Moungri Mela

Ashok Sharma
Jammu & Kashmir,  is  known for various fairs and melas such as Jhiri Mela,Bahu Mela, Hemis     Gompa Mela, Bhaderwah Mela, Baisakhi Mela etc. which attract thousands of people and bear       testimony to the priceless          and multifaceted cultural          heritage  passed on  to us           by our wise forefathers.
So far the Duggar region is concerned, fairs and melas have been organised in Duggar region since  ancient times,  which add colour and vibrancy to our everyday mundane  life.
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 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 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 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 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. People have deep religious faith in these caves and they pour milk on the  holy Shiv Lingam in the upper cave, which gets absorbed and then trickles down the devotees as they pay obeisance to other Gods and Goddesses in the lower caves. 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 in groups 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 to prove their mettle at the Dangal, which is witnessed by a large number of people from far and wide.This match is sponsored by J&K Police every year under the civic action programme and mela committee members and the local people appreciate this noble gesture of J&K Police thankfully. 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 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 being organised from 14th May to 16th May.
Advocate Swatantar Dev Kotwal,who is the Chairman of Lord Shiva-Pavati 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  more than 50000 devotees visit this cave every year during the Mela and the number of visitors is surgng 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 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 has 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. He highlighted the need of developing view points at Kainthgali,Panjar and other places to enable the tourists to have a breathtaking view of lofty mountains,misty in monsoon and snowcapped in winter.Mr Kotwal also demanded the establishment of a permanent Wrestling Akhara  with suitable 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. He demanded that the Government should take measures to promote other traditional rural sports such as Stone lifting, Kabaddi, Tug of War etc.
Hans Raj Thakur, President of the  Board said that as the cave is located at the confluence of two streams,waterfalls and 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 awareness camps need to be organised 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.