Submerged Temples of Pong Dam | Bathu Ki Lari

Unless you have failed in the Himalayas, you haven’t succeeded at all. The art of failing there teaches you patience and perseverance. To keep knocking  walking with faith and hope.

Second time I came back from a trekking expedition empty handed. Previoulsly,it was a failed attempt to Manimahesh Kailash in receding winters. And this time bad weather and error of judgment resulted in cancellation of the Waru Jot expedition.

Well, not exactly!

We managed to visit another beautiful place. A series of nine temples vanished in the Pong Dam but we will come to that later.

Ghora, Waru, and Jalsu are the three popular passes that start around Palampur town. And each one of these mountain passes has a power project at its base. So while we intended to go towards Waru, unknowingly we started to walk towards Ghora Jot.

In a nutshell, we walked 15 kilometers through a thick forest to effectively cover only 3 kilometers towards our misjudged destination.

The trek to Waru starts from Kunalli Power House (KPH) built over the Awe Khudd. The KPH is connected to the National Highway with a kuchha road.

Moreover, this was the first time I and Pandit Ji were were carrying full DSLR armory. Two DSLRs, a wide angle lens, super-zoom lens, and a fish-eye lens as well. The total weight of the camera equipment was close to 10KG. And if a 15KM futile walk wasn’t enough, the Rain Gods added more fuel to our agony. The best thing about under construction power houses is that people don’t hesitate to offer food and stay. That’s where we ended up after wasting ourselves in the forest.

Overcast sky couldn’t deter us and we were determined to give it another go. However, after an early morning hike of 4kms, the weather deteriorated and we finally called the expedition off.

Kunalli Power House - Waru Jot Expedition Starts Here

Kunalli Power House – Waru Jot Expedition Starts Here

 

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday: Winnie-the-Pooh

“Pooh, the great philosopher, is right:, that’s what we told ourselves to sooth our broken hearts. With a promise of coming back, we thought about our safest bet to utilize leaves and stay as far as possible from Dharmshala monsoons.

The far end of Kangra i;e Jawali has probably never heard of monsoons. The wide fields there keep looking at the Dhauladhar’s, as if yearning for rains. For these very reasons, we have one of the largest man made reservoirs in Jawali to meet the agricultural demands of the region.

Then there are submerged temples of Pong Dam.

These temples remain under-water for more than 8-9 months. During early summers only, these temples come out of the water. I did see them from the Nagrota Surian Wetland last year.

First View from Sahota Village

First View from Sahota Village

Bathu Ki Lari – A Forgotten Civilization

I don’t know what Bathu means but ‘Lari’ means ‘a series’. Bathu Ki Lari is a series of nine temples and what remains of these today is absolute shame and apathy. The architecture of these temples resembles submerged temples of Bilaspur and ancient temples of Mandi District.

Upon inquiring, we got to know that these temples were dedicated to the Lord Shiva. Its proximity to the Jullundhur Peeth also indicates the same. However, I am no expert on this subject so can’t speak for sure. There is a main temple and eight small temples are built around it. There is a circular staircase built as a tower at leaast seventy-five feet tall.

Edited on 28/02/17: This temple was built by Raja Goverdhan Singh around 1741-1773. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a Shiva temple but a Badri Vishal Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. After Pong Dam came into existence, idols from the temple were moved to another in Indora. The temple is rarely visited though because it doesn't match the grandeur of the old temples. Situated near Kandrodi Rest House in Indora - Translated from Himachal Pradesh ke Dharmik Sansthan by Prem Sharma

This tower too goes underwater. 75 feet.

Bathu Ki LKari Submerged Temples

Bathu Ki Lari Submerged Temples

Gateway to the Pong Dam Reservoir

Gateway to the Pong Dam Reservoir

On one side you have a vast grassland area devoid of any plantation. On the other side you have a waterbody so huge that seems to have no end. Dhauladhar’s shining in the summer sun makes the sight even more beautiful. This all looks captivating and inviting. However, there is a sad story associated with it.

There are two-islands visible from these temples. One, popularly known as the Ransar Island is a luxury tourist spot for foreigners and rich Indians. Water-sports, fishing, bird watching, and other ‘high-end’ activities are organized there to entice tourists. Just a few kilometers away, there is another island called the ‘Kuthera Village’.

