Laden with immense beauty and high spirituality, Jammu and Kashmir is truly a paradise for the pilgrims and abode to the Gods and Goddesses worshipped in the shrines, caves or hill spots.
These holy symbols have left profound impact of spiritual exaltation on the minds of pilgrims who stride through an exceedingly and enthralling routes to meet their shinning glory and divinity. It is only due to their supreme sacredness and reverence, that sages and rishis have fostered their spiritual pursuits there. Much more is the people’s devotion and firm faith towards them which makes them organize fairs or festivals to keep alive their pious glory and to attract lakhs of tourists.
Melas at religious places serve the purpose of breaking the monotony in life and bring all people under one ambit irrespective of their caste, creed and religion. People of different communities interact with one another and strengthen the bond of brotherhood and amity. They are also great samples of the rich cultural diversity and deep rooted traditional value system of the region. The religious fairs in our State are organized with great festive fervour.
Shiv Khori fair is locally called Maha Shivratri mela. The solemn event is notable for focus, fasting, social harmony, tantric worship etc.
On this occasion one witnesses huge congregations from various parts of the state. As one reaches at main location of shivling, the scene is tinged with awe and veneration and for which a spiritual feeling is developed on looking over the sanctum sanctosum. Pilgrims are also found there performing mediation or yogic exercises. On one side two more caves are seen with rocky designs and natural signs. No one dares to enter into them. It is said that Maa Parvati passed through one of the two towards surg lok (heaven) and other is linked with the holy devtas.
Usually, Maha Shivratri mela at Shiv Khori is held in the month of February or March and in this year, the revered function is being organized from 23rd to 25th February. The locals and pilgrims feel a sense of pride and high spirituality while participating in such events along with their family members and relatives.
The Mela begins with Shiv Parvati Jhanki traditionally known as Shiv Barat taken out from Ransoo Bazar and culminates at Shiv darbar at the entrance of cave. The Jhanki appears very sacred and devotional for visitors. The local participants accompanying the baraat appear in unique dress. Musical instruments like Band baja becomes other sign of attraction when some followers dance to the tune of musical instruments. The whole journey appears pleasing to the pilgrims accompanying Shiv Baraat.
The Jhanki is decorated in a traditional way that appears more appealing to the pilgrims. Sounds of the bhajans (devotional songs) on the way touches heart having very soothing taste which gives spiritual bondage and relaxation to mind. The moment creates such a scene for the strangers who vow to visit there again. The three day festival is celebrated like marriage anniversary of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati.
The main function is held at Ransoo, base camp of Shiv Khori. From this place to the main cave one has to go 3.5 km on foot. Besides, the service of pony and palky can also be hired. Heavy rush is seen on the track during three days festival. Over 13 lakhs yatra has been recorded by the board in previous year.
Whole bazaar at Ransoo and track towards cave is decorated well in advance to welcome and give pleasant experience to the pilgrims apart from routine sanitation and cleanliness being maintained with the assistance of numerous workers. Parsad shops and eatable points remain open and food items are sold on very genuine rates. The civil and police authorities work together to assist the tourists at every locations. Different types of committees also work in close coordination for smooth organization of the festival. Sounds of sacred mantras “Om Namo Shivaya”, Har Har Bole”, Jai Bole” etc are recited by pilgrims.
From Ransoo to main cave, visitors indeed view natural and unusual scenes appearing very rare of their kind. First is the Dhood Ganga, a water stream originating from place just below the main cave. While moving towards cave one has to cross the stream many time whose confinement within a beds and banks exult the strangers. More rejoicing and eye catching is the beauty of forest cover elevating upwards from both side of flowing stream. Much more is the scenic view of the small mountains at upper reaches guarding the track and cave like a wall. Besides, temples of Gods or Goddesses at different locations also fill our heart with divinity and holy taste.
Inside the cave the pilgrims enjoy very different experience. The journey inside the cave begins as well as ends in open space. Soon after entering the cave, pigeons are seen. At a short distance on the right side, darshan of Maa Parvati Rasoi (kitchen) takes one to very old time. After this, whole journey is adventurous as one has to pass through very narrow passage. Initially we a have to walk straight then move down and again walk upwards just like our travelling from Katali, location of Kalika Mandir to Ranoo and then to cave. New cave which was drilled some time back is very comfortable to enter and return for all types of pilgrims.
On this occasion, a the cultural programme of devotional songs is organized by Tourism and Information Departments which adds more elegance and grace to the fair. It is usually organized at Base camp of the Shrine. The passersby and visitors cannot avoid sitting in this programme. Usually, artists are called from Jammu but local artists of the area are also invited to present their songs and dance items. All this enthralls the audience and adds to the vibrancy and colorfulness of the atmosphere.
On the last day, a wrestling competition (dangal) is organized in which wrestlers from within or outside state take part. The locals and tourists enjoy the competition. The traditional dangal marks the successful completion of the festival.
To reach Shiv Khori, there are two roots; one is from Jammu to Ransoo via Akhnoor and other is via Katra. The distance between Jammu and holy shrine is approximately 140 km and from Katra is only 80 km. Apart from taxies and mini-bus service, online booking facility is also available for Shiv Khori. Both the roots are comfortable. Visiting Shiv Khori Mela gives a pleasant and memorable experience to the visitors. The beauty of the villages adjoining the shrine, is beyond appreciation. A board has also been constituted for the overall management and further development of the Shrine. Many development initiatives have been taken for the tourists. Recently, an agreement has also been signed between Shri Shiv Khori Shrine Board (SSKSB) and TV channel MH1 to telecast live aarti.