M M MUNSHI
According to NilmathPuran it was Sati daughter of Himalparvata consort of Shiva who was called Uma in Vaisvara Antara is the same as goddesses as Vitastaand the same is Kasmira. The goddesses Vitasta is verily the wholly river remover of all sins. People who offer their bodies to or die with its water in their bellies reach heaven without any hindrance. Those persons who take their bath in Vitasta do not even see in dreams the tortures of hell. Vitasta gives protection with her hands to the evil doing sinners falling into the hell. Fire for the sinners is pacified with cool out pouring of water drops sent from the waves of Vitasta carried by the wind. The only thing that Ganga has more than that of Vitasta are the heaps of bones of human beings, other things are equal.
The river draining the entire Kashmir Valley called by the Kashmiris as Vyeth is the direct derivative of the original Sanskrit nameVitasta. The intermediary Prakrit name from Vidasta was altered by Greeks to Hydaspes. The ancient Greeks like Hindus regarded the river as a god as were the most mountains, rivers and lakes. The Greek poet Nonnus in the Dionysiaca refers the Hydaspes a titan -descended god the son of the Sea God Thaumas, and the cloud Goddess Elektra. He (Jhelum) was the brother of Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow and half brother of Harpies snatching wind. Since the Virasta River was in a country foreign to ancient Greeks it is not clear whether they named the river after their God or the God was named after the river. Vitasta is also mentioned in the river names of Rigveda in Vayu Puran. Vitasta has been referred as Biloda and the Wular Lake as Bilodia situated south of the Dumra Lohitai.e Nanga Parbat. The modern name of Vitasta Jhelum has been adopted from the city of Jhelum besides which it flows in Pakistan. The name was brought to Kashmir by European travelers and found its way into official usage, otherwise the river is even now known to the natives as Vyeth
The river Vitasta can be considered to have formed at the confluence of (i) Harspitha(Arapat) from the northeast,(ii) Bhringa (Breng ) and (iii) Sandran [ancient names not clear] meeting each other near Khanabal. The ancient names are probably Sachiand Chandravati but it is not clear as to which one is Sachi and which one is Chandravati. The scriptures however trace the origin of Vitasta to a more specific source . As already stated in Nilmath Puran Harcritac in tamani and subsequently quoted in historical books Vitasta is a manifestation of the Goddesses Parvati.
After the Satisar Kasmira (Parvati’s Lake) was drained of its waters and demon Jaldodbava destroyed by joint efforts of Vishnu,Brhama and Mashevasra at the request of Sage Kyaspa (Kashaprishi); Maheshvara persuaded Parvati to show herself in Kasmira in the form of a river to purify the humans from the unholy contact of the Pisachas . The Goddesses assumed the form of an underground river and asked Shiva to create an opening by which she could come to the surface. Shiva struck the ground with his Trisul on 13th of Bhadra Shukla Paksha from which the river gushed forth receiving the name of Vitasta after the measure of the ditch of one Vitastati. Since then the birthday of Vitasta is celebrated on 13th of Badra Shukla Paksha every year. The spring from which the Goddesses flowed in the form of a river was given several names Nilnaga (abode of Nila) Sulaghata(Trisul thrust) and simply Vitasta. The name of Var or Verinag seems to have adapted at a latter stage probably after the administrative area of Varpargana.
