Bala Devi of Balahama, Srinagar
Isht Devi of Dogra Rulers
By Virendra Bangroo
Ancient Hindu Shrines in Kashmir are under constant
threat of oblivion either due to neglect or destruction.
The village Balhama named after the Goddess Bala Devi is
thirteen kilometers from Srinagar and is surrounded by the village Wuyan in the
east, Khanmoh and Zewan in the north and Pampore in the west. The shrine of Bala
Devi is connected with link roads from the National Highway IA via Sempore and
Pampore town. From Sempore the Shrine is at a distance of 4 kms and from Pampore
at a distance of two kilometers.
BALA DEVI SHRINE :
The shrine of Bala Devi has Jagir has thirty kanals of
land attached to it. Around the shrine proper are twelve brick pillars covered
with the galvanised iron sheets. The space in between the pillars is fenced with
grills. This sort of renovation was undertaken in 1975. Earlier the shrine was
open on all sides. Around the five sacred devdar trees in the shrine are twenty
stone idols of gods and goddesses. Painted with Vermillion these are of ancient
date. There is also a Shiv Linga in the Shrine.
Bata Devi is mentioned in Mahakala-Samhita, Mantra
Mahodadhi, Sri Lalitopakhyan and Haritayan Samhita or Tripura-Rahasya.
The three eyed Bala Devi has the moon crescent above her
forehead and she has in her hands the book and beads, and the other two hands
are in Abhay and Dhyan Mudra. She is of red complexion and wears red clothes.
Sometimes she is depicted holding Ankus a and Pasa in addition to beads and the
book. She is bedecked with the necklace of gems and pearls.
The account of Sri Bala Devi is given in the 22nd chapter
of Sri Lali Topakhyan which forms part of Brahmand Purana. According to this
text Sri Bala Devi is said to be the daughter of Sri Lalitmaha Tripura Sundari.
A the age of nine years she become ternibly angry after seeing the Bandasura and
his thirty sons who were marching ahead for a war. Bala Devi requested her
mother Maha Bhatarika Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari to allow her to fight with the
Bandasura. Permission for which was not allowed by her mother because of her
tender age. On her daughter's insistence she not only gave her the permission
but also one of her shields and number of her attributes. With this preparation
she proceeded on a chariot towards the battle field. After an intense fight she
was able to kill the thirty sons of Bandasura.
In Haritayan Samhita or Tripura-Rahasya, (Chapter 63),
Bala Devi at the age of eight years is said to have fought directly with
Bandasura. Knowing that her mother won't give her the permission she quietly
proceeded towards the battle field on a chariot followed by Mantrani and Dandani.
Bala Devi was able to pierce the mighty forces of
Bandasura with her rain of arrows and then confronted the Kutilaksh, riding on a
mighty elephant, the commander of the forces of Bandasura. Bala Devi showered
the arrows on the elephant and thereafter killed Kutilaksh. Bala Devi alone
destroyed the army of Bandasura and then directly confronted the Asura. Instead
of attacking Bala Devi, Bandasura showered flowery arrows on the Devi. Seeing
this the charioteer of Devi was astonished and asked the Devi the reason for the
same. Bala Devi said, “In the last incarnation Bandasura was Mahadoot of
Srilakshmi and his name was Manik Shekhar. He was an ardent devotee of Bagvati
Lalita Maha Tripura Sundar. Because of the curse on him he became Asura and he
was told to earn salvation only by being killed by me. Knowing that I am the
daughter of Sri Lalita Amba he is worshipping me.” The war was destined and both
began to fight. After defeating the opponents Bala Devi returned to her abode,
According to the local folk lore the original abode of
Bala Devi is in the 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 blessing 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 trees around the spring. The saint planted fine saplings of Devdar
trees around the spring which in the course of time grew to full size and
covered the entire spring. The spring is no more visible today. The five Devdar
trees are believed to be more than five thousand years old and are the principle
object of veneration.
Bala Devi is the family deity of the Dogra rulers in the
Valley. Dogra ruler, Pratap Singh used to walk bare foot for about a kilometer
to reach this shrine as a matter of respect and devotion towards this shrine.
Devotees used to worship by reciting the hyms in the praise of goddess and the
milk was offered.
Every year havan was performed in the month of Magh on
the day of Tikchorum. Havan was also performed on other auspicious days
especially on Haar Chorum. Late Pandit Jai Lal of Balahama was priest of this
temple till his death in 1993.
MANAGEMENT OF THE SHRINE
Till 1947 the Shrine was maintained by the Dogra regime
and later it was taken over by the Dharmarth Trust. But it was not taken proper
care of by the Trust authorities on the pretext that there was no income from
this Shrine. The local body named Bala Devi Asthapan Committee was formed in
1973 with Pandit Niranjan Nath as President, Pandit Omkar Nath as Secretary,
Pandit Prithvinath and Pandit Radha Krishan as members. The first task the
committee undertook was to fence the land around the shrine to prempt
encroachment. Seeing the initiative taken by the villagers the Dharmarth Trust
also came into to action and sanctioned one chowkidar for the shrine. The
committee played a great role in renovating the temple and arranging the
religious functions from time to time.
Under the present circumstances one can only hope that
powers of Bala Devi will act as a shield against the forces of evil, ignorance
and darkness till the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity.
Five families are still living in the village, Pt.
Niranjan Nath expired in January 1999.