Sudhmahadev Mela: JUNE 23-JUNE 25
Rajinder Chand Anthal
Sudhmahadev is a small town in the foothills of Dhar Shivgarh at a distance of 116 kilometres from Jammu. It is the most favourite destination of the devotees of LORD SHIVA as Holy Devika rivulet originates at this place as ‘AVTAR’ of Goddess Parvati to wash the sins of humanity. The vast area from Gauri-Kund to Mantalai is filled with glories of Lord Shiva and has remained favourite place for DEV RISHIS of the past for spiritual attainment. In the religious books Holy Devika is described as elder sister of ‘GANGA JI’ and it is said that whenever ‘GANGA’ becomes overloaded with sins of humanity, she comes to Sudhmahadev to take Holy Bath in Devika for purification. So in religious circles, Holy Devika is regarded with the highest esteem.
Sudhmahadev Mela is one of the oldest Melas of Jammu Province in the chain of year long cultural events like fairs, festivals, kudds and jattars in Chenani. This year the mela will be held from 23 June to 25 June.
On the 1st day of the Mela, the devotees of Lord Shiva start reaching Gouri-Kund in large numbers in the afternoon. Gouri-Kund is a serene valley at a distance of twenty kilometres from Chenani. It is believed that Goddess PARVATI worshipped at this place in a small cave to get married with Lord Shiva. She used to take bath in nearby Holy water tank called GOURI-KUND. Entire hilly region surrounding Gouri-Kund has less vegetation but surprisingly the small extension of hill holding this TIRTHA is densely covered with rare species of plants having peculiar properties to remain evergreen throughout the year. It is said that Ashok Tree and many other herbs and medicinal plants usually are not found in Northern India are found here. The cutting of trees is prohibited in this protected area, considered to be the ‘VATICA’ of Goddess Parvati.
Second day of the Mela is the main day for Holy Bath. It is said that Holy Bath at ‘NADDA’ in the early hours of morning on this day of ‘PURNIMA’ will wash away all the sins from human body. Legends say that ‘DEVTAS’ from Heaven also appear at this place for taking first dip of Holy Bath on this day. Locally called ‘NADDA’ the sacred waterfall is a place about 3 kms. away from Sudhmahadev toward hill side from where Holy Devika appears on this earth.
After holy bath the pilgrims turn towards Sudhmahadev for darshan of Lord Shiva in Shool Panishwar Shiv Ji Maharaj Temple. The main temple is built on a raised platform. Entry point is called DEODI. In the front portion of this temple there is a Haweli of Raja of Chenani now donated for public cause. In the temple complex, there are Samadhis of NATH priests of the temple. The trident of Lord Shiva broken into three pieces is buried deep in front of main temple. Legends say that Lord Shiva had thrown this trident from Kailash to kill a local demon called Sudhant, who was causing obstacles in the worship of Goddess Parvati. It is believed that this most sacred idol of SHIV-PARVATI was discovered by a farmer while ploughing his field at some distance from the present temple and that place is known as Ambunij tirath.
In front of main temple complex there is temple of Guru Gorakh Nath Ji to visit and worship. The black stone idol of Bharo Nath just adjacent to exit gate is next to worship. In the temple complex, the continuously burning DHUNI from thousands of years remains main source of attraction for the pilgrims where huge logs of wood are burnt daily but no ash is taken out. It is indeed a miracle. Main pooja is held in Shool Panishwar Shiv Ji temple at Sudhmahadev. After the pooja the public have the darshan of Nandi and Shiv Rudri. SHIV RUDRI is precious jewel which emits wonderful rays of light. It is said that it was stolen many times but each time it reached back in the temple due to some miracle of Lord Shiva. Thereafter the pilgrims proceed towards PAPNASHINI Spring. It is said that all the worldly sins disappear after a bath in this cold water spring. The pilgrims visiting Sudhmahadev during Mela, especially newlyweds perform Mitri with other unknown fellow pilgrims by exchanging sweets after Holy Bath in PapNashni Bowli. The people of all walks of life follow this practice and maintain the relation of Mitri like real brothers and sisters during their life time. There is one ancient temple of MALL DEVI adjacent to main bus stand Sudhmahadev constructed by Raja Gajender Chand of Chenani on the pattern of Sukrala Mata Temple. In addition there is Som Tirath, Pandav Ser and SAT-NADA to be visited for prayers on the same day.
Mantalai is the last destination of Sudhmahadev Mela. The pilgrims in large numbers take bath in Holy Water Tank at Mantalai and offer prayer in Goddess Parvati Temple. It is believed that this ‘TALAB’ was HAWAN KUND during the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Due to blessings of Lord Shiva, the water of this tank never overflows. If it overflows it points towards a disaster. The temple of Goddess Parvati is built on a raised platform. On the top of the temple there is ‘KALASH’ as usual with a small Trident. It is a small but beautiful Temple and the sacred pond touches its one side. Inside the Temple a black stone AAP SHAMBOO idol of Goddess Parvati is installed and another idol of Shiv-Parvati is installed near it at some later stage. On the entrance gate there is small idol of Lord GANESH. In the Temple complex there are weighing stones called ‘SAIR’ by locals. The Ration was issued to the Baratis of Lord Shiva using theses SAIR weight stone. Outside the door there are idols of HANUMAN and BHAIROO NATH. Usually there is one Nandi in each temple but Mantalai temple has two NANDIS, one small and one large. In the upper reaches of Mantalai there is ancient temple of NAINA DEVI built by some earlier kings of Chenani state. In the nearby Temple area, there are some unexplored Archaeological sites at Mantalai. During digging the clay pots of different size appear here from the centuries. The process is still on. The Government should depute expert team to study these sites. In the main ground of Mantalai near Aparna Ashram, there is temple of BABA ‘BHARDWAR’, the KUL DEVTA of Chenani kings. The pilgrims worship in both these temples after Holy bath at Mantalai and enjoy cool heart pleasing winds of nearby deodar trees.
Swami Dharendra Brahmachari built large scale Yoga related infrastructure at Mantalai in seventies. He had a dream to promote Mantalai as Mini-Singapore and international Yoga Health Care Centre. Due to his sudden death all his projects were halted. Successive Governments ignored Mantalai due to political considerations and a fully developed township with modern facilities of Yoga Research was allowed to turn into ruins. Present Govt. has sanctioned funds for Yoga related developments at Mantalai, but what is being constructed is not fully known. The infrastructure of Aparna Ashram has been ignored in present construction. It is requested that a sign board be installed to show the details of under construction project at Mantalai.
Government is requested to renovate all building infrastructure of Aparna Ashram Mantalai to put it into effective use. Moreover a museum of leftover items of Swami Dharendra Brahmachari be established at Mantalai for tourists, besides the title and status of upcoming works be made public whether it is Yoga university or anything else. On the third day of the Mela, a grand DANGAL is held in the Choughan of Sudhmahadev with participation of reputed wrestlers from J&K and Punjab.
The Govt. should recognise the religious and tourism related importance of Sudhmahadev and Mantalai. It is requested that this religious circuit be developed, promoted and managed on the lines of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Katra. This mela reflects great cultural heritage of this land. So it is believed that whosoever comes in this mela with devotion will get blessings of Lord Shiva for welfare of mankind and prosperity.
(The author is former Zonal Education Officer, Chenani)