Category Archives: TRAVEL AND CUISINE

All about Indian travel, Indian cuisine and state of Himachal, and its beautiful capitol Shimla.

Experiencing the religious traditions of Himachal Pradesh

Chaturmukhji                               LORD CHATURMUKHJI 

Himachal is known as the land of gods and goddesses. The rich culture and heritage of the pahari people has kept their beliefs intact and firm to their roots. The people believe in their deities and offer their prayers to them without fail.

Even today, on marriage ceremony, the first invitation card of bride and groom is always sent to their respective deities, so that blessings are bestowed on them before entering into the sacred wedlock. The deities are called upon on several other occasions and their presence is celebrated with much fanfare in Himachal.

One such memorable event, to which we were spectators, left us in awe of the belief of the People. So true and so magnificent was our first response on seeing the chariot of lord Chaturmukhji, who had travelled all the way from a small village Mellan, in Kotgarh to Kalot, in Kotkhai, both being the apple belts of Shimla.Lord chaturmukhji maharaj is a form of lord shiva

Lord Chaturmukhji        SIDE VIEW OF THE LORD CHATURMUKHJI MAHARAJ

THE GRAND WELCOME

The people stood with garlands of fresh flowers and decorated plates with all kind of things used to please their gods as kumkum, mauli, rice, dry nuts etc. The chariot appeared on the shoulders of six strong men and it danced all the way. Lord Chaturmukhji’s chariot is estimated to be close to one crore.

Goddess Chaturmukhiji long hair                  LONG HAIR OF THE  LORD CHATURMUKHJI      

THE CHARIOT

The chariot was all decked up with bright clothes of the lord and it adorned long black hair which danced along the sides.It is believed that by the power of the lord the hair of Lord Chaturmukh ji grow and should be trimmed before it touches the ground. Its strange but believed true.

The  face of Goddess Durga is seen at the top and a demon face below her.Then the three gold faces of lord Chaturmukhji maharaj (shiva) placed in the center along with Brahma and vishnu on either side were placed. The silver faces of the gan or disciples, two each at the ends could be seen. The two had the chattar (umbrella) of silver hanging on their heads. The whole chariot was so lavishly decorated that you could not help but gaze at them.

The wooden chariot was decorated with flowers and bright coloured clothes cut in stripes which hung down when the chariot danced with the power of the deity, giving the appearance as if a whole body was dancing with colourful attire hanging down. It was just amazing and a breathtaking view.

THE RITUALS

When the rituals were over, the Lord who had come along with his ghanitas (chosen men who could answer your queries on the behalf of lord) spread their hair which were tied in a lock and answered all the questions put to him and suggested remedies to the faults if any.

Flowers and rice were distributed as blessings from the lord.

THE FEAST

After the worship ceremony a grand feast was held and all the invitees sat on the ground and enjoyed the lavish feast served to them. The food included ghee siddu, a popular dish of upper shimla and mash baldi ki daal along with seasonal vegetables and not to  miss the mouth watering kheer.

THE FAREWELL

A very well organized function was over with the see-off ceremony of the lord, where the Rana Sahib (Inherent of the royal kinship of the kotkhai palace, or darbar) must be present.

The chariot left the place after showering his blessings on the people. All the women folk of the village gathered to pay their offerings to the chariot. It left the place after a little dance which meant that he was happy and satisfied with the people’s’ hospitality and the love shown to him.

The scenes are still fresh in our memory, we really considered ourselves lucky enough to be a part of this grand feast.

“Jai Lord Chaturmukhji Maharaj.”

Pictures of Shimla in olden times

                                             Mall Road, 1870 

Mall Road of Shimla, 1870

This photograph is of Shimla’s Mall Road in 1870. The road which was earlier just a country road had already developed well by this time, but after this the Mall road developed phenomenally thanks to the British, who took a very keen interest in developing the whole area as they wanted  a place, where they can feel at home and Shimla was perfect for it because of its cool climatic conditions. So British found one more destination in India to  escape from the hot and humid plains. Shimla with its tall deodar and pine trees really bewitched them and this led to the further growth of the Mall Road of Shimla.


