It was in mid-May of 2015, when Rahul Chandra from USA visited India with an agenda to take his mother on a pilgrimage trip to Mata Vaishnovdevi.
After paying homage to Mata Vaishnovdevi, Rahul and his mother embarked on a long journey to Shiv Khori from Jammu city, the sacred place located deep inside the jungles of Jammu. Shiv Khori is the place where Lord Shiva escaped to Himalayas via caves from the attack of Devil known as Bhasmasur. (As per Hindu sacred texts, Bhasmasur was given a wish by Lord Shiva (the destroyer of the universe) that whomsoever head he will place his palm, will turn into ashes immediately. Devil Bhasmasur, after receiving this power thought to try that out on Lord Shiva himself. Lord Shiva on observing this potential life threat started running out in these same jungles of Jammu. If one visits this place personally, the geography and topography can very well be imagined and linked to this historical event. High mountain ranges, thick bushes, lush vegetation on right side and gushing waters of rivers on the left and in between there is a 2 miles way for people to walk and reach Shiv Khori. The mountains on top are covered with thick and dense jungles from all sides and entire environment is pristine.
Rahul, his mother was joined by Ravi Thapa, a fellow associate from Jammu area along with his wife and three year old daughter. In the initial part of the trek, Rahul’s mother boarded a horse for upper hilly journey as she has joint problems. Rahul, Ravi, Ravi’s wife and daughter decided to walk on foot to the sacred Hindu pilgrimage site. The whole area comes under Border Security Force (BSF) jurisdiction, as threat from Pakistani militants sneaking into India always looms over. During the way, they (Rahul, Ravi and family) saw thick jungles, pristine clear water gushing downhill and panoramic view of surrounding mountains. After two hours of walk uphill, they reached the summit where Rahul’s mother was waiting for the pilgrimage. The best suitable time to start the walk should be early morning or mid noon, but because of travel time from Jammu city, Rahul & Ravi families reached at around 5 pm, by 7pm they reached Shiv Khori – the deep cave where Lord Shiva busted out and ventured underground to escape devil Bhasmasur. In the mid way, Rahul paid tribute to Lord Shanidev, whom he worship since he was thirteen year old and consider him as his guardian against evil forces of nature.
There are two ways to enter this deep cave, one via the twisty and thin cave pathway and another via back side entry via step ladders. As Rahul’s mother had joint issue, Rahul & she took the back side route, whereas Ravi & family went via ancient cave route. The Darshan (sight of sacred temple inside the cave) was mesmerizing and one can literally feel the presence of high divine power energy. The sanctorum was having a naturally developed Shiva Linga, with thousands of human face like figures ( as per Hindu sacred texts, these are the divine angels and other demi gods), the upper part of cave has a circular shape resembling the Sudharshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu ( the sustainer of the universe). After the evening Aarti (Chants), all came out and started the downhill journey. Rahul’s mother took the horse ride which was waiting outside Shiv Khori, whereas Ravi, his wife and daughter took the foot path as no horse ride was available there. During the uphill journey, there were many people, but at 8 pm, when they started downhill journey, there was rarely any public. A woman slipped on the staircase and bent her knee so badly that her cries could be heard for a mile, she was later transported on horse by her family. The devil omen signaled his activation. The sayings go true that where there is God, there is devil.
It was pitch black, there were no lights at all. The whole area had a power cut during this particular day and time of the week and border security personals were in their barracks deep in the jungle, one can see light coming as far as two miles ahead but visibility dropped to two foot in front, the river was gushing with water on the left and thick dense forest mountains loom over us. The only light was high power torch from Rahul’s mobile phone. This part of Jammu jungles have wide variety of wild animals like Hyenas, Deer, wild dogs, Boar and pythons and is sparsely populated. The danger was evident, trust and faith in god was the only motivating factor. They had no weapons with us and were all alone in this pitch dark mountainous area. Then suddenly something took them by shock, a thick haired and black figure emerged from the dark, from first sight it resembled a wolf, later from close sight examination, it was a black mountain dog.
The heavy, thick bodied and black haired dog came out of nowhere and started following them downhill. First, Rahul suspected that this black rugged dog doesn’t look friendly and in the mid of the journey may call his wild dog group for a mob attack or may attack standalone the small girl. The main concern here was for Ravi’s three year old daughter, who was also walking hands in hands with her mother. Now wild animals have a tendency to foresee small children as prospective target. We were cautious of the wild dog following us, kept a close eye on him and started giving him some biscuits to make him friendlier in every fifteen minutes.
