Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Stalactites and Deities in Nau Pindiyan and Baba Dhansar

"Do sau bees hai..."
" 220 steps! Looks like you have counted them"
He gave a shy smile and climbed the muddy track along the stairs like a mountain goat while we heaved ourselves up the steps.

    We were out on a half day excursion to nearby places of interest from Katra. After a homely lunch of local favourite kadam with tawa roti and whole moong dal we drove down to Nau Pindiyan and Baba Dhansar. By the way, if you happen to be in a hotel for a long time and are tired of the rich a la carte fare, ask for the staff meal. It's simple and gives you the comforts of home cooked meals without making your tummy do the cartwheels. Their chef particularly asked me to have kadam ( kohlrabis dish) and Kalaadi , having relished the former down to the last leafy bit for lunch, I decided to have the latter with the evening tea. 

   After a drive of fifteen minutes towards Reasi, we stopped at Nau pindiyan. Picking up a puja offering and avoiding the Kashmir 'handloom' vendors (which in all probabilty have found their way from Ludhiana and other such places),  we walked down the steps to the beats of "bidi jalai le..."  blaring from one of the many kiosks. I had already started having misgivings about this place and thought it to be a waste of time. 

   I was floored the minute I saw the entrance to the cave, the first one by the gate with a huge board prohibiting photography with little cameras bearing down to make the point clear. Couple of steps led into the cave that had plants hanging out onto the mouth of the cave lending it a quaint feel of antiquity. Inside the cave were many stalactites that were given the holy aura of Hanuman, Sheshnag , whatever shapes appealed to the human imagination. Offering our obeisance at the naturally formed shivling, we walked further down the steps to another cave that housed the Nau pindiyans, I was alarmed at the narrow entrance with the roof hanging very low. Just as I stood contemplating and imagining myself  with half my torso stuck in and refusing to budge when a gentleman double my girth crawled in albeit with much huffing and puffing. Peeping down to ensure he was on the other side for I did not relish the idea of my head contacting his ample posterior, I went down on all my fours and crawled up the floor of the cave's mouth to arrive at an illuminated space.

    The small cave had more stalactites and hence more deities. The priest sitting next to the Nau Pindiyas took our offerings and blessed us on behalf of the goddesses. In a single breath, he recited the names of the nine goddesses and showed us the natural formations that represented them. I was more interested in those structures suspended from the roof hanging half way through.  The beauty of Nature's work laboured through millions of years, drop by drop, grain by grain solidly suspended from the roof of the cave was awe inspiring. It was time to stoop out through a different exit which was much easier. There were no cameras or instructions so I managed to click the exit of the cave.



                                                                           Exit of Nau Pindiyan

     Next halt was Baba Dhansar near Karua village. a road almost a kilometre long broke off from the highway and descended hugging the hill till one reached the top of  gently inclined steps.A stream flowed along one side of the hill. On other side of the stream was a forest covered hill side with mudtracks and isolated homes. We walked down expecting a temple at the bottom dedicated to Baba Dhansar.

    We did find the temple. But what we were not expecting was the surroundings in which it nestled. Water cascaded down a crevice making a clear bluish green pool, the Karua jheel. The stream made little clear pools as it traipsed down the hill to join the river we saw on our climb down. It was forbidden to enter the Karua pool  at Baba Dhansar but was permitted in the other pools down the hill. That explained the pristine waters here. Sun dappled green moss hung over the sides. Huge ancient trees shaded the entire area with a tangled network of climbers made sturdy with age.  It was breathtaking. It was like we had arrived at some mythical,virginal place untouched by human intrusions.


The entire area was shaded with widely spread branches and the snaking strong vines. At places they gave an illusion of a verdant veil adding a touch of enigma to the atmosphere. The vine leaves looked familiar. Later I found that it was the Maloo, whose leaves were stitched together to make plates and bowls.  Serenity enveloped us with the sunlight making patterns through the leaves.That there was no one around helped to consolidate this magical feel.


