The gods were generous when they gave Sarahan (2165m) its setting. Located halfway up a high mountain side, the road to Sarahan winds past flowering jacaranda trees that give way to stately pines. Dozens of small streams rush past with waters of sparkling snow-melt. The fields and orchards that surround the small villages with their slate-roofed houses, compose pictures of pastoral perfection. Above Sarahan, a mane of deodar trees rides the slopes and higher still, encircling the Bashal Peak, are trees of smooth birch and a variety of wild flowers and rare medicinal herbs. This sparsely populated tract is steeped in ancient legends and here is the famous Bhimakali temple - regarded as one of the fifty-one sacred 'Shaktipeeths'. The temple's unusual architecture and wealth of carvings have made it a resplendent example of what is loosely called the 'Indo-Tibetan Style'. Deep down in the valley, flows the river Sutlej and across lies the snowclad Shrikhand peak.
Sarahan is the base for numerous treks and is the gateway to Kinnaur. It is a place of pilgrimage, a haven for nature lovers and the temple complex attracts a variety of admirers. Here is a place that offers an out of the ordinary travel experience.
How To Get There
The nearest railway station and airport are at Shimla, 177 km away from where taxis and buses are available. By car, Sarahan is 6 hours from Shimla. The route is on NH22 upto Jeori, from where the road bifurcates to Sarahan.
More on Himachal
At a Glance
In winter, the temperature can drop below freezing point when heavy woollens are required. The summer temperature can touch 32oC and light woollens/cottons are recommended.
Places of interest in and around Sarahan
Bhimkali Temple Complex
This is Sarahan's main focus and its weathered walls enclose approximately an acre of temples, old residential quarters, courtyards and a small recently created museum.
In the classical 'Shikhara style there is a temple of Lord Narasingh. Over a deep well is the shrine of Bhairon and built about a century ago, is the temple of Lord Raghunath. The tall towerlike structure and unusual roof lines of the two Bhimakali temples dominate the complex. The centuries-old original temple is now locked and in the one built in 1943, the goddess Bhimkali is portrayed both as a maiden ansd as a woman. A host of other deities flank her images. Dressed-stone placed in interlocking wooden beams have made the temple an architectural showpiece, which is enhanced by a wealth of wood carving.
The are some delightful walks and interesting excursions. A few kilometres short of Sarahan is the quaint village of Ranwin from where a tunnel is said to lead to Sarahan. Its temple holds an ancient sacred text.
Behind the Bhimkali temple is the Bashal peak and on the way is the cave where the legendary devote Bhimagiri is said to have lived. There is also a pheasant breeding centre at Sarahan.
Before Sarahan on the banks of the river Sutlej, Rampur (1006m) is an important commercial centre where a variety of goods from Tibet are traded - especially during the Lavi fair held every November. These includes livestock, wool, shawls, blankets and dry fruit. Its old Hindi and Buddhist shrines include the Raghunath temple, the Ayodhya temple, the Narasingh temple and Dumgir Budh temple - the last has a large prayer wheel and holds important scriptures. In an interesting mix of colonial and traditional styles, the Padam Palace is one of Rampur's major attractions.
18 km from Rampur is the unique 'Sun temple' at Nirath. Nattnagar, another historical site, is close to Rampur.
This is a picturesque village well known for it's delicious apples.
If a landscape had the powers of casting spells, then the Sangla Valley would be a magician. Once seen, it is a place that can never be forgotten. Even the rushing waters of the Baspa river, that flow through its 95 km length, seem to absorb some of the magic and slow down to savour its snow-framed beauty.
2 km from Sangla, is the fort of Kamru (3000 m) Its tower-like architecture. resembles that of the Bhimkali complex and this was the original seat of the rulers of Bushair. Chitkul (3450 m) is the last village of the valley - and beyond lies Tibet. The area is well known for its saffron farms and the Baspa river is an excellent place for angling for trout. The Hotel Shrikhand acts as the perfect base to visit this enchanting valley.
Adventure and Fishing
Sarahan is the base of several trek routes. Some are - Sarahan to Badahal, Sarahan to Sangla, Sarahan to Shrikhand. The best times are mid-April to mid-June and mid-September to mid-October.
An excellent area for trout fishing is along the Baspa rivers as it flows through the Sangla valley.
Rampur offers a variety of dry fruits, wool products and traditional handicrafts.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.