Rajinder Chand Anthal
Mantalai has remained a renowned destination for spiritual attainment through the ages. Mainly known for the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati, this Dev Bhoomi has much more to tell in the unfolded chapters of historical heritage. It is said that Raja Ghambir Chand, a Chandel dynasty king from Bundelkhand (M.P) established his strong kingdom at Mantalai in 9th Century A.D. by defeating local Rana and Thakkar chiefs with the help of Megh Raja of Mantalai.
The scenic beauty of this place surrounded by snow clad lofty hillocks of nearby Dhar Shivgarh makes Mantalai best tourist place to visit. The ‘KUDD’, ‘JATTARS JAGRANS’ and other cultural festivals of this land have unique significance in local faith from the centuries. Holy rivulets coming down the dense deodar forests, evergreen meadows, terrace shaped rice fields add much to see at Mantalai.
From religious point of view, it is believed in the public faith that during the ancient times, Mantalai was the Kingdom of great Empire of Raja Himachal. His daughter Parvati worshiped at Gourikund for thousands of years to get married with Lord Shiva. Legends say that the present water ‘Talab’ was the Hawan Kund during the marriage of Lord Shiva. It is not less than a miracle that water never overflows this Talab. There is old temple of Goddess Parvati near this Talab which is visited by Pilgrims throughout the year. Just adjacent to it is a raised portion of land, where a lot of clay pots of different size come out after digging. People believe that these clay pots are the remains of stock meant for the Barat of Lord Shiva. In the temple complex, there are weighing stones called Sair by the local people.The ration was issued to the Barat by these Sair weights. It is said that 360 Water Bowlies were constructed in Bhant area with each house for use by the Barat of Lord Shiva. The central ground of Mantalai has a small old Temple of Baba Bhardwaj, the Kuldevta of Anthal Rajputs.
This ground and adjoining area is the culmination point of all major ‘Jattars’ of this area. The burning Jagras are thrown under a half burnt Deodar tree. The famous Kudd of Mantlai is also held in this ground. In the nearby area of Liensoo and Barkot, there are ruins of Forts and Palaces of Chenani Kings. So, Mantalai has great historical and religious importance from very early times. It is one of the major tirtha to be visited during performance of Panjtirthi by the Hindus and also a place for Holy Bath after the completion of Char-Dhamtirth.
It was due to the efforts of Swami Dherandra Brahamchari that Mantalai got fame at national and international level. Swami reached Mantalai on 10th of August, 1971 by his White Mercedes car. It is not known that how the Swami came to know about this spiritual land in the far interiors of Jammu. He later told that on reaching Mantalai he found that this is the Land of his dreams, which is full of Holy Vibrations. As he was the Yoga Guru of most Powerful Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi, so during that period Swami got his developmental plans approved without any hurdle.
He raised Multi-Million infrastructure at Mantalai in the shape of Hellipad, goushala, wild-life park, aparna hostel, ashram, swimming-pool, cold store, glass house, cinema hall, office complex, gardens and orchids etc. Land was acquired for the construction of 100 bedded Hospital and Yoga Research Centreat Mantalai.
Equipments and machinery worth crores were purchased and fleet of costly cars, vehicles and trucks kept moving around the clock. It is said that night never came at mantalai during the period of Swami. The Bazars of Mantalai remain open all through night and local and foreign visitors seen walking in nearby fields and forests. Swami wanted to develop Mantalai as ‘Mini-Singapore. He had prepared D.P.R for 101 Developmental plans, one of which was the construction of Artificial lake in Bhant area.
He renovated old temple of Naina Devi in nearby forest hill top near Banaik pass and purchased thousands kanals of land there to promote it as tourist spot. This place was connected by road . Regular Bus Service was started from Mantalai to Katra and Railway Station Jammu. Regular Yoga Classes were held at Aparna Ashram . High Mask Street Lights were installed and Petrol Pumps made functional at Mantalai. In a tragic air crash at Mantalai on 9 th of June 1994 Swami Dharindera Brahamchari died, leaving the land of his dreams and huge built Empire at the mercy of State Govt;
It is sorry state of affairs that there is no Development at Mantalai after the death of Swami ji and the Sky-high Buildings, Aparna Ashram and multi-million infrastructer has turned into semi-ruins. Once busy, the Bazars of Mantalai now look deserted.
It is a welcome step that present State government has proposed International Yoga Centre at Mantalai and Govt ; of India has sanctioned grants for Patnitop-Sudhmahadev—Mantalai tourist circuit. All these projects, if completed, will open new doors for wide range religious pilgrimage and attractive independent tourist destination will see the light of the day for overall development and prosperity of this under developed area.
(The author is retired Zonal Educational Officer, Chenani)
Rajinder Chand Anthal