Monday, December 29, 2008

Temples around Bhuntar Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh

The Kullu Valley Temples
Bounded by Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges on either side, the Kullu Valley is often referred to as Valley of Gods or Eden of Apple. In old Indian texts such as Brahmand Puran, Brihatsamhita and Markandeya Puran, this area is mentioned as ‘Kulantapitha’ which famous traveler Penelope Chetwode has translated as the End of the Habitable World – as anyone who has stood at the top of the Rohtang Pass, bounding Kullu and Lahul, will understand.
Temples around Bhuntar Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh
May I initiate this blog entry, with the description of three prominent temples near Bhuntar Airport in Kullu Valley. They are Khokhan temple of Lord Brahma; Dayar temple of Lord Vishnu and Bajaura temple of Shiva (Mahesh).
May enjoy reading. Your comments will form a valuable part of this blog. Thanks.
Adi Brahma Temple of Khokhan (Near Bhuntar)
The unique temple of Adi-Brahma is located close to Bhuntar
on a link road starting from Shamshi moving towards the village of
Khokhan at about same elevation as of Dayar temple of Vishnu across the valley.
In Hindu Pantheon, there are a large number of temples devoted to Vishnu
and Shiva but very few to Brahma. Hence the Adi-Brahma temple built
in wood and stone at Khokhan is of great importance. In Himachal Pradesh,
another Adi-Brahma temple is at Tihri (Uttarsal) in Mandi district.
At Khokhan, the Adi Brahma has one ashta-dhatu, eleven silver
and two brass mohras fixed in the rath.
The temple is made in wood and stone in a peculiar style.
Local folklores indicate that there have been tiffs over supremacy between
the temples of Adi Brahma and Dayar located on the either side of the valley.

Pagoda Style Temple of Trijugi Narayan at Dayar (Near Bhuntar)
From Bhuntar (on National Highway 21) a link road bifurcates
on the left bank of Beas to Dayar village. The Pagoda Style Temple
of Trijugi Narayan at Dayar is saddled on a ridge and clearly visible
from Bajaura Shiva temple and the NH 21.

The pagoda style of a temple is often associated with lord Buddha.
This is one of the first few temples depicting influence of Budhism in the
region which grows more and more as one moves further into
Himalayas and trans-Himalayas (Lahul and Spiti districts).

In the hills, Vishnu is often referred to as Daridra Narayan
or protector of downtrodden. Vishnu is more popular in rural areas
and agricultural community with as many
as 65 Narayans in Kullu valley alone.

The temple of Dayar made of stone and wood has an idol of Vishnu
about four feet in height along with smaller metal idols of Buddha.
Mr M.R. Thakur in his book, “Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in H.P.” mentions,
“It is remarkable to note that the presiding deities in chief areas of the Pradesh
are among Vishnu, like Raghunath in Kullu, Madhav Rao in Mandi,
Laxmi Narayan in Chamba, Murli Manohar in Sujanpur, Bansi Gopar in Bilaspur
and Parshu Ram in Renuka (Sirmaur). The following of Vishnu may be
gauged by the reverence of large number of Narayans and his
nine incarnations – Matsya ‘the fish’, Kurm ‘the tortoise’,
Varah ‘the boar’, Narsimha ‘the man-lion’, Vaman ‘the dwarf’,
Parshu Ram, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and the tenth would be incarnation Kalki.”

Bajaura Temple (Near Bhuntar Airport)

The temple of Basheshwar Mahadev (or Vishvesvara Mahadev) is located at Bajaura on National Highway 21, about four kms from Bhuntar Airport.

There are about twenty recorded stone-temples in Kullu of which
the Bajaura temple of Lord Shiva (Lord of Universe) is the largest one.
The famous archeologist, Dr Vogel has described this temple in detail
in his report to the Archaeological Survey of India (1909-10).
He says, “The excellent workmanship of the large bas-reliefs and,
in fact, all the sculptural decoration on Bajoura temple, points to an early date”.
Mandanjeet Singh, an Indian art historian, in his book Himalayan Art (UNESCO, 1968),
opines that the temple was built in eleventh century.
The temple looks a bit squat with an unusually flat Shikhara.
The outer surface of the temple is covered with the carvings.

