Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Pawan Sharma
Every year Shiv Khori Mela is held at Shiv Khori Shrine of Lord Shiva in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of Maha Shivratri with exuberance and enthusiasm. This year this revered event is being organised from 12 to 14 th of February. Large numbers of pilgrims from every nook and corner of the country visit this shrine to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
Mainly the programme is held at Ransoo village of Reasi district which can be said as the base camp of Shiv Khori. Main cave is around 3.5 Km away from Ransoo village. Whole Ransoo village is decorated in advance so that the visiting devotees can experience a pleasant look during the event. The strenuous efforts are made for the cleanliness the area. The district administration makes full efforts to assist the pilgrims in every location. The festival signifies the convergence of Shiva and Shakti as the festival marks the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. People pay obeisance at holy cave of Shiv Khori. Shiv Khori Shrine Board makes strenuous efforts to make this festival even more popular and also to provide the required facilities to the pilgrims.
Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir is an abode of various religious shrines such as Mata Vaishno Devi, Baba Dhansar, Aghar Jitto, Siad Baba, Dera Bhaba etc. Shiv Khori is one of the most important shrines which is situated in Ransoo village of Pouni block in Reasi district of J&K. This holy shrine is surrounded by green luscious mountains and is about 3.5 kms away from Ransoo village. This shrine has its own attraction and lakhs of devotees across the globe visit this religious spot every year. Shiv Khori shrine is about 80 km from world famous religious spot Katra in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir and most of the pilgrims who pay homage to Shri Vaishno Devi Shrine also visit this spot. In order to reach at this spot firstly one has to reach at Reasi town from where one can easily reach this spot by bus or by other light vehicles which directly goes up to Ransoo village, the base camp of this religious spot. One can also reach this religious spot from Jammu via Akhnoor to Bhambla. Track from Ransoo village to Shiv Khori shrine is mountainous. One can hire the pony or palki to go up to the shrine from Ransoo village.
Shiv Khori signifies the Lord Shiva cave. This natural cave is having a natural Shiv Lingum. This cave is 200 metres long; one metre wide and two to three metres in height. Around 300 devotees can be assemble at a time at the entrance of the cave while the inner chamber of the cave is small. The passage from outer to the inner chamber is low and small; at one spot it divides itself into two parts. One of these is believed to have led to Kashmir where Swami Amarnath cave is located. It is now closed as it is said that some saints who went ahead never returned back. In order to reach the sanctum sanctorum, one has to keep low and adjust his/her body according to the shape of cave. Inside the cave a naturally image of Lord Shiva is visible. The cave also has a number of other natural objects which resemble with Goddess Parvati, Ganesha and Nandigan. The cave roof is etched with snake formations, the water trickles through these formations on Shiv Lingam. Pigeons are also seen here like Swami Amarnath cave which creates interest among the pilgrims.
There are different stories about the discovery of this holy cave. It is said that a demon named Bhasmasur worshipped the Lord Shiva for a long time and was blessed to end the life of anybody with those blessings who ultimately also tried to end the Lord Shiva. It is said the Lord Shiva ran to save himself from the fear of the demon and entered in this cave which is known as Shiv Khori shrine. After that Lord Vishnu in the guise of Mohini asked the demon to dance with her according to her tune. But when the demon started dancing as per the direction of Mohini, the demon took his hand at his head and he himself was destroyed. It is said that 33 crores deities live in this holy cave in the shape of pindis and natural milky water trickles down on them from the top of the cave. Six mouthed Seshnaga and three pronged lance depicting the trident of Lord Shiva are also seen on the roof of the cave.
The main portion of the cave roof has round cutting mark which signifies the construction of cave by Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu. According to a saint named as Baba Ramesgiriji who used to live in this cave, there is also a cave which directly goes to Amarnathji. It is believed that Shiv Khori cave was discovered by a Muslim shepherd who was in search of his missing goat and by chance went inside the cave to find his goat. He was astonished on seeing a number of saints inside the cave, who were impressed by Lord Shiva’s divine power and he also started worshipping the Lord Shiva. The saints asked him to make the commitment to them to not disclose the matter about the cave to anybody but despite their instructions the shepherd disclosed the matter to a number of other people. It is said that after disclosing the matter with the other people the shepherd died. It is believed that a number of saints have been closely associated with this holy cave, who had meditated decades inside this cave for spiritual attainment.
Few decades before very few people specially from out of district were knowing about the Shiv Khori cave but recently this place has gained much popularity among the people and now the people from each nook and corner of the country visit this holy shrine every year and their numbering has increased after the constitution of Shiv Khori Shrine Board during December 2003. Presently every year the number of devotees is increasing year after year. It is estimated that around 30 percent of devotees from within the state and 70 percent devotees from out of the state of the country visit the shrine every year. The Shrine Board has constructed Shrine Guest House at village Ransoo near the shrine, a reception centre and a pony shed, tiled 3-km long track, plantation of ornamental and medicinal plants on track, charming parks etc. The cave has modern electrification system, facilities of oxygen and electric generators, exhaust fans, well structured shelter sheds for the pilgrims, toilet and bathroom facilities, water reservoir, proper sanitation, high powered electric transformer, clock room, police security for the pilgrims and a quality dispensary. Different programmes such as Dangal, cultural programmes, Shoba Yatra, display of stalls by the different departments etc. are also organised during the programme. In order to mitigate the overcrowding problem of the pilgrims especially during the Maha Shivratri Mela, recently Shrine Board has constructed an exit tunnel.
This place is a source of attraction for the pilgrims from all over the nation. The Shiv Khori Mela is an important annual congregation of pilgrims who gather at this spot to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. During the mela the pilgrims perform the Shivalinga worship and the whole atmosphere in and around the temples vibrate with the sound of bells and chants of Jai Shiv Shanker. Devotees bathe in the river Devak to purify themselves. The Shiv Khori Mela witnesses’ great hustle and bustle during the three-day festival as pilgrims’ families and various groups belonging to diverse communities and hailing from different parts of the country assemble there to seek his blessings of Lord Shiva. People from every nook and corners of the country have also been visiting this spot throughout the year and enjoy the unique place of spirituality. Apart from large number of kiosks of eatables and merchants displaying their wares for sale, which include from trinkets to new popular electronics gadgets, the fair presents hosts of entertainments for every age group of people.