Mal Mata Sukrala Devi
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is beset with a land of the gods and goddesses in the greater part of Himalayan and sub Himalayan region of the Indian land scape. Likewise the Shrine Shakties of Sh. Mata Vaishno Devi (Katra) Chandi Maa (Machail), Sarthal Devi (Kishtwar), Pingla (Ramnagar), Mahakali (Bahu Fort), Chichi Mata (Samba), Chanchlo Devi (Basohli), Sarthal Devi (Bani) and many more other sacred Shrines of Devi Maa Shakti are in the region. Mal Mata Sukrala Devi occupies its unique and prominent place of devotion and reveration.
The Devi Maa Sukrala is also most reverentially addressed as Jagat Janani, Rajarjaswari Mata where devotees throng in thousand to have Holy Darshan, pay obeisance for blessings.
Sukrala or Sukral is a small village located at Billawar in district Kathua. The spot is located amidst dense Chir pines forest intermingled with other borad – leaved trees, bushes, shrubs and herbs. The village is located aside river Naaj where a big slab of rock of historic time exists which is having an engraving of Lord Hanuman which is regularly besmeared on every Tuesday and Sunday both by the locals as well as the outsiders who throng over this sacred spot. Sukrala Mata Shrine is reachable by road around 80 Kms from Jammu and about 30 kms from district headquarter. It is situated at a height of about 4,000 ft from Mean Sea Level (MSL) and commands an idyllic view of mountains and cliffs all around of the vicinity of the Shakti Shrine. Both the roads from Jammu and Kathua are well metalled and are conveniently approachable by regular buses, private or hired vehicles. The Sacred Shrines from other destination, like Bani Basohli and other areas of the country are also reachable through these routes.
Through legends and historical record, the name of Sukrala is derived from Sharikalaya, the abode of Sharika which though, of course is another revered name of Mata Sharda. The historical records reflect the narration as to the origin of the sacred spot of Mata Sukrala Devi. The story goes that there used to live a renowned saint at Basohli who had received his education in Kashmir and Kashi there he visited many shrines including those of Shri Amarnath ji, Sharda, Hari Partvati etc. He was a strong devotee of gods and goddesses. During his ardous penace and devotion, the Mother Goddess was very pleased and so he had holy dream. When asked by Mata ji as to what he wanted. The devotee prayed that he wants that she should be at his place so that the locals can be relieved of the pains and agony and are blessed by her Shakti. Mataji granted him the boon that she will appear at the time of his grandson and so the devotee disclosed to the locals. The devoted Brahmin had number of sons amongst whom two most pious and learned were by name Amolak Ram and Mahadev Shiv Nandan. They preferred and adopted Billawar and Basohli as their residence.
Exactly in the time of Mahadev (Shiv Nandan), a Shila (stone slab) miraculously started emerging out from a spring at Sukrala. The people of the area eftsoonly started realising the prophecy of the grandfather as had earlier been disclosed. They (the inhabitants) accepted it as an emblem of the Goddess and as such started worshipping it regularly. With the passage of time, a prince from Chamba by name Madho Singh exiled by his elder brother was wandering desperately and reached Sukral area. The story further goes that Sukrala village was having dense forest with abundant wild animals and birds, the prince started hunting wild animals and birds but with the passing days, the prince fell seriously ill.
Despite application of all treatments, the prince could never be recovered. Ultimately, as suggested by the locals, he approached Shiv Nandan who had a good spiritual reputation and so he asked one of the devotee (Chila in local parlance) of the Goddess by name Hira Thakur to dance (locally spoken as Chauki) and when the devotee (disciple of Goddess got into trance (a Shakti dance), he was asked to let know the malady of the prince Madho Singh. As a result, the disciple stated that goddess was very annoyed as the prince had hunted many animals and birds of the forest. Further, the disciple told the prince that he would not recover unless a Temple of the Goddess is built with material from Chamba.
The exiled prince was perplexed as to how he could manage to build the Temple of Mata for he was ill and for away from Chamba, his native place. He expressed his inability to both Shiv Nandan and Hira Thakur. But the dancing devotee (disciple) replied to exiled prince to proceed to Chamba immediately and nothing un- towardness would come in his way by the grace of the Shakti of Mal Mata.
A few days later, the prince was well and after vowing before Mal Mata footed towards Chamba, while waying towards the desired destination, he came to know en route, about the demise of his brother who had exiled him. Reaching Chamba, all the inhabitants of the vicinity embraced the prince and accepted him as the ruling prince. In due course of time, the prince became obsessed with the routine care taking and administration of his kingdom and in the process, he forgot the promise he had made before Sukrala Mata to build a Temple there. One night, when the prince was comfortably sleeping, he fell down from the bed and remembered the promise he had made before Mal Mata and so as such he resolved to make good the promise.
On the next day, the prince started for Sukral with a large entourage carrying all sort of building material. The Temple was as such constructed and an image of Mahishsurmurdini was installed in the spacious Temple Chamber in later stages a Temple was constructed by Raja Brajraj Singh, son of Ranjit Singh Dev around 1755 AD and as such the promise made by the prince was redeemed. Later on lot of springs and Baolies were constructed in and around the Temple complex.
Mal Mata Sukrala Devi is very benign Goddess who fulfills the wishes of here true devotees. According to a popular belief, all wishes to the extent of the birth of child, securing job for livelihood and for the curing of chronic diseases are fulfilled by the Shrine Shakti of Mal Mata.
The images of Mata Ji is a Shila (piece of rock). It is seated on a brass lion with a silver mounted head. And in its backdrop is a figure of Mahishasurmurdini (Maa Durga) standing on Mahishasur. The Goddess is Chaturbhuja, the Goddess with four arms with a sword in one of her hands. The eyes are of silver inlaid with dark vermilion.
Lord Vishnu is shown reeling under the hoods of Sheshing with Maa Lakshmi pressing Lords Lotus – like feel. From the navel spring a lotus, on which is seated a four headed Brahma and a five – faced Shiva and the Lord Ganesh. There are two images of the lion in front of the Temple complex.
Mal Mata Sukrala Devi is an important Shrine being revered and venerated by almost all over the State, particularly being a Kul Devi. The devotees across the State also visit this Sacred Shrine of Shakti around the year, particularly during Navratras on both the occasions. There are huge Bhandaras and Langars arranged by the locals and other devotees and the social activists.
The attention of the government is invited for the up – grading this sacred spot so that more and more devotees visit the Shrine so as to boost Temple tourism in Jammu region, apart from providing facelift to Billawar town. Besides, aforestation works need to be invigorated so that the area is enhanced. Mal Mata Sukrala Devi and Mata Bala Sundri atop Billawar and Kathua boundary are both the Sacred Shakties in Billawar which are warranted to be brought under J and K Shrine Board so that such sacred Shrine are given their due share of prominence in so for as the sanctity and spirituality of the area is concerned. All such factors in unison promote tourism of the State in general. In this context Dr. Nirmal singh, our Dy. Chief Minister has time and again emphasised for the development of both these Shrines apart from other such shrines located elsewhere in Jammu region. To cap these all, this will invigorate the economy of the State in a bigger way.