Mata Chanchlo Devi Shrine A potential tourist place

Shiv Kumar Padha Basohli
Mata Chanchlo, Devi an embodiment of mata Sharda, is worshiped as kuldevi not only by the natives of Basohli town but by the whole populace residing around, irrespective of religion, faith or belief. Mata  Chanchlo Devi shrine is situated on an old fort built by king Bhoopat Pal, in mid of  the seventeenth century, in order to protect it from the hostile kings of Nur Pur and Chamba who always hatched conspiracy against the rulers  of Basohli state. They appointed Padha family of the town as the pujaries of the shrine whose tenth generation is still discharging the duties of pujari of Sukrala Devi and Chanchlo Devi shrines. The fort which houses the temple of the goddess Chanchlo Devi is is built on the peak of a hill which is the highest among the hillocks found in the vicinity of 5km.radius. The fort is linked with the Basohli town by a 3.5km. long all weather black top road. The road runs all along parallel to the back water of the Ranjeet Sagar Lake which terminates near the shrine with a wide platform meant for the parking of the vehicles of the devotees visiting the shrine. Some of the remaining walls of the fort surrounding the temple reveal much about the history of this old Duggar state, its defence mechanism and about the relation of its rulers with the adjoining states of  Duggar, Chamba, Nurpur and Kangra. There was a 30X30X20 ft. deep tank in side the fort which was constructed for storing water for the consumption of the soldiers encamped in the fort which was later on filled with the soil in order to provide sufficient space in side the fort for the devotees who come to visit the shrine daily.
Mata Chanchlo Devi is worshiped not only by the natives of town Basohli but by the natives of the adjoining villages of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh also. In order to pay their obeisance in the holy shrine of Mata Chanchlo hundreds of devotees from within and the neighboring states visit the shrine daily. During Navratra festivals thousands of the devotees throng the holy shrine every year. About eighty thousand devotees from all religions, belief and faith visited the shrine during the navratr’s this year alone. It is believed and has been experienced that whosoever visits the shrine is blessed by the goddess  which one aspired for. Many issueless devotees and others suffering from divine curses and chronic ailments have been bestowed with the desired boons by the goddess Chanchlo Devi. The devotees of the kul Devi bring the newly wedded brides of their families to the shrine, for seeking blessings of the goddess, before they formerly make entry in their homes. During the navratra’s many volunteer organizations arrange langars where sumptuous meals to the devotees are served throughout the day.
There used to be a thick and dense forest all around the fort where the trees like Emblica officinalic (amla), billav, dalbergia sisoo ( sheesham ), Kachnar, Kainth, Cassia fistula (amaltas), cedrela tuna (tunu) ,Eugenia cuspidate (jamun), Bakain (draike), Murraya  koinigli (curry patta, Gandla), Terminalia (Arjun) Acacia catechu (khair) and grooves of bamboo trees and other fodder yielding trees grew in abundance. The forest provided shelter and place for camouflaging  the wild animals living there. There was a time when leopards, wild goats, antelops, pigs, peacocks and fowls were the main habitants of the forest. The whole jungle around the fort once used to echo with the cawing of peacocks and crowing of the fowls but it is shocking that in spite of big army of forest protection force, forest guards and other allied staff, the trees from the forest are being chopped mercilessly. The forest has become too thin to provide shelter even to the smallest animals living in it. The cattle from villages and of the nomads keep grazing unchecked in the forests which eat away the grass needed for sustaining the wild life.
Mata Chanchlo Devi shrine, in addition to the abode of goddess Maa Sharda, is a beautiful tourist spot for local people and those coming from out side the town.  The location of the fort, its height in comparison to its  surrounding and also being encompassed by the back water of the Ranjeet Sagar lake,  adds to its beauty and makes it one of the most  charming, beautiful and worth visiting tourist spots in the Jammu region. From the fort the tourists can have a bird’s eye view of the whole area below spreading up to dozens of miles in all directions. One can have full view of the 88 sq.kmt vast stretch of Ranjeet Sagar lake water at one glance. The steamers and the boats, transporting passengers and other material from either sides of the lake, present a beautiful and charismatic view to the visitors. The night view of the reflection of the lights in the lake waters resembles the view of Dal Lake as seen from the Shanker Acharya temple in Srinagar which mesmerizes the on lookers who can’t help appreciating the beauty of the spot.  The tourist places like Dalhousie, Baklow cantt. Kakeer, Chamba and Bani Khet of Himachal pardesh and that of Banjal and Jaurian Mata shrine look extremely enchanting at night and appear as if these places are situated only at a stone’s throw from the fort. The illuminated mountains appear as if the glow worms are hovering over them or the nature has studded them with jewels.  One can enjoy  and experience the cool breeze coming  from the mountains even during the scorching heat of the summer  and as a result of which one never feels boredom if he remains  there for hours together.  Agencies like Door Darshan and others have prepared a number of documentaries relating to the fort and the shrine has  received good response and applause from the masses in the past.
It is beyond any doubt that the Chanchlo Mata is both a shrine and a beautiful tourist point in the region. Bringing the shrine on the tourist map of the state and developing it into a tourist spot will benefit the natives and the state as the income generated from this tourist spot will fetch good returns to the state exchequer. There is ample scope for exploiting the tourist potential of the shrine, a little initiative from the government and tourism department in particular can go a long way in adding one more feather in the cap of tourism department of the state in future. As per the requirement of the topography of the place, the shrine housed in the fort can be developed into a beautiful tourist spot in the following ways.