Rajinder Chand Anthal
Fairs and festivals are celebrated with great zeal and fervor throughout Jammu province from the ancient times. Duggar land is known for organizing the events near sacred rivers and holy shrines. The people belonging to all religions participate in these fairs and festivals and these celebrations bring love, affection and unity among people of different faiths.
Sudhmahadev is a wonderland and a religious place of high esteem for the Hindus, a great tourist spot and best health resort of J&K state. At a distance of about 50 km from Udhampur via Chenani, this beautiful valley full of Holy vibrations seems to have been designed by Nature with her own hands. The matchless scenic beauty of Sudhmahadev contains in itself various unfolded chapters of history and archaeology of ancient civilizations. Sudhmahadev is bounded by lofty peaks, ice cold water rivulets, green meadows and dense forests. The most sacred rivulet Devika originates in Sudhmahadev area and flows down to purify humanity from birth to death.
Sudhmahadev is visited by people throughout the year. Mainly known for ancient Temple of LORD SHIVA- The Sudhmahadev – Chenani – Mantalai belt has number of other famous places and Temples linked with glory of LORD SHIVA. These places of great religious importance are Mandir-Dusshala, Benisang, Haridwar, Buda-Kedar Nath and Budhi Sudhi etc. Some of these places are not connected by road and remained unknown till date to outside world. If connected with each other by road, they will provide great exposure of hidden treasure to the lovers of natural beauty and also to devotees of LORD SHIVA.
It is seen that the CHANDERVANSHI RAJAS OF CHENANI contributed a lot for the construction of these SHIV Temples and donated hundreds of Kanals of land for their maintenance and development.
Sudhmahadev Mela is a three days grand religious gathering at different places for Holy bath and pooja in all Temples of Sudhmahadev area. This year the MELA is being celebrated w.e.f. 19th of June. To reach Sudhmahadev one has to cover a distance of 116 Kilometers from Jammu towards east direction by Bus or Private vehicles. The road is in good condition and the vehicle passes through dense forests and valleys.
On the first day of the Mela, the first place to visit is Gouri Kund which is Temple of “Goddess Parvati” situated in the coldest hilly belt of Sudhmahadev area. The grand old temple is built near a Holy STREAM- where devotees take Holy bath and offer Pooja in the Temple. It is believed that here Goddess Parvati used to worship to get married with LORD SHIVA. Dharmarth Trust has constructed Halls nearby temple to accommodate limited number of people.
After performing religious activities at Gouri-Kund, the devotees in thousands reach Sudhmahadev in the night and continue reaching without break till morning. Here the Bazars are decorated and some people provide free langer facilities at Gouri Kund, Sudhmahadev and Mantalai. The houses and shops are well decorated and people make good purchases. Govt. Departments open up stalls of their activities. Thousands of people from Jammu province come for pilgrimage and people from nearby villages of Doda District and Ramnagar Tehsil come in their traditional dresses and they sing DOGRI classical songs, play music and keep dancing throughout night, which are a major attraction for the visitors. The Govt. does all security related arrangements.
Next day early in the morning the people wake up at 4 A.M. and march towards main bathing place called ” NADA” where water comes out of a mountain with jumping speed. This is the main place for HOLY BATH at a distance of 2 kilometers. The sea of devotees after Holy bath at “NADA” comes back through another Holy place GOU-KARAN on the bank of Devika Stream. After Gou-Karan people again reach at Sudhmahadev for early morning prayer in SHOOL PANISHWAR LORD SHIVA Temple Sudhmahadev. This temple complex is said to be constructed some one thousand years ago, but it was modified and renovated many times by the RAJAS of CHENANI to give it present shape.Adjacent to the temple,there is one excellent ‘ HAWELI’ of Rajas of Chenani. The Temple has large number of Samadhi’s of NATHS. Some of them took live Samadhi during their life time. Another important place in this temple is 1000 years old continuously burning DHOONI. It is astonishing to note that ASH is never taken out yet the ASH level of Dhooni remains same although logs of wood keep burning day and night. Inside temple Complex there is beautiful temple of GURU GORAKH Nath Ji and also black idol of BHAROO NATH JI. It is also worth mentioning that in the Treasure of SHIV TEMPLE, there lies one unidentified Jewel Called “RUDRI” which is kept open for darshan during the Mela Days. Inside the temple complex,there is a large size trident of Lord Shiva which is deeply buried with upper end visible. Legends say that Lord Shiva had killed Sudhant demon with this trident. After main Pooja in Lord SHIVA Temple people take bath in nearby ” PAPNASHNI BOWLI” which is known to remove the bad effects of wordly sins. At Sudhmahadev there is another grand old temple of DEVI MAL constructed by RAJA of Chenani. In the afternoon of second day the great rush of pilgrims turn towards Mantalai-which is 8 Kilometers from Sudhmahadev.
Mantalai is believed to be the Kingdom of Raja Himachal father of Goddess Parvati. Here at Mantalai, the Marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati took place. The Hawan Kund has now turned into a big Pond, nearby the old historic temple at Mantalai. People in thousands take holy bath and worship in this temple. Mantalai is also known for the APARNA ASHRAM of late Swami Dharindra Brahamchari Ji, who raised multi-million infrastructure in the shape of Hostels , Hotels, helipad, gardens, Yoga research lab, Gau-Shalas, wide roads, swimming pools and Cinema Halls etc..However, the Ashram has now turned into ruins and there is no further signs of development at this place. The last day of Mela marks a big wrestling competition at Sudhmahadev with the participation of reputed wrestlers.
Inspite of the tremendous religious and historical importance of this place, the successive state Governments could not raise the required level of infrastructure for the yatris even at Sudhmahadev and Mantalai. Moreover, no publicity is being done through electronic and print media by Tourism and information Departments to bring this place on the tourism map of India. Also, the archaeological sites at Mantalai and Sudhmahadev need proper attention for research and preservation.
This Mela provides opportunity to be a part of great cultural and religious event. It is believed that Lord Shiva will shower his blessings on the pilgrims who visit this place with sense of devotion and faith.
(The author is retired Zonal Education Officer,Chenani)
Rajinder Chand Anthal