The Moungri Mela

Ashok Sharma
One of the famous Melas of Udhampur District, which attracts thousands of visitors from within and outside the UT is the Moungri Mela. This 3-Day famous Mela also known as Shiv-Parvati Mela, is organised with great 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.
This place is 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.The Mela site is ideally located in the midst of tall mountains endowed with matchless and pristine beauty. As ‘Sar’ means a ‘lake’ such as ‘Surinsar, Mansar, Dalsar etc., it is believed that this place was once a lake the water of which water was drained leaving behind the vast stretch of plain land (Dabbar) .A large no of people from Moungri,Panchari,Udhampur and other regions of our state and outside throng Sar Dabbar during the Mela days to pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and other deities in the natural caves having a naturally formed nine and a half feet Lingam guarded by Sheshnag and stone besides,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 revered 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 folk dances such as kud,geetru,bhakhan etc. and leave the visitors mesmerised and spell bound.The local people, attired in colourful traditional Dogra dresses and leaving behind their household chores,some of them carrying their kids on the shoulders,can be seen trekking for miles in groups on the uneven paths between the hills and stream 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 governments. 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 (22nd Bamhag Kesri Vishal Dangal will be organised on May 14,2022 at 2 pm by J&K Indian Style Wrestling Association, in collaboration with J& K Police,J&K Tourism and J& K Bank.It is the star attraction of the Mela and a large number of famous wrestlers from within and outside the UT take part in the Dangal and show their wrestling skills 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 and 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.According to Swatanter Dev Kotwal,who is the Chairman of Lord Shiva-Parvati Caves (Moungri) Shrine Development Board,this year,the Mela, will be organised from the 14th of May to the 16th of May.As this Mela could not be organised successively for two years due to Covid19 restrictions,people are excited to take part in it this year.People should also visit these caves and have the blessings of the Deities on one hand and explore the pristine and breathtaking beauty of Nature at its best.
There is no doubt that this Mela helps 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, which is the hallmark of our composite culture.So,everybody must take some time off from their fast and mechanical life and participate in such Melas to have a glimpse of our rich culture and heritage from close quarters. At the same time,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 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 scintillating heat of the plains and cities.
Swatantar Dev Kotwal pleads for development of Moungri as a tourist and religious spot as thousands of devotees visit this cave every year during the Mela and the number of visitors have surged over the last few years.He demands construction of shelters at the Mela site to protect the people from rain and heat .He also demands 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 Tourism Department to boost tourism in this region. He demands construction of tourist huts and inns near Sardabbar Kalsote so that the tourists can have a nice and memorable stay there.He also demands upgradation of the path with fencing from the Mela site to the holy caves and development of a park at the Mela site.According to him, adventure tourism and rural tourism have a vast potential in this region and ‘Home stay ‘ conept should be introduced on the lines of Panchari belt.Trekking activities are organised by Tawi Trekkers,Jammu from Moungri to Mantalai via Sankri and Nathatop.Such activities need to be boosted by the concerned Departments.He highlighted the need of developing view points at Kainthgali,Panjar and other places to enable the tourists to have a breathtaking view of the lofty mountains,misty in monsoon and snowcapped in winter.Mr Kotwal also demanded the establishment of a permanent Wrestling Akhara with adequate 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.
The prominent people of the region say that as the cave is located at the confluence of two streams,waterfalls, an 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, there is need to organise awareness camps 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.They also urged the Union and the UT government to provide liberal funds for the development of this region which has huge tourist potential and religious importance.