For pandits of Kashmir valley Kapleshwar Shiva Mandir in South Kashmir’s Shopian district has a special significance for its unique thousand-eyed Rudraksha Shiv-linga.
Rudraksha is a Sanskrit word which translates as eyes of Rudra, which is the Vedic name of Shiva and Aksha translates to eye.
Kapleshwar Shiva Temple is situated on the banks of Ranbi Ara in Nagbal Village around one-and-half-kilometer from the main town.
Standing amidst tall Chinar trees, this place has a mesmerizing effect on visitors. It is dotted by three fresh water springs. The aura of this place is highly appealing.
Scores of Kashmiri pandits throng the temple in August each year to participate in annual Shradh and Kapal Mochan Shradh.
Chander Mohan Bhat, a prolific writer from the pandit community, has written a book on Kapal Mochan, Devpur, Shopian. He has more than a dozen other books to his name.
He said that the Shiv-linga at Kapleshwar temple is named as Rudra Shiv-linga.
“It is unique in India because it has a thousand eyes,” he said.
He said the place also assumes significance for those whose family members die young.
“There are no prevalent rituals for Shradh for young boys or girls who die before thread ceremony (Upnayan). Our belief is that their souls roam in this world. These souls travel to the next world only after a Shradh is shown to them at Kapal Mochan,” Bhat said, adding that Kapal Mochan is Sanskrit name for today’s Nagbal village.
Taking a leaf from Kapal Mochan Mahatamaya (folklore) he narrated that Brahma and Vishnu were jealous of Lord Shiva.
“To show them their worth, Shiva created a lingam of indefinite size and asked them to find its extremes. Brahma was asked to find its upper extreme and Vishnu lower,” Bhat recounted.
He added that Vishnu gave up and in humiliation prayed to Lord Shiva that he couldn’t find it while Brahma made a false confession by claiming to have found the extreme upper side.
“He lied and to support his lie, he brought two witnesses, a cow and a Ketki flower,”
he said, adding that Lord Shiva cursed the cow and the Ketki flower.
The legend has it that the furious Shiva beheaded Brahma and used the skull as a pot.
Brahma has five heads and four of his heads represent four Vedas and his fifth head embodied ego.
“Lord Shiva cut his head of ego,” Bhat said, adding that when his anger subsided he was overpowered by feeling of sacrilege for committing murder of a Brahmin.
He added that Shiva failed to detach the skull from his hand despite praying at many sacred places.
Finally, he visited Nagbal where he washed his hand in spring water and the skull dissociated.
He explained that for this reason the place is remembered as Kapal Mochan. Kapal, a Sanskrit word, means skull and Mochan means to get rid.
The temple is taken care of by a committee of Kashmiri pandits from Shopian and is headed by Subhash Kaul.
Kaul said this year they will be observing the Kapal Tirath Pilgrimage on August 9.
“It remained suspended in 2019 due to COVID pandemic and resumed partially in 2021,” he said, adding that this year they are planning it to organize on a grand level.
Vice President of the committee, Mahraj Krishan, said that the pilgrimage will last for three days during which Shradh for Apamritu will be held.
In an earlier interview with Rising Kashmir Bansi Lal Kaul, one of the caretakers at the temple, said that Puja was revived at this place in 2008 after it was abandoned due to migration of Pandits from Kashmir valley. He added that they were helped by villagers from Muslim community in reviving the Puja.
“For around 20 years no prayers were held at this temple,” he said.
Locals from Nagbal said that the government too carried out renovation work to restore its past glory. A fence was laid around the temple and a building was constructed by the department of Tourism for devotees.
Mohammad Iqbal, who occasionally visits the temple, said he has seen many Muslim villagers arranging for annual Shradh and taking care of the worship place.