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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sarahan (Kinnaur Valley)---Why you should include it in your itinerary.

   As I write this post and go through the pictures of this hamlet in the lower Kinnaur valley,a beautiful picture fills up my mind.I realise that Kinnaur had kept up to its promise of presenting  a different picture in every halt of ours.This was our last destination in the valley ,nevertheless proved to be as exciting as the others.

I had dozed off in the car when the car screeched to a halt.As I opened my eyes,the majestic structure of the Bhimkali Temple stood before me.We enquired about the availability of rooms at the temple rest house.To our disappointment,we had to book a room elsewhere.
A light drizzle accompanied us as we walked from the hotel to the temple that evening.This time we did not pay heed to it.Each one of us was in low spirits now as we were drawing close to the end of this memorable trip. Quite in contrary to the other tourists around us, the majority of whom were just starting with their trip to the Kinnaur valley. So we decided to spend time outside, to soak in the last few memories of this magical fairyland.
   Next,with the temple behind us, we tried exploring the place on foot. Saharan is  a small hamlet, so it goes without saying that everyplace is approachable on foot.
 We whiled away the rest of the evening at tea stalls and buying knick - knacks, listening to folklore of how a little girl was born following an explosion and grew up to be a  very strong female power  known as Bhimkali. There was a lot to listen to,and even more to be perceived,as the owner of the local shawl shop preferred calling the place Bushahr (Sarahan was the capital of the princely state of Bushahr) even today,his pride very much palpable in his tone.

The Bhimkali Temple
  This  has been the most intricately carved temple I had seen so far in my two visits to the state The temple was the abode of Bhimkali or the incarnation of Goddess Kali the presiding deity of the Bushahr kings.As per mythology, goddess Bhimkali  was called upon by the ascetics practising meditation here ,to ward off the demons who disturbed them.

 The temple is unique by its own rights ,the intricate wooden carvings on its walls are worth seeing.
The architecture of the temple was an interesting mix of the Buddhist and Hindu features.The ancient Indo Tibet road passing nearby, this fusion was nothing but obvious.Few of the sculptures in the temple  even showed  a Kushan influence. My scarce knowledge of history relates this to the fact that  the Kushan kings were instrumental in the spread of Buddhism to far off. lands.  Yet,  for the regular tourist ,the temple was an awe inspiring structure in a very fitting set up,of the serene landscape.


   The temple consists of a twin tower of wood and stone.It is believed that one of the towers got tilted in an earthquake and again got back to position in another quake.The other tower was built later and the idol of the Goddess was shifted here.
   The twin towers  are visible from almost any part of Sarahan. .The steps to the main idol of Godess kali  are not visible from outside but a climb of few steps are required inside the tower ,as the main idol is at the third floor.The temple kept us engrossed for nearly two hours ,as we went around viewing the small rooms and the museums inside the temple complex.The entire structure was built with wood and interlocked stones,which made it strong enough to resist earthquakes.The small rooms around the towers were places where the kings themselves resided  before the palaces were built.The Bushair kings were dynastic  priests at the temple.
Very interestingly ,the towers also have many other idols other than Goddess Bhimkali   ,who are also worshiped there. It is so believed that as the kingdom saw different queens coming from other kingdoms, they brought with them idols of the family gods of their parents kingdom,who were given a place in this temple.
The temple is also one of the 51 Shaktipeeths. According to mythology,this was the place where Godless Sati's ear fell,after the Daksha yajna incident.

   Be it the misty mornings,with the temple standing in sharp contrast to the haze,or the beautiful paths that led to the palaces ;  the temple,the palaces, the landscape or the local people seen around,  all weaved a beautiful story connecting us to the past.

History of Sarahan
Kamru was the first capital of the princely state of Bushahr,and then the capital was shifted to Saharan   Read about the Kamru Fort here.
The capital was then shifted to Rampur (another hamlet 24 kms from Saharan).The palaces at Sarahan are still functional.The members of the royal family (the present Hon'ble Chief MInister  of the state Virbhadra Singh,himself is a member of the royal family) though do not stay here all through the year, they come back during the festivals. So the palaces are not open to the tourists.The temple and the whole of Sarahan can be seen in a different mood in the Navaratras ,as it is the prime festival here.

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    The lanes in this place were perfect for a morning stroll.With the Shrikhand ranges overlooking the place  and apple orchards and deodars dominating the scenery,Sarahan glistened in its glorious past..No matter where we walked in Sarahan ,a distinct aura of  a mountain kingdom was felt .The palaces looked so well maintained that they gave us the feel that the kingdom were not too many years old.WE later learnt that the palaces were relatively newly built ,only after the kings shifted from their residing place inside the temple.

Places to visit apart from the temple

Apart from the palace one can stroll up to the stadium or the pheasantry a little uphill (however, not many birds can be seen there). These are places which are barely 500m from the temple.We walked up only till the stadium , as we had to leave for Shimla soon. As we walked on these paths, we saw men and women rush to there workplaces.Quite a large number of local people could be spotted in their traditional attire.
   The place seemed to hold on strongly to the traditions ,as well as keep themselves well braced with modernity.

You might like to read- Kalpa,a complete guide
                                     Our successful itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh
                                  How to travel with small children.-Few useful points

                                           Rakcham .Why we preferred it to Sangla (Kinnaur)

Vessels  at the museum inside the temple

The houses of teh priests in teh temple premises

 It was quite pleasing to note that everywhere in the valley ,we were always greeted with cheerful smiles. People ,though busy in their chores did not miss sharing a few words with us.They even paused to complement us ,as we tried out the Kinnauri caps while in the morning stroll. I think though rarely noticed ,these anecdotes  make a trip so memorable at times.


 As we drove down the slopes to Shimla (our next destination),this marriage procession with the groom was on its way.Now that was some luck ,I must say.

About seventeen km,from Sarahan as you go down the slopes is Jeori, a place where a temple houses a hot water spring ..We took only a brief pause here.The nearest petrol pump is at Jeori.

   And then the roses...I can actually go back to Sarahan only for them.They grow everywhere,and did not seem to be well cared for. These add to the show of the enchanting path down the slopes.In fact,the drive down the mountain till the deviation for Sarahan from the highway is a very charming one. Flower laden trees and cute houses,bid that lasting adieu ,as one climbs downhill.

This picturesque hamlet of Sarahan  is the first destination after Narkanda as you step in the Kinnaur valley. It is at a distance of nearly 200 kms. from Shimla and takes about 6 hours on an average day. We visited Sarahan on our way back as per our itinerary.Since we were there in the month of May,we saw Sarahan covered in green. Sarahan also gets good snowfall.If you visit in the months of February and March you can see Saharan covered in snow.  The temple amidst snow forms an excellent picture!

Stay options 

The temple rest house rooms

   I shall always regret not getting an opportunity to stay in the temple rest houses.The temple rest houses are in the temple premises itself. The rest house consists of 8 spacious rooms and 2 dormitories.They are very economical and provide an excellent view from the balconies.moreover ,a stay here ensures that you don't miss the evening arti at the temple.Footwear camera or mobiles are strictly prohibited inside the main shrine.Special lockers are provided in the temple for this purpose.The same premises houses a canteen serving simple vegetarian fare.It is difficult to get a booking , as they are always prebooked by the travel operators,but you can always try your luck!

The other stay options include The PWD circuit houses located very close to the temple.
The Shrikhand is the HPTDC property in Sarahan located at the Srikhand peak, with a magnificent view of the temple and snowcapped ranges .This place can of course   be booked online.

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