Er P L Khushu
The birthday of Vitasta (River-Jehlum) was celebrated in Kashmir over the last so many centuries, when Kashmiri Pandits were its fundamental worshipers. Relevance in this regard bears testimony to the historic time tested chronicles like Rajtarangini by Pt Kalhana, who gives full descriptions about the Vitasta’s birthday.Vitesta, the River Jhelum, a major tributary out of five major tributaries viz. Sutlej, Beas, Ravi Chenab and Jhelum which are ultimately merging with river Indus in Pakistan is a major river flowing in the heart of the valley. The Jhelum (Vyeth in Kashmiri, Vitesta in Sanskrit and Hydaspes in Greek) is the main waterway of the Kashmir Valley. Jhelum River originates from a magnificent spring called ‘Chashma Verinag’.The river Jhelum (Vitesta) rises from Verinag Spring situated at the foot of the Pir Panjal in the south-eastern part of the Valley of Kashmir in India. It flows through Srinagar and the Wular Lake before entering Pakistan through a deep narrow gorge. Verinag is approximately 80 km from Srinagar, by road, at an elevation of 1,876 m. It is believed that the eponymous Verinag spring is the chief source of the river Jhelum. There is an octagonal base at the spring, surrounded by a covered passage. The river Jhelum is called Vitast? in the Rigveda and Hydaspes by the ancient Greeks. The Vitasta is mentioned as one of the major rivers by the Holy Scriptures – the Rigveda. It has been speculated that the Vitast? must have been one of the seven rivers (sapta-sindhu) mentioned so many times in the Rigveda. The name survives in the Kashmiri name for this river as Vyeth.According to the major religious work Srimad Bhagavatam, the Vitast? is one of the many transcendental rivers flowing through the land of Bharata, or ancient India. In the course up to Anantnag town 3 major tributaries viz. Sandran River, Bringi River and Arapath joins on its right flank. Lidder River joins on its right flank at 2 kilometers downstream of Khannabal town. The water from River Vishow and Rambiara joins it on its left flank at about 5 kilometers upstream from Sangam town. From Khanabal to Srinagar River Jhelum flows along the right side of the valley abutting close to the hills, in a zig zag manner. When the river is in spate it crosses and overflows its banks and damages the crops in the cultivable land and causes a drastic damage to crops and property. Just before the river enters the main city of Srinagar which is situated on its banks it is joined near Shergari by a stream which drains from Dal Lake. For the flood protection of main city, there is a supplementary channel with a capacity of about 700 cusses just above Srinagar (near Kursu Padshahi Bagh) which functions only when the river discharge rises above the danger mark. Below the Srinagar city, the flow of Dudh-ganga combines with the river and down below Nallah Sindh merges with it at Shadipora on the right bank. At Banyari about 20 kilometers downstream the river joins with the water of Wullar Lakes and takes off from the lake at its south west corner and flows to the west south west direction through the alluvial plain for a length of about 20 kilometers up to the bridge at Baramulla. At Baramulla the river enters a gorge in the hills. After flowing through this gorge for about 5 kilometers, the fall out channel takes off a sharp bend towards the left. The end of the gorge at Khadanyar is marked by huge rock projecting into the river from the left side. Khadanyar River takes a sharp turn rushing over rapids from Wullar Lake to Khadanyar in a stretch of 26 Kilometers. River Jhelum was called Vitasta by ancient Indians in the Vedic times. The Kashmiri Pandits worship the river (Vitasta), which is identified with Goddess Parvathi in the Hindu religion. This day of worship is the occasion of Vitasta Divas.Many legends are associated with the name and origin of Jhelum River in Kashmir Valley. According to the ‘Nilamata Purana’, Sage Kashyap drained the Satisar to put an end to the Jal Dev (water demon) who was harassing valley dwellers and killing them. The pishaches', used to hamper the meditation of Aryans, who approached Kashyap Rishi for help. The sage requested Lord Shiva to prevail upon Goddess Parvathi to manifest herself in the form of river to cleanse them. Lord Shiva obliged and struck the ground near the abode of Neelanaga with his trident. The opening measured one vitasta, a measure of length equal to 12 angules, hence the name Vitasta. From this hole near the abode of Neelanaga on 13th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada, Goddess Parvathi gushed forth in the form of a river, goes the legend. Kashmiri Pandits of the Valley while living in the Valley, would worship it constantly during every calendar year as per Vedic and ritualistic schedule, not for fun or a dilemma of dogmatic disbeliefs, but as a Goddess of peace and penence. Kashmiri Pandits observed this day on the 13th tithi of bright fortnight of Bhadrapada for the observance of worship of the Jhelum (Veth), in the valley. This occasion is known and observed asVetha Truvaha’. This year this holy occasion occurred on 18th September-2021.After the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley due to the terrorism and its brutal acts of terror on Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Pandits while living in exile have been observing