Kothaar: Exploring the forgotten valley

Although thousands of tourists throng the Mughal garden at Achabal but none visits the historic spring and the ancient archaeological remains
Kothaar: Exploring the forgotten valley
GK Photo

Makun Razas Mounshin Kan, Su Kate Baliyas Kothaar Wan
(Raja Makan had Buffalo ears which got treated at Kothaar forest).

This curious line of KashmIri folklore was once very commonly sung in the forests of Kothaar during the chopping of the fire wood. In these lines there is mention of some ancient Makhan Raja, who got long ears looking like the ears of buffalo, of which he was very ashamed. He has been roaming all around to get his ears treated and finally reached the forests of Kothaar, where he dropped these ugly ears and got human ears. This is a very curious and interesting legend related with Kothaar Wan and is recorded in various ancient folk literatures. There are other few mysterious legends known about this glorious valley.

The glorious sub valley of Kothaar is located in the foothills of beautiful Kachwan forest range. The sub valley is situated towards the eastern side of historic city of Anantnag in between the sub valleys of Lidder and Brang. This valley extends from the tourist destination of Achabal and is spread up to Chhathergul-Panchalthan. The valley has flourished on the either banks of a little Nallah called as Nallal Arapath which rises from a hill spring located in the hill rock of Thimran Daradpora. This valley has derived its name from one of its historical villages known as Kothaar, which in ancient times has been called Kapteshwara. This small hamlet showcases the archaeology remains of ancient temples and a mysterious ancient spring. This beautiful sub valley in its lap carries wonderful natural as well built heritage sites of Chhatapal Poshnari, Kuthair Wan and spring, Panchalthan, Brari agan, Kotebal and Nagadandi Ashrum. These are its significant heritage sites which are still to be explored for promotion of heritage tourism. In fact the Achabal spring and garden stands already explored for the tourism sector and lacs of tourists, local as well domestic, every year visit this spot to enjoy and feel the beauty of cool water of the spring and the grace of the Mughal garden. In fact it is a traditional tourist site and very much appears on the tourist map of Kashmir, but the other sites which exhibit glorious heritage relics and archaeological remains if developed could have also become the major picnic spots.

One such forgotten heritage site is of ancient archaeological remains and spring at Kothaar, hardly situated at a distance of 7 to 8 km from the busiest tourist site of Achabal Mughal garden. Although thousands of tourists throng the Mughal garden at Achabal but none of them ever visits this historic spring and its ancient archaeological remains. It just looks like an abandoned site and perhaps does not appear on the tourist map, although this site very much exists on the archaeology map of this land. The site consists of an ancient spring and archaeological remains and is located in the small hamlet of Kothaar in the green forests of Kothaar Wan which divides the two historic paragans of Bring and Kothar.

The mysterious spring with its banks showcases the ancient archaeological remains locally known as Pandu Lare (remains of Pandv buildings) and is really worth seeing. In ancient times it has been known by the name of Papasudan Nag means sin-washing spring. A curious tradition held by ancient people and recorded in history literature states that the waters of this spring have healing powers and anybody taking bath with its waters would wash off his sins. A curious tradition preserved in the local Hindu folklore states that people in ancient times used to bath in this spring and with its healing powers, the water of this spring washed their sins. This spring has also been called Kapteshwara spring and the village where this spring is located has also derived its name from ancient spring.

This ancient spring at Kothaar revealing myths and curious traditions have added a lot to one’s curiosity. The historic spring is also called locally as Papa Sudan Nag. The name given in Sanskrit—Papa Sudan also denotes the same meaning and means “sin washer.”
This historic spring has also got its mention in Kalhana’s “Rajtarangni,” by the name of Kaptishvara. A tradition recorded in this 12th century chronicle states, that a man from plains known as Padmaraja—the importer of Tambala leaf—-became friends with King Bhoja—the supreme lord of Malwa, by remitting heaps of gold through him to construct a pool at Kapastevara, besides, taking a vow to wash his face, with the waters of this spring
Another tradition states that the spring tank was built by one Dacen Raja called Matshankund—-who is said to had ears like that of a buffalo which he had dropped after bathing with the healing spring waters.

The following line of the Kashmiri folklore was very much sung in olden times here.

Makun razas Mounshi kan

Su Kate baliyas Kothaar wan

(Raja Makan had Buffalo ears which got treated at Kothaar forest).

Since these are myths and legends related to the site, but on the other hand it is historical site and indeed it has been the scared site for Hindu devotees who used bath with its waters, with belief to wash their sins.  In the recent past, year 2005, during a chance exploration of this valley, remains of Kushan era wonderful tile pavement were discovered on Kutbal plateau adjacent to village Sheikhpura. The tiles exposed at site carried several motifs but most outstanding were those motifs which showed female dancers in a Greco Buddhist style.

Kotebal is situated at a height of about one thousand feet from Sheikhpora plain. The archeological mound was explored at the forest edge near a colony of Gujjar and Backerwall community. The debris was removed by the experts and after studying the surface evidences the spot was dug. After digging a small portion of land excavators came across a tile floor at a depth of 2.5 feet. These were baked tiles shaped like large bricks. After the scientific clearance of the excavated tile floor, it was found that the floor consisted of a well planned tile pavement. The pavement was laid in a circular shape which consisted of several terracotta square and rectangular shapes of tiles. The center of the pavement was marked by a lotus stalk like motif.

The trail dig report of the site published by the excavator writes, “The excavation work was taken up on 6th June 2005 and after several days of continuous work magnificent stamped tiles were excavated by the team. These tiles form a circular pavement with a variety of motifs. In the center is the motif of a lotus flower with the petals of the flower motif forming a circle beyond it many other motifs have been made by the artists to create a beautiful sequence of designs? Some of these motifs are very unique and have been found for the first time in Kashmir. These are the motif of the dancers, elephant riders, fish and running deer’s. The excavation report of the sites further writes, “the site and its finds are dated to first century AD. It is the period when Kashmir was under the influence of imperial Kushans the famous Kushan king Kanshika ruled the Kushan Empire which included Kashmir as well”. Few of the tiles exhumed from this site are preserved in the archaeology gallery of the museum at Srinagar, while the trench given during the trial dig of the site has been refilled and the exposed tile pavement covered over with a layer of fresh soil.

Truly speaking the valley has not yet been systematically explored for heritage tourism, the all other sites revealed the similar tale of apathy.

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