Mantalai From Glory to Ruins

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)