Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Laati Devi of Dhanairi (Bhamnoli)

Laati Devi of Dhanairi (Bhamnoli), Uptehsil Nankhari, Tehsil Rampur, Distt Shimla

Latti Devi temple :

Village of Bhamnoli
Temple of Latti Devi, front view
There is a lesser known, almost forgotten and a very small stone temple in a beautiful small village called Bhamnoli which overlooks magnificent range of snow clad Himalaya. It is located in the district of Shimla in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India at Latitude 31.23N and longitude 77.44E. This village has a population of about 292 persons living in around 67 households. Its main crop is apple and cherry. 

Rear view of Latti Devi temple
Carved piece of stone
Latti Devi (latti in local language means, the one who can not speak properly but may utter sounds to make him/her understand and one who is hard of hearing also) is worshipped as one of the many incarnations of Durga. According to folklore she is believed to have sisters, who are also said to be incarnations of Durga. Maai reside in the temple of village Losta (Kotgarh), other in the village Naula, near Bhaira khad, still another resides in the village of Shamatla. All the sisters are regularly worshipped by their 
Stone with a hole
Coin bearing year 1919
Eroded piece of old wood frame

A carved stone pedestal
Stone lintels
Many generation of this small village have seen this temple of Latti Devi as it exists today, a dilapidated ancient stone structure of forgotten eras, but with very significant and beautiful carvings. The remnants of the stone carvings are littered around this small temple in a careless manner. A beautiful  ancient metal bell is just exposed to harsh weather and theft. The old doors of the temple are replaced by new tasteless and bland
Handle of bell
Lower part of bell
wooden panels. These doors are opened very seldom for cleaning purposes. Daily incensing etc are done on the outside of the temple only. No one knows about its history or even no one has any idea when it was built.  But as is believed about any other old structure of worship, it is also believed to be erected during the 14 years exile time of Pandavas.  The amalakas placed on top of this small temple resembles temples of Orissa, Bhuvaneshwara. The Kalashas on top of these amalakas are missing. People’s faith in this goddess is so strong that it is believed that she is manifest (pratyaksh) in all her powers and makes her unmistakable presence felt in many ways. They worship her to get rid of many problems, be it personal or related with family. 

From the coins belonging to George King Emperor and Victoria Queen Empress the years 1910, 1919 and 1942 are readable. These were nailed on the wooden frames of the door of the temple by the believers of the deity Latti Devi. 

Old embedded coin
Stone fragment of pillar
Old Victorian coins

View of Kot Kali range
The situation of this temple of Latti Devi is
view of Hatu reange in the back drop
very interesting. Considering it as the pivot, the central focal point, down in the direction of South, but at the altitude of 3400 mts (11,152 feet) on the loftier hill known as Hattu, is situated a famous temple of Durga Devi Hateshwari, who is the Kuldevi / kulja / primordial mother of the people of the surrounding areas. Towards North-East of this temple, but downhill about 2 kms (crow distance may be only less than ½ km) is situated a very impressive and a large ancient temple of Jishar Devata (Mahadev) at Khadahan. This is truly magnificent example of ancient Pahari wood carvings, wooden mural sculptures, wooden bas-reliefs and metal masks in silver, copper and asthadhatu (mixture of eight precious metals). Towards South-East direction of this temple of Latti Devi is situated another temple of Kali
Jishar Devata as seen from Latti Devi
at a place known as Kot. This is equally
Shrikhand Mahadev
ancient temple perched at lofty surrounding heights. Still in another direction of true North, Shrikhand Mahadev is visible with naked eyes (better view with binocular), on the milky white snowy range of Himalaya.  Pilgrims throng this place in rainy seasons in the month of July, exact dates depend upon the readings of panchanga. A religious flag-staff (chaddi-mubarak) is carried to this place of Shrikhand Mahadev and the journey starts from the ancient temple of Parshuram at Nirmand, a village in Kullu. In this direction there is also a temple of Bhimakali at Sarahan.
Sh Maya Ram and Sh Dharam Pal
Hatu -- Devi temple
Sadly enough, for want of proper care and paucity of funds required for maintenance of this little but important temple, this temple of Laati Devi is on the verge of further deterioration. People residing in the immediate vicinity worship here and take care of this structure but in a very unscientifically manner. It will be not far before whatever structure is visible today will not be there for coming generations to see and even remember. A serious effort is needed to protect this living monument by both the believers of the area and the various agencies of the Government meant for the purpose of maintaining at least status-quo. This temple stands out as the landmark of our ancient culture and history. The basic information about this temple of Latti Devi was imparted by two residents of this village, Sh Dharam Pal Bhardwaj, a scientist posted in Central Water Works Deptt of Chattisgarh; and Sh Maya Ram Sharma, a retired Principal from Deptt of Education, Himachal Pradesh. 

