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Sarahan, Travel Sarahan Valley, Tour to Sarahan, History of Sarahan Valley in India
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Home >> History Himalayas >> Sarahan
Himachal Pradesh
Bhimakali Temple, Shrikhand Peak, Lanka Vir Temple
April To June & September To November

Of Stones Soaked In History
This small village in the western Himalayas has a setting that only the Gods could have created.

This was where Banasura of the leg-end ruled. One night his beautiful daughter, Usha, had a dream. She saw a prince more handsome and far stronger than any man. And when she woke, Usha pined for that prince and told her friend, Chitralekha, about him. Based on Usha's vivid description, Chitralekha made his portrait. Partially consoled, Usha kept that picture close to her. Then Chitralekha vowed she would search the world over for that prince and bring him to Usha.

For a long time, Chitralekha wandered till one day she saw Aniruddha, Lord Krishna's son. Here was the prince of Usha's dream! As Aniruddha slept, Chitralekha picked up the bed and brought him to Usha. But the moment Lord Krishna heard of his son's abduction, he marched with his army against Usha' s father. Banasura who hadn't a clue what the battle was all about was defeated. And then the story of the dream was told. Magnanimous as ever, Lord Krishna married his son to Usha and as dowry gave back the defeated Banasura his kingdom of Shonitpur, which is regarded to be the present day Sarahan.

Banasura could not have chosen a more beautiful place to rule. This small village in the western Himalayas has a setting that only the Gods could have created. Far below in the valley, and miles out of its source in Mansarovar, tumbles the river Sutlej. Across lies Shrikhand and the other snow covered peaks, some so sacred that none may climb them. It is a land closely connected with the epic Mahabharata and the exile of the Pandavas. Alongside Shrikhand is a huge Shivalinga, the Bhimadwar that is visible from Sarahan and is said to have been built by that mountain of a man, Bhima.

Around Sarahan itself are fields and orchards, small villages and thick forests.

Legend Of Bhimakali
Between the legend of Banasura and the present day, comes the presence of Bhimakali - which is what Sarahan is all about. Again in legend, there was a time when demons lorded over the Himalayas and harassed the Gods and the Rishis (saints). After a long sequence, led by Lord Vishnu, the Gods breathed fire and poured their strength to a focus. A huge flame rose and as the clouds of smoke dispersed, they saw that a young girl had taken birth. She was the first Shakti - "Adhishakti".

Hemkunt gave her a white tiger to ride on, Kuber gave her a crown, Varun gave her clothes and water. The other Gods gave her the Lotus, Garlands, a Conch, the Chakra and other powerful Devi, was to repeatedly take birth and destroy the demons. As Bhimakali, she appeared at Sarahan - the place is one of the major Shaktipeeths or Shaktipeethas or 'Places of Strength', where the Devi or Goddess appeared. While it was the local Pundits who spent hours with us narrating the legends, many are recorded in the ancient texts of the "Markandey Purana" and the "Durgaq Shaptshatti".

Another Legend Connected To The Devi
Ages back, another legend goes, the devotee, Bhimagiri, set out from Bengal to tour all the places sacred to Shiva and the Devi in the Himalayas. He carried just a staff and the image of the devi tucked in his matted locks. When he reached Sarahan, his staff sank deep in the ground and there lay buried the image of Bhimakali. She appeared to him and said that this was her true home and here she would live. Bhimagiri lodged himself in a cave on the hillside and after his death; it was decided to build a temple.

A spot, some distance from the present complex, was chosen but every night the pile of construction material would mysteriously shift. The obvious message received, the temple was then built on the present site.

As time passed and the mists of myth gave way to verifiable history, the beautiful spot of Sarahan became the capital of the princely state of Bushair. The Raja (king) moved here from Karmu, their original seat in the Baspa Valley. In the 18th century, he moved to the banks of the Sutlej and made Rampur, on the lower boundaries of the state, his capital. Bushair was regarded as one of the wealthiest states of the region and was a major entrepot for trade with Tibet, Ladakh, Kashmir and Khazakstan.

But here legend creeps in again and the story is told of two brothers who set out from home. One night, as they slept, a boulder grew between them. In the morning, when one brother woke up, he couldn't see the other. Thinking that he had left, his brother took a high road and began walking. After a somewhat tortuous sequence of events, he became the ruler of the area. The other one woke later and found his brother gone. He took the lower path and in time became the Rajpurohit (the head priest of the kingdom).

The Temple Features
With interlocked wooden beams encasing Ashlar worked stone, the outer walls of the Sarahan temple complex encase roughly an acre of buildings and courtyards. On an edge, in the classical shikhara style of temples, is the one dedicated to Lord Narasingh (also spelt as Narasimha or Narusimha). And in the centre of the courtyard is a raised stone platform. Till its recent 'straightening out', this pointed towards the peaks of Shrikhand and the state of Kullu - a one time enemy of Bushair.

After a hard stride over Masoi's stone, comes the second courtyard and the right hand side is lined with rooms of the erstwhile rulers. There is a temple dedicated to Bhairon and then the main focus of the complex, the temple of Bhimakali.

