Bhadarwah and Kishtwar in Jammu province are dotted with a number of famous pilgrimage sites. These sites attract thousands of people every year from all over the country.
One such place which is thronged by devotees in large numbers is the shrine of Chandi Mata or Machail Wali Mata. “Chandi Mata” the goddess of benevolence showers blessing to all irrespective of caste, creed and colour. According to a legend, the Goddess Chandi appeared at Machail long years ago in the shape of Shila (Pindi). The mother came here from her ancient place Mindhal Battas (HP) to bless the simple, ignorant and helpless people of Paddar area. The Machail Yatra is a unique pilgrimage with unique features. Besides spiritual, its social aspect is more effective and impressive where the Goddess asks her devotees to shun social evils for the welfare of society and mankind as a whole.
The Chandi Dham Machail has the distinction of the simultaneous appearance of Shiv and Shakti. On the one hand, the Goddess Chandi (Shakti) is blessing her devotees at Machail village while on the other hand God Mahadev Shiva appears on the opposite high mountain in the shape of lingam to provide darshans to the pilgrims on the pious occasion of the Shakti yatra. The mountain is called Shiv Pahad which often remains covered with black clouds. It is a unique union of Shiva and Shakti found at Machail.
The holy shrine of the Goddess Chandi is situated at a height of over 8,000 feet above the sea level in Machail village surrounded by high mountains, thick devdar forests and attractive meadows and world famous sapphire mines. The most attractive and historical lion astride idols of the Goddess Chandi and Lakshmi Ji made of pure silver are the rare sight and source of inspiration for the pilgrims who come to seek blessing of Mataji. The most important and impressive aspect of the Machail Yatra is the unique holy mace of the Goddess which leads the then pilgrims and provides strength and inspiration enroute.
The miraculous Machail Yatra to the hilly area of Paddar in district Kishtwar, is really a boon for the people who seek blessing of “Mata Chandi”. The pilgrimage has revolutionized the action and thoughts of the general public having faith upon the divine mother. The popular Machail Yatra has its historical, religious importance. To pay obeisance, everyyear devotees participate in annual Machail Yatra which starts from Jammu.
In Jammu, she has her origin in Mahalaxmi Mandir at Pacca Danga and thence at Bhaderwah where from her “Chhari or Holy Mace” starts in the month of August every year. The yatra starts with religious procession ” which is taken out from Mahalaxmi Mandir and passes through Jain Bazaar, Link Road, Purani Mandi, City Chowk, Raghunath Bazaar and Indira Chowk in the City of Temples and then joins the main yatra at Chinote.
Situated around 306 kms away from Jammu, the Yatra passes through Jammu, Udhampur, Batote, Kishtwar, Atholi and Gulabgarh road and thence on foot to Machail Mata which is about 30 kms. Though the terrain is too tough to trek but with the grace of Mata Chandi, one feels hillbilly joyous in association with enchanting pilgrims echoing “Jai Mata Di, Jai Chandi Maa, Machail Wali Mata Ki Jai, etc.”
The main stop over or reception stations over en-route are Bhala, Puddoda, Premnagar, Thathri, Kistwar, Paddar, Massu, Chishoti, Atholi Gulabgarh, Layondee, S Kunderpul, Chishoti, Hamooree and thence Machail Mata’s sacred temple. Through out the route religious congregation and Bhandaras are organized to high ligh the importance of the yatra.
"Earlier, the yatra used to reach its destination Chandi Dham Machail, on the eve of a local festival called 'Naghui' when doors of the historical Chandi temple were thrown open for Darshan of the Goddess after remaining closed throughout the year as per ancient tradition and faith. On the occasion, the local populace including Buddhist Clad in multi colour traditional dresses greet the holymace and the pilgrims with enthusiasm. The devotional songs and holy couplets sung and chanted in local Padhri language surcharge the holy dances throughout the day. Besides Sankirtan, Karsewa, havna are also performed by the devotees for peace and satisfaction of the ultra modern society which is full of tension today.
The temple is open round the year. But Chhadi Yatra is organised in the month of August every year. Thousands of people visit the shrine during this period.
Helicopter service to Machel is available from Jammu and the base camp Gulabgarh during this period.
The best time for pilgrimage is during the Chhadi yatra.
It is advised not to trek in the month of December, January and February due to heavy snowfall.
During Chadi Yatra, the Government of Jammu & Kashmir provides tents, medicines and other basic amenties. Many Langers are also arranged roadside to provide free food for the pilgrims.
Upon reaching the shrine, the pilgrims pray the Maa Durga and have an extraordinary spiritual experience.
Many stories of supernatural happennings are heard from the pilgrims. Maataji blesses the people who come to the shrine with pure heart and devotion.
The Machail Yatra has strengthened the spirit of religious tolerance, bonds of secularism and mutual brotherhood among the masses which is apparent from the fact that even our Muslim brothers greet the Yatra with due respect where-ever it passes, through their habitations.
Machel Mata Shrine
Jammu & Kashmir (India)
Directions from Jammu:
Located at 33.42N, 76.34E, this place is towards North-East of the Jammu city. The base camp Gulabgarh can be reached by road from Jammu. Gulabgarh is about 290 KMs from Jammu. From Gulabgrah one has to trek for 32 KMs to reach the Maa Chandi Shrine in Machel. The journey is a nice experience.
Helicopter service is available in the month of August only. जय मचैला वाली माता.
साभार : जय माँ चंडी दर्शनी भवन.