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Ours is the land of rich folklore, festivals, diverse topography, different languages, religions, vibrant culture and heritage. The unparallel beauty, rich history and cultural heritage coupled with the saga of valour of our legendary heroes and countless social reformers and freedom fighters make India a unique country among the galaxy of nations.
Our history is full of accounts of valour of the legendary figures who over the centuries have fought for rights and raise voice against exploitation. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is proud to have heroes from time to time like Baba Jitto, Mian Dido, Baba Koura and others who have shown exemplary courage, valour and passion for what is just, right, truthful and better for the common masses. Baba Jitto fought for farmers, Mian Dido even sacrificed his life while fighting for poor, down- trodden and deprived. Similarly, Baba Koura’s tales symbolize the struggle of the common man for self esteem and against exploitation.
The Shrine of Baba Koura located in village Janglote, about 8 kms. from Kathua, has of late emerged as a potential pilgrim spot where devotees throng throughout the year, offer prayers at the Shrine and get eternal peace and tranquility after visiting the Shrine.
The saga of Baba Koura dates back to 13th Century. The original name of Baba Koura was Nikka Ram Brahmin and his clan was Koura. A devout Shiv Bhakt, he was residing on eastern side of Logate village near Kathua. His wife was a God fearing lady. Both of them earned their livelihood out of farming. They had no issue. Nikka Ram Brahmin was a clear -hearted person with self esteem and virtues who used to worship Lord Shiva. He had a bull by the name of Nandi.
One day while Nikka Ram(Baba Koura) was away in the fields, the bull was grazing nearby but it did not return in the evening prompting Nikka Ram to look for the Bull. He searched in the whole village, fields and nearby areas but could not find the animal whom he used to feed before taking meals himself. Mr. Nikka Ram did not sleep the whole night thinking about his beloved animal whom both he and his wife reared like their own sibling. In the morning, he came to know that soldiers of Janglote King Jasdev had taken the bull in custody for entering into hunting place (Shikaar Gah) of Raja Maharaj.
It will be in the fitness of things to elucidate about Raja Jasdev and his family. The Jasrota Kingdom used to be ruled by Raja Kailash Dev. He had two sons namely Raja Partap Dev and Raja Sangram Dev. Raja Partap Dev latter ruled part of Jasrota Kingdom stretching from Jasrota upto Jatwal. The Fort and Palace of Jasrota was also given to him by Raja Kailash Dev. Raja Sangram Dev was given eastern area of Ujh upto western part of river Ravi. He established his kingdom at Lakhanpur.
Raja Sangram Dev had four sons. The eldest one – Mr. Seh Dev alias Rai Sahab was later entrusted Kingdom of Lakhanpur and nearby areas. The second son – Beeram Dev was given responsibility of a village named later after him as Barwal. The third son – Bheesam Dev was given charge of area near Ujh from western side of Barwal. The fourth son – Baam Dev was given lower area of Kathua. Bamial area is named after him.
Raja Seh Dev Singh alias Rai saheb who was given charge of Lakhanpur Kingdom gave birth to three sons namely Janger Dev, Mahal Dev and Jasdev. Janger Dev got Lakhanpur while Jasdev got Janglote and upper forest area. Raja Mahal Dev served in the Kingdom of Delhi as a senior official where the Sultan of Delhi gave him title of Khan because of his expertise in warfare and administration. MahalDev had married to daughter of Raja Kailu of Samba.
Mr. Nikka Ram Brahmin got furious on learning that soldiers of Raja Jasdev of Janglote had taken his beloved animal. He straightway went to Raja, paid tax and got back bull from Raja’s custody. In the process, he argued with Raja over the harassment he and his animal was put to. The issue did’nt went well with poor Brahmin.
In those days, rulers used to levy taxes on people to run the affairs of the Kingdom. Raja Jasdev, too have levied some taxes. However, Khajuria clan of Brahmins were kept out of the purview of taxtation. After some months, the chowkidar of Raja came to collect taxes in the village. He could’nt meet Nikka Ram(Koura) at his house as he was not present in the village. The chowkidar again came only to find Mr. Nikka Ram( Koura) missing.The chowkidar told Raja that Nikka Ram is willfully avoiding to pay taxes whereas that was not true. Raja Jasdev ordered to bring anything that is available in alleged defaulter’s house. The chowkidar went to Koura’s house and took away the bull and a metalled jug-” Lotta” despite resistance of Koura’s wife.
