“You say you travel a lot and you haven’t even heard about Shukdev Rishi’s mandir near Pandoh”, exclaimed the German lady in her flawless ‘Hindi’.
“We haven’t seen anything as beautiful as that mandir and I tell you we have seen quite a few temples during our 40 year long stay in India”, said her husband, a gentleman from Germany whom I met in Keylang this year during the Rangcha Gali Pass (4410 m) expedition.
The German couple had been living in India for the last 40 years and they knew quite a bit about Himachal Pradesh and its ancient temples. They certainly knew more than me. I couldn’t believe that there was an ancient wooden temple in Pandoh (or around) that I hadn’t seen.
When I stubbornly refused and denied existence of any such temple, they not only explained its architecture to me but also told me there were infact two such temples.
It took me almost two months to find those temples. And let me admit, when the German couple said beautiful, they probably meant mindbogglingly alluring.
Shukdev, the first rishi who belonged to the ‘Kali Yug’ was one of the four sons of the great Ved Vyas (arguably the best among four), author of the epic Mahabharat. And what do our ‘Puranic’ texts (Srimad Bhagvatam) say about Shukdev Rishi? Have a look!
तस्य पुत्र महायोगी समदृंग निर्विकल्पकः
एकान्तमतीर उन्निद्रो गुढ़ो मूढो इबा इयते
(His [Vyāsadeva’s] son was a great devotee, an equibalanced monist, whose mind was always concentrated in monism. He was transcendental to mundane activities, but being unexposed, he appeared like an ignorant person)
It is said that Rishi Shukdev could recite the entire Bhagvat Katha in one go and hence the name Shuka (derived from parrot) because of his ability to remember and pronounce Vedic texts as it is. And it goes without saying that he just not recited those words but understood them very well. That’s why it is said that Shuk Dev was as good as his father when it came to the knowledge of the Vedic texts.
The Shuk Dev Mandir at Bhadungi, Outer Seraj
Right across the Hanogi suspension bridge, a huge waterfall is visible from the National Highway. The water fall must be 50-60 feet high and it is located in the Sharti Village. Trek to the Shuk Dev Mandir, of which the German couple spoke so passionately, starts from Sharti Village.
A new temple has been constructed in the village, where the palanquin of the deity is kept most of the times but the new temple is a no match as far as architectural style and stability is concerned. The new buildings, I believe, are only about money show and fanciful paintings .
It takes almost four hours to reach at the old temple from Sharti Village, which is located at a high ridge overlooking the River Beas. The temple is hidden amidst Deodar trees, some of them as old as 200 years.
The temple has a multi-storeyed Pagoda style design and the columns as well as wooden frames have intricate carvings of birds, flowers, and dancing human figures. Some of them are beyond recognition while a few are still as good as a new work.
Surrounding its three sides are long corridors while the North side has a wooden door built in kath – kunni (wood-stone) style.
A wooden carving mentions its last renovation year as 1998-99. Probably in the same year, they shifted stone images and carvings outside the temple. Those stone artefacts have now been placed under a tree which often serve as Cricket wickets for young cricketers.
The festival of Nagapanchami was to be celebrated on 29 August and this festival is probably the biggest festival of Outer Seraj region after Shivratri.(Calendar shows 1 August as Nag Panchami and I am 100% sure that they invited us for Nag Panchami only)
Every third year, the deity at Parashar visits Shukdev Rishi and a major ceremony is organised at that time.
Another festival celebrated here with great zeal and vigour is the auspicious event of Janmashtami. On this day, the palanquin of Shukdev Rishi is decorated and carried all the way to the banks of River Beas near Hanogi Temple. Along with hundreds of pilgrims from across the Seraj region, the deity takes a dip in the holy waters of the Mother Beas.
We went up a couple of days before the festival of ‘Nagpanchami’, which is a grand celebration in Himachal Pradesh, particularly in the Mandi – Kullu region. And hearing those stories about the grand celebration, I am sure a visit is due to experience the supernatural happenings.
There we were told that a similar temples exists in Thatta Village in the Badar Region, which lies on the Right Bank of River Beas, a couple of hours on foot from Parashar Lake, 21 km from the Pandoh Town.
Even Shri O. C. Handa doesn’t talk much about this temple in his book Temple Architecture of Western Himalaya except for mentioning the name for a couple of times. On top of that, he has wrongly mentioned name of both the villages. Sharti as Saharati and Thatta as Thayya.
The German couple walked all the way up to this place and now I could ‘feel’ why were they singing praises of this temple. With practically no information available on the Internet (except for a photograph at Panoramio) they must have followed their passion to reach here.
Or maybe they were Godsent!
How To Reach?
Hanogi Suspension Bridge – Sharti Village – Sharti Falls – (5 km easy walk)
Sharti Falls – Till Village – Bhadungi Shukdev Temple – (6 km moderate walk)
Nearest Roadhead – Hanogi NH-21 & Karthach – Kulthani on the Pandoh Janjehli Road (not recommended)
We talk about the Shukdev Temple at Thatta in our next post!