After half an hour of walk, suddenly there was a movement on the hilly bushes above us, it was like a sound of thud as if someone just jumped from a tree on ground. The sound was on our right (on our left was gushing ravine waters, the pathway was 6 foot wide, raw with no grills etc.). It was a creepy sound. At first thought we thought it may be some monkey or some deer top hill. The black hairy dog started climbing uphill with a roar, but later got retreated when the strange animal roared and chased him down. The black hairy dog kept barking, but didn’t dare to venture up hill, the black dog was sacred and so were they. This made one thing to them clear that whatever the animal is there in those mountain bushes is bigger than a dog and not a deer or monkey. This alerted them of an imminent attack and made adrenal flowing in their veins. The threat of an attack from tops in this pitches black surrounding and ravines on the left them on hyper alert, the absence of defensive weapons made them insecure.
Later on close observation when Rahul shined his mobile phone torch light, the eyes of the wild animal shined yellow and the actual shape of the animal was slightly visible – the animal was a black panther, one of the most specious and deadliest predators who attack in stealth and with a terrifying rapidness. The panther was fast coming down in big leaps and they got very scared with no defense in hand and a small child with us in a pitch black condition (without mobile phone torch light, they couldn’t see each other too). Rahul asked Ravi’s wife to pick the small child in arms immediately and hold her tight. Later Rahul & Ravi started hurling large pebbles on the black panther, but panther was adamant and didn’t show any sign of retreat. Instead was coming down fast with confidence. At that time both Ravi & Rahul thought that now an in person confrontation with this wild dangerous animal is certain and it’s a do or die situation. Rahul prayed for Lord Shiva and Ravi prayed to Nag Devata (snake God) for protection in this difficult situation.
Ravi jumped on a nearby small tree branch to break it and use it as a weapon, but couldn’t detach it from trunk. Rahul kept his mobile on ground with torch on upside so that a bit light is there in a case of sudden movement. All of a sudden, the wild black hairy dog sprang back uphill and moved toward the deadly black panther, both Ravi and Rahul started up roaring in heavy voice and started a series of stone bombardment in total capacity.
The black panther chased the wild dog back, but stopped in between two trees and waited as he saw many stones coming his way and offensive posture of his prospective victims. It was a very scary moment, as the next action of the panther was unknown – whether he will attack wildly, wait & watch or retreat. They continued heavy stone shelling in all uphill direction for the next fifteen minutes as running away was not an option (the pathway was pitch dark and one had to focus torch for a single step, the way was curved and twisty and slight error could bring us down the ravine river, it would also have encouraged the panther).
After 30 minutes, the panther turned back and went uphill. We resumed our journey downhill with eye focused on right side bushes; all we could rely on was that wild mountain dog bark for any wild animal venturing nearby, the dog followed us. In the midway, Rahul caught hold of a heavy long wooden pole from a vacant log and Ravi grabbed a tree branch. But even after forty five minutes after that horrifying event, the black panther was following them with a distance of twenty foot uphill in the camouflage of thick vegetation, this was witnessed when Rahul flashed his mobile torch uphill and the same creepy yellow eyes were visible. Post midway, there were some light and having those two wooden logs made us more secured, which they plan to use a weapon in a case of panther attack. After covering eighty percent of the downhill trek, they saw a horse man with a torch, whom Rahul’s mother had dispatched, back to escort the foot them back to the base camp as she was worried of their foot journey in this lonely surroundings. Once the foot team reached base camp, Rahul bought bread from local shop and opened it to the wild dog. Ironically the wild dog didn’t eat a single slice of it. Later the security personnel at the ground post confirmed that the area is infested with panthers and there have been multiple cases on attack on humans in the dark.
There was only one factor that saved Rahul, Ravi & his family from a black panthers attack that fateful day – the black dog. If on that fateful day, that black dog wouldn’t have been there, no one would have ever known the presence of the stealth black panther in the uphill buses; they would have ignored it as some monkey or deer. This could have led to a stealth attack in pitch dark and one or more of them could have lost their life as medical aid or human presence was null and hand fighting a black panther in pitch dark is no practical way to survival.
Now as per Hindu texts, the black dog is the favorite vehicle of Lord Shanidev. Lord Shanidev sent that angel in form of a black dog to save the devout Hindus. The devil was the black panther, Lord Shanidev was the guardian and that black dog was an angel to these devout humans of Dharma in these rugged mountains of Jammu Kashmir where Lord Shiva’s presence fosters an environment where gods, demi gods and devil play their cosmic games.
The this game of cosmic forces, the devil (in the shape of black panther) challenged the demi gods (Lord Shanidev & NagDevata) for their ability to protect their devotees (Rahul, Ravi & family). The challenge was accepted and the devil was the looser.
Whenever in Hindi movies we see Lord Shanidev is projected in a bad light (as one who brings misfortunes) or people make fun of Hindu demi gods, the producers and actor should imagine themselves in this situation minus the black dog. It was their devout belief in Hindu Dharma who saved them from black panther.
Om Namah Shivaya (Praise to Lord Shiva)
Jai Jai Shanidev. Surya Putra Shanidev Mharaj Ki Jai Ho (Praise to Lord Shanidev)
Dharmo Rakshati Rakshita (Those who protect Dharma, are protected by it)
Featured article written & submitted by Rahul Chandra