The Moungri Mela

Ashok Sharma
Jammu & Kashmir, is known for various fairs and melas such as Jhiri Mela, Bahu Mela, Hemis Gompa Mela, Bhaderwah Mela, Baisakhi Mela etc. which attract thousands of people and bear testimony to the priceless and multifaceted cultural heritage passed on to us by our wise forefathers.
So far the Duggar region is concerned,fairs and melas have been organised in Duggar region since ancient times, which add colour and vibrancy to our everyday mundane life. One of the famous Melas of Udhampur, which attracts thousands of visitors from within and outside the state is the Moungri Mela. This 3-day famous Mela is organised with religious fervour and gaiety every year on the eve of first Jyeshth and lasts till the 3rd Jyeshth,which generally falls in May-June,at Sar Dabbar at a distance of 51 Kilometers from Udhampur,nestled in the pictursque and salubrious environs in the lap of nature at the confluence of two streams in block and tehsil Moungri in District Udhampur in the midst of tall mountains endowed with matchless and pristine beauty .

May 14-May 16

‘Sar’ means ‘a lake’ such as’Surinsar,Mansar,Dalsar etc.It is believed that this place was once a lake the water of which was drained leaving the vast stretch of land (Dabbar) behind.A large no of people from Moungri,Panchari,Udhampur and other regions of our state and outside throng Sar Dabbar during the Mela to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and other deities in the natural caves having a naturally formed nine and a half ft.Lingam guarded by Sheshnag and stone manifestations of Damru, Nandi and countless other deities worth seeing at the site of the Mela in Moungri which is also the abode of widely reverred Kansar Devta. The Mela organised under the overall control of Mela Officer,attracts a large number of local artists and cultural troupes from other parts of the state, who play melodious tunes on their flutes, present folk songs and dances such as kud,geetru,bhakhan etc. and leave the visitors mesmerised and spell bound.The local people, wearing colourful Dogra attire, and leaving behind their household chores,can be seen trekking in groups to the mela site.It appears as if one has come into another world of colours and joy.
Various Government departments also put up their stalls to aware the people about welfare and people friendly schemes launched by the Central and the State government. Sports such as Kabaddi, tug of war,stone lifting and other fun filled activities are also organised with the active participation of the Department of Youth Services and Sports in collaboration with other departments. An Indian style wrestling match (Dangal ), arranged under the patronage of Shiv Kumar Sharma, President J&K Indian Style Wrestling Association, generally on the second or the concluding day of the Mela, is the star attraction of the Mela.
A large number of famous wrestlers from within and outside the state take part in the Dangal to prove their mettle at the Dangal, which is witnessed by a large number of people.Shopkeepers set up temporary shops of sweets,bangles, toys, food items etc and have a brisk business.District Administration Udhampur plays an important role in the successful organisation of this Mela. Besides providing other facilities,the District administration arranges additional buses to the Mela site to cater to the demand of heavy rush of people for the Mela.The District administration also makes elaborate arrangements of drinking water, security, power, sanitation, control on rates of various items etc to ensure that people donot face any problem at the Mela.A free langar is also organised for the devotees during the Mela.This year,the Mela is being organised from 14th May to 16 th May and the Dangal will be organised on 16th May,2017.The District administration,Udhampur and The Lord Shiva-Parvati Caves Shrine(Moungri) Development Board have made an earnest appeal to the people of the state in general and Udhampur district in particular to visit the caves and have the blessings of the Deities on one hand and explore the pristine beauty of Nature at its best.
Thus,this Mela serves to fulfil the social,economic and religious needs of the people of Moungri,Panchari and other regions of our state. Like other fairs, this Mela also serves the twin purpose of preservation and transmission of our rich cultural heritage to the posterity on the one hand and provision of platform to the people and artists to come together,foster close interpersonal bonds and present an excellent example of communal harmony and unity in diversity.So,everybody must take some time off from our fast and mechanical life and take part in such Melas to have a glimpse of our rich culture and heritage from close quarters. It is important that sincere efforts are made to provide facilities such as upgradation of roads,provision of regular power/water,toilet facilities,construction of bathing ghats,development of recreational parks etc.to this scenic spot having religious importance .Moreover,this site needs to be promoted as a rural tourist spot to attract more tourists,especially in the summer season when the pollution free atmosphere and salubrious climate of Panchari and Moungri provides a much needed relief and pleasant escape from the scorching heat of the plains and cities.
Advocate Swatantar Dev Kotwal,who is the Chairman of Lord Shiva-Pavati Caves Shrine (Moungri)Development Board and who played a significant role in discovering this cave first on September 14,1998 ,said that Moungri needs to be developed as tourist and religious spot as more than 50000 devotees visit this cave every year during the Mela and the number of visitors is surgng every year.He demanded construction of shelters at the Mela site to protect the people from rain and heat .He also demanded that Department of Tourism should take steps to promote this region as a tourist spot and include this Mela in the Annual calender of activities undertaken by the Department to boost tourism in this region.
He said that tourist huts and inns need to be constructed so that the tourists can have a nice and memorable stay there.He also demanded upgradation of the path with fencing from the Mela site to the holy caves and development of a park at the Mela site.He said that adventure tourism has a vast potential in Moungri and Panchari and aleady trekking activities are organised by Tawi Trekkers,Jammu from Moungri to Mantalai via Sankri and Nathatop.He highlighted the need of developing view points at Kainthgali,Panjar and other places to enable the tourists to have a breathtaking view of lofty mountains,misty in monsoon and snowcapped in winter.Mr Kotwal also demanded the establishment of a permanent Wrestling Akhara with suitable infrastructure to explore and tap huge wrestling talent and skill in the region as the sport of wrestling is highly popular in Panchari-Moungari region.
Hans Raj Thakur,President of the Board said that as the cave is located at the confluence of two streams,waterfalls and artificial lake should be developed to attract the visitors throughout the year. In view of the cool climate of this region almost like that of Kashmir Valley,trees such as Chinar,Deodar etc should also be planted in large numbers along the road and in the whole of Moungri and Panchari belt to give a boost to the local tourism and economy.Moreover this region has a vast potential for floriculture and horticulture sectors .Therefore awareness camps need to be organised for the local farmers to aware them about the latest schemes related to floriculture and horticulture and motivate them to adopt these sectors to add to their income.
Mr. Kotwal and Mr Thakur appreciated the District administration, Udhampur for extending all cooperation for the successful organisation of Moungri Mela every year.They also urged the Union and the State government to provide liberal funds for the development of this region which has huge tourist potential and religious importance. People ought to take some time off their hectic and mechanical life to participate,alongwith their children,in the Moungri Mela to have blessings of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and other deities as also to expose their children to rural life and watch our rich cultural heritage from close quarters and enjoy the natural environs and matchless beauty of Moungri and Panchari and make it a memorable experience of their life.
(The writer is serving as lecturer in English English, in Govt.Hr.Sec, School (Boys) Udhampur)

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