Duggar region is famous for its fairs and meals. These fairs and melas add colour and vibrancy to our everyday dull and mundane life. Thus,besides having social significance,these fairs and melas have great religious and economic importance and serve to break the monotony of life and bring all the people belonging to different strata, communities and religions together and thus, foster bonds of brotherhood and amity among them.
These melas also help to showcase the rich culture of the Dogras at the national and international level through folk dances and folklores such as Kud, Fumnian, Gagail, Jattar,etc. It is a feast to the eyes and ears of the visitors to see the colourfully dressed people singing and dancing happily to the folk tunes and watch the rich Dogra art and culture live in these Melas.
One of the famous Melas of Udhampur,which attracts thousands of visitors from within and outside the state is the Moungri Mela.This 3-Day famous Mela is organised with great religious fervour and gaiety every year on the eve of first Jyeshth and lasts till the 3rd Jyeshth,which generally falls in May-June,at Sar Dabbar at a distance of 51 Kilometers from Udhampur, nestled in the pictursque and salubrious environs in the lap of nature at the confluence of two streams in Block and Tehsil Moungri in District Udhampur. The Mela site is ideally located in the midst of tall mountains endowed with matchless and pristine beauty .’Sar’ means ‘a lake’ such as’ Surinsar, Mansar, Dalsar etc. It is believed that this place was once a lake the water of which was drained leaving the vast stretch of plain land (Dabbar) behind.A large no of people from Moungri, Panchari, Udhampur and other regions of our state and outside throng Sar Dabbar during the Mela to pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva,Goddess Parvati and other Deities in the natural caves having a naturally formed nine and a half ft. Lingam guarded by Sheshnag and stone manifestations of Damru,Nandi and countless other deities worth seeing at the site of the Mela in Moungri which is also the abode of widely reverred Kansar Devta. The Mela organised under the overall control of Mela Officer,attracts a large number of Local artists and cultural troupes from other parts of the state, who play melodious tunes on their flutes, present folk songs and dances such as kud,geetru,bhakhan etc. and leave the visitors mesmerised and spell bound. The local people, wearing colourful Dogra attire and leaving behind their household chores,can be seen trekking for miles in groups on the uneven paths betwen the hills and stream to the mela site.
It appears as if one has come into another world of colours and joy.Various Government Departments also put up their stalls to aware the people about welfare and people friendly schemes launched by the Central and the State Government. Sports such as Kabaddi, tug of war,stone lifting and other fun filled activities are also organised with the active participation of the Department of Youth Services and Sports in collaboration with other departments. An Indian style wrestling match (Dangal), arranged under the patronage of Shiv Kumar Sharma, President J&K Indian Style Wrestling Association,generally on the second or the concluding day of the Mela, is the star attraction of the Mela. A large number of famous wrestlers from within and outside the state take part in the Dangal and show their wrestling skills at the Dangal, which is witnessed by a large number of people. Shopkeepers set up temporary shops of sweets, bangles, toys, food items etc and have a brisk business. District Administration Udhampur plays an important role in the successful organisation of this Mela.
Besides providing other facilities, the District administration arranges additional buses to the Mela site to cater to the demand of heavy rush of people for the Mela. The District administration also makes elaborate arrangements of drinking water, security, power,sanitation,control on rates of various items etc to ensure, ration supply etc that people donot face any problem at the Mela.A free langar is also organised for the devotees during the Mela. This year,the Mela is not being organised in view of lockdown restrictions and to contain the spread of COVID19 by avoiding large gatherings. So it has been decided not to organise this Mela which otherwise was to be organised from fifteenth to seventeenth May this year. But when organised in future after we win war with Covid 19,people should visit these caves and have the blessings of the Deities on one hand and explore the pristine and breathtaking beauty of Nature at its best.
Advocate Swatantar Dev Kotwal, who is the Chairman of Lord Shiva-Parvati Caves Shrine (Moungri) Development Board and who played a significant role in discovering this cave first on September 14,1998 ,said that Moungri needs to be developed as tourist and religious spot as about 50000 to 80000 devotees visit this cave every year during the Mela and the number of visitors is surging every year. He demanded construction of shelters at the Mela site to protect the people from rain and heat. He also demanded that Department of Tourism should take steps to promote this region as a tourist spot and include this Mela in the Annual calender of activities undertaken by the Tourism Department to boost tourism in this region. He said that tourist huts and inns need to be constructed so that the tourists can have a nice and memorable stay there. He also demanded upgradation of the path with fencing from the Mela site to the holy caves and development of a park at the Mela site.
He said that adventure tourism and rural tourism have a vast potential in Moungri and Panchari and aleady trekking activities are organised by Tawi Trekkers, Jammu from Moungri to Mantalai via Sankri and Nathatop. Such activities need to be boosted by the concerned Departments. He highlighted the need of developing view points at Kainthgali, Panjar and other places to enable the tourists to have a breathtaking view of the lofty mountains, misty in monsoon and snowcapped in winter. Mr Kotwal also demanded the establishment of a permanent Wrestling Akhara with adequate infrastructure to explore and tap huge wrestling talent and skill in the region as the sport of wrestling is highly popular in Panchari-Moungri region.
The residents of the region said that as the cave is located at the confluence of two streams, waterfalls, an artificial lake should be developed to attract the visitors throughout the year. In view of the cool climate of this region almost like that of Kashmir Valley, trees such as Chinar, Deodar etc should also be planted in large numbers along the road and in the whole of Moungri and Panchari belt to give a boost to the local tourism and economy. Moreover this region has a vast potential for floriculture and horticulture sectors .Therefore, there is need to organise awareness camps for the local farmers to aware them about the latest schemes related to floriculture and horticulture and motivate them to adopt these sectors to add to their income.They also urged the Union and the UT Government to provide liberal funds for the development of this region which has huge tourist potential and religious importance.
This Mela, like other such melas is a platform for showcasing and watching our Dogra culture alive.
(The writer is serving as lecturer in English in Govt.Hr.Sec, School, Thial, (Udhampur)