Friday, December 30, 2011

Sarahan - the famed Bheema Kali temple

Enchanting Himachal – Sarahan
Shrikhand Peak - early morning view

The distance from Kalpa to Sarhan is about 110 Kms. and thus, we started from Kalpa leisurely, after having partaken our Breakfast. The roads are so narrow & steep at places that even two small sized vehicles find it difficult to negotiate, side by side. We encountered such a situation just as we left Kothi, a Maruti Car was moving up-hill and we were going downhill towards Reckong Peo, due to miscalculation on either part the uphill bound Car had to apply the brakes, as he was unwilling to place his car on the Kuttcha side, despite our having done so. The Car, thereafter, could not garner enough power to move uphill and its occupants had to get down, except for the driver and everyone lent a hand to push the Car upwards, whereafter it accelerated on its own. We stopped by briefly at Reckong Peo to explore the possibility of buying some Chilgoza/Neoza, but the same was not available. However, I laid my hands on a music CD with local Kinnauri Songs, which I purchased for using in my Video.
Sunset view from Sarahan

Weeping Willow tree at Sarahan

Having retracted our steps back to the NH-22 at Powari, we headed back via Karcham, Wangtoo, Bhabha, Naptha, Jakhri and other nondescript villages. Just before we reached Jeori, we saw two huge hen like birds right on the road, but as we were getting ready to take a shot, a local biker shot ahead and the birds flew away, only to reveal that they were the famed Griffons (a kind of vulture species) of Himachal. The road towards Sarahan bifurcates from Jeori and heads uphill till it reached Sarahan perched at an altitude of 1920 meters or 6336 meters. As you gain height, you pass through fruit laden orchards, with ripe Apricots strewn across the roads. Placed in the foothills of Himalayas, close to Rampur town, it was once the summer Capital of the Rampur Bushair. The geographical placement of Sarahan makes it an unique hill station, with breath taking greenery, series of mountains & snow covered peaks, juxtaposed with the SutlejRiver flowing deep below in the valley. The majesting Srikhand mountain ranges, housing the reverend Srikhand Mahadev peak, that resembles a ‘Shivlinga’ is situated just across Sarahan. Mythological belief as regards this peak is that it is a place where Lord Shiva meditated and the Pandavas of Mahabharata era also used to visit this place for offering their obeisance. A major pilgrimage takes place through a difficult terrain during July & August every year, to make offerings at the small shrine situated here.
The famed Bheema Kali Temple

The front facade of the temple

Inside the temple complex

The main temple gate embossed in gold

Close-up ot temple gate

Sarhan is also the seat of the famous ‘BhimkaliTemple’ complex and was the reverend destination of the erstwhile Bushair rulers. The temple is stated to be about 800 years old and is dedicated to the Mother Goddess Durga or Bhimakali and is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. A Shakti Peetha is a place where the body part of Goddess Shakti, wife of Lord Shiva, fell when he started the Thandava dance (the dance of death & destruction). As per mythology, Shakti was daughter of King Daksha and married Lord Shiva against his wishes. King Daksha had organized a religious ceremony at his Palace and had deliberately not invited Lord Shiva. However, Shakti went to the Palace of her father uninvited and her father used derogatory language for her husband, Lord Shiva that hurt her emotions so much, that she threw herself into the religious pyre and died. Consequent upon her death, Lord Shiva became enraged and picked up her body on his shoulders and started the Tandava, fearing total destruction, all Gods approached Lord Vishnu, who slowly started taking out pieces of Shakti’s body by using his ‘Chakra’. Wherever, the body parts of Goddess Shakti fell on the earth, a temple was constructed at the site. It is said that in Sarahan, the left ear of Goddess Shakti had fallen.
The gateway to temple - outer facade Silver embossed
Temple dedicated to Narshingh Avatar
As beautiful the temple may be, but its history is steeped in blood & gore. Within this temple precinct, is the temple of Lanka Vir, placed just opposite the main temple across the central courtyard, where human sacrifice used to take place right upto the 18th Century. The temple now houses the statue of Narsingh Avatar. The main temple complex is a typical Kinnauri architecture, built with layers of stone & wood interspersed, to avoid destruction by earthquakes. The inner temple complex contains two towers, one built in the 12th Century A.D and the other in 1920’s. The older structure is now replaced with a new resplendent structure, but the Goddess is still housed in the old 1920 built temple, on its third floor. The temple itself is a fort like structure, with a main door made of metal cast, with figures of Gods & Goddesses adorning it, made up or either Asta dhatu (mixture of eight metals) or Brass? Through this door one enters the inner courtyard, which houses the temple guest house, administrative block etc. of the temple. In this courtyard, there is a raised platform that has a history, it is stated that centuries ago the rulers of Kullu had invaded Rampur with the intention of annexing it. However, after protracted battle the rulers of Bushair managed to defeat the King of Kullu and he was beheaded and the severed head was brought back alongwith other trophies and the head of the slain King was placed on this raised platform. The family members & vassals of the King of Kullu pleaded with the Bushair rulers to return the head so that his religious ceremonies could be completed. The rulers of Bushiar laid down three conditions – (i) that the land annexed by them acrossSutlej would be retained by them; (ii) the rulers of Kullu would never again attack the Bushair kingdom; and (iii) that the statute of Lord Raghunath, the presiding deity of Kullu would be retained. The rulers of Kullu accepted all the three demands, but requested the rulers of Bushair to celebrate the festival of Dusshera every year as was the practice in respect of Lord Raghunath. This was accepted by the rulers of Bushair and till today the festival of Dusshera is celebrated with pomp & glory every year. The idol of Lord Raghunath is installed in the temple just above the first entry gate to the Bhimkali temple and can be accessed only early in the morning and evening when the ritual aarti takes place, at other times it remains closed for public viewing.
The stone piece removed from roof of house and placed on temple gate by the Rulers of Bushair
The place where the head of the Ruler of Kullu was placed
Another anecdote that reflects the gory & bloody past of the Bushair rulers relate to the diktat issued at that point of time in history, when the Bhimkali temple was built, wherein it was stated that no one was permitted to replicate the temple design in any form within the Bushair kingdom. A person called Masoi, who was a resident of the nearby village, thought so otherwise and built a house for himself, having similar design. This was taken as sign of rebellion & disrespect towards the royalty and an army was sent to his house, which demolished the house and killed all the occupants. A flat stone from his roof was taken away and placed near the temple door, which is crossed by all the visitors even today, as a mark of disrespect & reminder for the masses not to question the diktats of the Bushair rulers.
Apples growing in Sarahan
Having paid our homage at the reverend Bhimkali temple, we headed back towards Chail that is at a distance of about 190 odd Kms. While driving downhill, I noticed quite a few kinds of birds flocking & frolicking around in the undergrowths. I also saw quite a few ‘weeping Willow’ trees growing around Sarahan. As I had found quite a few Apricots strewn around on the road on the previous day, while returning I found some ladies picking them up into a basket, I was intrigued and asked them about such apathy towards the Apricots. The ladies told us that the variety of Apricots strewn around were small in size and being a highly perishable good, did not command a good price coupled with the fact that the kernels were bitter, these Apricots were used only for producing Apricot oil from the kernel. The fragrance of the fruit laden trees growing all around mixed with the fragrance of pine trees, lends a surreal feeling to the environ of Sarahan.
Bheema Kali temple

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