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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

Bhagsu Nag - More than just the temple

“Aapko mandir nahi jaana? Theek hai, mat jaiye. Par waterfall dekhne to jaiye! (You don’t want to go to the temple? that’s ok, but at least go to see the waterfall)” insisted our driver as he dropped us off at the parking lot of the Bhagsu Nag Temple. The three of us walked slowly along the narrow path, paying more attention to the stalls that lined it, Samhith grumbling that we had just started our trip, and were already breaking rule no. 1. “No Temples”.

That rule had been part of an agreement. That I wouldn’t visit temples on this trip, which was meant to celebrate his birthday, and in turn, I could visit as many temples as I liked on our south trip, in the second half of May. Therefore, deferring to his wishes, we passed by the temple, which was deserted, and walked towards the waterfalls instead. We turned a corner, and the falls were visible, a bit further on, along a narrow path on the side of the mountain. Also visible was a crowd, busy enjoying the waterfalls. The three of us looked at each other, and Samhith grumbled “Let’s go back to the temple”! That was one quick about turn!

The waterfall, minus the crowd! 

The temple’s story is an interesting one, though it predates the temple itself. It is said that Bhagsu was a king, or a local chief, and his region was plagued by drought. He set out, promising his subjects that he would bring water. His search brought him to these mountains, more specifically, to a lake – the Nag Dal - which belonged to the serpent king. Bhagsu himself had magical powers. He managed to transfer the water from the lake into a kamandalu (water receptacle), and started on his way back home.  The serpent king returned home that night to find his lake empty. Needless to say, he was irate, and he set out to find the one responsible. He caught up with Bhagsu here, and there was a terrible fight. Bhagsu was lethally injured, and the kamandalu fell, releasing the water, which flowed down the mountain. Realizing that his end was near, he surrendered to the serpent king, asking only that the water be allowed to flow on, so that his people would be relieved from the drought, and that his name be associated forever with this place. The serpent king relented, and henceforth, the water flowed free, and this place came to be known as a combination of both their names – Bhagsu Nag.

The temple story in Hindi,
for those of you who want more details, plus,would prefer to read it in Hindi :D 

The story is from mythological times, and the first temple here is said to have been built in the time of Raja Dharamchand, who had a dream, advising him to build it. That story is also part of legend, dating back to over 5000 years. The present temple is a recent structure, with a main shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The temple, rebuilt with marble and tiles.
I wonder what it is about this combination which so inspires us to build temples with them.

More interesting are the structures around the temple. Behind the temple is the waterfall, and the water flows down into a tank just outside the temple. There are faces carved into the stone, and a number of shrines old and new surround it. An iron pipe brings water out of the tank for people to drink, and beyond the tank is a brand new swimming pool, which seems to be surprisingly clean and well maintained! There were a number of people frolicking in the pool, so I did not click a photograph. Besides, I was more fascinated by this small shrine on the side…..

This shrine is so pretty.. and so perfect for this idol! 

And the idol it contained.

The Pancha Mukha Linga.. Note the interesting base... with snakes on it. 

This is called a Pancha Mukha Linga – five faced linga. Normally, lingams don’t have faces, but these do, and each face depicts one aspect of Shiva as well as the five elements he represents. The top face is called Ishana, or Sadashiva, representing the sky; the east face is Sadyojata or Mahadeva, representing earth;  the west face is Tatpurusha or Nandi, representing Vayu, the wind; the north face is Vamadeva or Umavaktra, representing water, and the south face is Aghora or Bhairava, representing fire. 

Meanwhile, Samhith was having a good time too, watching a football match in progress, by the side of the pool! He of course grumbled some more, that we hadn’t brought a swimming costume. But it didn’t matter. By the time we walked back to the car, we were in high spirits.

Our driver was surprised. He, of course, thought that it was because of the waterfalls. We didn’t even try to explain to him that it was neither the temple nor the waterfall, but a small, ignored shrine, and a game, which had made us so happy! 

This post is part of my series on my #summertrip 2015, and I hope to take you along with me as I recount stories from my month long trip, which took me across the country. To get an idea of all the places I visited, and what you can hope to read about, click here.  

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  1. thanks for sharing such interesting post.....a place worth visiting indeed...

  2. "Hi Anuradha!
    The observations ring true: incredibly put by you. I always knew Himachal Pradesh is full of exploring and experimenting new places. Personally, I have yet to encounter this apparent block of India, and I know the learning curve would be huge but your article incited a must visit at the place sooner. "

  3. Quite Informative. Thanks as it completed my research while writing a book about this place :)

  4. Wow…really amazing blog.
    I really like the way you describe the post..


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