Dr. Narinder Paul
Mahanaal is situated in Kathua district where there is a holy cave associated with Lord Shiva. Inside this old natural holy cave, lord Shiva has revealed itself in the form of a natural sanctorum. The cave is situated in the foothill and beauty of the place is worth mentioning. The unique importance of the cave lies in the fact that it resembles with the Amarnath cave in appearance. The adjoining area of the cave is full of natural beauty and every thing seems to be divine. However, the pilgrim potential of this place has not been explored to the desirable extent.
The cave lies 2 Km from village Jakhole towards its Northern side in Kathua District. One can reach the village Jakhole by covering 15 km distance from the north eastern side of Rajbag (Ujh) which is 18 Km from District headquarters and lies on NH-1A. After crossing Jasrota, Dhanni and Bakhta villages one reaches the village Jakhole after which the road is not motor-able and one has to move on feet for about 2 km distance on the hilly terrain to reach the cave. On the route there are small natural water bodies full of diverse aquatic flora which catches the attention of the passerby.
The opening of the cave has one boully (water body) which has been cemented now. Several small lingums of Shiva are fixed in a circle near the cave. The opening of the cave is narrow through which only one person can enter and perform darshan and pooja of Lord Shiva at a time. There is another cave opposite to the cave of Lord Shiva which has series 9 of temples of Mahaskakti Maa Vaishnavi which has been built later 1985 onwards. A waterfall adjoins both these caves which usually flow during rainy season and falls in a small water pond at the bottom which remains full of water throughout the year. Devotees purify their-selves by sprinkling water from this pond over them before entering the cave.
There are many locally available legends which explain the origin of the place. One local legend is that once upon a time, a sage used to pray hard for lord Shiva at this place. He had strictly prohibited the villagers to visit the place as he was doing very crucial and secret prayer devoted to Lord Shiva. No villager went there for years. However, people used to often discuss that a saint is worshiping hard for Lord Shiva. One day a lady got curious and went to that place where she saw the saint’s skelton sitting and meditating and; sound of “Om Namah Shivaey” echoing the surroundings. On looking that scene she got scared and fainted. Immediately said “Om Namah Shivaey” loudly and fell on the ground and disappeared. From that day the natural sanctorum of lord Shiva appeared in the cave where the saint used to live. Another legend says that one upon a time milk used to flow from the roof of holy cave on the natural holy lingam of Lord Shiva. One day a local milkmaid turned greedy, collected the milk in a pitcher and sold to the villagers of the nearby villages. From that day, milk stopped to flow and got replaced by water from the cave.
On 1st January of every year a fair (Mela) is held at Mahanaal cave by the devotees of Lord Shiva in which people from all over the district and adjoining areas come to have darshan of lord shiva. During the mela, langers are organized for the devotees by many voluntary organizations Besides, local peoples also come farward to arrange facilities for the devotees.
It is a sad commentary that this place of religious importance lacks basic amenities i.e. proper road connectivity clean drinking water etc. During the mela devotees have to face number of problems which include passing through tough, small and hilly terrain full of dust and mud and non-availability of cleaning drinking water. Efforts need to be made to bring this holy cave on the tourist map of the state so that the inherent pilgrim potential of the site is explored and utilized to the maximum possible extent.
(The Author is Agriculture Extension Officer)
Opening of Mahanaal Cave
SEries of temples opposite to Mahanaal Cave
Idol of Kaal Vairabh near opening of Cave