I live in Boileauganj, near Summerhill in Shimla, born and brought up there in fact. However, I spend a lot of time in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, since that’s where most of my friends are. So whenever I get time, I head out to the Kinnaur belt.
I love Kinnaur because of my travels and because of my friends and ties but also because of Kinnaur itself. It is a beautiful region of Himachal Pradesh – rough, rugged, high remote mountains, simple people, great food, and a beautifully diverse landscape.
If you were to ask me of places that one should visit in Himachal Pradesh, one of the first places I would think of is Sarahan in Shimla District. And in Sarahan: The Bhimakali Temple. When I start off from Shimla city to Kinnaur, the primary route I take comes to a point from where I could to go to Sangla valley or Kalpa and the region beyond. On this route, there is a village called Juri, from where a right turn and a journey 20 kilometres up the mountain will take you to the village of Sarahan, where stands the majestic Bhimakali Temple, 51 ‘Shakti Peeths in India. In terms of distance, Sarahan (earlier known as ‘Sonitpur’ as identified in the Puranas) is around 180 Kms from Shimla – an overnight journey by bus (which is how I travel often). Sarahan lies near Shalabag (on the ancient Indo-Tibetan road), and it is often called “The Gateway to Kinnaur”.
The Bhimakali Temple is an awe-inspiring place of worship, set in an open pasture amidst high mountains, with a dense Deodar forest to the south of the temple. On a clear sky day, one can even have a few glimpses of the Shri Khand Mahadev range from the Bhimakali. According to legend, it is believed that during the Daksha yagana incident, the ear of ‘Sati’ fell at this place and that’s how the Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan became a place of worship.
The Temple is built like a fortress with an idol of Bhimakali Mata (the presiding deity of the rulers of erstwhile Bushahr) placed at the top story of the new building, while the idol of goddess Parvati sits on the storey below. The Temple complex houses three other temples dedicated to Lord Narsingji, Raghunathji and Patal Bhairvaji (Lanka Veer). While people can visit the new building where the idols now reside, the older temple is off limits to all individuals except the ‘Pujari’ (priest) and the present king of the Bushahr province.
The temple complex is quiet big and comprises three gates before you make your way to the main temple. The wood and metal work is excellent depicting various Hindu dieties carved on wood and metal. Pilgrims from all around India flock to this temple to visit this holy place all through the year.
Personally, I find the Bhimakali temple awe-inspiring as a representation of local faith, beliefs and history, and also as an example of the Indo-Tibetan art and architecture that developed in Himachal Pradesh due to the trade and social links between Tibet and Himachal in earlier times.