It is said that Vitasta disappeared from fear of defilement from the contact of sinful humans but reappeared second time by the prayer of Kasyapa at Panchasta (Panzat) in Devsarpargana. Vitasta again disappeared and reappeared at Narasima. The Goddesses was induced finally to stay permanently when Kyaspa had secured her the company of Lakshmi in the form of Visoka the grief less (Vieshuv) and Ganga in the form of Sindhu [ Sind river not to be confused with Indus],Sachi consort of Indra as Harspatha (Arapath) Aditithe mother of Gods as Trikothi mother of Datiyas (probably Sandran) and Ditti mother of Datiyas as Chandravati (The Bhringa (Bring). According to another legend Vitasta made her another appearance at Vitastatra (Vethvatur) close to present Verinag. Clear mention of Nilnaga as the birthplace of Vitasta by Kalhana about its source leaves no doubt about the tradition prevailing in his time.The Brengha (Breng) is fed by springs of Tresandya, Ardanarisvsra, Kapatesvara (Koter). Akasvala (Achibal) feeds the Haraspatha (Aarpat) rivulet. Lidari (Lidar) which derives its waters from the glaciers Koenjnar, Gash Brar( Kolahi )and lakes of Sheesh Nag, Zamtir Nag Tarsar Dulianetc and innumerable fresh water springs like Nilganga,Mamleshwar, Machibawanetc joins the Vitasta slightly downstream of Ananrnag. Vitasta becomes navigable at Anantnag itself and flows in a single channel except in the Srinagar City in a general north westerly course between Anantnag and Baramula a direct distance of about 90 Kms. , in which the river bed falls slightly less than 7 meters in elevation . Islands if any aresandy and temporary , except the one at the present Vitastasindhusamgama opposite Naran Bagh near Shadipur which has been artificially built. The mosiconspicuous meander of the river is located immediately south of Gopadri (Shankracharya Hill) round the flood prone locality of Shivpura.
The course of the Vitasta has not changed during the historic times except at theVitastasindhusamgama where it was altered by Suyya the able engineer of King Avantivarman in the 9th century. Between Mahapadamsaras (Wular Lake) and Huskapura(Uskar) Vitasta flows in a south easterly direction and beyond Uskar in a general westerly directionup to Muzafrabad. At Wular lake and Muzafrabad Vitasta in common with other rivers of the region abruptly turns towards south due to the synataxial bend of the western Himalayas.
Downstream of Anantnag on the banks of Vitasta is located Vijayakestra(modern Vijbror) one of the holiest sites where temples of Shiva Vijheshvara, Vishnu Chahradara, Ashokveharaand numerous Viharasagarharas and a university of learning [where students and scholars from countries beyond Kasmira used to come for the study of Shastras, Philosophy, Astronomy, Astrology as well asmedicene] once flourished.
United waters of (i)Visoka (Vesheu) issuing from Kramsaras (Konsar Nag) also known as Vishnu Pad near the Tirtha of Naubandana where Visnu ,Brahma and Mashevara took theirpositions to destroy the demon Jalodbhava and (ii)Ramantavi (Rembiar) originating from Bagh and Nandan Sars join the Vitasta along the left bank as Gambhira (SardariNala). The confluence was known as Gambhirasamgama.(present day Sangam) below Vijbror, where King Chandrapida built a Vishnu temple of Gambhirasvamin of which no trace is left now. About few kilometers downstream of Gambhirasamgama. King Avantivarman founded on the right bank of Vitasta his capital Avantiporika in the ninth century and also built two temples of Avantivasminand Avantisvara dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva respectively. Both of these like other temples in the Valley were vandalised by Sikandar Butshikan in the 14th century. The ruins of these temples are testimonies to the their former glory. Carved stones from these temples have been used in the foundations of the nearby Muslim ziarats. Near AvantipuraVitasta along its left bank is joined by Narastan Nala which originates above Tral and corresponds to Chaturvedi mentioned in ancient scriptures.