Ramshackled kholi of Chote Dev :

Outer wall of khoi of Chote Dev

Eroded bas-relief
Carving on the inner side of gate arch
Floral and human bas relief
A little below the temple of Latti Devi there is a magnificent gateway  (entrance edifice) carved in stone which is now in very dilapidated, ignored and pathetic state of condition. It can only be imagined what a massive and beautiful temple of Chote Dev might have existed at this place in the bygone era. The whole structure, what ever it was, might have imparted a flamboyant sight to this place when it was first built up at least one thousand years earlier. Behind this gate there now stands a modern residential structure in local style. Farther at the rear end of this residence there stands a wall, submerged in debris, measuring at least 25 meter in length.  It seems in olden times it was a massive structure. The family that lives in this compound tells that their ancestors told them that there used to stand a three storied structure here. One can only wander about who were the people who carved such beautiful worship places in such remote corners of this Himalayan region. 

As per belief it was here at this place that the original Devata Mohra (mask of deity) was worshipped. This deity was brought out in the open at rare occasions. After all the auspicious ceremonies deity was again
Some god caved in stone
reverently placed on a wooden stool (Chauki) in the upper story (daddak) of the temple. Once upon a time some of the children playfully brought out the deity out in the open without anybody’s knowledge. Some elder woman got angry over children and raised her hand to slap and punish playing children, but to everybody’s surprise her hand became still up in the air. The deity conveyed (local people know how the deities customarily convey their feelings through the human mediums) that it was his own wish to come out and play with children. From that day onward the mask of the deity was placed in the temple of Jishar Devata, about ½ km downward from this place. To this day even this deity normally does not come out in its palki / rath (chariot) except on some special occasions when it visits invitee families. At that time the whole area gets immersed in festive frenzy. This deity becomes presiding host for the welcome of the visiting deities at the time of Bhunda (Narbali) Yajya. The deities of extreme importance who visit this place of Jishar Devata are : Deities of Melan, Mejhevati, Nirath and Nirmand along with Kali of Addoo, Naag Devata of Naagadhar and many others of similar importance. 

Jishar Devata of Khadaan / Kharan : 

As mentioned above this is a temple of extreme historical and cultural importance since time immemorial. This is situated at the confluence of

View of Jishar complex Kharahan
Sh Lal Chand Sharma with Mohras
two pahari khuds in Khadaan village which has population of about 355 persons living in about 87 households. The famous Bhunda yajya is celebrated here with all the festive and religious fervor. Narbali (human sacrifice) was carried here in old times through a very dangerous but      courageous act of a man 

Palki of Jishar Devata
Beautiful stone carvings
sliding down a huge rope tied to the poles at a precipitous hill down through the ground level of temple. The man thus sliding down at a tremendous speed would have less chance of survival. This feat of suicidal act was carried at other places as well namely: Shuli, Nirmand (Parshuram temple), Bachunch and Dalgaon at Rohru. Now thanks to intervention of Government agencies and by the will of people this dangerous act has now been discontinued at all the places. Thanks to Sh Lal Chand Sharma, a priest in service of Jishar Devata, for this brief but important information.