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Puranic Concept of Mountains of Kashmir

By  M.M. Munshi

Puranas cover a period  of more than a millennium starting from about the time of the coming   into power in India of the Shunga Dynasty to the time of invasion of North India by Gaznavi. It was a chequered period of our history; great warriors, powerful monarchs , brilliant outputs in art and literature, but unfortunately combined with unhealthy growth of blind superstitions and the decay and death of spirit of adventure in science ,thought as well as in practical life. In spite of modern researches , we have yet to learn about the essential facts of those days and among these facts are many which are related to geography. Indias’s association and communication of those days was not confined to the narrow parochial limits of the subcontinent, but extended to at least to a superficial knowledge of a large part of the then known world as in the reference to Nile river and its source in one of the Puranas The orthodox Pandits who usually swear by Puranas or Shastras know very little about their contents or meanings. Their rhetorical knowledge does not enable them to identify the most of the rivers or mountains or other features to which these words refer.

Vayu and Nilamata puranas form the basis of this write up together with Ksemndra’s Samayasmidrika, Bilhana's  Vikramankodevarosa and Stein's interpretation of Ancient geography of Kashmir based on Kalhana;s Rajtarangini. Vayu Purana contains the geographical data described in all the Puranas and in certain cases gives more details including those on Kashmir, Nilamata purana which deals primarily with Kashmir and other texts were selected as those give information not contained in the puranas. Approching Jammu & Kashmir from the plains of Punjab we come to the lesser Himalayas referred as Bahirgiri in Nilamata and literature include Pir Panjal Range, and its south westerly spurs ,west ward extensions of Dhauladhar, namely

Jugdhar, Ladadhar, Trisuldhar, Mundidhar Trikuta hills etc and foothills including Siwalik Range which has been mentioned as Upagiri in Mahabharta Chula Himavanta in Pali and Astadhyayi. Usiraka in Dharva(hilly area between Vitasta (Jhelum) and Chandrabhaga. (Chenab) is most probably Kalidhar and its eastward extension . Usiradhavaja of Vinaya texts, Usiragiri of Divyavadana  and Usinaragiri of the Kathasaritsagara have been identified as designations of the same hills i.e Siwaliks in Darva and Madra (area east of Chandrabhaga) by B.C.Lal There is no specific or direct mention of Pirpanjal Range which forms watershed between Kasmira in the north and Darva and Madra in the south in Nitamatha.But peaks of Bahmasakli or Brahmasaki of the Pir panjal Range where Visnu, Brhama and Maheshvara took their positions and Kramasaras (Konsarnag) have been mentioned in the legend pertaining to draining of Satisar and killing of the demon Jalodbava.Mention has also been made of the westernmost peak Naubandana. At the end of the Manvantara Mashevara (Shiva) transforms himself into water and turns the whole world into an ocean, Parvati assumes the form of a boat and the future Manu puts all the seeds in that boat. After assuming the form of a fish Vishnu pushes the boat and ties it to the high peak  protruding above the water and hence the name Naubandana. However Pantsaladhara mentioned by Ksemndra has been identified as Pir Panjal Range.

The northern limit of the Kashmir valley is marked by the Great Himalaya Range refered in puranas as Antargiri and in the Pali literature as Maha Hemavanta. A number of southerly and southwesterly ridges/ spurs radiate from the central range giving rise to a number of side valleys .The most prominent ridge Saskach (Sasakot) bifurcates from the great Himalaya range near Mushran upstream of Amarnathji cave shrine forms a water parting between Sind and and Lidar rivers. The Saskach follows a south-west north-east trend and at Drunnar or Hangsatu immediately below Sonamarg is traversed by the Sind river forming a narrow gorge beyond which it was known as Bharatagiri (north Kashmir or Sogput Range) isolating the Krshna (Kishenganga) valley from Sind and main Kashmir valley. Part of the same spur forming a triangular mass of mountains bound on the north and east by Sindu (Sind )valiey and south and west by Lidari (Lidar) valley and the main Kashmir valley extends as far west as Bastavalika or Jeyarudasaras (Dai lake) and Ganderbal has no modern name but was known in Puranic times as Mahadevagiri and at a latter date as Dudvana. Lakes of Manasaras (Marsar) and Tarasaras(Tarsar) and shrines of Hareshvara (Hareshor) and Mahadeva are located on the triangular mass. The southern flanks of Dadvana are capped by peaks of Dhanada and Vasrvana (Vastarvan.)A minor spur of Mahadevagiri immediately south of Dal lake and north of Jhelum and west of Zabarwan known at present as Shankracharia hill was known as Jyesthatudraparvata or Gopadri. The original temple is believed to have been built by Jaluka son of Ashoka. The isolated hill of Hariparbat was known by the name of Harparvata and Sarikaparvata.

To the east of Dudukant Pass and north of Lar pargana on the north Kashmir range rising to about 16,000 feet stands the Harmukuta Shiva's diade popularly known as Harmukh. The lake which is at the foot of the glacier at an elevation of about 13,000 ft. is the glacier fed Kashmir Ganga, Utraganga or Utrasaras at present called as Gangabal.

According to Matsya Purana Aruna mountains lie to west of Kailasa, and according to Vayupurana on the other side of Kailasa and contains hundreds of peaks and is dominated on the south by Dhumralohita -the king of mountains. Lake Silodaya lies at its foot from which a river rises and flows west. The mountain to west of Kailasa with hundreds of peaks is apparently Ladakh Range This is the Aruna range of puranas. And Dhumralohita which lies south of and near Aruna is the Nanga Parbat and its significance as king of mountains can be visualized by the fact that summit of Nanga Parbat is 26,620 ft above msl with its base at the side of Indus is 3500 ft. exposing a fall of 23,120 ft. to an observer at its foot on the riverbed or on one of the passes connecting Kishenganga valley with that of Indus valley.The un paralled view is much more impressive than that of Namchebarwa Peak and bed of Tsangpo (Brahamputra) in eastern Tibet. Lake Sailodaya appears to be Mahapadamsaras (Wular Lake) which once covered whole of Kasmira (Kashmir Valley) as Satisar and river Siloda which still flows through it is the Vitasta (Jhelum).The fall of more than 23,000 ft exposed to the gaze of observers during the Purana Times led to the belief that Dhumralohita (Nanga Parbat) was the highest peak in the world.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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