J&K has numerous of religious places and shrines, which are visited by a number of from pilgrims across the globe, like Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, Shri Amarnath etc. But there are some hidden Hermitages, who are still no much popular. Through the columns of your esteemed daily, I am going to write about one such shrine.
The shrine of Bawa Guru is located in village Barwal in tehsil and district Kathua. The village falls around 8 Km far away from district headquater on the left side, while journeying towards Jammu city through National Highway -1A. The village Barwal, having a population of around 30,000 souls with Rajput and Brahman communities in the top slot, also accommodates people of other communities. All the people are well educated, social and of jovial nature. They believe in cohesiveness and share their joys and sorrows on all occasions.
The Village branches off from the national highway towards its North covering a short length around 4 Km. Just on the very entrance, one encounters Barwal Mandi where exists the temple shrine of Bawa Guru. It is an age-old temple of spiritual Shakti where various religious functions are being celebrated round the year.
There is an interesting story of this village, particularly temple shrine which though, of course is, shrouded in dim antiquity dating back 500 years or so.
Bawa Guruji came to this village as a saint seeking a solitary spot for worship and meditation. How and why the saint choosed this village still remains a hidden episode which even the elderly responsible persons don’t know. As per the version of elderly responsible persons of the village, Bawa Guruji used to perform prayers, Puja Archana and meditation. Being a social and spiritual person in his life style, people of the village and others around its vicinity became inclined towards his thoughts and preachings. Soon, he became a legendary Guru in and around the village and villagers became his followers. All people irrespective of age, caste and creed started pouring in to meet Bawaji and it became a regular feature. They used to have holy Darshan of Bawaji for blessings.
Apart from being social, he was bestowed with spiritual Shakti which attracted all section of society of the area to attend to his deep-rooted thoughts and preachings.
Bawaji never denied anyone for visiting him. However, he told locals that none would see him in odd hours, but in case of some exigency, any person visiting to see him should knock first before meeting.
Amongst the regular visitors, a barbar was too curious to ascertain about such avoidance. He secretly entered the hermitage to which Bawa Guruji could well sense and as such, seeing the barbar, he became anguished and cursed him.
Barbar was too ashmed of this act of misdoing and lamentingly, begged for excuse from Bawaji but there was no response from Guruji. The very next day people of the vicinity gathered at his hermitage to ascertain about the episode.
Being anguished Bawaji didn’t utter a single word, instead he asked the people to dig to deep trench where he took Smadhi. The people of the vicinity thereafter continued praying the Samadhi in the memory of Baba Guru.
After a lapse of a year or so, an army soldier while coming home (Barwal) got routed through Haridwar to have a holy and he had Darshan of Bawa Guruji. The soldier further requested Bawaji to accompany him to the village Barwal but he refused with the plea that he has left the village forever.
The soldier, very much disappointed, sought further advice from Guruji, who in turn asked the soldier to dig the spot nearby his erstwhile Samadhi at Barwal and he will find an earthen pitcher filled with the silver coins.
He further advised the soldier to request all the inhabitants of village Barwal as well others around the vicinity to build a temple there.
On the advice of Guruji, the soldier narrated the entire episode to all people and that is how a temple of Shri Bawa Guruji was constructed at Barwal Mandi, which is still existing there. The temple complex is in an expansive area with multifaceted images of various Gods and Goddesses. There is a Shiv-lingam within the temple complex where the locals offer water along the Bel Patri leaves, Kesar and chandan in the morning.
A Goswami family with head pujari Sri Amaranth from ‘Nagri Parole’ near Kathua was invited to look after the temple. With the passage of time, Sri Amaranth passed away and now his descendants are looking after the temple complex. Regular prayers are being performed twice the day with the sound of counch echoe far and vide, in the reverence of Gods and Goddesses and to remember Baba Guruji whose preachings still haunt the villagers around the vicinity of Barwal.
G L Khajuria,
The author is deputy conservator of forest.