time of Avanti Varman the Vitasta was dredged by one Suyya and its course regulated. The scare of floods and famines looming large in the horizon every year was averted. The price of one Khari of paddy would shoot upto ten hundred and fifty Dinaras. After these dredging operations were completed, that very Khari would sell at 36 Dinaras only.

At a distance of five to six miles below on the " Udar " itself was located the city founded after the name of Lalitaditya. Muktapida known as "Lyetpor " today. Since this, town was built in the absence of the King by his architect, so he did not take kindly to it. At present no ruins of the old city are seen above ground ; only lovely saffon-fields standing on these Udars greet our eyes. While coming down from these " Udars " we see the Vitasta touch the fringe of " Padampur " called " Pampur " now-a-days. This township was built by Padma brother of Jaya Devi a concubine of Lalita Pida (A. D. 900) and a temple of Visnu was also erected there. At this place the Vitasta takes a slight curve towards the right just to be quite close to Puranadhisthana (Kashmiri Pandrethan) the old capital of Kashmir built by Praversena. At this place the Buddhists and in turn Vaishnavas and Saivas constructed their places of worship, the remains of which lie scattered all over.

Down below by three miles or less, Vitasta is joined by Mahasarit (Kashmiri Mar, Tsunt Kol). In reality it is a canal diverted from " Dal " lake, Skt (Dala), so that its superfluous water joins the Vitasta. The level of the lake is higher than the Vitasta and a water- gate has been built at the head of the canal to regulate the level of its water. It seems that in those times also, some such system of regulating its flow did exist Kalhana explicitly mentions that Praversena II built the dyke (Setu) around the Mahasarit and in an allegorical way adds that the "Rakhsa's-knee" was used to part the waters. The part of city which falls in this locality is called Suthu even to-day. Moreover, it can be inferred easily that the back waters (Mar in Kashmiri) extended upto " Khodabal " (Ksurikabala ) as used by "Kalhana". In this virtual island was the temple of Maksika Swamin known as " Mysum " nowadays. The confluence of Mahasrit (Tsunta-Kol) with the Vitasta was known as a Tirtha since very old times. Bilhana in his Vikramankadeva Caritam (xviii, 28) says that the temple of Siva called Ksemagaurivara was built at this confluence by king Ksemagupta, (A. D. 950-958). Mankha refers to it in his 'Srikanthacaritam' as "maha sarid vitstyo sangam." While Srivara in his Zaina Tarangini gives it more recent name "maari sangam". Evidently this maari is the modern maar which was a useful means of internal transport and extended up to " Narvor " (Skt Nadavana) before passing into the marshes of the " Anchar Lake. "

One fact comes out prominently while following the course of the Vitasta from Khanbal to the city proper, that all the important towns and Tirthas have been built on the right bank of the river and, the left bank has been ignored completely. There is a cogent reason for this, in as much as, on the right bank elevated 'udars' made these townships and Tirths flood-proof, while on the left bank the river has eaten into not very high and solid embankments and thus marshes have been formed. Such land could never be depended upon for construction purposes. This fact can be witnessed even to-day. Just before meeting Mahasarit, Vitasta enters into the precincts of the city; perhaps the temple of Shurahyar at the foot of Gopadari (Takhti Suliaman, Shankara carya hill) joined the gateway to Pravarapur (Srinagar). The dykes on both sides of the river are built on solid foundations and also at a considerable height, so that a flight of steps commonly made of stone have been carved out of these for reaching the river itself. The approaches to the river are called " Ghats " and have served from a long time as the temporary bazars or "Mandis" for vegetables, fuel and other necessaries of life when the river transport was in vogue. Even to-day the food rationing Depots run by the Government are installed at these ghats and the barges carrying heavy loads of rice, flour, and even sugar are anchored there. The city of Srinagar is also located on the two banks of this river at present linked by many permanent bridges. However, in olded times particularly during the Hindu Rule permanent bridges were not built for fear of invasion or of fire. Kalhana refers to at least two bridges which were built by joining big barges. He also asserts that it was Praversena II who introduced this art of boat bridges and got massive bridges of boats built at his new capital Pravara pura." The making of bridges with boats was as much important from defence point of, view as from that of fighting outbreak of fire. These boats could be disengaged at a very short notice and the advancing army of the enemy could not cross over to the capital, or the blazing fire could not spread so easily.

