I woke up to the sound of temple bells and devotional songs. The time was 5:30. I went up to the roof of the hotel hoping to see the sun coming up the mountains but was greeted by the mist rising from the valley.
On a clear day, we can see the Shrikhand peak of the Himalayas. There was no point in waiting. So I decided to go to the temple before the devotees start coming for the morning puja. There is a short path lined with apple orchards leading to the temple gate.
The Bhimakali temple is over 800 years old and is one of the 51 shakti peeths. It is dedicated to Goddess Bhimakali, the presiding deity of the erstwhile rulers of Sarahan. The majestic temple complex is made in the traditional kath-kuni style using stone and wood which is suitable for the climatic conditions.
From the main gate, you enter a large courtyard and the temple complex comes into view. It looked more like a castle. The heavily carved building in the front used to be the old palace of the ruling Bushahr family. The temple resthouse, canteen, and administrative office are in this courtyard. It was slightly unnerving to see a gun- toting guard in this pristine environs and a grim reminder of the times we live.
The premises are kept very clean and one can feel a sense of peace and serenity all around unlike most of the temples which are always crowded and noisy. The present chief minister of Himachal Pradesh is also the king of the Bushahr dynasty.The signs of royal patronage are quite evident.
From the first courtyard, an ornate silver door opens to the smaller second courtyard.
A short flight of steps flanked by two tigers takes you to the main temple towers.
The tower on the right is the old temple which was damaged in an earthquake and was deemed unsafe for regular worship. The new tower was made in 1943. Photography is not permitted inside the temple. The Goddess is enshrined in the top floor of the functioning temple. From the windows on the top floor, I could see the spectacular mountain range still covered in the mist.
There are three other temples in the complex dedicated to Lord Raghunath, Narasimha and Lanka Veer. Legends and mythological tales abound in the Bhimakali temple. It was surprising to know that human sacrifices used to be held here until the 18th century.
There is a mini museum showcasing old utensils, weapons, musical instruments, and relics. Staff quarters of the temple priests are seen near the old tower. Each structure seems to blend with the surrounding mountains.
Majestic snow-capped mountains, lush green meadows, orchards, and a temple with stunning architecture makes Sarahan the quintessential Himalayan town. The Goddess Bhimakali could not have chosen a better place to reside and watch over her devotees.