                                             Lakkar Bazar, 1892 

Lakkar Bazar, 1892

This picture is of Lakkar Bazar of 1892 and in the picture you can see the public in market, engaged in their day to day life activities. It is said that a large community of wood artisans came from Hoshiarpur in Punjab and settled down here. And slowly the wooden artifacts and other wooden items made by these artisans became popular with the visitors and the place finally came to be known as Lakkar Bazar, which is till this date is very popular for its wooden souvenirs and wooden artifacts among the tourists.

The interiors of Hatu temple – 2

Hatu temple

      HATU TEMPLE, NARKANDA, HIMACHAL PRADESH.

Main door of Hatu temple

                       THE MAIN DOOR OF THE TEMPLE

This is the main door of the Hatu temple and you can see from the picture the door has magnificent intricate carvings on it. Wood carving is a very skilled art and the artisans have to be adept at this art. Here in this picture of the temple door, you can well imagine how much effort the artisan must have put in to carve this fine amalgam of geometrical and floral design. The temple priest is seen here performing his daily rituals.

The art of wood carving can be seen even in the small temples of rural Himachal beyond Shimla. A very beautiful carving which we have often seen on many Lord Shiva temples and Nag temples is a pair of cobra snakes, which really looks elegant in carvings. This pair of cobra snakes is a sign of fertility and is held in high esteem by the local people, who worship it in the form of ‘Naag Devta’. This snake carving can be seen in the verandah or the outer patio of the temple.

Ceiling of Hatu temple

                                          THE CARVED CEILING

The ceiling of the temple looks stunning with a beautiful chandelier and carvings of ‘swastik’ and ‘om’ in the centre and is surrounded by bold floral motifs.  Lightly coloured bird carvings in blue and green make the ceiling appear more beautiful.

left wall of Hatu temple

                             THE LEFT WALL OF THE TEMPLE

This is the interiors of left wall of the Hatu temple and as you can see from the picture that this wall too has many carvings of the various gods and goddesses. Some of the gods are the same ones as on the right wall, whose picture we have already shared in the last post and there are a few new ones like the carving of Lord Krishna, Lord Brahma, and a carving of Lord Hanuman which is different from the carving on the right wall.

 

The interiors of Hatu temple

Hatu temple in Narkanda

The Hatu temple in Narkanda, Shimla is one of the most sought after motorable peaks in Himachal. It is a favourite destination for all the bikers. In winters, however due to heavy rainfall this place gets disconnected from outer world. The temple is situated at the highest peak and offers a spectacular view to the tourists.

The renovation work of the temple has been in progress since past many years and is still going on. This marks the hard efforts put by the workers in its construction in all these years gone by.  The magnificent artistry done on wood is exceptional. The intricate carvings make the interior of the Hatu temple magnificent and a timeless piece of art.

Inside view of Hatu temple, Narkanda

The above picture is an inside view of the temple which has different forms of Goddess Durga, placed in beautifully carved windows (Jharokhas) of the wood. In the front below is the idol of Goddess Hatu placed in a well decorated altar. It has two lions carved out of wood on either side. They really look very attractive. It is believed that Goddess Durga rides on a lion. Here in the picture we have a glimpse of the priest performing the daily rituals in the temple.

Beautiful interior of Hatu temple

This photograph is of the right side outer wall of the main temple which has carvings of various Gods and Goddess like Lord Shiva and Parvati, Lord Ganesha and Vishnu, Goddess Durga, Lord Hanuman and many others. The carving is done on deodar wood which gives it an excellent finish and a wonderful appearance.

If you get a chance to visit Narkanda, make sure you visit Hatu temple. Its serene environment is good for mind as you experience peace and that is what we all want in life, even if it is for few moments, free from life’s clutter just for you.