Further downstream Vitasta is joined along the left bank by Ramshu (Ramu or KakporKol) rising in the Pantsaladhara (PirPanjal Range) in the vicinity of forgotten Tirtha of GangodBheda /Bedhagiri (Bad Brar)[ by the side of Kakpur village with ruins of old Hindu temples. The ruins are believed by some authorities of the time of King Khagendra the founder of Khagendrapura (Kakpur) and by others as remains of Utplasvamina Vishnu Temple built by Utpla an uncle of King Cippataajayapida . In case the former identification is correct remains can be one of the oldest in Kashmir , if the latter is correct these can be of 9th century AD. Just opposite Kakpur on the right bank of Vitasta and a small town of Lalitpur (Letpur) which is believed to been founded by the architect of Laltaditya. The Vishnu Temple of Padamasvamin was built by Padma another uncle of King Cippatajayapida at Padampura (Pampore) It’s ruins were seen till 1950s but no trace of the same is left at present. Another Vishnu Temple on the left bank of Vitasta opposite Panduchok named as Samaravsvamin was built by Samara a Minister of King Avantivarman which also does’not exist today. Close to Panduchowk is the Tirtha of Tsakanaganear Jeyyavana (Zewan) which continues to be visited by devotes even today especially during Solar Eclipses .
Further downstream at Pandrethan along the right bank of Vitasta is a Vishnu Temple of Merudasvamin. Built by Merudana a Minister of King Partha. It is believed that capital of Kashmir was founded by Ashoka at Pandrethan- present cantonment of BadamiBagh and Athvajan.WhenPravarasena II shifted the capital to Pravapura the high ground between Harparvata(Hari Parbat) and Kasurikabla(Khodbal) the old capital at Pandrethan was subsequently called Puranadisthana. The ruins of Puranadisthana were seen till the beginning of 20th century.
About couple of kilometers from Pandrethan is the hill of Gopadri also known as Jyestherudraparvata (Shankracharya Hill) on which stands the Temple of Jeyastherudra (Shankracharya Temple) believed to have been originally built by Jaluka [son of Ashoka] of which the only outer plinth remains King Gopadia rebuilt the temple at a latter date and also built Viharas of Guphara(Gupkar). The temple was again repaired during the rule of Zain-ulAbdin the pious Muslim ruler of Kashmir in 15th century and again during the regin of Maharaja Pratap Singh in early 20th century. The said temple was connected by a stone stairway with SudakshiKhetra (Shurayar). The stone steps were removed and built into Pathar Masjid on the left bank of Vitasta in Srinagar city by the orders of Mughal Queen Noor Jehan. Vitasta is joined along its right bank by Mari or Mahasirat (Tsuntkol) issuing from Jeyarudrasaras (Dal Lake) at Marisamgama which was considered as a holy Tirtha in ancient times. The island formed between Vitasta,Tsuntkol and the latter’s southerly flowing branch was known as Maksvamin after a Visnu Temple which does not exist today.
Opposite the Marisamgama Kipppistika or Kutkulia (Kutkol) leaves the Vitasta and after flowing in a north westerly direction bifurcates into two, the eastern branch rejoins the Vitasta above Safakadal and westerly branch joins Duddhaganga (Dudganka or Chatkol) which also joins Vitasta near Chatabal. The Kutkulia seems to be a man made as a defence moat during the latter period of Hindu rule as the city of Srinagar spread gradually westwards across the left bank of Vitasta.
Along the right bank of Vitasta below the Marsamgama at the present Malyarghat stood the Temple of Vardamanesa which like other temples of the Valley was vandalised during the rule of Sikandarbuthshikan, a Linga serving as a lamp post in a nearby mosque believed to be from the original Vardamanesa Temple was removed and installed in the Malyar Temple in 1888. Alomg the right bank of the river is the Ganpatyar Temple. Most of the people believe that it was built by Dogra ruler Pratap Singh in 1880s, but many believe that the temple site is an ancient one. When Hindu temples were being vandalised and demolished during the rule of Sikandar the Kashmiri Hindus managed to remove Lord Ganesha’a idol and hid in the waters of Vitasta where it remained till 1880s. When Maharaja Pratap Singh built the present temple and got a marble statue of Ganesha installed the original limestone idol of Ganesh was recovered from the river and placed in the courtyard of the temple. To day it has been placed alongside a Shivling in an adjoining room of the temple.
