“The Himalayan pilgrimages are the oldest organized travel system, evolved over time by Hindu sages and embodying the spirit of wander, adventure and spirituality”.
One of the holy trinity, Maa Chandi is a living goddess. Vedic myths, ritual and even astronomy testify to his existence from the dawn of time.
Recently village Machail in Padder has turned out to be important place of religious importance and sanctity because of the temple of ‘Chandi Mata’. On the day of first Bhadon or Bhadoon Sankranti (15th or 16th August) every year, when the doors of temples in Padder are thrown open, a big mela is held outside Chandi Mata temple at Machail where people from all over Padder assemble and offer prayers to the deity and invoke her blessings.
A mace or Holi Chhari of Goddess Chandi Mata is taken out by the devotees from village Chinote Bhaderwah, the home village of Thakur Kulbir Singh. Under his auspicious control a procession is taken to Machail with people singing bhajans in praise of the goddess amidst beating of drums, playing upon flutes and chanting of mantras. Now a days the yatra is also taken out from Jammu.
This yatra has played the greatest role in highlighting the peculiarities of Padder and influencing among people the spirit of adventure. This procession starts from Bhaderwah than reaches Pul Doda on mid-day after that yatra moves towards Kishtwar crossing Thatari, Drabshalla, Kandni, Hasti than reaches Kishtwar near about 4pm. On next day, Yatra moves from Kishtwar towards Atholi Paddar.
The Machail Yatra pilgrimage to the high altitude Himalayan shrine of Mata Chandi, one of the manifestations of Goddess Durga is continuously becoming popular day by day and is assuming the status of the second biggest pilgrimage in the Jammu Region, where more than 50 thousand pilgrim pored at Chandi Dham Machail at a time.
The ‘Chandi Mata’ basically has over the years manifested elsewhere mostly confined to Himalayan region. In Jammu itself she has her origin in the Mahalaxmi Mandir at Pacca Danga and thence at Hadar where from her “Chhari” (Holy Mace) starts in the month of August every year. Situated around 306 kms away from Jammu by (Jammu-Batote) (120 Kms), Batote-Kishtwar (121 Kms), Kishtwar-Atholi – Gulbgarh-65 kms) by road and thence on foot to Machail Mata which is bearely 30 kms. Though the terrain is too tough to trek but with the grace of almighty Mata Chandi, one feels hillbilly joyous in association with enchanting pilgrims echoing Jai Mata Dip Jai Chandi Mata. The entire track is dotted all along with yatries of all hues with colorful attire. The main stop-overs en route are from Atholi Gulabgarh are Layondee, S Kunderpul, Chishoti, Hamooree and thence Machail Mata’s seared temple. The entire areas is land locked surrounded by lush green, vibrant and salubrious greenery of pine (Deodar, Kail, Fir, Spruce), oaks, shrubs and herbs.
The river Chandra and Bhaga confluences at Atholi and while traversing this long stretch of 30 kms, you follow proud Bhaga sometimes accompanying you and some times going against your track with roaring echoes and foaming fury watery flames so gorgeously against perpendicular rocks. The Chhari starts from Bhadarwah town itself and this year this Chhari started from Bhadarwah on 19th August on foot led by the Punjari of Bhadarsah temple accompanied by the delighted devotees.
While on way, you come across many villages and hamlet on the left and right, through of course, unreachable and of the few hamlets are Matti, Seondi, Hamiddran, Massu, Mao, Garh, Naral, Sugliangadi, Bathree, Mulgo, Shagaani, Kokandran, Rotae, Palelee, Betha and a big village ligree having hamlets viz, Doordo, Stangarhi, Thatak, Shahalee, Totee, Pondale, Tunkhel, etc. etc. This village ligree is having a population arounding 1000 or so. It is a matter of pity that educational front is very poor due to inaccessibility of the area and there is no schooling above metric level. The entire belt is often surrounded by hot and cold springs which flow intermittently and some of course are perennial and these springs are called miracles of nature and these springs are considered as most sacred and meritorious. On reaching Machail a small village, rather hamlet is located at the sacred shrine of Mata Chandi depicted in the main photo and the devolve throng in queues for hours together to have a holy darshan of Mataji pay obedience and obtain blessings.
Though it may seen strange, but too true that lord Shiva is quite glitteringly with his consort Mata Parvati, through the rock is perpendicularly perched upon a very hard bed, not as yet reachable. This pious spot is located in the back drop of sacred shrine of Chandi Mata. Miraculous are the ways of the Gods and Goddesses who alone can well understand the mysteries of the vast, varied cosmic universe.
The Chhari as such culminated on 23rd August this year when a Maha Yaga was held and ended with Puran Ahoti. One should never forget to visit this holy shrine and if only really wants to enjoy the nature, it is here and here alone – the sacred shrine of Mata Chandi Wali in whatever way we may call it to though of course, this sacred shrine is the source of bliss in its long stretch of around twenty nine kms uphill/downhill trek, it is doubtlessly too though to trek the terrain for a normal being, tho are being exhausted in the process. The trek is serpentine and the Yatries are left with Hobson’s choice to reach the last reach of spot; author, however, trekked the entire belt, interacted with locals en route, paid obeisance to sacred shakti of Mata Chandi of Machail and during the course, ideas struck to my mind in respect of improvising this picturesque, spots, vibrant and salubrious pines which of course salute the Yatries echolessly.
Though the list goes endlessly, yet the major points are highlighted here under:-
Machail Yatra attracts many number of visitors. Now with the increasing focus on Bhadarwah as a pilgrim and tourist spot the civil amenities for this religious spot need to be undertaken on a war footing. Toilet blocks, road up gradation plantation, rain shelters, retaining walls at steep points have to incorporated in the developmental plan for Machail Mata Shrine. Then increasing number of people will visit it to get spiritual peace. It will give a boost to the local economy which is hard pressed at present.