Rajinder Chand Anthal
From ancient times Dev Bhumi Sudhmahadev has remained a prime destination of religious pilgrimage for the devotees of Lord Shiva. Shri Shool Panishwar Shiv Ji Maharaj Temple Sudhmahadev is the epicentre of spiritual attainments connected with the glories of Lord SHIVA. Sudhmahadev is situated at a distance of 112 kilometres from Jammu, well connected by all-weather pacca road. It is the most sacred place on earth where Goddess PARVATI appeared as AVTAR of Holy Devika in the solitary hills of Dhar Shivgarh. It is said that all the Shiv Temples situated on the banks of Holy Devika like Sudhmahadev,
(June 13- June 15)
Udhampur, Purmandal and Uttervehni are most favourite to Lord Shiva because Goddess Parvati flows near them as Holy Devika to wash the sins of mankind. In the olden days all the important temples of Sudhmahadev Panjtirthi circuit like Mandir-Dushala, Benisangam, Haridwar, Gou-Karan, Gouri-Kund, Budhi-Sudhi, Sudhmahadev and Mantalai were visited on foot like a Yatra by the pilgrims, but now due to lack of awareness the pilgrims take the shortest motorable route to Gouri-Kund, Sudhmahadev, and Mantalai only. For the maintenance of all these temples, the kings of Chenani have donated large landed estates.
Sudhmahadev Mela is one of the most important three days long religious event of this area with participation of public from entire Jammu Province. This year the Mela will be held from 13th of June to 15th of June 2022 at various locations as per past practice.
On the 1st day of the Mela the devotees of Lord Shiva reach Gauri-Kund in the evening in great number. They take bath in Holy water of sacred water tank called Gauri-kund and offer prayer in the nearby temple of Goddess Parvati. Legends say that Goddess Parvati worshipped at this place for thousands of years inside a cave to get married with Lord Shiva. The pilgrims enjoy the scenic beauty of this place and feel the enchanting cool breeze coming across sacred rivulet flowing nearby. Throughout the way to Gauri-kund the locals establish stalls of eatables and other items. Free langer is also provided at this place. After holy bath and prayer at Gauri-kund the pilgrims march towards Sudhmahadev throughout the night mostly on foot singing local folk songs and chanting slogans like Har-Har-Mahadev. Groups of people from Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Ramban, Latti, Ramnagar, Udhampur, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab assemble at Sudhmahadev in large number on the first night of the mela and take shelter in temple complex halls, private hotels, and local houses, etc. The villagers are seen sitting on the rooftops playing flute and singing dogri folk songs. There is great rush in the streets of Sudhmahadev and this small town remains alive during all mela days and nights. The villagers, ladies and outsiders make purchase of sweets, bangles and other items from shopkeepers. The majority of the yatris have to pass the night under open sky at the mercy of God as no shelter sheds, toilets and separate bathrooms have been constructed at Sudhmahadev by the Government.
Second day of the Mela is known for Maha-Mahatam of Holy bath in a sacred waterfall called Nada. This is the place where Holy Devika appears on earth. The Nada is at a distance of two kilometres from Sudhmahadev just above Gou-Karan tiratha. This is the special occasion to have bath at this place on Purnima for spiritual attainment. The pilgrims have to walk over a kachha pathway of about 2 kms by walking rough terrain to reach this most sacred place. While returning, pilgrims take bath at Gou-karan temple on the same day. There are green mountain slopes on both sides of foot path and medicinal plants like timbroo and local herbs like karsod, etc., grow there in plenty which the pilgrims collect during the return journey. Holy Devika rivulet originating from Nada point flows down to Sudhmahadev alongside the footpath.
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 the main temple complex there is the 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. 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 a 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. There is one ancient temple of Goddess 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 final destination of Yatra. The pilgrims in large number take Holy bath in the Holy water tank and offer prayer in the Temple of Parvati. It is believed that the present Talab was Hawan Kund during the marriage of Lord Shiva. There are ancient archaeological sites at Mantalai and remains of Garh-Barkot Fort in nearby area. Government should hand over these places to Archaeological Survey of India for research and development. Mantalai was brought on tourism map with the efforts of Swami Dharendra Brahamachari and large scale infrastructure was raised there in the shape of an airfield, swimming pools, hotels, hostels, goushala and Yoga Research Centre etc. Now the Govt. of India has initiated renovation of Aparna Ashram Mantalai and work for the establishment of International Yoga Centre is in progress.
Sudhmahadev and Mantalai need immediate attention of the government for promotion of tourism and religious pilgrimage in this area by giving wide publicity and raising the required infrastructure. The much-needed Patnitop to Gaurikund road be completed immediately. Road connectivity be provided to ancient Naina Devi temple to retrace and enjoy charms and religious fragrance of original Yatra route. Large shelter sheds be constructed at Gaurikund, Sudhmahadev, and Mantalai with adequate parking facilities. Sufficient toilets be constructed on permanent basis at all the yatra points. Department of Tourism and J&K Dharamarth Trust should join hands for publicity and better management of this three days long mela.
On the third day of Mela, a grand dangal is held in the Sudhmahadev Choughan with participation of reputed wrestlers from J&K and Punjab. Sudhmahadev Mela concludes in the evening with great joy of religious attainment. It keeps alive great cultural and religious heritage of this region. The devotees return home in joyful atmosphere with sweet memories of the Mela. It is said that whosoever comes with devotion in the Mela gets the blessing of Lord SHIVA for long life, prosperity, and welfare of mankind.
(The author is former Zonal Education Officer)