Rajinder Chand Anthal
Sudhmahadev has remained focal point for devotees of Lord Shiva for spiritual attainment from very early periods of history. This beautiful valley is situated in the foot hills of Dhar Shiv Garh at a distance of 116 kilometres from Jammu. It is in this area that Holy Devika rivulet appeared to purify human body and soul.
In the religious books, DEVIKA has been mentioned as elder sister of most sacred River GANGA. It is believed that the residents of this erstwhile Himmat Pradesh need not go anywhere else for Bhakti, Shakti, and Mukti as all the Holy vibrations and characteristics are same in reputed temples and Shrines of LORD SHIVA spread over in this area like Gouri-Kund, Gaur Karan, Budhi-Shudi, Shool Paneshwar Temple, Haridwar, Banisang, Mandir Dushala and Mantalai etc. The kings of Chenani state have contributed a lot for the construction, renovation, and maintenance of these temples by way of regular cash grants and donation of land etc.
Sudhmahadev Mela is one of the most important three days long religious event of this area with participation of public from entire Jammu Province. This year the Mela will be held from 27th of June to 29th of June 2018 at various locations as per past practice.
On the 1st day of the Mela, the devotees of Lord Shiva from Jammu Province will start reaching Gauri-Kund in the evening in great numbers. They take bath in holy water of sacred tank called Gouri-Kund and offer prayers in the nearby temple of Goddess Parvati. Legends say that Goddess Parvati worshipped at this place for thousands of years inside a cave to get married with Lord Shiva. The pilgrims enjoy the scenic beauty of this place and feel the enchanting cool breeze coming across sacred rivulet flowing nearby. After holy bath and prayer at Gouri-kund the pilgrims march towards Sudhmahadev throughout the night mostly on foot singing local folk songs and chanting slogans like Har-Har-Mahadev. Groups of people from Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Ramban, Latti, Ramnagar, Udhampur, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab assemble at Sudhmahadev in large numbers on the first night of the mela and take shelter in temple complex halls, private hotels and local houses, etc. The villagers are seen sitting on the roof tops playing flute and singing dogri folk songs. There is great rush in the streets of Sudhmahadev and this small town comes alive during all mela days and nights. The villagers, ladies and outsiders make purchase of sweets, bangles and other items from shopkeepers, mainly from Jammu and Pathankot. The majority of the yatries have to pass the night under open sky at the mercy of God as no shelter sheds, toilets and separate bathrooms have been constructed at Sudhmahadev by the government.
On the second day of the mela, people wake up early in the morning at 4’o clock and proceed towards a sacred water fall called Nada for holy bath. This is the special occasion to have bath at this place on Purnima for spiritual attainment. The pilgrims have to walk over a kachha pathway of about three kms by walking through a terrain to reach this most sacred place. Pilgrims also take bath at Gou-karan temple on the same day. There are green mountain slopes on both sides of foot path and medicinal plants like timbroo and local herbs like karsod, etc grow there in plenty which the pilgrims collect during the return journey. Holy Devika rivulet originating from Nada point flows down to Sudhmahadev alongside the footpath.
After the holy bath the pilgrims turn towards Sudhmahadev for darshan of Lord Shiva in Shool Panishwar Shiv Ji Maharaj Temple. The main temple is built on a raised platform. Entry point is called Deodi. In the front portion of this temple there is a Haweli of Raja of Chenani now donated for public cause. In the temple complex, there are Samadhis of Nath priests of the temple. The trident of Lord Shiva broken into three pieces is burried deep in front of main temple. Legends say that Lord Shiva had thrown this trident from Kailash to kill a local demon called Sudhant, who was causing obstacles in the worship of Goddess Parvati. It is believed that this most sacred idol of Shiv Parvati was discovered by a farmer while ploughing his field at some distance from the present temple and that place is known as Ambunij tirath.
In front of main temple, there is the temple of Guru Gorakh Nath Ji to visit and worship. The black stone idol of Bharo Nath just adjacent to exit gate is next to worship. In the temple complex, the continuously burning Dhuni from thousands of years remains main source of attraction for the pilgrims where huge logs of wood are burnt daily but no ash is taken out. It is indeed a miracle. Main pooja is held in Shool Panishwar Shiv Ji temple at Sudhmahadev. After the pooja, the public have the darshan of Nandi and Shiv Rudri. Shiv Rudri is a precious jewel which emits wonderful rays of light. It is said that it was stolen many times but each time it reached back in the temple due to some miracle of Lord Shiva. Thereafter, the pilgrims proceed towards Papnashini Spring. It is said that all the worldly sins disappear after a bath in this cold water spring. There is one ancient temple of Goddess Mall Devi adjacent to main bus stand Sudhmahadev constructed by Raja Gajender Chand of Chenani on the pattern of Sukrala Mata Temple. In addition there is Som Tirath, Pandav Ser and Sat- Nada to be visited for prayers on the same day.
Mantalai is the next destination of Yatra. The pilgrims in large number take holy bath in the holy water tank and offer prayers in the temple of Parvati. It is believed that present large size Talab was Hawan Kund during the marriage of Lord Shiva. There are ancient archaeological sites at Mantalai and remains of Garh-Barkot Fort in nearby area. Government should hand over these places to Archaeological Survey of India for research and development.
Sudhmahadev Mela concludes on 3rd day in the evening with great joy of religious attainment. It keeps alive great cultural and religious heritage of this region. This mela provides platform for celebration, expression, and interaction between different faiths and beliefs with main focus on Shiv Bhakti. It is said that whosoever comes with devotion in the Mela gets the blessing of Lord Shiva for long life, prosperity, and welfare of mankind.
(The author is Retired Zonal Education Officer Chenani)
Rajinder Chand Anthal