There is no pillared hall attached to this temple though such adjuncts
are common in Mandi temples. The sanctum sanctorum of the
temple called Garbha Griha is approached directly by an
open doorway on the east side of the temple and
contains the linga of Shiva set in the yoni of his
female power (shakti), Devi, the daughter of Himalaya.

There are magnificent carvings of gods on the remaining
three sides of the temple. The niche to the west has a standing figure of Vishnu.

The niche to the south has a beautiful Ganesha.

And the side facing north (the eternal snows of Lahul) has Devi Durga
with her eight arms wielding different kinds of weapons.

Exquisite carvings on the bulging tower of temple

No animal sacrifice is made at the Bajaura temple

The lower part of temple is mainly made up of foliage patterns

A peacock may be seen in this carving

Such carvings are there at the base/lower side of the temple

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Spirituality takes us beyond our ego-centered lives by expanding our hearts with compassion towards, all.
….Alan Shelton

a) Spirituality lies beyond the material world of proof, beyond what can be measured or counted.
b) It is made up of the inner life, the realm of belief, mystery, and faith.
c) And yet for all the mystery that surrounds it, spirituality is vital to our well-being.
d) It is foundation of our most closely held values, the seat of our trust and hope.
a) Spirituality brings purpose and meaning to life, and as we develop it we grow in wisdom and love.
b) We begin to experience a sense of awe, a sense of connection to all of life, and a deep reverence for the Divine.
c) We find ourselves moved to prayers of gratitude and moments of spontaneous worship.
d) Spirituality calls a human being to a life of trust and service.

a) When our Spirituality is nurtured and vibrant, we are connected. This connection is both a sense of relationship to the Creator, Great Spirit, or God, as well as a relationship to all people and to Mother Earth.
b) Spirituality takes us beyond our ego-centered lives by expanding our hearts with compassion towards all.

Spirituality involves a reverent attitude towards all things because it awakens us to a divine presence in all things.
In this way of seeing and being, all things and persons are interconnected and interdependent.

In the Sioux native language, the word for the Great Spirit is Wakan, which means `the great mystery’. Yet this spirit, full of mystery, is every bit as real as the visible, tangible world.

a) It is important to differentiate Spirituality from religion. Some people have rejected religion in order to escape what they consider to be oppressive rules and regulations.
b) In this process, however, many lose the great gifts of joy and compassion that spirituality brings.
a) Religion and Spirituality are related and intertwined, but they are not the same.
b) A person may experience Spirituality without being a member of any specific religious affiliation, and even the most religious person may feel spiritually bereft.

a) The true purpose of religion is to enhance Spirituality through ritual and practice. This is accomplished when a person approaches his or her religion as a way to enter the great mystery, to become aware of the sacredness of all life.
b) Religion can become a barrier to spirituality when it insists on narrow, judgmental dogma, and estranges its followers from a sense of connection with the divine.

a) Religion serves us best as a vehicle to nourish and develop our spirituality.
b) It is possible, however, to get too caught up in the vehicle, the religious practice, while losing sight of the destination, spirituality, which is communion with the Divine and compassion for all.

a) For modern, academically oriented professionals, like physicians and health care workers, spirituality is often a difficult subject.
b) Our training is framed by science. In Western culture especially, we depend on logical, analytical, and rational approaches, and for good reason.
c) These approaches have successfully ushered in a host of life-changing improvements in health care and technology.

While honoring science and the mind, our cultural tendency urges us to devalue belief and mystery, but the result is costly: We’re left spiritually starved and out of balance.

a) Some of life’s most difficult questions are the spiritual ones.
b) What is the purpose of life?
c) Where does real meaning come from?
d) What is the real value in our lives?
e) If there truly is God who loves us, how could there be so much of suffering and unfairness in the world?

a) Part of our addiction to the busyness of life is an attempt to prevent ourselves from thinking about our mortality, the inevitable fact of our own death.
b) But when we keep ourselves too busy to consider the purpose of our existence, our lives cease to have meaning.

a) Strangely, it is only when we fully accept the reality of our mortality that we truly begin to live.
b) This is the point at which we begin to enter into and learn about the spiritual dimension of our humanity.
a) As French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin remarked, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience.”
b) Our spirituality is our true essence.
c) It is that part of our life which relates to our soul, which from a spiritual perspective is connected to the Divine.

Buddha says, You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe,
deserve your love and affection.

