Shree Naina Devi Temple
Perched on a hilltop on the borders with Punjab, Naina Devi is an important Shaktipeeth pilgrimage center that lakhs of people visit every year. A Shaktipeeth considers the female divinity as the source of all cosmic energy and Shaktipeeth temples span the length of the Himalayas from Kashmir to Assam.
Believers hold that as the dead body of Sati dismembered during an all consuming cosmic Tandav dance of Lord Shiva, it was the eyes that fell at Naina Devi, giving the place its name. It was Raja Bir Chand of Bilaspur who built the temple in the 8th century. Pilgrims throng the temple for the Navratri fairs in March-April and July-August, with the latter one drawing larger crowds. The temple affords a commanding view of Bhakra Dam, Anandpur Sahib and Gobind Sagar Lake.
Shree Chintpurni Devi Temple
A deeply revered Shaktipeeth township, Chintpurni is a major pilgrimage centre that attracts lakhs of people every year. A Shaktipeeth considers the female divinity as the source of all cosmic energy and Shaktipeeth temples span the length of the Himalayas from Kashmir to Assam.
Believers hold that as the dead body of Sati dismembered during an all consuming cosmic Tandav dance of Lord Shiva, it was the dead goddesses feet that fell at Chintpurni, giving the place its name. A gold plated shrine, at the center of the temple complex, is an impressive monument. One has to walk to the temple as no vehicles are allowed in the premises.
Chintpurni is 55 km from Una town.
Shree Jwalaji Temple
An eternal flame of natural gas that has been burning for thousands of years from a hollow rock is revered as the manifestation of goddess Jwala ji. Every year during Navratra days in March-April and September-October colourful festivals are held at Jwala ji. The natural flame is protected in the sanctum sanctorum with a gold layered dome shaped temple built over it. Not too far from Kangra, this popular place of pilgrimage is 55 km for Dharamshala and 35 km from Kangra.
Shree Bajreshwari Devi Temple
Shree Bajreshwari Mata Temple in the heart of Kangra town honours goddess Bajreshwari, an incarnation of goddess Durga. According to the legend, the temple was originally built by Pandavas during the Mahabharata era. The fame and riches of the temple attracted many invaders over the centuries. Plunder of the temple by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009 AD, carrying away tons of gold and other valuables over the Khyber Pass, is well documented by historians. After every invasion, the temple was rebuilt and restored to its old glory. The temple was flattened by an earthquake in 1905 but has since been rebuilt and restored.
Shree Chamunda Devi Temple
In the shadow of the mighty Dhauladhar ranges, by the banks of River Baner, the Chamunda Devi temple complex has very scenic surroundings. Within the complex is a cave shrine that shelters a Shiva Lingam under a boulder. The temple is believed to be more than 400 years old. Besides a water pool, overflowing with the streams waters, are statues of Lord Shiva and goddess Saraswati. Local legends has us believe that it was in a dream that Devi Chamunda appeared to a Brahmin. At her command he laid the foundation of this temple. Easy to reach, this highly revered temple is 15 km for Dharamshala.
On a trekking route, 16 km high up in the Dhauladhar ranges from the Chamunda Devi temple, is the older Aadi Himani Chamunda temple, perched on a ridge. Many devotees do go on a pilgrimage to this temple every year.
Shiva Temple, Baijnath
An architectural gem, the stone temple of Baijnath was rebuilt at an existing temple site by two local merchants in 1204 AD. The shikhara style temple houses a divine Linga which is counted as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. Believers hold that even Ravana, the king of Lanka and a devotee of Lord Shiva, also meditated at Baijnath. For Shivratri the temples is draped in flower garlands which enhances its beauty and grace. The town holds a fair for Shivratri, which draws a lot of devotees to the temple.
Masroor Rock-cut Temples
The Masroor Temple of Kangra is a rare monolithic rock cut temple in North India that is dated to 8th century AD. It is an ambitious feat comparable with the rock hewn shrines of Ajanta and Ellora in Western India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and other Hindu deities, the complex in all has 15 Indo-Aryan style temples cut in the rock. They face the eastern Sun with a rectangular pool in the courtyard. Reflection of the temple shikhara’s in the pool waters casts a spell binding image of Masroor. In easy reach, this rare temple complex is only 40 km from Kangra.
Baglamukhi Temple, Kangra
The belief is that Baglamukhi Mata is not only a destroyer of all evils but even vanquishes enemies of the devotee who evokes her powers. Yellow is believed to be the Devi’s favourite colour, which has the entire the temple complex painted in yellow. Devotees, those who coming visiting, do so in yellow clothing and make an offering of ‘besan ke laddoo’ which are also yellow in colour. The temple has an idol of goddess Durga, with large enclosures for conducting havans. This, one of its kind temple in the country, is near Bankhandi, on the Kangra – Hoshiarpur road, 26 km from Kangra.
Baba Balak Nath Temple, Deotsidh
A cave shrine of Baba Balak Nath on a hillside at Deothsidh is an important pilgrimage center, visited by many, especially so in March every year. The place has kept a ‘light of truth’ burning for centuries as believers consider the flame sacred because it was first lit by a boy sage about 500 years ago. For thanksgiving, devotees offer Rota, a sweetened bread, at the altar. There is a specially constructed platform inside the cave temple which is used by women to make their offerings and seek blessings. Baba Balak Nath is 44 km for Hamirpur, 60 km for Bilaspur and 64 km for Una.
Bhimakali Temple, Sarahan, Shimla
Commemorating the all powerful Hindu goddess Bhimakali, this hill fortress styled multi-storied twin temple complex stands out for its architectural brilliance. Located in the heart of scenic Sarahan, the place has a up close view of perennially snow covered towering peaks. The temple is a highly revered one, and many pilgrims do visit it round the year.
Dedicated to goddess Bhimakali as a destroyer of all evil, the temple is the patronising deity of the former rulers of Bushair princely state. The temple in its serene surroundings comes alive during the Navratra fairs, which are held here twice in a year in Chaitra (March/April) and Ashvin (September/October) months..
Public and private transport coaches regularly ply to Saharan. For more comfort a taxi can be availed from Shimla to undertake the 180 km journey.
Hatkoti Temple, Pabbar valley – Shimla Hills
On the right bank of Pabbar river, at a distance of about 100 km from Shimla, Hatkoti with its green paddy fields and almond orchards is a very scenic place. There is also a stone temple complex dedicated to warrior Goddess Durga, built with local materials in an architectural style typical of the valley.
In the temple compound is a stone temple of Lord Shiva and five smaller shrines for Sapt Rishis (7 Sages). A heavy metal pail, right outside the temple entrance called ‘charu’, is leashed with a chain to the foot of the 1.2 meter idol of the goddess that is made up of an alloy of eight metals.
Public and private transport buses regularly ply on the Shimla to Rohru route, making a halt at Hatkoti to drop and pick up passengers. Taxis can be availed from Shimla or Rohru to get to Hatkoti.
Sankat Mochan, Shimla
Just as one enters Shimla, at a short downhill detour from the highway near Tara Devi hill, is Sankat Mochan. The temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman manifest as a trouble solver.
Bab Neeb Karori Ji Maharaj, a wandering sadhu who stayed in the area, on finding the place ideal for soulful introspection and meditation decided to build the temple here. Construction of started in 1950, and now there is a 3 storey complex with some large halls.
From the city center, the temple is at a distance of 5 kms. On Tuesdays and Sundays, throughout the year, there is a free community lunch open to all at the temple that is hosted by the devotees.
Jakhoo Temple, Shimla
Overlooking the hill station at 2,445 meters altitude, Jakhoo Hill is Shimla city’s acme and home to the lord Hanuman. The daunting one-hour uphill climb from The Ridge finally ends at Jakhu Temple with an abundance of resident mischievous monkeys around who fancy tourist’s cameras, glasses and food.
Believers hold that Hanuman, on a foray into the Himalayas in search of the life saving herb Sanjeevani Bhoti that was needed to save Laxmana who was lying critically wounded in battle with Lanka king Ravana, stopped over at Jakhoo Hill.
The temple has been exhaustively renovated and this vantage point is also connected by a ropeway from near The Ridge. Just outside the temple is a colossal 108-feet tall saffron-coloured idol of Lord Hanuman.
Tara Devi, Shimla
A newly built wood and stone temple with slate roofing in traditional hill architecture style sits atop the ridge at the east edge of Tara Devi hill. The 360 degree panoramic views from here are a commanding sight. On auspicious days, the temple offers a free community lunch hosted by devotees. A curling uphill drive from the highway at Shoghi takes you to this temple that houses a goddess. The temple can be reached by a road branching from Shoghi, which is 13 km from Shimla.
Kali Bari Temple, Shimla
Built by a Bengali Brahmin in 1845, Kali Bari temple in Shimla town is dedicated to the evil slaying goddess Kali. It is located at a walking distance from The Mall Road. Since its foundation, the temple has been a much visited prayer house for the town’s Hindus and the visiting Bengali community.
Hatu Temple, Narkanda, Shimla
Towering over River Sutlej valley, Hatu Peak at 3400 meters is one of the highest peaks near Shimla. Though a motorable road has been constructed, but an uphill walk through the woods from Narkanda gives a better experience of the hills. The 360 degree views from the mountain top are deep and expansive making the trek a worthy one.
Atop the mountain a temple dedicated to demon slaying goddess Kali exhibits the local architecture and wood craftsmanship skills. The temple is newly constructed with interiors and exteriors painstakingly hand-crafted in wood by seasoned craftsmen. Each wall and pillar in the temple has a theme picked out from Hindu mythology depicted on them.
To reach Hatu, one has to do a road journey to Narkanda, a distance of 64 km from Shimla. From Narkanda one needs to take a taxi or do a 8 km trek through forest country to the mountain top destination.
Renuka ji Temple
Renuka, 38 km from Nahan, has a beautiful and sacred oval-shaped lake. Close to the lake is the temple of Renuka ji, the mother of Lord Parshuram, who is considered to an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
A little downstream of the natural lake is a smaller one which is named – Parshuram Tal (pond). The natural placement of the two lakes goes with a belief that Lord Parshuram desired to spend all eternity at his mother’s feet, which has manifested in the smaller lake. The bigger lake representing Renuka has her son Parshuram always at her feet in the form of the smaller lake.
Both mother and son are reunited every year at the celebratory Renuka fair held in November. The fair is a week-long festival. Lord Parshuram is brought in a palanquin from the temple at Jamu Koti village and it departs after taking a holy dip in the lake. Dressed in colourful traditional attire, the celebrations included dancing to lively beats played upon age old folk songs, community socializing and trading of surplus produces.
Bala Sundri Temple, Trilokpur
On a isolated hill, 23 km from Nahan, at Trilokpur is the highly revered temple of goddess Mahamaya Bala Sundri that has 84 bells hanging at its entrance. The temple was constructed by Raja Dip Prakash from the Sirmaur royal house. Navratri fairs held twice a year as Chaitra and Ashwina Navratras are a big draw when many pilgrims visit the temple.
Hadimba Devi Temple, Manali
Known as the Dhungri Temple, Hadimba Devi temple, in the vicinity of the Mall Road in Manali, is built on a strong stone foundation, with the temple Shikhar rising as high as the deodar trees surrounding it. The four-tier pagoda style temple in stone with a wood roof, dates back to the 16th century. Built over a cave shrine, the temple is said to be preserving the footprints of Goddess Hadimba Devi, the presiding deity of Manali. In the Mahabharata, Hadimba is the wife of Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers who is revered as a goddess here. The temple attracts devotees and architecture lovers from around the world.
Vashishth Hot Water Springs and Temples
Vashishth is a sacred village that can be easily accessed from Manali market through a paved path. The village is home to the pyramidal stone temple of sage Vashishth Muni who finds mention in the Rig Veda and other religious books. There is also a Temple of Lord Ram in this village. Apart from the temples, hot water spring is what makes this small hamlet worth visiting. Turkish style baths have been built nearby, with the water from the hot spring channelised to the bathing pool at Vashishth.
Manu Temple, Manali
At a walking distance from Manali town, Manu temple in Old Manali is a fine stone and wood architecture temple with a roof of slate tiles. The temple is devoted to Rishi Manu, a sage who codified the Hindu laws in the holy book Manusmriti. The temple is rare in the country and Manali derives its name as Manu Alya from this temple. Folklore narrates that it was in the meditative environs of Manali that sage Manu was able to brood, debate and codify the laws that govern Hinduism.
Vishveshvara Mahadev Temple, Bajaura
The pyramidal-style, stone monolithic temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, locally addressed as Basheshara, at Bajura is dated to have been built sometime between 9th and 12th century AD. The temple embraces the ancient Shankaracharya’s Panch Dev Puja Paddhati wherein five Gods are worshipped at one place. The excellent workmanship of the large bas-reliefs and other sculptural decoration besides the scenic location on the bank of River Beas, and in close proximity to the highway does draw a large number tourists to this temple.
Bijli Mahadev Temple, Kullu
Walking uphill to Bijli Mahadev temple offers some very commanding views of Kullu valley. In the temples courtyard is a pillar shaped Shiva Linga that is plastered together with butter. Every year frequent lightning strikes shatters this pillar. The pieces of this pillar are put together by the priests with butter to resurrect the Shiva Linga again.
Raghunathji Temple, Kullu
The presiding deity of the valley is manifest in the small idol of Lord Raghunath housed in a temple within the Kullu palace complex. Folklore holds that the idol was brought from Ayodhya by a former Kullu king to dispel a curse on the royal family.
Leading a grand procession on a wooden chariot pulled by devotees, Lord Raghunath rides into Dhalpur ground with deities in attendance to mark the start of the week long Dussehra festival every year. It is a grand spectacle with over 200 village deities carried around in palanquins. After paying reverence to Lord Raghunath they participate in the festivities that follows.
Bhootnath Temple, Mandi
A walk past the colourful and busy alleys of Old Mandi’s Bazar gets to Baba Bhootnath mandir. Built at the time when the town was founded in 1520 AD, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shivratri, the main festival of Mandi, gets underway after Mahdo Rao and other deities make a visit to Bhootnath temple. For one entire week the town celebrates the arrival of hundreds of local deities on elaborately decorated palanquins.
Shikari Devi, Mandi
Towering over the region, Shikari Devi at an altitude of 3359 meters is known as the crown of Mandi. It is the highest peak of the district. While the surrounding areas receive a lot of snow, miraculously the wind movement keeps the peak dry even in deep winter. With mystical aura and splendid panorama, Shikari Devi peak is topped by a roofless temple dedicated to a goddess. This Shikari Devi peak is 101 km from Mandi and 15 km from Janjheli.
This pristine lake with a three storied pagoda like temple dedicated to the sage Prashar is a backpacker’s paradise. Located at an altitude of 2,730 meters, the lakes deep blue waters are considered sacred. Prashar, a learned Hindu sage, is believed to have meditated besides the lake. In June a fair is held by the lakeside. There are several camping sites on the periphery of Prashar and many easy to difficult graded treks to explore in the region. Prashar is 45 km from Mandi and can be approached from Drang.
Trilokinath Temple, Lahaul-Spiti
Communal harmony has Hinduism and Buddhism coexist peacefully in Lahaul for centuries, best exemplified at the highly revered Trilokinath temple. Here, Hindus and Buddhists pay reverence to the same deity. The holy sanctum, housing a six-armed idol of Lord Shiva as Trilokinath is dated back to 2nd century AD. Another statue placed above the Trilokinath idol reveres the Buddha as Avalokiteshvara.
This temple shrine is at Udaipur, 53 km from Keylong. In older times, Triloknath was also known as Tunda vihar. The shining white temple, hanging by a cliff, is considered a pilgrimage with comparable sanctity of one to Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. Every year in August, Pauri is a festival held for three days where followers of both religions gather to offer prayers and receive blessing from Lord Trilokinath.
Chaurasi Temple, Bharmaur, Chamba
In the heart of Bharmaur town is the historic Chaurasi Temple complex, which dates back to the 7th century. Here stand 84 temples and shrines that are dedicated to 84 yogis (Siddhas). Entrance to the complex is decorated with an ornate structural pediment. The main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva as Mani Mahesh. Another important temple at the complex is that of Lakshana Devi. Many other surrounding temples are in symbolic form as Shiva Lingas. There is a belief that a pilgrimage to Lake Manimahesh is incomplete without a visit to Chaurasi Temple. Bharmaur is 65 km from Chamba.
Laxmi Narayan Temple, Chamba
Built in stone and capped with a circular slate roofed chhatries supported on wooden beams, the Shikhara styled architecture of the Lakshmi Narayan temple complex, consisting of 6 temples, is a landmark of the historical town. The main temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, was built by Raja Sahil Varman in the 10th century when he founded the town. Interestingly three of these temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and one to Radha Krishna. The chiselled cut stones walls are decorated with intricate designs on them and there are small arches supported by two chiselled pillars with sculpted deities enclosed.
The temple comprising Bimana (Shikhara and Garbha Griha with a little antralya), a mandapa-like structure also has a metallic image of Garuda, on a pillar of the main gate are gilded pinnacles, said the be placed there in response to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s order for having the temple demolished.
Hari Rai Temple, Chamba
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the 11th century Shikhara style temple stands on a stone platform in the north-west corner of the Chaugan. The large ground was not only the main entry point to Chamba town, but it has remained the nerve centre where all public functions related to the principality were held. The temple enshrines a marvellous bronze image of Lord Vishnu in the form of Chaturmurti. The temple has to be approached by stepping stones.