On return , Nikka Ram Brahmin found his wife grieved and felt sad. He went to Raja Jasdev and pleaded that his men had misbehaved with his wife besides taking away his “lotta” and bull. He told Raja that he couldn’t pay taxes as he was away from house but Raja didn’t listen to him and on the contrary lauded the working of his men. All the pleadings of Nikka Ram Brahmin fell on deaf ears. He grew restless and thought of sacrificing his life rather than further pleading before Raja. Raja then left for hunting in nearby jungle.
Feeling highly insulted, Nikka Ram Brahmin while returning from Palace, found two Banyan trees and sat on a big stone under the Banyan trees and started chanting Lord Shiva’s name. He found a new energy in his body after some time and immediately climbed upon the Banyan tree while chanting Lord Shiva’s name. A Khajuria purohit of Raja who was going to the palace heard Nikka Ram’s chanting and joked whether Nikka Ram was eating fruits of the trees. This further infuriated Nikka Ram ” Brahmin” who cut a piece of his body and threw down towards Khajuria purohit asking him to offer his body part to Raja Jasdev so that Raja can come to know about the anger, suffering and sacrifice of Nikka Ram.
In the absence of Raja, purohit told the incident to Raja’s queens. The junior Queen felt sad on hearing the sad news, and rushed bare-footed towards Banyan tree and persuaded Nikka Ram to abandon his sacrifice plan but Nikka Ram had made up his mind. He however blessed the junior Queen and asked almighty to bestow prosperity on her future generations. The elder queen also came to the site and half- heartedly asked Nikka Ram to abandon his plan but Nikka Ram went ahead with his plan. He sacrificed his life as he was bleeding profusely as the Brahimn was continuously throwing his body parts on the ground. Ultimately he fell on the stone (on which he was taking rest before taking extreme step) and the stone broke into two pieces. Those two stone parts are still in the Shrine premises under Benyan trees.
In the meanwhile, Raja returned from hunting and came to know about Nikka Ram Brahmin’s extreme step. He asked his soldiers to guard the body and started counselling religious persons to overcome the fallout of sacrifice. Raja’s brother also got angry over the said incident .There in Logate village, Nikka Ram (Koura Baba) instructed in dream his trusted friend Bhago Paharia- a blacksmith to immerse his body parts in holy Ganga river to attain salvation.
Bhago Paharia- Nikka Ram’s friend somehow managed to take away a part of Brahmin body parts from the site and went to Haridwar and immersed his friends body parts in Holy River. It is said that soon thereafter Raja and his family fell seriously ill and all treatment went in vain. Then saner persons advised Raja Jasdev to formally worship Nikka Ram Brahmin (Baba Koura), beg pardon from him for the sins and assure Baba Koura of remembering Late Baba henceforth. It is said that Raja alongwith his whole family begged pardon from Baba Koura and assured of remembering Baba on all occasions. This resulted in well-being of Raja and his family.
Since then i.e 13th century Raja’s descendents have been offering prayers, organizing Yagyas and yearly functions to remember Baba Koura. This year’s yearly function is being held on 15th May, 2016 at the Shrine of Baba Koura located in Janglote village near Kathua where devotees from Himachal Pardesh, Punjab, J&K, Haryana and Delhi are expected to come in large numbers.
Even in present times, the devotees tell about the spiritual powers of Baba Koura and fulfillment of their wishes.
Whatever may be the legends, but it is true that the Shrine of Baba koura at Janglote Kathua is fast catching the attention of devotees whose number is swelling year after year. The Shrine, has of late emerged as a potential pilgrim spot where devotees love to visit again and again.
(The writer, a KAS Officer, is presently serving as Chief Executive Officer,Lakhanpur Sarthal Development Authority).