Just a hundred yards or so below the Marivitas-tasangama to the left, the Vitasta is diverted into a smaller river called occasionally Ksipt Kulya modern (Kuttokol). This means the rivulet (Kulya) having been taken out of Vitasta (Ksipta). 'Kut' In Kashmiri, means inferior or artificial; since this stream was not natural hence earned the name Kuta. This branch again meets its source the Vitasta beyond the seventh bridge. Just on this diversion stood the old Palaces of Dogra rulers which have since been takenover by the state Government and are used as offices known is old Secretariat. On the left bank of the river in front of these old Palaces over-looking the Mahasarita-Vistasta Sangama is a Vaishbnava temple called Gadadhara temple now-adays, supposedly built by Dogra rulers. No reference to this is found in any of the chronicles on Kashmir. On this tract of land girdled by Vitasta on one side and Ksiptika on the other, a virtual island, presumably stood the Royal palaces in olden times. This island was called by the name Kasthila; ( Modern Kathul ). This inference is strengthened by a passage in Raja Tarangini which shows that king Ananta (A. D. 1028-63) transferred his Royal residence to the vicinity of the temple of Sada Siva to left bank of the river. Since imposing and massive structures of wood were used for making a palace, so this locality came to he known as Kasthila (derived from kashth wood). "The evidence of buildings made of wood in Srinagar is corroborated by the huge conflgarations which overtook Srinagar frequently and at times the intensity of the fire was so great that it crossed to the other side of river also, and set it to flames". Easily combustible materials as wood and birch bark used for roofing could only workout such havoc. There is a Siva temple in this locality also presently known as Kathalisvara; Sada Siva temple as alluded to above may be this Dr. Stein has tried to identify this with modern " Purushyar " just below Kutkol. However the shrine of Siva built there on the Ghat is of recent origin and built by public munificence, whereas the temple at Kathul does bear patent marks of antiquity. Moreover, Kalhana writes that this shrine of Sada Siva was in front of Soma Tirtha on the right bank of Vitasta. This Soma Tirtha is definitely the present Kashmiri " Somyar " shrine just close to the second bridge. Both the shrines on the left bank viz Kathlesvara and Purusyar can claim this privilege though not exactly in front but a bit removed from right downstream and upstream respectively. The elevation of Kathul or the Zaindar Mohalla as it is called now, is also comparatively higher than the rest of the city; perhaps it shows that this island between Ksiptika (Kutkol) and Vitasta was intentionally raised to protect the Royal palaces from the ravaging waters of these rivers when in fury, as also furnishing it with a vantage position when attacked.

After this, the Vitasta flows at a much slower pace upto the weir where a lock has been built to control the level of water in the city. Many more Tirthas been located on its banks, but no reference can be found for these, nor any ruins sighted. However, between the 6th and 7th bridge just near the weir to the right Queen Didda (A.D. 980-1003) built the " Didda Matha" called presently "Dedmar" now-a-days. Srivara also refers to this part of the city frequently in his chronicle. "Just in front of the "Didda Math" on the left bank Ksiptika joins Vitasta again having parted with it earlier near the "Gadadhar temple ". However, before we follow the course of Vitasta beyond the weir, it will be pertinent to remove the misnomer that "baths" and hot-water baths were unknown in Kashmir before the Muslim rule. Kalhana has preserved for us copious references regarding "Snariagrhas", "Majjaanavasa" "Snanakosthas" etc in his chronicle. These may be translated as "river baths" and "bathing cells". Presumably the first two were used by male Population and the "Kosthas" individual cells were reserved for ladies. These were built of wood and could be shifted from one Ghat to another. At the time of the "great fire" even these were devoured by the raging flames. The corruption from "Snankoshta" as "Stankuth" is even used to-day in the same context. Ksemendra mentions such baths in his Samaya Matrika much before Kalhana.

Just below the weir one glaring difference becomes patently visible. The right bank of Vitasta changes into marshes being very low and the left bank is considerably higher; within the city both these banks command the same height for understandable reasons as the city is situated on both of these. Some furlongs below from the left bank "Dudganga" joins the Vistata. At this confluence as at every Sangama a Tirtha is essentially located. Bilhana cleary alludes to it." The most renowned Sangama is however located some distance below towards the right when the Sindhu the greatest tributary of the Vitasta meets it at Prayaga.

