Jan 25, 2020

Manu temple, Manali

Dec-5, 2019
This is my first ever visit to Manali and I would be spending few hours here. My host was Rajesh, a colleague at Kais. As soon as we reached Manali, we visited Hidimba Mandir, Ghatotkacha shrine and the museum of Himachal folk art and culture. We had a quick lunch and made our way through the narrow winding lanes to Manu temple. It was convenient to have come here on a bike. The temple's look was a pleasant surprise.. its pyramid like Shikhara shoots up from the center like a factory chimney. The temple architecture is Kath Kuni, the traditional style of construction of Himachal Pradesh.

A board hung on the temple wall which tells the temple's history briefly as follows:
According to the myths popular in the area when the mighty deluge overwhelmed the world, Lord Vishnu incarnated as the machanider avtar to guide the ark of Manu to saft, using Vasuki Naga as a rope to tie the boat of Manu to his horn, Lord Vishnu is said to have brought the boat to its moorings on the Himalayas. The Manu being referred here is Vaivasat Manu also called Vivswam which implies that he was born of the Sun. In the ark accompanying Manu were the Sapt Rishis(seven sages). Atri, Kashyap, Goutam, Jamadagni, Bharadwaj, Vashist & Vishwamitra. Manu was carrying with him the seeds of creation which, it is believed, engendered the modern world. There is no proof as to where the boat came to rest, therefore Manali cannot claim, with certainty, to be that place. But the ancient fairs and festivals of the area bear testimony to the fact that the association of Manali with Manu is pretty ancient indeed, in fact it derives its name from this connection. The ancient name of Manali is Manualaya, meaning the abode of Manu, the modern name is a distortion of the former that the passage of time has brought to bear upon it.
Manu not only created the civilization but has also laid down many principals for the welfare of human beings. He enunciated the laws that govern individual and also social life. He propounded the four stages of human life i.e. the four Ashramas viz, Brahmacharya, Grihasth, Vanaprasth and Sanyas. He also gave the concept of the four castes on which society was to be organized.
There are not historical or archaeological evidences that point to the fact when the first temple here was built. However at the site of the present temple their existed a small chalet type temple that according to the legends had come up soon after the discovery of several idols which continue to be worshiped even today. These idols are housed in the sanctum sanctorum of the present complex; infact, it is this very sanctum around which the earlier temple stood and today stand the existing one, renovated in the year 1991. Legend has it that in a house close to the temple called to this day "Deu ra Ghor" House of Deity. One morning when the lady of the house was clearing dung from the cowshed she struck a stone idol with her pickaxe. The idol is said to have bled. The raised alarm obviously brought people to the scene; and further frantic digging resulted in the discovery of more idols. The villagers placed all these idols for worship in the place they are in and a small temple was built around them.
There are many more stories associated with Manu and the temple that are even today narrated with interest and deep faith by the locals. According to one such story it is believed that Manu, in the guise of a sadhu approached the people of "Deu ra Ghor" and asked for milk. Having no milch cattle but for a heifer tied to the tether in the courtyard, the lady expressed her inability to provide milk. On the sadhu's insistence she milked the heifer; and lo and behold! The heifer spewed milk. According to another legend, this area was under the curse of a terrible demon called 'Tundi' who constantly threatened the lives, culture and civilization of the people. Here again Manu with the aid of Shandilya rishi, rid the place of the terrors of the raksha. Even to this day this liberation from the clutches of evil powers is celebrated by organizing the festivals of Diwali (not to be confused with the traditional Diwali which is celebrated all over India at a different time and for a different reason) and Faagli each year. 

Interesting history indeed. The temple is well maintained both interior and exterior. I spent few minutes looking at the wood work which is quite detailed, only skilled carpenters can produce such work. The Shikhara is the most dominant part of this structure. I think, the wooden shade is for protecting the tower from snow and water. The topmost part of the tower, the crown over the shade wasn't visible from the temple floor level. Had I had extra time, I would've climbed up the slopes of the town for a better view of the temple.

