Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Finding Harwan


The east rises up and the west sinks
The west rises up and the east subsides
The south rises up and the north sinks down
The north rises up and the south subsides
The edges rise up and the center sinks
The center rises and the edges sink

~ Nāgārjuna, Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra, explaining the six ways earth quakes, a reminder from Gods that nothing is eternal.

Geography befuddles me. After returning from Verinag, in the evening, I decided to visit Burzahom. Now the problem was that no one could point me the direction to the neolithic site. Technology too wasn't of any help. Since my phone wasn't working in Kashmir, I couldn't access Google map. So instead, I went for Harwan Garden. As a Kid when we would go for an outing to Mughal Gardens we would visit Chasmashahi, Shalimar, Nishat and by the time we would think of moving to Harwan, it would be too late in the evening, everyone would be tired, someone would say, 'Anyway, what's there at Harwan!' and so Harwan Garden was often skipped. I have never been to Harwan Garden. While on way to Harwan, I decided to keep the old tradition alive and instead decided to take a detour to the 'Ancient Buddhist Site at Harwan', the 3rd-4th century A.D. place that may have once belonged to a pre-Buddhist Ajaivikas.

I had already read a lot about the place and written about it. So I headed for the Buddhist site of Sadarhadvana, 'The wood of six Arhat saints' located at Harichandrun in older Kashmiri, Harwan of new Kashmiri. What followed is a little tragedy of comic proportions. There is a reason I keep reminding myself, no matter how much I know about Kashmir, if I were to be suddenly airdropped in Kashmir, I wouldn't know which way is Varmul and which way is Anantnag. I have lost keys to my own house. I am locked out. Now, I have to climb up the window.



On the road to Harwan Garden from Shalimar, there is a small twisted discrepant sign board that supposedly points to the place. It's a short hike up a little hillock.




Walking up the hill, you walk past all these houses built into the hill.


After a ten minute leisurely walk, another rusty signboard announces the place and you walk to the top of the hill.



It was a strange little scene why I just couldn't decipher. All around the place there are broken pieces of ancient pottery. There's an unmanned post and a gate. There are water tanks and what looks like a cemented apsidal.




More circles. The place looked the part. But, something was definitely wrong. Buddhist site was supposed to cover a larger area. Has the place shrunk. I had read the conspiracy theories that things had been removed from here, like from other parts of Kashmir, and moved to other parts of India. Is it possible the whole site has been transported and I am only seeming the remains.

Maybe, there is more to the site, I climbed to still higher ground, looked around, clicked the water tanks, at the extreme end there was wire fencing and across that there was a small irrigation canal. It made no sense.


But the ground here certainly looked ancient. There were remains of an older civilisation everywhere. Pieces of fabled pottery, with parse motifs, prodding out of broken ground, like a dead body uncovered.



Why would have all those people climbed all this way up the hill with all those pots? Why would someone have modern constructions over them? What is this place? Is this the ancient Buddhist site of Harwan, the dwelling place of Nagarjuna? The place that may have been visited by Hsüan-tsang in 7th century. I walked down the hill carefully, avoiding treading on the broken pieces of pottery that lay strewn all across the path.

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After I returned from Kashmir, about a week later, I checked Google Map. It turns out I had visited a water filtration unit that has been carved into a portion of the Buddhist site.

With no signboard, or direction guides, like migratory birds, people desirous of visiting this spot rendered invisible, are expected to read magnetic fields in their head and find it.


I was so close.
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