Immediately downstream of the Habbakadal Bridge on the right bank of Vitasta is the Somyar Temple the site of ancient Somatirtha. Similarly situated on the leftbank of the Vitasta opposite Somyar Temple is the Purushyar the site of the ancient temple of Sadashiva. Between Habakadal and Fatehkadal at the locality of Narparistan near Malik Angan stood the Temple of Narishiri which was converted into a Ziarat during the Muslim rule.Further downstream between Fatehkadal and Zainakadal was the Temple of Kalishiri which was destroyed by Sikandar Butshikan and rebuilt into Ziarat of Shahaamdan Between Zainakadal and Alikadal is the tomb of Queen of SikandarButshikan and burial place for other Muslim rulers of Kashmir known as Mazar Salatin which due to its embankmentwall on the riverside and use of carved stones in the surrounding wall betrays it to be site of an ancient Hindu Temple and may be Tirtha of Mahashiri. It may not be out of place to mention that the brick tomb of Sikandar’s queen resembles in architecture with the tomb of Bibi Javindi of Multan.
Again on the right bank of Vitasta touching the Alikadal Bridge is the Ziarat of Whusi Sahaib which also its embankments, and gateways with stone beams appear to be site of a Hindu temple ,but nothing is known about its antiquity. Near Chatabal locality Dodhaganga (Dudgangaor Chatkol) [issuing from Pantsal mountains ] joins the Vitasta was the site of a Tirtha Dudhaganasmagama now completely forgotten] The other shrines temples along the banks of the Vitasta within the city of Srinagar like Hanuman Temple, Gadadhar, Kharyar, Raghunath Temple, Malyar etc are of recent construction during the Sikh and Dogra Rule. However it is possible that some of these temples like Ganpatyar were rebuilt at ancient temple sites. Between Srinagar and Shadipur Vitasta is joined by only one tributary of Sukhnag along the left bank.
The Sind river rising from the Himavanta or Antargiri(Great Himalaya Range) south east of Amreshvara (Amarnathji Cave) joined by glacial fed streams of Panjtarangini (Panjtarni), Amurveth(Amravati) Nehnar etc outflows of lakes of Utrasaras or Utarganga (Gangbal), Koladuka (Nandkol), springs of Sodara(Naran Nag) uniting into Kankavahini (krenknadi) stream flowing in Nandekshetra by the side of holy Haramukhata (Harmukh) Buthesvara Jyestherudra Ciramokana at Kankapura (Kangan) used to meet Vitasta till the ninth century at Vitastasindusamgama immediately west of the gap of Badrikhel Nala between the Karewas of Parihaspura (Paraspur) and Trigami(Trigom) close to the former temples of Vishnusvamin and Vinyasamin about 5 kilometers South west of the present confluence at Sundribhavana (Naranbagh) near Shadipur Parihaspura was founded by Laltaditya Mukhpida as his capital which according to Kalhana excelled heaven. Laltadatia whom Kalhana has called ‘Indra of the Earth’ built-numerous other temples. Parihaskesva with the image of Vishnu with silver pearls. Mukhtakesva with golden image of Vishnu.Mahavara with Vishnu’s image in golden armour and silver image of Goverdandara Brhadbudda numerous Viharas, Agarharas and palaces. Even his queen Kamlavati built Kamalahatta with silver image of Kesva. One of the Laltaditya’s Ministers Mitrasarman installed the Shivalinga of Mitresvara. Needless to say that the site of the Capital Parihaspura and other temples was chosen to their proximity to the Vitasta-Sindhu-Samgama. The former being regarded as manifestation of Yamuna and the latter that of Ganga.
Suyya the able engineer of King Avantivarman by his skill shifted the position of Vitastasindhusamgama from Parihaspurato its present location in the vicinity of Sundribhavana forcing the course of Vitasta northeastwards by construction of embankments to reclaim cultivable land from the marshes and flood prone areas. A Vishnu Temple by the name of Yogasvamin was built by Suyya at Sundribhavana (NaranBagh) at the instance of King Avantivarman. The ruins of this temple seem to have been used to built the masonry island with the Chinar tree referred as Prayaga in the VitastaMahatmaya immediately below the Samgama. This Chinar has been compared to the fig tree at Treveni near Allahbad.