The Shikhara as seen from another position. The wooden pieces hanging from the edges is a standard design in Himachal temples. Probably it helps melt snow and let the water drip away instead of sticking on to straight edges.

The snow capped mountains across the valley in which river Beas flows. In the foreground is the stone sculpture on the temple courtyard. It depicts some animal.. not sure what to say from this side.

Gong by the shape of the head, the spiral horn confirms its a ram. Of the two temples seen earlier today, both had a collection of goat and deer horns but not this temple. Besides the stone ram, there were living creatures.. sleeping dogs. Himachili dogs are super handsome, and lazy too :)

Having seen Manu temple, we decided to move on. We have Vashisht Mandir on our list but dropped it due to time constraint. I preferred to visit Shuru village on Manali-Naggar road, to see a friend of my brother from 1996. All I knew is the name to search with but wanted to try nevertheless. Rajesh was fine with the idea. So we headed to Shuru village to meet Kishanchand.

Jan 18, 2020

Ghatotkacha shrine, Manali

One hundred and fifty meters from Hidimba Devi Mandir is her son Ghatotkacha's shrine. I was expecting to see another temple, but it was a simple shrine under a tree. I think its a Banni Mara (in Kannada) or Shami (in Hindi). Its botanical name is Prosopis cineraria. The area around the tree is kept free so for people to access it easily.

A board planted near the shrine reads as follows:
Dhungri village, Manali, the abode of the mighty warrior Ghatotkach
The birth of the mighty warrior Vir Ghatotkach was the result of divine design. He was born out of the wedlock of Devi Hidimba, a demon and Bhim one of the five Pandavas. It was his role in the battle of Mahabharat that tilted the victory in favor of the Pandavas. Vir Ghatotkach decimated the Kauravas and compelled them to summon Karn, the son of Surya to match his offensive. In the bitter clash that ensued Karn was forced to use his supreme Amogh weapon, which he had kept secure for use against Arjun. The exhaustion of the Amogh weapon made possible the subsequent victory of the Pandavas, ensuring the rule of Dharma and upholding the resolution of Lord Krishna.
Kaamkantha, the wife of Ghatotkach was a devout worshiper of Shakti who bestowed her with several boons. The legendary Barbarik, who could annihilate a whole army with a single shot of his arrow, was their brave son. Fulfilling the orders of Guru, Barbarik had taken a vow to support the losing side whether they are aliens or his kin. On being demanded he offered his head to lord Krishna and came to be known as Sheesh Dhaani Shyam Baba Khaatu who is worshiped as Baba Khaatu Shyam. Close by, at a short distance from the Delhi Public School Dhungri, is situated a beautiful temple with fine engraving dedicated to the worship of Baba Khaatu Shyam.
This place has been the altar of worship if Vir Ghatotkach since time immemorial. The ancient place under the tree had gone in to disrepair and was renovated in 1997. In the adjoining Seraj valley of Kullu there are several temples and other similar places of worship dedicated to the worship of Vir Ghatotkach.
---Veer Ghatotkach Gaon Committee Dhungri

On the tree were several pairs of horns. I think goats were offered during certain festivals and a mark of respect the animals' horns were left at the shrine.

At the shrine, there were several model houses.. wondering if the models were offerings on successfully building a house or with prayers for building a home. Well, different places, different traditions & customs.

It was nice to know about the two shrines dedicated to mother and son.. Hidimba and Ghatotkacha. A stone's throw from here is the Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art. Rajesh and I decided to check out the artifacts. It would be nice to a know about traditional life style of mountain people... their dresses, houses, kitchen utensils, jewelry, weapons, and so on.

From the museum, we head towards another ancient shrine- Manu temple. Manu refers to the archetypal man, or to the first man. All these temples are situated in Old Manali.