In the middle of the Pong Dam, 27 families live on this island, commute via boats, and have been living in the dark since decades. Apparently, the Pong Dam provides electricity to millions of households in Punjab.

Guess these 27 families are a little too much for the nation builders. 

Read: Living in the Dark in the Pong Dam

The Bilaspur Temples have been given the same treatment. And same goes true for hundreds of forts and historic monuments of Himachal.

Even the beautiful inscriptions are lost. Soon these temples will disappear just like the Bilaspur Temples. FYI, the temples in Bilaspur have been declared beyond amends by the Archaeological Survey of India.

High time the priorities are set right.

I recommend you visit these temples as well as the Dark Village Kuthera.

Bathu Ki Lari - A Lost Civilization

Bathu Ki Lari – A Lost Civilization

Ramsar Wetland View from Temples

Ramsar Wetland View from Temples

4_Pong_Dam_Submerged_Temples

3_Pong_Dam_Bathu_Ki_Lari_Submerged_Temples

How to Reach?

The temples can be approached from two sides, water-route from Nagrota Surian notwithstanding because you need special permission for that. One approach is via Talwara over the Pong Dam. The second approach is via Pathankot-Jassur-Jawali. Whichever way you come from, there are plenty of buses to Jawali.

If you are a rich traveler, unlike me, then you don’t have to worry about anything. You can take your vehicle to the temple premises on a well marked trail easily. But remember, only during early summers. Once the rainy season sets in, it becomes difficult to drive on the temple road because the road actually lies in the Wetland Zone.

For lesser mortals like me, you have to first reach Jawali and then board a bus to Guglara. There is a good number of buses plying on this route. Now you have to walk four kilometers from Guglara to the temple premises. It might turn out to be a difficult walk if you are not carrying water. There is one hand pump en-route. The temples look just round the corner but actually they are quite far away.

You have to follow the marked trail because the direct approach, which you would wish to follow, is actually blocked by water.  Unless you know swimming, you will have to walk four kilometers.

Kuthera to Right | Ranser to Your Left. One lives in Luxury, the Other in Dark

Kuthera to Right | Ranser to Your Left. One lives in Luxury, the Other in Dark

Kuthera to Right | Ranser to Your Left. One lives in Luxury, the Other in Dark

Where to Stay?

One can pitch the tent inside the temple premises. A night in the middle of the Pong Dam would be an awe-inspiring experience but you will have to carry your own food. In addition, you might have to deal with lumpen elements. These temples have now become a refuge for drunkards. It’s highly likely that you will encounter rowdy men going towards the temples. So this possibility can be ruled out.

The best option is to stay at Jawali. There is a Gurdwara and a couple of cheap but modest rest houses. If you are lucky, you might find room in the PWD Guest House.

25 Comments
  1. Really Nice and intersting facts about our own heritage which is getting lost in dark.
    Good work Tarun.

  2. at first glimpse they appeared same as of Bilaspur temples..submerged in so called lake to fulfill electricity demand of outer states..I’m glad(contrary) we have more temples to demolish and waste…
    Though I’d like to try Waru Pass and other such…..

  3. What a lovely description.

    Good thing you were patient. The weather has been playing havoc on the hills.

    Take care, and keep posting.

  4. I do not understand, why such temples of great heritage value , are not being protected by the Government by making a wall around them. This will have negligible effect on the water storing capacity of the reservoir and temples can be visited through out the year.

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  7. I also can't undewrstand that ASI instead of preserving these sites is engaged in finding gold and excavations. India has huge potentials for tourism. but this government is only engaged in destroying our culture.

  8. Thanks,Tarun, for taking the trouble of visiting the temples and bringing to world’s notice the state of these temples, the state of the small community living close by and our total apathy to both of them.

  9. I am also a resident of same village…….will u try this trek this year…..it will be nice to meet u…..

  10. Sure Gauray, we are planning to go there again in March/April. Will ask you then. Can you give me your number on Facebook? You can leave that message on my Facebook Page. Or mail me at tarun01404 gmail

  11. 2 or 3 years ago we climbed upto the reservoir of this kph and returned back in some 3 hrs …without water ..I remember eating the fresh snow there and had a lunch there with two employees ( khichdi ) .

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