Tale of Kothair Spring, its Neglect
Irfan Naveed (Kashmir Images)
Despite the tall claims of the government in promoting J&K’s rich heritage tourism sector, many top notch heritage sites are on the verge of extinction as the concerned authorities have failed in preserving them. The unchecked human vandalism, continuous weathering, lack of repairing and restoration work have posed a great threat to the survival of many archaeological heritage sites. The poor maintenance has not only become the fate of unprotected sites, but they (sites) are notified under Archaeological Preservation Act—thus have to face the brunt of the state government’s neglect.
One of these ill fated sites is located at Kothiar in Shangus block in South Kashmir ‘s district of Anantnag. It houses the ancient spring and Pandu lare (remains of Pandu buildings), situated only 8km above the famous Mughal garden—Achabal. To add to the utter neglect of the potential site, it even lacks the basic preservation and conservation methods.
Besides, the entire affairs at the site are in utter ruins as no basic conservation infrastructure has been kept available despite showcasing some wonderful remains of ancient Pandu buildings. The structural basements and few standing remains are most attractive monumental ruins at the site. Besides, there are reports that not a single visitor has ever visited this glorious spring and its historic remains as the site is yet to figure on the tourist map of the state.
The site, as per reports has been declared a state protected monument some thirty years back with the meaning of Ancient Monuments Protection Act sum vet 1977. But, except the chain link fencing of the site, there are no any other preservation measures to save the structural remains of the site.
Even though the site has lost its importance as a potential local tourist site, the remains of few olden stone structures and of a major ancient spring are still intact, and have immense archaeological importance, if tapped by the government. Although the spring has been to certain extent maintained, the monumental basements are in utter neglect. The ruins are in a shambles and its well chiseled stones are scattered all along the ground. Several standing remains have grown heavy bushes and wild plants around them-----thus weakening its basements.
The question that shots through every one’s mind here is that is it is it really a protected site? No, reply the locals in a loud tone as one is very much seethed to see the absence of protective measures at the site. The lack of conservation and protection of an important archaeological monument like Kothair can be gauged from the fact that hardly any semblance of infrastructure development is visible here. Experts fear that if steps are not taken up, this ancient spring along with its glorious remains would surely disappear for ever.
Kothair----full of miseries and curious traditions have added a lot to ones curiosity. The historic spring is also called locally as Papa Sudan nag. Local traditions associated with this spring reveal that in the ancient times, the Hindu Yatris arrived here to wash their sins from its healing waters. The name given in Sanskrit---Papa Sudan also denotes the same meaning “sin washer.”
This historic spring has also got its mention in Kalhana’s “Rajtarangni,” where it is named as kapastevara tirtha. 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, daily 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.
A local folk lore which is still sung in the area says,
Makun razas Mounshi kan
Su Kate baliyas kothair wan
(Raja Makan had Buffalo ears which got treated at kothair forest)