The concrete temple on the other side of the pool made accessible by a small bridge was the Baba Dhansar temple. The priest here said that Baba Dhansar was an ichchadhari naag whose penance of twelve years pleased Lord Shiva and so this place was dedicated out of that pleasure. There is a tiny cave, again with small stalactites beside the mouth of the crevice from where the water gushes down, that has a shivling formation that has water dropping on it through the year. There is a ledge that leads to this cave with water dripping from the hill slope above.   

                                                           Shiva cave

    On the other side of the stream behind Baba Dhansar's temple that had idols of snake god, reposed many moss covered stone slabs in  neat lines with grass growing in the gaps. These were tokens of gratitude of the many villagers whose wishes have been fulfilled by Baba Dhansar.

The stone slabs

    The sun had already gone behind the hill. It was time to turn back. We looked at the steps that had to be climbed and wondered aloud how many were there. That's when this little boy shyly chipped in.

   "Do sau bees hai..."
   Ajit did not go to school. His mother had her hands full with her two boys with their father having abandoned them for another woman. Ajit spent his day roaming around this place and the surrounding forest. We got talking as we huffed up the steps.
    " So, you roam around these jungles and splash around that pool the whole day, don't you?"
     " I don't go into that pool. There are snakes there. Many of them."
    "Snakes? I didn't see any!"
     " But I have seen. And I have also seen that two headed snake."
     "Oh! Okay so you have seen it."
      He suddenly caught a yellow butterfly by it's wings and placed it on the back of his hand to show me.
     "That's pretty but let it go. It belongs there, on the plants."
     " Yeah, I know. Look! I'll show you something else." He plucked a part of a fern leaf and stamped the back of his hand with the underside of the leaf. Grinning he showed me the white leaf imprint. He was discovering Nature and her ways at his own pace.


Ajit the little friend                                                                       Ajit's proud discovery                                                                                                                                                                                

     Later over a cup of tea and my promised Kalaadi, a locally made sun dried cheese, sandwiched between two slices of bread, I googled Baba Dhansar to read the story of how Lord Shiva on his way to Amarnath to meet his consort Parvati left Sheshnag behind who took human form. Dhansar was one of his sons who invoked Lord Shiva to help defeat the demon that was terrorising the people of Karua. Later another person I met of Karua origins, mentioned the rumours of a two-headed snake that makes itself visible only to a few.

     So, was Ajit speaking the truth or was he trying to cash in on the fables that abounded in the place? And I am still wondering about the mix of stalactites, caves, cascades, caves, pristine water, myths, Gods, the forests. And I am still awed by the beauty of it all.


  1. Amazing ! You really went to this place and took pictures? Wow thats commendable...

    This called discovering!

    Hey one request, if u like my blog, pl do vote for me here-
    Look forward to ur help :)

  2. What an adventure! Great pics.

  3. i did not know about both these places....nice description!!

  4. Thank you Indrani :) The places were beautiful!

  5. Yes Ekta, I was fortunate to have visited them. All the best for the contest!

  6. My Unfinished life, do try these places. They are little gems.

  7. In the same post you both made me feel as though I had been there myself AND created the urge to visit the place, Ilakshee!

  8. That is a pictorial pilgrimage, despite the ban on photography mentioned at the outset. Trust us to convert bland phenomena of nature to deities. That is cute fern stamp for sure!

  9. Cool... loved reading it, Miki. So, you're the avid nature lover!

  10. Suresh, You have made my day and if you could see I am grinning ear to ear! Thank you very much!

  11. Uma, I agree I transgressed but couldn't resist the urge to share the beauty of the cave's mouth. At Baba Dhansar there were no prohibitions so clicked all the way. I guess in India sanctifying nature is necessary to underline the need for their preservation.

  12. Jadav, thank you! I've always been in awe of nature. I wish you would continue with your blog.

  13. Wow! such an interesting place with all those caves, stalactites and lovely waterfalls.
    This must have been quite an experience, right? Now I want to see some stalactites (and stalagmites):)

  14. It was, Deepa. I fell in love with Baba Dhansar. It came as a beautiful surprise.


Your words keep me going :)