A socio-religious event
Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Pawan Sharma
Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir is an abode of various religious shrines such as Mata Vaishno Devi, Shiv Khori, Baba Jitto, Dera Baba Banda Bahadur, Baba Dhansar, Nau Devian etc. Shiv Khori is one of the most important shrines in Reasi district of J&K and is visited by thousands of pilgrims across the nation every year.
This holy shrine is situated in Ransoo village of Pouni block in Reasi district which is about 45 Kms away from Reasi town. The shrine is surrounded by green luscious hills and is about 3.5 kms away from Ransoo village. This shrine has its own significance, charm and attraction. This shrine is about 80 kms from religious spot Katra and most of the pilgrims who pay homage to Shri Vaishno Devi Shrine also visit this shrine. From Reasi town one can easily reach this spot by bus or by car which directly goes 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. This place is a source of attraction for the pilgrims from across the nation. The Shiv Khori Mela is an important annual congregation of pilgrims who assemble 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 also have holy bath in the river Devak to purify themselves.
Shiv Khori signifies the Lord Shiva cave. Shiv Khori Mela is organized every year on the occasion of Maha Shivratri with full zeal. This year this revered event is being organised from of March 3-mar 5 mar, 2019. Every year thousands of devotees visit this spot from every nook and corner of the country to seek blessings of Lord Shiva. Main cave is about 3.5 Kms away from Ransoo village. This village is decorated well in advance to create a pleasant look during the event and best efforts are made by the district administration to conduct the event. The district administration provides the required facilities to the devotees throughout the event and also to make it more popular. The festival signifies the convergence of Shiva and Shakti as the festival marks the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Devotees across the nation pay obeisance at this cave of Shiv Khori. This cave has natural Shiv Lingum. This cave is 200 metres long; one metre wide and two to three metres in height. Around 300 devotees can be assembled 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 the body according to the shape of cave. Natural image of Lord Shiva is visible inside the cave. This holy cave has a number of other natural objects which resemble Goddess Parvati, Ganesha and Nandigan. The cave roof is etched with snake formations and the water trickles through these formations on Shiv Lingam. Pigeons are also seen here like Swami Amarnath cave which also creates interest among the devotees.
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 . But he 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 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 the sources, there is also a cave which directly goes to Amarnathji.
It is also said 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 by 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 a commitment not to disclose the matter about the cave to anybody. Despite their instructions the shepherd disclosed the matter to a number of other people and after that 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. With passage of time this holy cave has gained popularity among the people. Presently the people from each nook and corner of the country visit this holy shrine and their numbering 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 a 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 modern dispensary. Different programmes such as Dangal, cultural programmes, Shoba Yatra, display of exhibitions by the different departments etc. are also organised during the programme.
In order to reduce the overcrowding problem of the pilgrims especially during the Maha Shivratri Mela, recently Shrine Board has constructed an exit tunnel. 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 from different parts of the country assemble there to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Devotees from across the nation enjoy the unique place of spirituality. A large number of kiosks of eatables are available there and merchants display their wares for sale, which include from trinkets to new popular electronics gadgets. Most of the stalls of eatables especially Jalebi and Pakoras, which is a specialty of the mela, are being run by local people.
This event also presents a source of entertainment and education for the devotees. Department of Agriculture along with the other allied depatments create awareness among the people with the employment and income generating schemes and programmes. Devotees of Lord Shiva forget their caste, creed and language and share their experience of faith with full devotion. Sanitation, safe drinking water, medical services, transport facility, un-interrupted power supply, adequate provision of essential commodities, security, fire services, accommodation facilities, ration and other commodities etc. are provided to the pilgrims by the district administration. The event is highlighted through print and electronic media well in advance so that more and more devotees can visit the spot. Shiv Khori Mela is a major socio-religious event in the region.
(The writers are: Dr. Banarsi Lal, Scientist and Head of KVK, Reasi and Dr. Pawan Sharma, Scientist at KVK, Kathua (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu) (SKUAST-J).