The Temples of Himachal Pradesh
BY: SUN STAFF
Dec 17, CANADA (SUN) From ancient times, the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh was known as 'Devabhoomi', or the abode of the Gods. Rimmed by splendid peaks along the Himalayan mountain range, the Himachal valley is home to more than two thousands temples. While predominantly Vaisnava and Shaivite, there are also Buddhist and Sikh temples.
Himachal, located in the northern most part of India, is bordered to the north by Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab on west and southwest, Uttar Pradesh and Haranya to the south, Uttarakhand to the southeast, and by Tibet and China on the east.
The name "Himachal Pradesh" literally means 'region of snowy mountains'. There has been a strong Aryan influence here since before the Rigveda period. Having been under both British and Sikh rule at various times, Himachal became independent about 40 years ago. Fortunately, many ancient temples have survived the attacks of various intruders over the ages, and pilgrims flock here by the hundreds of thousands each year to visit the many beautiful temples, carved stone shikharas, and pagoda-style shrines.
Following is a brief summary of the most important Vaisnava and Saivite temples found in Himachal:
BAJRESHWARI TEMPLE: Just outside the town of Kangra is the temple dedicated to Bajreshwari Devi. Known once for its legendary wealth, this temple was subject to successive depredations by invaders from the north. Destroyed completely in 1905 by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1920 and continues to be a busy place of pilgrimage.
BAIJNATH: The ancient temple at Baijnath is particularly beautiful. Built of stone in the 9th century AD, in the shikhara style, it is a fine blend of sculpture and architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Baijnath is close to Palampur and Kangra.
Adi Brahma Temple, Khokan
ADI BRAHMA TEMPLE: featured earlier this year in our series on places of Lord Brahma's worship, the ancient temple of Adi Brahma at Khokan is a pagoda-style, four tiered wooden. Tower.
JWALAMUKHI TEMPLE: Not too far from Kangra is this popular place of pilgrimage. An eternally burning flame that issues from a hollow rock in the sanctum is considered the manifestation of the goddess Devi. During March-April and September-October every year, colorful fairs are held during the Navratra celebration. Jwalamukhi temple is 30 km. from Kangra.
CHAMUNDA DEVI TEMPLE: Not far from Dharamsala (Kangra) is the famous temple to Chamunda Devi. It is an enchanting spot with glorious views of the mountains, the Baner Khud, Pathiar and Lahla forest.
Lakshminarayan Temple, Chamba
LAKSHMI NARAYAN TEMPLE: The Lakshminarayan group of temples in the town of Chamba are of great archaeological importance. Six stone temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu with tall shikaras, finely carved, date from the 8th century AD. The Lakshminarayan Temple is the oldest in this group. Other temples around Chamba town include, those dedicated to Hari Rai, Champavati, Bansigopal, Ram Chandra, Brijeshwari, Chamunda, Narasimha, and Yogi Charpat Nath.
CHAURASI TEMPLES: The 9th century temples at Bharmaur are among the most important early Hindu temples in the Chamba Valley. According to legend, 84 (chaurasi) yogi's visited Bharmaur, capital of King Sahil Varma. They were so pleased with the king's humility and hospitality that they blessed him with ten sons and a daughter, Champavati. A cluster of shrines commemorates that visit. The temple square is the Centre of all activities in the little town of Bharmaur and the Lakshmi, Ganesh, Manimahesh and Narsing temples, the main shrines, are splendidly set off by the dramatic mountainscape.
CHATTARI TEMPLES: Not far from Bharmaur (Chamba) is the Chattari Temple with early examples of carved wood and an 8th century brass image of Shakti.
MANIMAHESH: The Manimahesh Lake, high up in the mountains near Bharmaur, is an important place of pilgrimage. The solitary Manimahesh Kailash Peak- the legendary abode of Shiva, is reflected in its still waters. A little temple in the shikhara style with an exquisite brass image of Lakshmi Devi as Mahishasuramardini stands near-by. Every year, following Janmashtami, the annual Manimahesh Yatra is undertaken. The pilgrimage starts from Chamba from the Lakshaminarayan Temple and devotees wend their way up the arduous track from Bharmaur to take a sacred dip in the waters of the lake.
MANDI: Mandi has a picturesque group of ancient stone temples with tall vimanas, splendidly located below the town on the banks of the foaming river. The Tarna Devi Temple (Mandi), a new shrine up on a hill, overlooks the town and valley.