The "Sinhdu" comes down from Gangabal lake and enters the Plain at Dugdhasrama - Kashmiri "Dodarhom." The name Uttara Manasa is the name given to this lake by the ancient chroniclers, Kalhana (RajaI-57), HaracaritaCintanmai (Iv-87) and Nilamata (610,970); Haramukuta Ganga Mahatyma also testifies to it. The valley of Sindhu is the modern district of Lar the old "Lahara". At Dodurhom all the various branches of this river meet and also form a veritable river which wending its way towards the west, it reaches the Vitasta quite opposite to the village Shadipur. The "Sindhu" can also mean an ordinary river in Skt, yet " Sindhu" in Kashmir has been equated with "Ganga" in its sanctity and importance. Nilamata, Harcarita Cintamani and Mahatmyas have repeatedly referred to it. Nilamata identifies the Vitasta with the Yamuna and the Sindhu with Ganga the two most famous and holiest rivers of India. Hence their confluence has also been called Prayaga (Nila-vv 297). It is held in great esteem and respect by the devouts since very ancient times. However, on the evidence of Kalhana we have to believe that the present position of Sangama is not so very ancient. This confluence was artificially engineered by "Suyya" while busy in dredging operations for desilting the Vitasta. This was done under the orders of king Avanti Varman (A.D. 855-883). He further says that at the former confluence the two temples of VishnuSvamin and VainyaSvamin were situated close to Phalapora and Parihasapura, Kashmiri (Paraspura), and the confluence which Suyya contrived near Sundaribhavana the temple of HrsihesaYogasvamin was erected as it was the deity of worship ishtdeva of Suyya.

On the authority of Kalhana himself we know that Parihasapur and Phalapura were the two cities founded by Lalitiditya Muktapida (A.D. 750); we have to assume for relying upon this evidence that the Vitasta at that time flowed near these two cities just below the Uddars on which these are situated and the Sindhu met it there, "The plateau situated with heaps of ruins of which few have been excavated. Barring Buddhist monuments there are purely Hindu structures also visible there." Pt. R.C. Kak has to say further, " crossing the ravine in which nestles the little village of Diwar Yakmanpura and ascending the plateau opposite are seen the immense ruins of two extraordinary large temples; one of them has a peristyle larger than that of the Martanda." This ravine may be the dry bed of the Vitasta now as it flowed then before its course was changed and harnessed by Suyya and the two temples alluded to above may be temples of VisnuSvamin and Vainaysvamin built on these heights. At present at this confluence a small Shivalaya is situated and in mid-stream some distance from the bank, a pedestal of stones is constructed on which a cinar trees has grown. Kalhana specifically mentions that the tree was Vata (fig) and not cinar. It may be concluded that the fig tree could not catch up with the climate of Kashmir and in course of time it withered and in its place the local tree of benign majesty cinar was transplanted in its place as figs are not grown at all in Kashmir. There is also a belief amongst the Hindus here that this cinar has remained stationary in size since it was planted. Some miles below the confluence, the village of Sumbal comes next. This village is now situated on both banks of the river joined by a bridge. However, in those times when the Vitasta was flowing towards the left, the ancient capital of Kashmir Jayapura is situated. The town was founded by king Jayapida in the second half of the eight century.

Somewhat below the present bridge to the left stands the shrine of Nandikesvara alluded to as Nandi Kesava. Close to it a channel from the river goes towards Manas (Saras) lake, now known as Manasbal. This lake is mentioned in Nilamata and Raja Tarangini by Jonaraja A short distance lower the vitasta glides its way through the Wular. This very big lake is named as Mahapadmasaras founded by Maha Padama Naga who is believed to dwell in it as its presiding deity. Nilamata and other older texts relate this fact at length. The name Wular given to this lake nowadays is obviously derived from "Ullola" occurring in Jonaraja's Rajatarangini. In Srikanthacaritam Mahapadama has been equated with "Ullola" by its commentator Jona Raja. Many myths and legends seem to have been woven around this lake in which it has been mentioned that this lake was a very thickly populated town named Candrapura, and through the curse of sage Durvasa was submerged under water.

Many other legends bring in the name of king Visvagasva and a Dravidian magician. From the north via the town of Bandipura, Madhumati stream joins the lake. This stream is mentioned in Nilamata also for its sanctity. However, one thing remains patently clear that the Vitasta while passing through the lake does not altogether lose its identity. Very cautiously it follows the rule of keeping to the left of the lake and a string of water is easily discernible in that vast expanse as that of the Vitasta.

