Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan, Himachal Pradesh


Himachal Pradesh, often referred to as 'Dev Bhoomi' or 'Land of the Gods,' stands as a testament to its rich cultural and spiritual heritage. Scattered throughout this northern Indian state are temples and abodes of the Gods, each with its unique charm and history. Among these, the Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan village, located 180 km from Shimla, stands as a majestic symbol of devotion and architectural brilliance.

Sarahan - Gateway to Kinnaur and Capital of Shonitpur

Sarahan, known as the Gateway to Kinnaur, holds a special place in the history of Himachal Pradesh. Its origins can be traced back to the Puranas, where it is mentioned as the erstwhile Shonitpur. Once the capital of the Bushehr State, Sarahan was ruled by the Bushahr dynasty, who initially controlled the princely state from Kamru in the Sangla Valley of Kinnaur. However, later on, they shifted their capital to Sarahan, which was considered the capital of the state of Shonitpur at that time.  After Sarahan, Raja Ram Singh made Rampur his capital, bringing an end to Sarahan's reign as the seat of power.

Bhimakali Temple 

The Bhimakali Temple is a magnificent tower temple, with its towering twin towers being its most prominent feature. The temple complex also includes a few smaller temples. Maa Bhimakali is the patron goddess of the royal family of the Bushahr princely state. The temple is dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali. Maa Bhimakali is worshipped in the form of both a girl child and a married woman. It is considered as holy as 51 Shakti peethas. The temple is located amidst nature, which makes it a heavenly place. The temple was rebuilt in 1943 by the then Raja Padam Singh. The son of the erstwhile king Padam Singh, Virbhadra Singh, is known as 'Raja Sahab' in Himachal Pradesh. The temple is situated in Sarahan, Rampur Bushahr, which is 180 km from the capital Shimla. Thousands of devotees from all over the country and abroad visit the temple throughout the year seeking the blessings of Maa Bhimakali.

Architectural Marvel - Kath-Kuni Style and Sutlej Valley Roof

Believed to be around 800 years old, the Bhimakali Temple showcases a distinctive blend of Hindu and Buddhist architectural styles. This temple is a perfect example of the unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist architectural styles and is not duplicated anywhere else in the erstwhile hill states.

The temple is built in the Kath-Kuni style of architecture, which is a traditional technique that uses a combination of wood and stone. The roof of the temple is in the Satluj Valley style, which is unique to the region. Most of the temples in the Shimla, Kullu, and Kinnaur districts are made in this style.

Read in details about: Kath-Khuni architecture of H.P

The main temple complex is built around three courtyards, each enclosed by buildings on all sides. The complex consists of smaller temples, a guest house, an old royal palace, and twin towers. This is in contrast to many other standalone tower temples found in the region.

  • The first courtyard is located at the lowest level and has a Narsingha temple constructed in stone, with a shikhara on top covered with a sloping wooden roof. 
  • The second courtyard has a Raghunath temple and the third courtyard, the highest of the three, boasts the imposing twin towers. 
  • On the topmost floor of the temple building, there is an icon of Devi.

All three courtyards are accessed by highly ornamental and intricately carved gates. Ancillary buildings and residential space for support staff are provided on the periphery of the temple complex. The temple complex is an exquisite example of the ancient architecture of the region and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history and culture.

Historical Significance - Legends and Lore

Legend has it that this place was once the capital of Shonitpur, the kingdom of Banasura. Banasura was a devotee of Lord Shiva and the great-grandson of Prahlad. About four to five thousand years ago, during the Dwapar era, Banasura's daughter, Usha, was married to Aniruddha, the great-grandson of Krishna. Later, there was a battle between Krishna and Banasura in this area, but after Vishnu promised Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, that he would spare Banasura's life, Krishna left him after cutting off one thousand of Banasura's arms. A shloka from Durga Saptashati, which talks about the appearance of Bhima Devi to kill the demons in the mountains, has also been carved in the temple courtyard. Bhima Devi "Kul Devi" is the presiding deity of the princely state of Bushahr, and her temple is located here.

According to another legend, during the Daksha-Yajna that took place at the place of Devi Sati's father, Prajapati Daksha, Devi Sati's ear fell at this place. Since then, it has become one of the Shakti-Peethas for the Hindus, and many devotees visit this temple throughout the year.

Preserving Tradition - Locally Sourced Materials

The Bhimakali Temple stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of architecture with the ecosystem and local culture. The temple was built using locally available materials such as stone and deodar wood, with active participation from the community in the construction process. The temple roofs are especially noteworthy, as they are crafted from natural slate quarried from nearby areas, adding to the mesmerizing skyline.

Festivals and Celebrations

Maha Shivaratri is a special day celebrated in this temple. The Kali Puja is also celebrated here with great zeal and enthusiasm. The temple's principal religious festival, called the Udyapan Jag, is celebrated every hundred years or more. The last Jag was celebrated in 1904, 280 years after the previous one. There are fairs held twice a year during the Chaitra and Ashvin Hindu months (i.e., in April and October) to celebrate the Navratras (nine auspicious nights), which are significant from a religious perspective. During these Navratras, the priest recites the "Durga Saptashati" text.

In conclusion, the Bhimakali Temple in Sarahan, Himachal Pradesh, not only serves as a spiritual haven, but also stands as a masterpiece of architectural brilliance. It weaves together history, culture, and devotion in every stone and carving, ensuring that it remains a testament to the rich heritage of the region.

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