Himachal is God's own country. Dotted with temples, the state has literally one in every local hamlet, town or district. Most of these have legends dating back centuries, some as old as mankind itself. Listed are the more famous that are regarded as pilgrimages.
Lakshminarayan Temple: The Lakshminarayan temple complex is very important from the archaeological point of view. This temple was constructed during the 10th century at the time of king Sahil Verma. In this complex, there ae five other main temple namely Radha Krishna, Chandra Sekhara Mahadev, Gaurishankara, Tryambakeshwara and Laxmi Damodara. They are artistically decorated and all have been built in the Nagar style. There are also some other small temples in the complex. In addition to this temple complex, there is a galaxy of temples in Chamba which are dedicated to Hari Rai, Champavati, Bansigopal, Ram Chandra, Bajreshwari, Chamunda, Narisingh and Yogi Charpat Nath etc.
Chaurasi Temples of Bharmaur: The main temples of Lakshmi Devi, Ganesh, Manimahesh and Narsing in Bharmaur are known as the Chaurasi temples. According to a legend, Chaurasi yogis visited Bharmaur during the reign of king Sahil Verma. Pleased with the king's humility and hospitality, the yogis blessed the king with ten sons and a daughter Champawati. The temples dating back to the 9th century, are one of the most important early Hindu temples in the Chamba valley. the distance of 65 km from Chamba to Bharmaur is covered by hired vehicles. Buses ply only during yatra days in September.
Chattrari temple: Though mostly rebuilt, this temple dedicated to Shakti, houses a sanctuary and a colonnade that preserve early examples of carved wood work. The sculptures suggest post-Gupta influences from central India Cedar columns are fashioned with pot abd foliage motifs. Enshrined within the sanctuary is a large 8th century brass image of Shakti; the goddess is richly adorned with jewels and a crown. There are also attendant fisurines and a brass image of Shiva.
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At a Glance
Rewalsar: The common pilgrimage centre of the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Buddhists, Rewalsar in Mandi district is about a 100 km from Deothsidh. A natural lake and floating islands on it are a unique attraction. Around this lake one can see a number of holy shrines. Among these are the Shiva temple, the Lomesh Rishi temple, the Guru Govind Singh's Gurudwara and the Buddhist monastery (Gompa) founded by St. Padamsambhava who was responsible for the propagation of Tantrik Buddhism in Tibet. To stay at night, one can seek shelter in Lomesh Sarai, the Gurudwara, the forest rest house or tourist hotels.
Prashara Temple: Spectacularly situated at a height of 4,250 metres above the town of Pandoh, this small temple dating back to 14th century is built on the edge of a lake which has a floating circular island. Patronized by the rulers of Mandi, the temple was renovated many times; however, portions of the original wood-work are still visible. A wooden image of Prashara Rishi is worshipped in the sanctuary. Grouped around the temple are the priest's house and rooms for pilgrims.
Tarna Devi Temple: Known for its temples Mandi is the home of a number of beautifully carved stone edifices, each with an elaborate Shikhara, or spire. Among them, on the Tarna Hill is a new temple dedicated to Tarna Devi. It overlooks the valley and gives a panoramic view of the whole area.
Hadimba Devi Temple: Hadimba Devi temple, constructed in pagoda style, displays the finest example of wood carvings on it. It's sanctuary is built over a rocky crevice covered by a large rock that is worshipped as a manifestation of Durga; an image of the goddess is also enshrined here. The divinity is popularly worshipped throughout the region; during festivals the goddess is even transported to Kullu to 'visit' the god Raghunatha.
The temple is characterized by its 24 m high tower. This consists of three tiers of square roofs covered with timber tiles; the conical roof is clad in metal. The unadorned walls of mud-covered stonework contrast with the carved wooden doorway, which is elaborately decorated with miniature depictons of the goddess, attendants, animals and stylized foliation. On the beams above the doorway appear the Navagrahas, female dancers an isolated scenes from the Krishna story.
Bijli Mahadev: Situated at an altitude of 2435 metres, the temple is ideally located with a commanding view. 20 metre high wooden pole stands are installed for seeking blessings from the sky in the form of lightning which shatters the temple's Shivlinga Ghat which is then rebuilt by th temple priest. Approach - 7 km by jeep/bus and 4 km on foot.
Bhimkali Temple: Bhimkali has been the family deity of the Bushahar rulers. This temple has a small but beautiful museum. Sarahan is identified with Shontipur of the Puranic literature where Usha, daughter of Banasura fell in love with Anirudha, the grandson of Lord Krishna. The ancient temple of Usha at Nichar, a nearby place, bears testimony to this. It was hee that Lord Krishna fought a winning battle against Banasura even though the latter had the help of Lord Shiva. From Sarahan, one can have a close view of Shrikhand peak, known as the parental abode of Lakshmi. Alongside the temple, the royal palaces are also capable of evoking tourist interest. There are some hotels, sarais and rest houses whee tourists can stay.
