Sudhmahadev pilgrimage

Rajinder Chand Anthal
Sudhmahadev is an evergreen valley in the lap of Dhar Shivgarh at a distance of 116 Kms from Jammu. It has remained a famous destination for spiritual attainment through the ages. Mainly known for the glories of Lord Shiva, Sudhmahadev is also rapidly developing as a famous tourist resort due to mesmerising valleys, deodar forests, cold water springs, magical rivulets and paddy fields. It is in this area that Holy Devika rivulet appeared on earth for the purification of human body and soul. In the Hindu religious books Devika has been described as elder sister of Holy Ganga River.
The Sudhmahadev -Mantalai region has a large number of ancient temples and shrines associated with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The Chandervanshi kings of erstwhile Chenani State raised infrastructure and provided connectivity to develop religious pilgrimage destinations in this area. Ancient temples were renovated and land grants were released to important temples like Gouri Kund, Gau-Karan, Budhi-Sudhi, Haridwar, Benisang, Mandir-Dushalla, Mantalai, Sudhmahadev, etc. From the earlier times Sudhmahadev has remained an epicentre for celebration of cultural, social, and religious events like fairs, festivals, kudds and jattars, etc. People of all religions take part in these celebrations with full zeal and jubilation.
SudhmahadevMela 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 16 to 18 June at various locations as per the centuries old practice.
On the first day of the Mela, the devotees of Lord Shiva reach Gouri Kund in the evening in great numbers. They take holy bath in Milky Water Tank called Gouri-Kund and offer prayer in the adjoining temple of Goddess Parvati. Legends say that Goddess Parvati worshipped inside a cave at this place for thousands of years to get married to Lord Shiva. The pilgrims enjoy the scenic beauty of this place amid cluster of long and shady trees. They feel the pleasure of enchanting cool breeze coming across sacred rivulet flowing nearby. All along the way to Gouri Kund the locals establish stalls of eatables and other items on both the sides of footpath. Free langer is also served at this place. Inside the Temple Complex there is one mysterious cave. It is said that Sadhus used to visit the Shrine of Shri Amar Nath Ji in Kashmir by this cave. Now this cave is closed at the entry point due to security concerns of pilgrims.
After holy bath at Gouri Kund the pilgrims proceed towards Sudh Mahadev throughout the night mostly on foot, chanting slogans like Har- Har Mahadev and singing local Dogrifolk songs. In this way thousands of people gather at Sudhmahadev on the first night of the Mela. They take shelter in Temple Complex and on roof tops of local households. The villagers sitting on roof tops play flute and sing Dogri songs throughout the night with fingers in their ears. There is great rush of people in the streets of Sudh Mahadevi and this small town remains alive during all Mela days and nights. The villagers come down from the hills in colourful dress. They purchase sweets, bangles, and other items from shopkeepers mainly from Jammu and Pathankot. 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 by the government for such a great sea of devotees.
Second day of the Mela is very important as people wait for this day for one year to take a Holy Bath in sacred Devika Rivulet. This is the main religious activity of the Mela. People wake up early in the morning at about 4 o’clock and rush towards the sacred waterfall called “NADA” for HOLY BATH. This is the special occasion to have bath at this place on ‘PURNIMA’ for spiritual attainment.
After holy bath at Nada the pilgrims reach back Sudhmahadev in early hours of morning for main Pooja and Darshan of Lord Shiva in Shri 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 the temple there is old “Haweli” of Raja of Chenani. Once Summer Headquarter of Royal Family, now this Haweli has been donated to the temple for public cause. In the main courtyard of temple, there are many Samadhis of priests of temple called ‘NATH’. Some of them have taken alive ‘Samadhi’. The trident of Lord Shiva broken into three parts is deeply buried in the temple compound. It is believed that Lord Shiva killed a local demon called ‘Sudhant’ by throwing the trident from Kailash. Sudhant was also a devotee of Lord SHIVA but he used to create obstacles in the pooja of Goddess Parvati at Gourikund, so his end came at the hand of Lord Shiva for ‘Mukti’ of his soul.
It is believed that the 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 the main temple there is the beautiful temple of Guru Gorakh Nath Ji to visit and worship. The black stone idol of Bharo Nath just adjacent to trident of Lord Shiva is next to worship. In the main temple complex there is a live miracle of continuously burning DHUNI for thousands of years. Huge logs of wood are burnt daily in this DHUNI and no ash is taken out. Surprisingly the level of ash remains same. Main Pooja is held in ShoolPanishwar Temple at Sudhmahadev. After the Pooja the public have the darshan of Nandi and SHIV RUDRI. This 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 PAPNASHNI spring. It is believed that SudhmahadevYatra will remain incomplete without Holy bath in PAPNASHNI which removes all worldly sins from the human body.
The ancient temple of Mall Devi near bus stand Sudhmahadev is the next place to visit by the pilgrims on the second day of the Mela. This temple was constructed by Raja Gajender Chand of Chenani on the pattern of Sukrala Mata Temple of Billawar. In addition there is Somnath, Pandav Ser and Sat Nand to be visited during the Mela Days.
Mantalai is the final destination of the Yatra. Legends say that Mantalai was the kingdom of the great empire of Raja Himachal. His daughter Parvati worshipped at Gourikund for thousands of years to get married with Lord Shiva. It is believed that the water ‘Talab’ at Mantalai was the Hawan Kund during the marriage of Lord Shiva. It is no less than a miracle that water of the Talab never overflows even during month long rains. The old temple of Goddess Parvati near the Sacred Talab is the main Tirth to visit for worship and Holy bath during Mela days.
On the last day of the Mela a wrestling match is held in the ‘Chogan’ of Sudhmahadev with participation of reputed wrestlers.
The road connectivity uptoSudhmahadev is good enough and most of the temples are under the management of J&K Dharamarth Trust.
SudhmahadevMela is said to be the oldest Melaof J&K State. It keeps alive great cultural and religious heritage of this region. It provides a platform for the celebration, expression and interaction of different rituals and social traditions of this area for their exchange, continuity and enrichment. Keeping in view the increasing number of pilgrims year after year, the Government is requested to sanction special funds for construction of shelter sheds, toilets, bathrooms and parking facility at Sudhmahadev for smooth conduct of Mela. It is believed that Sudhmahadev/Mantalai is the land of in-laws of Lord Shiva, so the Supreme God will bless every devotee with prosperity after successful conduct of Yatra.
(The author is former Zonal Education Officer Chenani)