Airwan Temple: The pride of Kathua
Dr. Narinder Paul
Airwan Temple is situated at village Airwan near Nagri-Parole in district Kathua of Jammu and Kashmir and is situated at about 15 Km West to the district Headquarters. There is a famous Lord Shiva Temple located at village believed to have been built during the 4th century A.D. and is the most prominent sacred as well as historical place in the district. There are many schools of thought relating to the origin of the name of the village. Some believe that the village Airwan got its name from Airawat, the famous white elephant of Lord Indra, the King of Paradise (Swarag Lok). The records available with the district administration reveal that the village derives its name from the adjoining Ravi River. Literally speaking, Airwan is a splited word – “Air” means air which enlivens the entire biolife and “wan” means gain or win means win over the air which supports the life. It is a small village well irrigated by the natural springs and covered by the lush green foliage.
The temple can be reached from the National Highway 1-A from three different routes. Firstly from Kathua town, secondly from Palli Morh and thirdly from Saktechack Morh. It lies at about 15-20 Km from the district headquarters from these different routes. Different sources of transportation i.e. buses, metadoors etc. are available to reach there and one more prominent features is that the traditional horse driven carts are still major source of transportation on this road particularly from Nagri to Airwan temple and vice versa. Villages which surround the Airwan temple are Barmora, Nangal, Pandori, Padyal, Sadyal, Jamraal, Sumwan, Jagaien etc. All the villages surrounding the temple possess well irrigated land and have very excellent agriculture potential.
As per the available legends, Airwan is the place when Airawat was reborn. One legend says that famous king elephant Airawat was revived from one of the superb springs at this place. The legend says that: while the river Ganga was being brought from the heaven to the earth, its flow was obstructed from a big stony mountain in her way. Every effort was made to remove that obstruction but all in vein. It then came to be known that the obstruction could be removed only by Lord Indra’s King elephant Airawat. Accordingly, prayer was made to Lord Indra to send his elephant to do this job for the welfare of the living beings on earth. He agreed and the Airawat removed that obstruction. After doing the job, Airawat became prideful of his might and said that the flow of Ganga had been with its blessings. Reacting to it Maa Ganga Ji decided to teach him a lesson that he is not as mighty as he is prideful of. The flow of Ganga Ji increased and it washed away the proudy elephant with its streams. It carried away the elephant by its mighty flow to the underground of earth called “Pataal Lok.” The stream of Ganga ji flown to the Patal Lok was named as Patal Ganga or Gupt Ganga as it flew secretly under the earth.
After hearing that his loving elephant has been washed away by the strong springs of Ganga, Lord Indra was much bothered. Immediately he reached the earth along with other Devtas of Dev Lok and became anxious of getting his beloved elephant back. He was then told by Narad Muni to meditate hard for Lord Shiva who could bless him with his elephant. Acting on the advice, Lord Indra meditated hard upon Lord Shiva. After being happy over the meditation, Lord Shiva appeared there and blessed him that he will get his elephant back from Gupt Ganga. Cosequently, Airawaat came out of the Patal Lok via a spring on the earth. The place where Lord Shiva appeared was left with small natural lingum of Shiva which later came to be known as “Aap Shambhu”. Ashok Jerath writes in his famous book “Dogra legends of art and culture” that at Airwan, where Lord Indra had meditated, a temple in commemoration was erected by a king named Govind Chand. However, available historical literature reveal that the temple of Lord Shiva at Airwan was built by King Vikramiditya during 4th century. One more legend says that an Anonymous devotee of Lord Shiva from Village Nagri used to visit village “Rakh Sihari” daily for worship of Lord Shiva as there was no temple nearby. One day he could not reach there due to the flood in the river Ujh and it filled him with grief. That night Lord Shiva appeared in his dream and asked him to excavate a place at Airwan where he will find its divine lingum. He acted and found the lingum upon which later on a temple was erected.
The temple is a place of attraction for the devotees of Lord Shiva all over the J&K, addjoing Paunjab, Himachal, Haryana and other states. Annual fairs are held at the temple during Maha Shivratri and Baisakhi festivals. People throng the temple to take holy dip on ‘‘Chaitra Chaturaash’ (in March) every year and pay obeisance to the sacred shrine of lord Shiva. The sacred stream of Gupt Ganga through which Airawat was regained by Lord Indra is considered as pious as Ganga. There are bowlies near the temple where pilgrims take bath before worship. During aikadshi people take holy dip in the stream as it is believed that it enables them to get rid of their sins. Moreover, people who cannot afford to flow the mortal remains of their dears at Haridwar immerse them in the stream and hence it is considered as sacred to the mortal beings even after their death.
(The Author is Agriculture Extension Officer)