Now locked and used as a repository, the older temple has a weathered and distinguished look. During the devastating earthquake of 1905, it tilted towards a side but the inherent elasticity of the wood-beam structure prevented major damage. A later earthquake straightened the plumb to an extent. The foundations of this remarkable building are said to rest three-storeys deep, and now a disused tunnel connects it to the village of Ranwin, a kilometre away. Through this underground passage, the pundits would enter and leave the temple.

Rebuilding Of A New Structure
Completed in 1943, by old temples side is the newer temple with a similar architectural pattern but with heavier carving on the woodwork and a fascinating roofline. Here, with a host of other deities, are two images of Bhimakali. The first portrays her as an unmarried maiden and the second as a mature woman.

For Sarahan, at a height of 200 mts and 184-km from Shimla, if one were to use the phrase that the stones are soaked with history, it would hold perfectly true. From the time when Goddess Sati scattered her body over the land and her ear fell in Sarahan there are also flecks of blood and washes of legend.

Every dawn brings lifting voices of the say's first Aarti at the temple and the sound pours over the little villages, carries to the high mountains and its strength churns in the tumbling waters of the icy Sutlej.

Tales Woven Around Sarahan
Centuries ago, the raja of Kullu declared war on Bushair. After a bloody battle, he was defeated and the dismembered head of its ruler was brought to Sarahan and placed on this stone platform. The defeated people of Kullu and the raja's family asked for the return of the head so that they could perform the final rites. The ruler of Bushair laid three conditions before he would return the head - the land seized across the Sutlej would be retained, Kullu must promise to never again challenge its neighbour and the captured image of Lord Raghunath (the pattern Devta of Kullu) would not be returned.

The defeated kingdom accepted all these conditions and in return only asked that Bushair celebrate the festival of Dussehra. This was accepted and Dussehra is now a major local festival. The image of Lord Raghunath was ceremoniously installed alongside that of Bhimakali. Then about a century ago, a new temple was built and here it presently rests.

After this sanguinary story comes another. As one climbs the stairs from the first courtyard, passes the magnificent bras plate doors and enters a short hallway, there is a large flagstone on the floor. A few years back, all around this, smooth light grey Kota stone was laid. But his hunk of rough quartzite still dominates the middle. Kanwar Gopal Singh, scion of Bushair's princely family who superintends the temple complex told the story.

A tradition that still continues to an extent is that no individual should build a house similar in design or as grand as the temple or the ruler's palace. In the village or Rohru, a man named Masoi decided that this unwritten code did not apply to his and built for himself a house inspired by the design of the Sarahan complex. This was taken as a sign of both sacrilege and revolt and an army detachment was sent to crush him.

Masoi's house was razed to the ground and this stone from his roof was brought and symbolically placed here. And every person entering the complex now walked over that stone and let everyone know that those who tried to rise above their appointed station would be crushed and trod upon for all times to come.

Adventure Sports
Trekking In Sarahan :
Sarahan is the base for some of Himachal's finest treks and is also the doorway to Kinnaur's untrammeled beauty. The more popular ones are those going to Badahal, Sangla and Shrikhand Peak. The treks are however open only between April and June and September-October.

Air: The airport nearest to Sarahan is Jubbarhatti in Shimla. From Shimla, Sarahan is at a distance of 175-kms. One has to then take a bus or a private taxi to go to Sarahan.

Rail : Another alternative to Sarahan is to take a train to Shimla and then take a private taxi or a bus run by the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation to Sarahan.

Road: There is no airport or railway station at Sarahan; so, the only access is by road.

Hotels Shrikhand :
Himachal Tourism's Hotel Shrikhand is named after the majestic mountain that faces the hotel and 5,536m high Shrikhand peak. The building's architecture has drawn inspiration from the fascinating forms of the famous Bhimakali Temple. The rooms of the Shrikhand hotel over looks the majestic view of the Shrikhand peak and apple orchards.

Accommodation Facilities:

Shrikhand Cottages :Two of the cottages are equipped with sitting rooms, one double bed room regular, and a kitchen. Rooms can also be hired separately.

All rooms of the hotel have wall to wall carpeting. They are airy, spacious, well furnished and have attached baths with running hot and cold water facility. Colour TV with multi Channels. Parking within premises. Car Rental. Doctor on Call. Safe deposit. Hotel Restaurant: with a capacity of 50 people and serves delicious Indian, Chinese, Continental and Himachali Cuisine.

Travel Packages of Sarahan

Duration : 11 Nights - 12 Days
Places Covered : 11 Nights - 12 Days
Duration : 20 Nights - 21 Days
Places Covered : Shimla-Sarahan-Chitkul-Kalpa-Khab-Nako-Spiti-Tabo-Dhankar-Ki Gompa-Kaza-Keylong-Khardong-Manali-Palampur-Kullu-Shoja-Dharamasala - Dalhousie- Khajjiar- Amritsar-Delhi