Gole Mela – Fair at ancient Jagan Nath Temple
India is indeed the land of fairs and festivals. Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir marks no exception to it. The Fairs and festivals of our country boasts of our rich culture as well as religion and makes us realise that Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. Jammu is famously called the city of temples. In Jammu division of J&K, many popular fairs have been been held since centuries. With each such fair, an interesting tale and custom is associated. Such fairs are Baba Jito fair, Purmundal fair, 3 Days Shankri Devta Fair & the 3 Days Devika fair, which is being held in number of districts of Jammu division. COVID-19 came in 2020 and not only businesses of the country suffered due to it but it also gave a big jolt to the religious as well as the cultural celebrations of number of events that witness our rich culture. For the last more than two years, hardly any fair have been organised or if organised, the authorities had imposed many restrictions on the fair in order to prevent the mass spread of Covid-19. Now the Covid-19 is gone. Fairs, locally called Melas are back on our Dogra soil. Udhampur city is situated on the banks of river Devika. According to the book Nilmatpuran written by Nila Muni even before Kalhana wrote Rajtarangini,Devika river is regarded as the elder sister of our National as well the most sacred river Ganga. Devika fair is more than century old fair of Udhampur. There used to held Maut ka Kua (Well of Death), Circus, Giant Jhullas, toy train for Kids, But recently with the development of beautiful infrastructure in the Devika ground located along the Devika river, this year Udhampur authorities didn’t give permission for Devika fair. So the Historic Devika fair lost its charm and legacy ;becoming an ordinary fair with less than a dozen shops on the narrow Sair Gah road with no Jhullas at all. There is one another fair of Udhampur, being celebrated since decades and is very close to the district headquarters. It’s name is GOLE MELA.It is held on the place of the same name located near to Industrial Estate Udhampur and is very close to National Highway. There is an ancient Jagan Nath Temple located in Gole Mela, where in an ancient idol (murti) of Lord Jagan Nath had been taken from famous and sacred Jagan Nath Puri of Odisha and got installed in the Gole Mela temple premises, almost a century ago. Ever since, Gole Mela have been celebrating on the ground and the road that leads to the temple. Halwa, Puri, Chane, Allu are offered in the morning inside the temple premises to the devotees that comes to pay their obeisance before Lord Jagan Nath. They pray for the well being of their family. Some devotees offered their own stalls near to temple, offering prasaad to the visitors. Devotees of all ages thronged the temple. A large queue of devotees is often seen in the temple on this day. Celebration is not just inside the temple but also outside. From the link road that leads to Gole Mela from the main road,with distance not more than 200 meters to the temple, local vendors of Balloons,sweets, ice creams, toy sellers, Jalebi, Pakoda, Kiyur sellers blocked their seats one night before the Mela. Dozens of Toy Sellers are seen sitting road side along with their beautiful looking collection of Toys. Toys and balloons attract children. Children are seen asking their parents to buy these toys and balloons. There are many things in fair to eat. Our national sweet Jalebi (Funnel Cake) is seen everywhere on making. Not only this, Pakodas, Kiyur, Allu Tikki, Gol Gappas, Ice Cream, Juice & Banta are the such eatables in the fair. In the afternoon, There is big Langar inside the temple offering Rajma, Chawal, Daal, Puri, Ambal/Kaddu(Pumpkin). It may also interests you to know that Pumpkin is the National vegetable of India. Devotees sit in a queue on the hall outside the temple and eat langar with the their hands as per our Dogra tradition and culture. Langer is usually offered on Pattal and Doonas.In this langar, devotees belonging to different class and caste sit together & eat food.Some devotees offer to provide service to the langar. Some devotees also serve the stall of Meetha Pani in Summer and Tea in winter. Children have many other sources of attraction there. Different types of Jhulas are there in the fair. Most are them are for children and a few bigger ones are for adults. Children are heard shouting from the Jhulas waving to their parents and friends from the Jhullas. Religious songs in temples keep on purifying the atmosphere, making it more sacred and pious experience. Temple bells and Prayers of temples adds another feather to the gaiety of celebration in the vicinity of temple. Dhool wala is seen beating the drum. These things paints Gole Mela in festive colour. Gole Mela is celebrated twice in a year. One in the month of June and 2nd in the month of December. This time the fair held on 27 June. Thousands of devotees thronged the temple, had their food in the Bhandara held in the temple hall. Some of them also packed sweets like Jalebi, Pakodas for their family members. The Gole Mela temple is not just Jagan Nath temple. There are many other small temples,situated along with the main shrine of Lord Jagan Nath temple. Shiv temple, Hanuman temple are also located adjacent to the main shrine. After the Bhandhara, Packed Sweet Rice ( Meetha Chawal) are also given to the devotees of Lord Jagan Nath as soon as they exit the temple premises. In the Gole Mela road, there also comes the cart of Kachalu, Cycles of Kulcha, Shikanji wala. Some lottery and Games stalls are also there. Some of these stalls offer ring to throw on the things from a small distance. Winner gets the thing, if the ring covered that thing perfectly. There is also one more interesting game.A dozen Steel glasses are adjusted in a table & children try to down then all with three balls given. If they succeed, then they gets double money. Adjacent to it, there is Shooting Stall. Balloons and Teddy bear are supposed to get hit with the Gun. Overall one can have fun visiting to the fair. These fairs are the cultural identity of India. It’s not just a religious festival but also has socio-cultural angle. As long as these fairs and festivals are celebrated in the land of India, we would feel proud on the diversity of India and its culture. No other country has as number of fairs and festivals as our motherland India. We are proud on our land , its history, it’s culture , it’s religions,it’s heritage.
By Abhishek Jandial