Hatkoti: 104 km from Shimla, is the beautiful valley where the river Pabbar flows and nearby is a temple dedicated to Durga and Shiva. This is where the gods are said to have fought a pitched battle. Situated at an altitude of 1,100 metres, Hatkoti is en route to Rohru and is surrounded by lovely picnic spots.
Jakhoo and Sankat Mochan: A temple dedicated to hanuman is situated on Jakhoo hill, Shimla's highest peak, offering panoramic views of the own, the hilles and the distant mountain ranges. just 7 km short of Shimla is the temple of Sankat Mochan.
Jawalamukhi: At adistance of 10 km from Nadaun is Jawalamukhi, the town of perpetually burning flames in a splendid temple dedicated to Bhagwati Jawalamukhi. Apart from the jawalamukhi temple, there is the Gorakh Dibbi, Chaturbhuj temple and a host other smaller shrines. The gold plated tomb of the present jaw temple was constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. There are legends of Akbar the Great having sent his offerings to the Devi also.
Bajreshwari Devi: The Kangi town, known to the ancients as Nagarkot, is the seat of Shri Bajreshwari Devi. Though the main temple was ravaged by foreign invaders and flattened by the 1905 earthquake, it has since been restored to it, pristine glory. At Kangra, one can also visit the historical Kangra Fort, the 'Gupta Ganga Kshetra' and also trek up to jyanti Devi temple situated on a hillock to the West of Kangra. There is a beautiful jain temple near the Fort. Kangra is 20 km from Dharamsala and about 30 km from Trilokpur.
Chamunda: Another 20 km from Kangra is the famous Chamunda Nandikeshwar dham. This place also has a beautiful bathing ghat and a small temple across the bridge joining the ghat. There are ample arrangements to stay in the temple sarai and the rest house at Dadh. Up in the Dhauladhar hills, a trek of about 16 km, is the place where Bhagwati Chamunda, according to the Puranas, vanquished the demons Chand and Munda.
Baijnath: Baijnath was known as Kiragram or the home of Kiratas in the ancient 6mes., The 12th century temple dedicated Lord Shiva and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India, is a befitting monument in the memory of Ravana's having offered his head as many as ten times to his Guru, Vaidyanath Shiva, as per legends inscribed here.
Shri Naina Devi: Shri Naina Devi temple is at a distance of just 60 km irom Bilaspur. It is one of the 51 shakti peethas. According to a belief, Shiva's consort Sati, once died to avenge an insult. The distraught Shiva picked up her corpse and gyrated in his horrific dance of destruction. Then Vishnu, the Preserver, unleashed his discus and cut the body into 51 pieces to save the earth from Shiva's wrath. Naina Devi, is where Sati's eyes are supposed to have fallen.
The temple is situated on a beautiful hillock. Nearby is a holy cave in the name of Shri Naina Devi. A big fair during Sravana Ashtami is held every year. Again in the Navratras of Chaitra and Ashwin, fairs commemorating the goddess are held here. For night stay, rest houses and sarais in sufficient numbers are available.
Chintpurni: Chintpumi is a small town on a hillock about 75 km from Una and about 1 00 km from Jalandhar. One can enter into Himachal Pradesh from Gagret via Jalandhar and a serpentine road goes upto Chintpurni, where Bhagwati Chhinmastika or Chintpurni fulfils all the wishes of the devotees who throng to her beautfiul temple from the plains of Punjab and the hills of Himachal Pradesh. About 3 km from Chintpumi lies the temple of Sheetla Devi. There are a number of sarais and a good rest house at Bharwain which also has a tourist hotel.
Parshuram Temple: The pilgrim centre and an important place of tourist interest, Renuka Lake is about 35 km away from Nahan and 125 km from Chandigarh. Closeby lies the Parshuram Tal, another sacred spot which is fed with water over-flowing from the Renuka Lake. This oval-shaped lake has a water spread of 670 hectares and is surrounded by a wild life sanctuary. There are towering forested hills all around with trees peculiar to Shivalik ranges. A pucca road skirts the lake and a walk along its banks is an occasion for many surprises. On the way, one can even hear the roar of a lion caged in its seven hectare safari park. This wild life sanctuary is replete with neelgais, ghorals, cheetals, grey and black partridges, red jungle fowls, peacocks, black bucks etc. Besides this 3 km circular road girdling the lake, motorised and self-rowed non-motorised boats are available for exploring the lake.
In the fancy of the believers of the Renuka legend, it symbolises the profile of goddess Renuka, wife of Rishi Jamadagni and mother of Parshurama, who went and disappeared into a deep trance for good, in the waters of the Ram Talai. The principal occasion for congregational pilgrimage is the Kartik Ekadashi (i.e. ten days after the Diwali festival) upto Purnima, during which period Lord Parshuram, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, is believed to visit this place to pay obeisance to his mother.
Trilokpur: Trilokpur, about 25 km from Nurpur, is at the confluence of Bohar and Bhali rivulets, but it has also turned into a confluence of different religions - a Hindu temple, Buddhist monastery, a gurudwara and a mosque - all at the same place. There is a small tourist cafe run by the Himachal Tourism Development Corporation on the road side.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.