The Moungri Mela

Ashok Sharma
Fairs and Melas are an integral part of Indian socio cultural and religious life.In India we have famous Melas such as Mahakumbh Mela,Pushkar Mela etc.which attract millions of tourists,traders and devotees from across the globe.Our state is also known for various fairs and melas such as Jhiri Mela,Bahu Mela,Hemis Gompa Mela,Bhaderwah Mela etc.which bears testimony to the priceless cultural heritage of our state, which has been bequethed to us by our wise forefathers.
Since ancient times,fairs and melas have been organised in Duggar which add colour and vibrancy to our life.Besides having social signigicance,these fairs and melas  have religious and economic importance and serve to break the monotony in life and bring all the people belonging to different communities and religions together and thus,foster bonds of brotherhood and amity. They also provide opportunity to the traders to sell their goods and earn their living.Through these fairs,the artisans and craftsmen are also provided an opportunity to display and sell their articles of art and craft, tools and implements and thus,exhibit their skill.These melas also serve as a platform for the old and budding artists to come together and transmit our cultural heritage such as bhakhan, baaran, geetru, folksongs etc to the coming generations. These melas also help to showcase the rich culture of the Dogras at the national and international level through folk dances such as Kud, Fumnian, Gagail, etc. It is a feast to our eyes and ears to watch the rich Dogra art and culture live in these Melas Though the whole Duggar region is known for various fairs and Melas, perhaps nowhere in our state,as many melas and fairs are organised as in different parts of Udhampur district.In Udhampur District,we have Baisakhi Mela at Udhampur,Ramnagar and Barmeen,Sankri Mela in Panchari, Sudhmahadev Mela at Sudhmahadev etc. Which attract people from far and wide.
One of the famous Melas of Udhampur,which attracts thousands of visitors from within and outside the state is Moungri Mela.The 3-Day historic Moungri 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 picturesqe 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 beauty .’Sar’ means a lake such as’Surinsar,Mansar,Dalsar etc.It is believed that this area 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 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 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 present folk songs and dances such as kud,geetru,bhakhan etc. and leave the visitors enthralled and spell bound.Various Government departments also set up their stalls to aware the people about welfare and people friendly schemes initiated by the Government.Sports such as Kabaddi,tug of war,stone lifing and other fun filled activities are also organised with active participation of the Department of Youth Services and Sports.An Indian style wrestling match ( dangal )is arranged under the patronage of Shiv Kumar Sharma, President J&K Indian Style Wrestling Association,generally on the second or the third day of the Mela,in which famous wrestlers from within the state and outside take part to test their mettle.Besides providing other facilities,the District administration arranges additional buses to cater to the demand of heavy rush for the Mela.The District administration also makes elaborate arrangements of water,security,power, sanitation, control on rates of various items etc for the successful organisation of 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 15th May,2016.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 need of the people of Moungri, Panchari and other regions of our state.  Like other fairs and melas,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,we 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. They also help to improve the economy of the region.Thus, 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 these scenic spots having religious importance .Moreover,these sites need to be promoted as rural tourist spots to attract more tourists,especially in the summer season when the salubrious climate of Panchari and Moungri provides as a much needed relief and pleasant escape from the scintillating heat of the plains and cities.Advocate Swatantar Dev Kotwal,who is the Chairman of Lord Shiva-Pavati Caves Shrine (Moungri)Development Board ,who played significant role in discovering the cave first on September 14,1998 ,said that Moungri needs to be developed as tourist  and religious spot as about 50000 devotees visit this cave every year during the Mela and the no is  surging every year.Tourist huts and inns need to be constructed so that the tourists can have a nice and memorable stay there. 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. Hans Raj Thakur, President of the said 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 tehsil to give a boost to the local tourism and economy.Moreover the area has a vast potential for boosting the floriculture sector as in Kashmir. Mr.Kotwal and Mr Thakur appreciated the District administration,Udhampur for extending all cooperation for the successful organisation of Moungri Mela.
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.Let us take sometime off our busy schedule off our hectic and mechanical life to participate in the Moungri Mela to have blessings of Lord Shiva and other deities as also to have a glimpse of rural life and our rich cultural heritage from close quarters and enjoy unparalled beauty of Moungri and Panchari.