Rajinder Chand Anthal
The temple of Talad Soo Mata is situated at a distance of five kilometers from Chenani on old Chenani-Sudhmahadev Trade and travel route. After passing through Mandir Dushalla Temple towards Sudhmahadev we enter vast fertile agricultural heartland of erstwhile Chenani state in village Bain. This temple is built in Khanderi habitation of village Bain on the side of a Nallaha. In the olden times Khanderi was a famous destination for ‘BARFI’ sweet made of pure milk. Almost all the residents of Khanderi are Anthal Rajputs. They belong to agricultural class and produce lot of milk daily. There were two shops at Khanderi and these two were famous for quality of milk and typical ‘Barfi’ of Khanderi which is remembered till now. Chenani-Sudhmahadev route was the lifeline of Chanani state during those days and it was busy day and night with travellers. The stone made idol of Talad Soo Mata was initially installed in the right side wall of a beautiful stone made Bowli near the Nallaha. Regarding construction of this Bowli it is believed that Raja Bhag Chand of Chenani who had shifted his capital from Mantalai to Bain may have built this Bowli in about 15th Century AD for the 1st time as he is said to have undertaken major developments in this capital village. The idol in its damaged form has been shifted in a temple constructed by locals and is considered sacred by the public.
This place was famous for the production of ‘TALAD’, an eatable product of roots of a wild plant found in plenty on the side tracks of this Nallaha. This plant root food item is called ‘TALAD’ and ‘SOO’ means a water body. So going by the meaning of this place in Dogri we can say an area filled with Talad plants near a water body. It is not clear why the Goddess was called as ‘Talad Soo’ Mata when actually it is believed to be SHAKTI or Durga. Maybe due to the name of location and its importance this name Talad Soo Mata is given to the Temple deity. The stone made Bowli presents a fine work of stone carving showing various gods on large sized stone walls with water flowing through a lion headed ‘Nadda’. There are long shady trees at this place above the Bowli and the atmosphere is very calm and pious. The travellers relax and enjoy cold breeze at this place in the dense cluster of shady trees during their journey towards Sudhmahadev. The Bowli remains filled with crystal clear water throughout the year.
The inhabitants of Tehsil Chenani and adjoining areas visit this temple regularly with great sense of reverence towards the deity on the occasion of festivals. Some communities from Chenani perform the Mundan ceremony of young children at this place. Only the Mathur Brahmin can be the valid Pujari of this Temple but the Temple is open for Pooja for all communities. Legends say that due to the divine powers and miracle of Talad Soo Mata Chenani state was saved once against the prolonged attack of Sikh forces at the instigation of Raja Suchet Singh of Ramnagar who was the younger brother of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Raja Dayal Chand was the ruler of Chenani at that time. He was a dedicated worshipper of Lord Shiva and Shakti. During his childhood he had stayed at Sudhmahadev for many years. He used to worship Shiv-Parvati daily for hours. So he had gained blessings of Lord Shiva which helped him at this time of most critical period of his life.
By the year 1822 Gulab Singh was made Raja of Jammu and in the next 20 years the rulers of all Jammu Hill States were sacked by him except Chenani. Raja Dayal Chand took these developments seriously and started preparations to strengthening his position. Rajkumar Lakshman Chand of Chenani writes in his unpublished papers that “In about sambat 1900 Raja Suchet Singh of Ramnagar while returning from his visit to Holy Sudhmahadv annexed Marothi, a village on the eastern border of Chenani to the Ramnagar State. Raja Dayal Chand was much enraged at this breach of alliance and resolved to avenge. He ordered that the Hilly Fort of Dhar Shivgarh be kept ready for battle at a moment’s notice. Raja Suchet Singh who had great influence with the Sikh Darbar of the Punjab getting the wind of these preparations called splendidly Sikh Army with the help of Maharaja Gulab Singh his elder brother in order to minimise the state of Chenani. Being a Politician, Maharaja Gulab Singh remained the silent partner and pushed his brother Raja Suchet Singh in front.”
Sikh Army attacked Chenani from the Ramnagar and Jammu side. Looking the at situation Raja Dayal Chand took hilly position to give a better fight to the Sikh Army. He left Chenani his capital and secretly moved his family and treasury to a specially designed Haweli in village Bachhal near Sudhmahadev. Leaving all the women, children, and prominent residents at Bachhal he moved to Dhar Shivgarh Fort during the night with some selected soldiers.
Sikh Army reached Chenani, plundered the town and set Shergarh Palace on fire. On their advance march towards Dhar Shivgarh they camped in village Bain near Talad Soo Mata Bowli. In the evening the Pujari and the locals gathered there for Pooja etc. They were surprised to see Army Camp there. The army men asked local inhabitants about the identity of the idol of Mata which existed on the side wall of the Bowli. Locals told them that this is idol of Talad Soo Mata which is worshipped like Goddess Durga by all of us including the kings and queens. On hearing the reply, some soldiers challenged the sacredness of the idol by saying that they will let you know that it is only a piece of stone and does not possess any divine power. Before the public could judge their evil design, someone from the camp broke the Head of the idol with his sword and also cut the Nada of the Bowli. Everyone was surprised. The sky was clear, suddenly a thunderstorm appeared in the sky and the lightning struck a large stone near the Bowli. The stone got broken into two pieces and a divine made image of Durga Mata appeared on the broken part of the Stone. Soon there appeared large number of snakes, scorpion, wasp, and other poisonous insects of unusual size and shape. Lahore Army was wonder struck and ran for safety towards the Nallaha side. Snakes, scorpions, and other insects followed them from all sides. All the army establishment was caught in surprise and died due to bite of snakes and other insects. It is said that their bodies remained scattered in the Nallaha for days. So this Nallaha is called Sikhon-ka-Nallaha from that time till now. This story of miracle of Talad Soo Mata has passed down from generation to generation and all the residents of the area know and authenticate the miracle. It is said that due to this setback to enemy forces Raja of Chenani got more time to strengthen his position in Dhar Shivgarh Fort. Thus deity Talad Soo Mata is said to have saved Chenani state from well-planned attack of enemy forces.
Mata Talad Soo is worshipped by one and all in the area like Goddess SHAKTI and it is believed that the deity fulfils the wishes of the devotees for their wellness and prosperity.
(The author is Member ARC University of Jammu and former Zonal Education Officer)
Rajinder Chand Anthal