Devi Mandir – Sudhmahadev

Rajinder Chand Anthal
Popularly known as ‘Devi Mandir’, this oldest temple of Sudhmahadev is in fact, the temple of Goddess ‘Mall Devi’, the Kuldevi of Duggar. It is situated on left side of Sudhmahadev Bus Stand at a walkable distance of about five minutes. This temple of great historical and religious importance generally remains unknown to tourists visiting Sudhmahadev due to lack of publicity on the part of concerned agencies.
Built by Raja Gajinder Chand of Chenani about 150 years ago, this temple represents unique temple architecture of this area. Inside the temple, there is an idol of Goddess ‘Mall Devi’ on a lion and side by side there is a statue of some queen of Chenani called ‘Mohra’ locally. An idol of Lord Ganesh Ji has been installed inside the temple and one on the main entrance. Above the front gate, there are beautiful stone made idols of Hanuman, Mahakali and Lord Shiva. Moreover stone made head of a lion is visible in the front side of temple. In the compound there is stone made Lion standing with its face towards temple and some iron made Trishools embedded in the soil with an idol of Bharonath installed near the wall of the temple.
As per tradition, in Chenani and nearby Doda Districts, the inhabitants visit this temple twice in a year after each crop season and offer some quantity of grain and ‘SER’ of GURH to the deity of the temple. The Deity is believed to safeguard the crops and human beings against harsh climate, natural calamities and effect of evil souls. This tradition is being followed till date.
Legends say that this temple is linked with Sukrala Mata Temple of Billawar as Sukrala Mata was brought here by a local Pandit as per wish of Raja Gajinder Chand of Chenani, who ruled during the period from 1853 to 1880. It is said that the Raja was blessed with prosperity from all sides. People during his regime were happy and religious minded. Once it happened by chance that the king developed some misunderstanding with his queen. As a result of which the queen denied to take any food and burnt herself alive after some days. The king repented over his behaviour and ill-treatment given to the queen. The king remained sad and depressed for days. After that incident the soul (Atma) of the dead queen started disturbing him in many ways. It is called ‘HATYA’ which is harming effect of dead souls. It is said that the dishes and eatables of the king got spoiled by the powerful effect of ‘HATYA’. In local circles it is believed that the king constructed a Samadhi of queen in nearby Mandir Dushala Temple Complex, but the effect of the Hatya could not be removed. The king further consulted Hatya experts to remove harmful effect of the Hatya. After detailed deliberation it was concluded that as the queen was great devotee of ‘Sukrala Mata’, so the Mohra (Statue) of dead queen should be installed in some temple of Sukrala Devi for removal of Hatya.
Finally ‘Dev Bhumi’ Sudhmahadev was selected for the construction of Temple of Sukrala Devi. The temple was ready but there was a hurdle that who will bring ‘Mata’ from Billawar. The king sought the help of Darshan Balotra Brahmin from a nearby village Baschal (Gouri-Kund) to bring Goddess Mall (Sukrala Devi) from Billawar as he was a great devotee of Sukrala Mata.
As per the wish of the king, Darshan Balotra went to Billawar and worshipped the Goddess in Sukrala Devi Temple for many months. One night, the Goddess appeared in his dream and asked him to beg anything. Darshan Balotra begged from the goddess her mercy in going to Sudhmahadev. The Goddess told him “Go to Sudhmahadev and inform your king that I will appear in the newly constructed temple on your arrival there.” She further told that on her arrival, there will be great sound like thundering of clouds in the temple. Darshan came back and informed the king about his dream. Both king and Darshan reached Sudhmahadev. After the Pooja, there was huge sound in the temple like that of thundering clouds. Thus the presence of Goddess was acknowledged by everybody present there. Pt. Darshan Balotra had brought a beautiful idol of ‘Mall Mata’ with him from Sukrala. The king installed the idol in the newly constructed temple. Near the idol of Mall Devi a stone made statue (Mohra) of dead queen was also installed in the temple by Hatya experts.
After the construction of the temple and installation of idol of queen side by side in the temple, the ill effect of the Hatya was completely removed. From that time onwards, both Mall Devi (Sukrala Mata) and the queen are worshipped by large number of people. The descendants of Chenani kings regularly visit this temple to seek blessing of Mall Devi. In the olden days, the temple was nicely managed out of income of land grants. After independence the successive governments paid no attention for repair, renovation and publicity of this temple of great religious importance with historical background. Original chiselled stone architecture of this temple has been tampered with unskilled repairs and cement plastering from time to time, as a result of which the temple has lost its ancient looks. As per tradition only Balotra Brahmin can be the Pujari of this temple. Tourism department and PDA Kud should highlight religious uniqueness of this temple to promote religious tourism in this area, so that tourists visiting J&K could seek blessing of Goddess Mall for prosperity and welfare of mankind.
(The author is former Zonal Education Officer, Chenani)