Great Himalayan National Park Treks

Trekking in the Great Himalayan National Park
The Great Himalayan National Park offers the causal hiker and serious trekker a wide range of experiences in the natural wonders of the Park. Trails range from relatively easy day walks in the Ecozone to challenging week or longer treks through arduous and spectacular terrain. GHNP ranks as one of the best national parks in the world and reveals its beauty, diversity, and depth through time spent in exploration.

Tirthan Valley

Photo: Gateway to the Great Himalayan National Park in Tirthan Valley
The general climate of the Park is quite temperate and the best time for visiting is in Spring (April-May) and Fall (September-October). Summer brings monsoon rains and winter brings colder temperatures and the possibility of dangerous snow storms, especially at higher elevations. Being remote and insulated within the Kullu valley, the Park has its own microclimate.

Photo: A trekking party near GB's Hippo
(on the periphery of boundary in Tirthan Valley)

Photo: A Gur (priest) delivering sermon near Tirath, the origin of Tirtahn River

Photo: A trek in progress through a landslide area on Tirthan River

Photo: Trekkers nearing Tirath, the origin or Tirthan River
Trek upto Tirath in Tirthan Valley
Day 1: Gushaini (1500m) to Rolla (2100m): Walk through Ecozone of GHNP. Gentle gradient at the beginning of trek. Distance: 10 kms.
Day 2: Rolla to Nada (3300m) Thach: Moderate to strenuous climb through oak and conifer forests. A prominent tree god near Chalocha (2450 m) from where the climb starts. Possible sightings of Himalayan Tahr or Black Bear. Nada thatch (meadow) very good for bird watching. Distance: 12 kms.
Day 3: Nada Thach to Majhoni (3800m): Gradual to steep decent through forests. Distance: 12 kms.
Day 4: Majhoni to Tirath (4000m) and back Majhoni: Moderate gradient leading into the vast meadow of Tirath offering views of magnificent mountain panoramas. Tirath, the origin of Tirthan river has a glacial lake which is sacred to the villagers of Tirthan valley. Vegetation is stunted showing influence of extreme cold temperatures. Distance: 8 kms.
Day 5: Trek from Majhoni to Nada Thach. Distance: 12 kms.
Day 6: Rest day at Nada. Bird watching.
Days 7: Nada Thatch to Rolla- descent. Distance: 12 km.
Day 8: Rolla to Gushaini. Distance: 10 km.

Sainj Valley
Photo: A camping site in Parkachi Meadow of Sainj Valley

Photo: A petrolling hut in Dhel Meadow (3737 m altitude) in Sainj Valley

Photo: A trekking party in Sainj Valley

Photo: A trekking party at Rakti Sar, origin of Sainj river
Raktisar in Sainj Valley
Day 1: Neuli (1500 m) to Shakti (2100 m) village. Night at Park accommodation. Moderate ascent. Distance: 22 Km
Day 2: Shakti to Parkachi (3000m) thach. Trek along the Sainj river. Gradual ascent. Distance: 10 kms.
Day 3: Parkachi thatch to Rakti Sar (4500 m): Along the river, quite a strenuous ascent through rocky portions. Crossing of streamss along the route is tricky. Distance: 14 kms.
Day 4: Trek from Rakti Sar to Parkachi thatch. Strenuous descent. Distance: 14 kms.
Day 5: Rest day at Parkachi. Bird watching. Medicinal herbs.
Day 6: Parkachi thatch to Shakti village. Gradual descent. Distance: 10 kms.
Day 7: Shakti village to Neuli. Distance: 22 kms.
Total Distance: 92 kms.

Jiwa Nal Valley
Photo: Adventurous river crossing near the headwaters of Jiwa Nal