Beyond this SamgamaVitasta continues to flow northwestwards by the side of Waskur village (Rupbhawani’s shrine) and receives the outflow of Manasaras(Manasbal Lake) and after passing Jayapura (Inderkot) enters the Mahapadamsaras (Wular Lake) at the latter’s north eastern corner According to scriptures site of Mahapadamsaras was originally occupied by a wicked Naga Sadangula who was exiled by the Naga King Nilla to Darvisara [area between Chenab and Jhelum south of PirPanjal Range]. The empty space left dry was occupied by a city called Chandrapura ruled by King Visvagavus Magapadamnaga in disguise of a Brahaman, approached Visvagavas to reside in the city with his family. After securing permission the Naga showed himself in his true form with the result that the king and his subjects had to migrate westwards to a new town of Visvagasvapurata
A study of the landslide imagery/aerial photographs of the area indicates that the river entered the Wular Lake at its south eastern corner and not at the northeastern corner as at present. It leave the Wular Lake at the southwestern corner. A glance at the landslide imagery or from a high mound will show a peninsula like ridge projecting into the Mahapadma Lake and marshes on the almost formed due to continuous deposition of silt from Vitasta in the long run will reduce the area of the lake similar silting though on a smaller scale is going on in the northern side by the Madhumati stream (BandapurNala ) of the lake. It can also be surmised by the facts that the waters of the Vitasta are muddy at its entrance into the lake and clear at the latter’s outflow. It is also corroborated from the evidence from historical records that the manmade island of Jainlanka (Zanalanlk) in fifteenth century which according to Jonaraja was surrounded by water and at present is surrounded by marshes and land. If the silting of the lake is not checked the great and biggest lake in the Valley will be turned entirely into a marshy area similar to those of Anchar, Hokarsar or Pambasar with Vitasta slowly meandering through it. In case the Wular Lake has to be preserved for future generations an alternative channel for Vitasta bypassing the lake say between Sumbal and Baramula developed through which the waters of Vitasta will have to be diverted by means of a barrage or a veer during floods due to heavy rains or melting of winter snow in spring or whenever the waters of the river become muddy. The silt from Bandapurnala can be prevented from entering the lake by means of a coffer dam on the nala and silt/gravel thus accumulated removed from time to time for constructional purposes .
Beyond Suyyapura (Sopore) Vitasta is joined by a last tributary of considerable size Prahaa (Pohru) in the Valley draining the north western hill slopes of the Valley. Being of steeper gradient and faster current deposits silts and gravel in the Vitasta resulting rise of the water level in Wular lake. However from time to time the silt at the confluence of Pohru and Vitasta has been removed by dredging.Vitasta after passing the last major town of the valley Vaharamula(Baramula) enters the mountainous course near Huskapura (Uskur) beyond which it is unsuitable for navigation. The name Vaharamula (Varmul )has been derived from the ancient Tirtha of Vishnu AdhiVahara where Vishnu was worshiped since time immemorial as a medieval boar. On the western extremity of the town at Kothitirtha till very recently a number of ruins were seen but much is not known about their antiquity. Between Uskur and Uri Vitasta flows in a southwesterly direction and beyond in a somewhat north westerly direction towards Muzafrabad where it is joined by Krashna (Kishan Ganga) the largest tributary of Jhelum at Domel near Muzafeabad which originates near Telail north of Sogput range of Kashmir and further downstream with Kunar follows a southerly course forming the border between Jammu and Kashmir State and Punjab province of Pakistan. It is then joined by Punch River and flows into Mangla reservoir in Mirpur Dist of PoK. Beyond Mangla Dam Vitasta flows in a south westerly direction forming the boundry between Chaj and Sind Sagar Doab before joining the Chandra Bhaga (Chenab) at Trimmu near Jhang Sadar in Jhang District of Pakistan
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