Karsog Valley - Gateway to Infinite Happiness

Tower Temples of Karsog Valley | The Hinterlands of Mandi – VII

I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.

This is what Agatha Christie has to say about invention. She clearly disagrees with Plato, one of the most influential thinkers of human history who opines otherwise and firmly believes that necessity is the ‘real’ mother.

Looking at the great tower temples of Karsog Valley, I wonder what prompted the men and ‘women’ of this beautiful valley to build these tower temples. All these tower temples look like a skyscraper built with the sole purpose of safeguarding the valley. There are as many as 7 tower temples in the Karsog Valley, two of which are yet to be seen (by me).

Mandi Hinterlands-I | Mandi Hinterlands–II | Mandi Hinterlands – III | Mandi Hinterlands – IV | Mandi Hinterlands – V | Mandi Hinterlands – VI

These tower temples are high-rise structures built to perfection from architectural as well structural point of view. A glorious example of indigenous wood-stone architecture. All of them.

Pangna Mahamaya Kothi
Pangna Mahamaya Kothi
Pangna Mahamaya Temple Sundernagar Madan Sen
Pangna Mahamaya Temple

Our journey started from Sundernagar to Pangna, a small village located amidst  sprawling pines. There exists an exotic tower temple that was built between 1240 – 1280 A.D by Madan Sen, a notorious ruler of the erstwhile Suket State, of which Pangna was the capital.

There is a Mahamaya Temple at my home town, Sundernagar as well.  And Pangna Mahamaya is the ancient seat of the same Goddess that was brought to Sundernagar by Raja Madan Sen. Pangna was the capital of erstwhile Suket Province that shifted from Pangna to Sundernagar as the ruling class gradually migrated from the Karsog Valley.

A three storey tall temple dedicated to Devi Maha Maya is the second best thing about Pangna. The first best being the distant view of the Roofless Shikari shrine against the backdrop of deodars’ emanating blue lights.

The Roofless Shrine of Shikari Devi, Pangna View
The Roofless Shrine of Shikari Devi, Pangna View

We reached Pangna on a Saturday evening and to our surprise, everybody was in weekend mood there. Shops had closed down and we couldn’t find even a single dhaba that would serve us food. Liquor and snacks were available aplenty and going by the volume of liquor in the bottles, we deduced that they had been drinking since noon. That’s how the life is up there in the mountains. People love to drink, dance, and rejoice all the times.

Accidentally, I met one of our relatives and the problem of food and stay was solved. The next item on the agenda was getting an entry inside the temple but that couldn’t happen because the main priest of the temple was too reluctant to do so. Moreover, the devi was returning back from her tour of the valley after many days, so getting inside the temple was now nearly impossible.

Fortunately, because it was the homecoming day of the Goddess, we witnessed an amazing show of dance and music inside the temple premises. People had gathered from across the entire Karsog Valley and there was a dance ceremony that lasted more than an hour.

Pangna Mahayamaya, Homecoming Ceremony
Pangna Mahayamaya, Homecoming Ceremony

We inquired about presence of other tower temples in the vicinity of Pangna and found out that there were two more temples adjacent to the road near Jhungi, a small village towards SunderNagar, 15 km from Pangna.

The next morning, we moved to Karsog, a valley of green fields and sprawling deodar trees. The famous Kamaksha Temple of Karsog is just not a wooden temple but a tower temple too. The tower temple is located behind the wooden temple and it is approximately 15 meters tall.

However, the popularity of the wooden temple has pushed this tower to the sidelines and nowadays all you will see is hanging clothes from the gabled balconies of this tower temple. The wooden temple is one of the finest example of wood carving in the entire Karsog Valley. The wooden pillars and beams are decorated with wooden carvings depicting various figures from Hindu epics.

Karsog Kamakhya Temple, Kao Seri
Karsog Kamakhya Temple, Kao Seri

Here we gained knowledge about two more tower temples located along the Karsog-Shimla road, one of them is believed to be as high as 25 meters.

As of now, let’s call them ‘Unknown Duo’ until we step inside them. 

Mostly, these tower temples have been dedicated to Goddesses, except for the Budha Narayan temple at Sainj Valley. Another such temple is located at Jhungi near Pangna. There are infact two tower temples dedicated to Shiva, one of which is in a dilapidated state and had been abandoned long ago.

Unfortunately, the other temple too was abandoned temporarily because of robbery where artefacts worth lakhs were found missing. The temple priest and his aides questioned us and it was not before we told them about our ‘local relatives’, they allowed us to move inside.

So that answers the question I have been asked by my friends and fellow travellers many times.

Why don’t the villagers allow an outsider to step inside the temple?
Because, in last 18 months, 102 cases of temple theft have been reported in Himachal Pradesh.

There are other reasons too but I believe this is one of the biggest reasons of not allowing outsiders inside the temple. The temple artefacts, idols, and jewellery are worth lakhs, if not crores.

Shankar Kothi near Jhungi is a 15 meter tall tower temple, connected to the ground above by means of a small corridor like entrance. The entrance corridor was constructed recently only to safeguard the main entrance of the ‘garbh-griha’. Unfortunately, that did not happen and the temple was robbed of its valuables in the month of July-August this year.

Abandoned Shankar Kothi Jhungi CHindi
Abandoned Shankar Kothi, Jhungi-Pangna
Shankar Kothi, Jhungi Chindi Tower Temple
Shankar Kothi, Jhungi Chindi Tower Temple

The other temple was abandoned long ago and now it serves the purpose of nothing but a store house with its wooden members wearing away with time.

And as you leave the Karsog Valley, the legends and myths will linger in your memory for a long long time.

And before we sign off, here is something that comes close to what the priest at Kamakhya Temple told me, when I asked him about the motive behind building these temples.

We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us – Winston Churchill

Karsog Valley - Gateway to Infinite Happiness
Karsog Valley – Gateway to Infinite Happiness

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6 thoughts on “Tower Temples of Karsog Valley | The Hinterlands of Mandi – VII

  1. इतना आनंद तो लाहौर में नहीं आया था इतना इस पोस्ट को पढ़ कर आया I वंडरफुल छोटे भाई !!

  2. Your post has perfect timing, i will be travelling to Chindi in first week of June. Can these places be seen on foot? We will be staying at the HPTDC, Mamleshwar.

  3. Kamakhya Temple is by the road side in Karsog. So is Pangna Temple at Pangna. The third one is located by the roadside again, on Karsog Sundernagar road.

  4. There’s one stone tower temple at a village in Kinnaur too, called Morang. I went inside one and the villagers told me that it stood tall since the time of Pandavas. Fascinated to read about your detailed explorations and a focus on architecture and culture. Wow!

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