The quaint Moungri village in Udhampur district is known for its dense forests of fir, kail, oak and pine, natural waterfalls, unexplored caves and rare medicinal herbs. This place used to be called as Sonara in the ancient times. Sonara is derived from the word naara which in Dogri language means spring and according to the locals means a place of a hundred water springs. It is also said that this place was once a natural lake but due to geological occurrences, the water gradually receded leaving behind a vast stretch of land.
According to historical references, this place was once the residence of Vasuki, the king of the Nagas. It is also said that there were many natural rivulets flowing in this land and a great number of natural water springs are still found in this area.
A short comfortable 4 km trek through the thick woods alongside a rivulet leads you to the Shiva Parvati cave shrine which is considered by locals to be a wondrous experience. Locals say that one has to worship the ancient Sankri Devata at the start of the trek.
There is an interesting story about this cave and its discovery. It is said that a stone image of Lord Shiva was discovered by a farmer while clearing the land. The stone idol was uprooted and thrown away carelessly into the Kansar stream. Within a short while, disaster struck. The elders of the village surmised that it was because of the brash action of the farmer. A quick search was made in the stream and the idol of Lord Shiva was recovered.
A rustic shrine was built for Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi at a nearby hilltop to seek their forgiveness and blessings. When the locals explored this area, they stumbled upon these naturally formed caves that were hidden within the forest.
This cave shrine is actually two caves of 20 feet and 25 feet in length. There is a naturally formed nine and half feet high Linga of Shiva and Parvati as one guarded by Sheshanaga. There are also natural formations in stone of dhamru, Nandi, Shankha (counch), Amrit Kund, Lord Ganesha and others deities.
Locals say that a curious thing happens when they pour milk on the Shiva Linga in the upper cave. The milk gets absorbed by the Shiva Linga and trickles down as prasad to the devotees in the lower cave.
A three-day fair is held before the first day of the month of Jyeshta which draws large crowds who come to worship Kansar Devata shrine and have darshan of Lord Bholenath.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)