Baoindara Devta Temple
REWALSAR: Around a natural lake with a floating island are a Shiva temple-the Lomesh Rishi Temple, Guru Govind Singh's gurdwara and a Buddhist monastery founded by Guru Padmasambhava. A spot that is revered by people of three faiths (Mandi).
PRASHAR TEMPLE: This temple, built in the 14th century, is a shrine where the rulers of Mandi once worshipped. The pagoda-style temple stands in the little green hollow around the Prashar lake, above the town of Pandoh. The views of the mountains are spectacular.
SHIKARI DEVI (2850 m): It is possible to trek up to Shikari Devi from Janjheli and Karsog (Mandi). Through woods of assorted trees and shrubs - which include several medicinal herbs - two separate trek routes lead up to this ancient shrine located at the crown of the hill. Hunters in the area once prayed to the Goddess for success in their hunt - and here, perhaps, lies the origin of the name 'Shikari Devi'. The Goddess is worshipped in the form of a stone image. Interestingly, the temple which is said to have been in existence since the time of the Pandavas, has no roof - for local legend has it, that all attempts to build one have been unsuccessful.
Chamunda Devi Temple
HANOGI MAA & KOYLA MAA TEMPLE: Hanogi Maa temple in on the way from Mandi to Kullu near Pandoh and Koyla Maa temple near Sunder Nagar in Mandi district.
RAGHUNATHJI TEMPLE: Built in 1651 by the Raja of Kullu, the temple has an image of Raghunathji that was brought from Ayodhya. During the Kullu Dussehra, all the temples in the area send their deities to pay homage to Raghunathji at Kullu.
BIJLI MAHADEV TEMPLE: An unusual temple dedicated to Shiva-the Lord of lightning, is located on a height overlooking the Kullu and Parvati valleys. A 60ft staff above the temple attracts divine blessing in the form of lightning and breaks the stone linga in the sanctum.
DHOONGRI TEMPLE: This four tiered pagoda, embellished in finely carved wood, stands sheltered in grove of tall deodar at Manali (Kullu). It is dedicated to Hadimba Devi, wife of the Pandava, Bhim.
BHIMAKALI TEMPLE: A marvelous example of hill architecture, the temple complex at Sarahanis set against the incredibly beautiful backdrop of high ranges and forested slopes. Built in a mixture of the Hindu and Buddhist styles, it was the temple of Bushair rulers of Rampur (Shimla). The palaces of the royal family are adjacent to the temple. From Sarahan there is a view of the Srikhand Peak, revered as the home of goddess Lakshami.
HATKOTI: Along the River Pabbar, 104 km from Shimla, is the temple dedicated to Durga and Shiva. The gods are said to have fought a pitched battled at this spot.
JAKHU AND SANKAT MOCHAN: These two temples close to Shimla have a commanding views of the hills.
Parashar Rishi Temple
NAINA DEVI TEMPLE: On a hill, close to Bilaspur and Kiratpur (34 km), is famous shrine of Naina Devi. A colourful fair, the Shravana Astami Mela is held in July-August.
CHINTPURNI: A winding road goes up to the temple dedicated to Bhagwati Chinmastika or Chinpurni-the goddess who grants all wishes. A popular place of pilgrimage, Chintpurni is about 75 km from the town of Una and 100 km from Jalandhar.
RENUKA: The temple, dedicated to the immortal Renuka, stands near the picturesque Renuka Lake (Sirmour).
TRILOKPUR: About 25 km from Nurpur (Kangra), at the confluence of the Bohar and Bhali streams, is another sacred spot popular with pilgrims of various faiths. There is a Hindu temple, a Buddhist monastery, a gurdwara and a mosque at Trilokpur.
BABA BALAK NATH TEMPLE: A cave temple located in Deothsidth, in the Dhaulagiri Hills of Hamirpur, is a noted place of pilgrimage. People come here to seek the blessing of Baba Balak Nath whose image is located in the cave. Shahtalai, 46 km from the the district headquarters of Hamirpur and accessible by road, is about 10 km from Deothsidh.
Shoolini-deviyaan Deities, Sholan Temple
SHOLAN DEVI TEMPLE: Located along a road that leads to the residence of the district magistrate, the temple at Solan was the unfortunate victim in a Deity robbery. Two of the temple's eight idols were stolen. Devi Shoolini is the presiding Deity here.
Source: Government of Himachal Pradesh
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