The temples of Manali
Manali may have become famous as a hill resort but its temples reveal that it is also rich in culture.
IN PAGODA STYLE: The wooden temple dedicated to Hadimba Devi.
Manali, the most sought-after destination in Himachal, derives its name from Manu and Alya meaning the abode of Rishi Manu. Manu is said to have saved the Universe after the great mythical deluge. The temple is located in Manali village, about two kilometres from the town. The image was found and buried in the courtyard of a resident, Guari of Dhauri Chauni lineage, and the present temple has been built on the said spot. A road has been built up to the village. On the sixth day of Phalgun, the famous Phaghi fair is held here in honour of Manu Maharaj.
Hadimba Devi, or Dhoongri temple as it is called, is one of the best-known shrines in the area. Almost hidden by giant deodars on the outskirts of the village Dhoongri stands this wooden temple dedicated to Goddess Hadimba. Built around a small natural cave, the temple is believed to enshrine the footprints of Goddess Hadimba, wife of the Pandava prince, Bhima. A pretty path leads to the Hadimba shrine. The ancient temple is built like a pagoda.
There is a rock inside the temple. It is believed that Hadimba meditated on this rock. `Dhoongri' means rock in the local dialect. Goddess Hadimba of Dhoongri is associated with the Dussehra festival in Kullu.
The progeny of the erstwhile rulers of Kullu regard her as their ancestor. The story goes that a leader ruled over a part of upper Kullu from his capital at Bhanara, a sleepy village above Jagat Sukh. He was so barbarous that he ordered his subjects to bring fresh milk to his domicile. A poor Brahmin got the milk of his wife who had just delivered a baby. The king who liked the taste ordered that all infants must be beheaded and their mothers' milk brought to his kitchen. People obeyed. A furious Hadimba, conferred her blessings on a young man and asked the people to follow him to vanquish the tyrant. Backed by Hadimba, the lad and the enraged commoners barged into the fort and killed the king. The youth became the ruler ruled the country for 1,800 years.
This lovely temple stands as a mute tribute to the supreme artist who sacrificed his hand with which he carved this beauty in wood. The king, who was struck by the beauty of this shrine cut off the right hand of the artist in order to prevent the duplication of the temple elsewhere.
Undaunted, the sculptor trained his left hand at the request of the people and created an even finer temple at Trilokinath in Chamba. The people were thrilled and went one step ahead of the king. They too thought that such a masterpiece should not be repeated and beheaded him. The hapless but devoted artist paid the heaviest price for his supreme art. An inscription engraved on a wooden panel at the side of the entrance records that this temple was built by Raja Bahadur Singh in a year corresponding to A.D. 1553. The sanctum is covered with a 3-tiered roof constructed of narrow wooden planks, one over the other.
The three lower ones are in the usual form projecting canopies showing traces of the wooden fringes here and there. A large metal umbrella, surmounted by a metal finial forming the fourth roof, forms the crown. The façade and windows on each side are about 12 ft above the ground.
The roof of the verandah that runs around is richly carved and presents a handsome appearance while over the entrance is a wooden balcony. The wooden doorframe is ornamented with the carvings of various deities and decorative devices such as knots, scrolls, plait works, animal figures, pot and foliage. Inside the temple, a 60-cm stone idol of Hadimba has been installed. On the left side of the entrance there is `Charan Paduka' of Goddess Durga.
The figure of Ganesa is at the centre. On the beam above the lintel appear the Navagraha panels. The uppermost part is decorated with the motif of Buddhist characters.
Temple for Vashisht
Across River Beas, about three kilometres from Manali at an altitude of 2,100 metres is the village Vashisht. It has a 4,000-year-old temple dedicated to sage Vashisht. Legend has it that Rishi Vashisht felt most hurt and sad when he learnt that all his sons were killed by Viswamitra.
One day, tied with ropes, he flung himself down into the river. But the divine river did not allow him to get drowned. The Rishi resumed his meditation at a place where village Vashisht stands today. The river assumed the name of Vipasha meaning liberator from the bondage. Vipasha, later came to be called Beas.
The temple is also famous for its hot sulphur springs. According to legend, Lakshmana who visited this ashram of Vashisht found that his guru had to go far off for his bath.
He shot an arrow at this place and water sprang out. Shower-fitted Turkish style bathrooms have made the spring a popular spot. It is believed to have been built by King Janamejaya, in memory of Raja Parikshit, his father.
Inside the temple there is a black stone image of the Rishi, clad in dhoti. On the left side of the spring, there is a Rama temple in which the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana have been installed. Dussehra is celebrated for seven days. The village was the centre of Vaishnava cult for a long time.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu