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Bhimakali Temple At Sarahan In Himachal Pradesh – Story – Architecture

Bhimakali temple is located at Sarahan, which is around 180 kms from Shimla and 50 kms from Rampur, in Himachal Pradesh. Located at an altitude of 2.150 m, the charming village of Sarahan faces the massive Shrikhand Mahadev peak. The temple is one among the 51 Shakti Peethas.

Bhimakali Temple Story

The origin of the temple is steeped in many stories and legends. As per one belief, Shiva, disguised as Kirata, inhabited this place and then it was known as Shonitpur.

During Puranic times, Banasur, the great devotee of Shiva, and the eldest son of demon king Bali, was the king of Shonitpur. After this defeat in battle with Sri Krishna his head was buried where the entrance of Bhimakali temple has been built.

After Banasur, Pradyumna, the son of Sri Krishna became the ruler of the kingdom. The Bushahr dynasty that was to rule uninterruptedly from Sarahan till the independence of India traces its ancestry to this son of Bhagavan Sri Krishna.

Another legend tells of how Sage Bhimgiri, on his way back from a pilgrimage to Kailash, carried a wooden stick, which he worshipped as a form of the Devi. At Sarahan, he found the stick had grown so heavy he could not move it and realized that the Devi wished to reside here. But the land was full of demons, and it was only after the Devi had subjugated them in battle, in which she assumed the form of the powerful Bhima, that her temple was established here.

According to another legend, Bhimakali temple is considered to be one of the sacred Shaktipeeths – the ear of Sati fell here and it became a place of worship as a pithasthan.

Bhimakali Temple

The Bushahrs constructed the magnificent Bhimakali temple dedicated to Goddess Bhimakali, the presiding deity of their family, in what was originally their palace complex.

The sacred compound measures approximately one acre and includes both the old and new Bhimakali temples, separate shrines to Narsingh, Raghunath and Patal Bhairava or Lanka Bir as well as the old Bushahr palace.

Bhimakali Temple Architecture

The old temple, built, at least 800 years ago, has been described as ‘one of the finest specimens of hill architecture.’ The exquisitely carved temple, with its pagoda like slate roofs and golden spires has attracted visitors for centuries.

The construction is in the Kathkuni style, a method of alternating stone with wood, here cedar, meant to guard against earthquakes. As a result (an perhaps also because it is said to have a foundation that measures three storeys) the devastating earthquake of 1905 did not destroy the shrine, though ever since then the old temple has remained slightly tilted. As a remedy, its lower portions were encased in stone; and in 1943 a new, even more elaborately carved temple was built.

The old temple now functions as a storehouse and is best known for the exquisite silver door at its entrance, built by Raja Shamsher Singh (1850-1914) as well as the silver repousse work on its other doors and its carved windows and balconies.

Both the old and new temple buildings rise high above the compound and are visible from great distances. The enclosure itself is divided into sections. The first gate, plated with richly decorated gold leads to a courtyard that contains a shikhara style Narsingh temple as well as administrative offices and rest houses.

The second gate is made of silver, also stunningly carve, and the third is simple wood painted blue and red, is the Shri Dvar, the main door that leads to the temples. Both the second and third doorways are guarded by pair of yellow tigers.

Just above the Shri Dvar, on the edge of the second courtyard, is a shrine to Raghunatha. This shrine, reached by steep stairs, has two beautifully arched windows with intricate wood carving. The murti of Raghunatha is said to have been brought here many centuries ago from Kullu.

Besides the old and new Bhimakali temples, the last compound also has a well and the shrine to Patal Bhairava or Lanka Bir, the guardian of Bhimakali Devi. The well has somewhat mysterious undertones; it is said that once prisoners were incarcerated here; and that human sacrifice was offered to the deity through it.

Along the compound walls, there are glass showcases with display of a variety of artefacts.

Outside the complex is Shanti kunj, the new palace of the Bushahr Rajas. But is side, there is small wooden shrine to Hanuman, while inside the palace is the private shrine of the royal family.

Below the temple complex is Raja ki Baoli that once supplied water to the temple.

Bhimakali Temple Sanctum Sanctorum

There are two temples in the new building, Bhimakali is consecrated as a virgin in the top storey and on the lower is Goddess Parvati, the divine consort of Shiva.

The metal murti of Bhimakali is golden in color and measures over 1 meter in height. Bedecked in elaborate gold and silver jewellery, She is surrounded by many smaller metal images of Shiva and Parvati and images of Chamunda, Annapurna and Bajreshwari as well as two marble images of Buddha.

Bhimakali is worshipped daily and four aartis are done during the day. The Shrine of Goddess Parvati, on the lower floor is closed most of the time and is opened only for the Bushahr family who worship her as their kuladevi or family deity.