this day as a sacred day and observing it as Vitasta Divas in Jammu. Mostly this ‘Vitasta Divas’ is observed by the Kashmiri Pandits in exile, with traditional Pooja and ritualistic gaiety and fervor on the Ranbir Canal of Jammu, which is a tributary of River Chanderbhaga (Chenab)So one can understand its spiritual importance and face, which came under a disastrous assault during and after the periods of terrorism, when there was no regard for its sanctity and its prominent use and utility for the prosperity and welfare of Kashmir, including its graceful presence to maintain communal harmony and peace in the valley, being used for peaceful purposes by all the living souls of Kashmir equally. Ghats (Yarbal) of Jhelum (Vyeth) used to be common places of friendly meetings between various communities in the Valley.The horrifying floods of 2014 in the valley, in the river Jhelum have caused extreme devastation, when such a spectacle has not been heard of before.Such a tragedy, which only we the Kashmiri Pandits have understood better than anyone else, as such ‘hard and dry currents of flood fury’ in the form of the terrorism acts of ‘fanatic and Islamic fundamentalist’, devastated us about 27 years back, with much more intensity than the devastation faced by our fellow Muslim brothers due to these floods , living in the valley.We the Kashmiri Pandits living in forced exile as migrants in the various parts of the country can better understand and feel the agony of getting deprived of homes and hearths and thus bear full sympathy with our brethren in the Valley, who have suffered due to this flood fury of Jhelum (Vyeth).Has this flood furry of Jhelum (Vyeth) occurred now as this River Jhelum (Veth) was trying to locate and trace most of its original residents and worshipers, viz, the Kashmiri Pandits, who would take its care of piety and worthiness, but could not locate or find them? It was never seen or heard of that the Jhelum ( Vyeth) has risen so high and terrible that it would enter the places in the main heart of the city like Lal Chowk, Jawahir Nagar, Rajbagh and the like, above all did not spare the seat of power of the King ( Civil Secretariat ) as also the seat of power of Justice ( High Court Complex), not to speak of other places of equal government importance. In fact no place cognitive in nature in public domain or as per public concern has been spared by this furry of Jhelum (Veth). It ironically occurred in the posh areas of the Srinagar City known as Civil Lines. Was Jhelum (Vyeth) so angry, that it had to resort to such serious punitive measures? Yes, it can be understood so. It is learnt that the condition of River Jhelum (Veth) is so bad that it is almost shrunk to the condition of a stream due to constant onslaughts of encroachments and denigration of sorts on it, during the terrorism periods as also presently.This all happened during the spate of terrorism in the Valley. Probably the Jhelum (Vyeth) was now in enough anger to tolerate it. Thus its worst flood fury.Similarly the hypocritical platitudes of ‘Kashmiriyat’, and often claimed bonds of brotherhood as a public outcry, between the two communities as Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, got exposed as insincere and false, once the resettlement of minority Kashmiri Pandits was talked about. It was almost refused in one voice by all in the Valley.Probably the Jhelum (Veth) was now in anger to tolerate it. Thus its worst flood fury. Probably Jhelum (Vyeth) has serious intentions to bring all of us ‘the displaced Kashmiri Pandits’ back to the Valley. This year some significant development seems to have occurred when sparingly some Kashmiri Pandits have celebrated this day at various places like Veth-Vatur near Verinag and Purshiyar ghat at Habbakadal etc. After the exodus, Kashmiri Pandits have been celebrating this day on the banks of the Rambir Canal Jammu, to keep the tradition and the memory of this day alive. This was repeated this year as well. Hoping against hope let KP’s see the fulfillment of their dreams to go back to their home land as early as possible and celebrate this day as usual in their actual abode the Kashmir valley, with the same fun fare as that of their earlier times.(The author is a Chartered Consultant Civil Engineer, who loves his Motherland, Jammu & Kashmir)
pishaches', used to hamper the meditation of Aryans, who approached Kashyap Rishi for help. The sage requested Lord Shiva to prevail upon Goddess Parvathi to manifest herself in the form of river to cleanse them. Lord Shiva obliged and struck the ground near the abode of Neelanaga with his trident. The opening measured one vitasta, a measure of length equal to 12 angules, hence the name Vitasta. From this hole near the abode of Neelanaga on 13th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada, Goddess Parvathi gushed forth in the form of a river, goes the legend. Kashmiri Pandits of the Valley while living in the Valley, would worship it constantly during every calendar year as per Vedic and ritualistic schedule, not for fun or a dilemma of dogmatic disbeliefs, but as a Goddess of peace and penence. Kashmiri Pandits observed this day on the 13th tithi of bright fortnight of Bhadrapada for the observance of worship of the Jhelum (Veth), in the valley. This occasion is known and observed as
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