Photo: Jiwa Nal River near its origin in Khandedhar

Photo: A camping site in Khandedhar, near the origin of Jiwa Nal river

Photo: Unique shapes of mountains at Khandedhar in Jiwa Nal valley

Jiwa Nala to Parvarti River Valley
A seven-day, very strenuous, dramatic hike crossing the mountain passes at Kandi Galu (3627m), and Phangchi Galu (4636m). Incredible vistas. Must be in excellent physical condition as very demanding with elevation ascent of 2000 meters and 1500 meters descent in one day (total up-down, 3,500 m in one day!).
Day 1: Neuli (1650m) - Bhagi Kashahri (2600m). Morning visit to Manu (2200 m) Temple. Evening at village school site. Moderate ascent. Distance: 23 kms.
Day 2: Bhagi Kashahri to Subli (3300m). Strenuous ascent in early morning (3600 m). Pass through Kandi Galu notch (3627m). Distance 17 kms.
Day 3. Subli to Dwada (3150m). Relatively easy hike passing through birch forests and meadows. Distance 6 kms.
Day 4: Rest Day at Dwada: Beautiful meadow surrounded by steep mountain valleys and flowing Jiwanal River. Peaceful and good place to rest after long hike from Subli.
Day 5: Rest Day Dwada: Day hike up to Surtu Glacial Pond in Khandedhar with dramatic mountain backdrops. Opportunities for wildlife observation including Brown Bear, Snow Leopard, etc. Distance: 20 kms. round trip.
Day 6: Dwada to Chippi (3550m): Very strenuous day. Crossing Phangchi Galu Pass (4636 m) below Khandedhar into Parvarti Valley. Continuous steep ascent over rock scree, boulders, and very narrow paths into high alpine meadows, then higher lichen environments. Can be cold and windy. Descent from Phangchi Galu can have deep snow pack and should be done with great care as steep drops and potentially very dangerous. Sublime peace at the higher elevations. Stressful on knees coming down! Distance: 23 kms.
Day 7: Chippi to Pulga: Easier descent back into forests and meadows, ending at village of Pulga. Distance: 18 kms.
Total Distance: 110 kms.
Parvati Valley
Photo: A trek across Pin Parvati Pass (5319 m altitude)

Photo: Crossing of Pin Parvati Pass on 9.9. 1999
(an expedition of HP Forest Department led by Sanjeeva Pandey)

Photo: On the Pin side of the trek

Photo: A crevasse en route to the Pin Parvati Pass

Photo: The full trekking party
Crossing the Pin Parvati Pass (5319 meters altitude)
Main attractions: village house architecture; tree deities; old Forest Rest House at Pulga; panoramic views; alpine and sub-alpine pastures; huge glacial structures at Man-Talai onwards; about 7 to 8 kms. long stretch of snow fields on the Pass; changing vegetation and distinct bird, mammal, butterfly life.
Day 1: Shamshi (1100 m) to Barsheni (2150 m): by road
Trek from Barsheni to Khirganga (2960 m) Distance: 10 kms. A busy trekking route. The sulfur springs at Khirganga are very famous in the area. A number of Sadhus (holy men, hermits) can be seen camping in the vicinity of the springs.
Day 2: Khirganga-Tunda Bhuj (3285 m) to Thakur Kuan: Trek is less disturbed, goes through conifer forests, open meadows and birch forests. The journey may be broken in two days, up to Tunda Bhuj (area with high altitude birch forests) in one day and then from there to Thakur Kuan, the next day. Distance: 19 kms
Day 3: Thakur Kuan to Pandupul (3700 m) to Mantalai (4200 m): This part of trek is above tree line in high altitude meadows full of medicinal herbs, alpine grasses, bees and butterflies during Summer season. It should be done in two days: up to Pandupul in one day and next day to Mantalai. Distance: 20 kms.
Day 4: Mantalai to Pin Parvati Pass (5319 m) to base of the snow field in Pin Valley (4075 m): This is the most strenuous part of the Pin Parvati Pass trek. It involves a steep ascent from Mantalai to the Pass and then a descent into the Pin valley. About six to seven kms trek is on snow fields filled with potentially dangerous crevices. Weather may change any time at the Pass. Distance: 14 kms
Note: Assistance of a guide to cross the Pass..
Day 5: Rest day at the base of Pass in Pin Valley.
Day 6: Base of the snow field in Pin Valley to Tariya or near Mud: Trek through arid zone of the cold desert in Pin Valley. The arduous part of the trek is over, but watch out for crossing of streams on the way. This part of trek can be done in two days with a stopover in between. Distance: 11 kms.
Day 7: Tariya/Mud to Maling road head onwards by road to Kaza (3600 m): Mud is the first village to come by. The trekker may hire a pony or one of the famous Chamurti bred Tibetan horses to ride up to the roadhead. Distance: 15 kms.
Total Distance: 90 kms.