After wading through the waters of the lake, the Vitasta regains her own original stature nearabout Suyyapur modern Sopore. This town now a very flourishing centre of fruit-growing is a standing monument to the engineering acumen, of Suyya who regulated the course of Vitasta in the time of Avanti Varman . This town was founded by the Annapati himself on the reclaimed land after desilting Vitasta. Three miles below Sopore the Vitasta is joined by "Pohur" stream from the right at Doabgah. This name does not appear either in Nilamata or Raja Tarangini when its two tributaries "Mavar" and "Hamli" are distinctly mentioned in Nilamata and Raja Taraiigini as Mahuri and Samala respectively; However jona Raja has referred to it as " Pahra".

Some miles downstream the Vitasta enters the Varahaksetra, and the principal town of this Ksetra is known as Varahamula, Baraniulla of to-day. The name is evidently derived from the ancient, Tirtha of VishnuAdiVaratia near the site of the present Kotitirtha very close to the river bank. This shrine was destroyed by Sikandar Butshikan to which Jona Raja refers explicitly. The town ably was located on the right bank of the river in those times. It has now spread over extensively to the left also eating into the Karewas adjacent to it. In those times a bridge also existed over the Vitasta for come and go from right to left and vice versa. This town also was important from strategic point of view; hence a "Drang" watch-tower was also constructed over there.

Even to-day where the Vitasta narrows down and flows over large boulders which is referred to as "Dvara" by Kalhana the name of the locality is persistently known as "Drang". However, to the left of the bank Turuska king "Huska" built his capital Huskapura, which has survived as "Ushkor" nowadays. It seems that "Huskpura" was more important than the "Varahamulla" in olden times. Kalhana refers to it frequently and kings other than the Indo-Scythian "Haska" also embellished it from time to time. Lalitaditya built a great temple of Vishnu and a Buddhist Vihara there. Ksemagupta spent his last days at the two maths he had founded at Huskapura.

Kaniska the famous Kushan ruler also founded a city "Kaniskapura" (Now Kanispura) to the left of Vitasta some furlongs above "Ushkhr". Understandably there was much space available for the extension of the city on the left bank rather than on right where it is closely girdled by hills; since the route to "Sarada" also lay through Varahamulla, this town was more of a stopover station than the actual city and consequently was founded on the right bank. Some distance above the gorge in which the Vitasta goes down and rises up again as a river by its own right in the west Pakistan under the name of Jhelum, "Indradvadasi" festival used to be celebrated in ancient times. On this day presents and clothes were given away to the poor. This day is still observed in Kashmir under the same name "Inderbah" on the 12th of the bright half of Bhadrapada but with a difference. It used to be a day of festivities and gaiety, but now this day has been reserved for manes. Shrada is being performed there on the spot which is known as "Kanimaja" Kashmiri Kaniyasi- Mata in Sanskrit. The name as such does not occur in any ancient text even though Indradvadasi is mentioned in the Nilamata. The place has been called as Varahaksetra in general.

The boons accruing from this river are so many that it can be called a veritable Mother; but at this place it becomes smaller in expanse and volume, so it may have been called a smaller Mother. It might be even derived from kan verb meaning to lessen or to reduce in size.

After emerging from the emerald hued spring of Nila at Verinaga, we have followed the course of the Vitasta from Khanbal to Khadanyar. This Khadanyar can be traced from Khadana Vihar built by one of the queens 'Khadana' of king Meghavahana. The Vitasta Mahatmya (xix, 60) refers to this locality as Khadanahara. This journey of eighty miles and odd of this zig-zag river conceals in its bosom the variegated cultural and religious values of the valley. These miles definitely represent the milestones stretching over thousands of years for recording its inflow and outflow; virtue and evil, rise and fall, joys and sorrows of the Kashmiris at large. So it does not seem any exaggeration when Vaisampayana says to janmejaya:


"O king, whatever Tirthas exist on this globe are found there (in Kashmir)."

And to elucidate his point he adds:


"There (in Kashmir) the springs, ponds and Mountains bestow virtue. There the rivers and streams are very sacred; their shrines are immensely sanctified and likewise the hermitages also. In the midst of which the great spring goddess Vitasta born actually of the Himalayas has sprung up dividing it (Kashmir) like the parting-line of a lady's hair."

Kashmiri Writers Prof. K. N. Dhar


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