Sarahan, Himachal Pradesh
The Bhima-Kali Temple is arguably the finest wooden construction temple in India. Architecturally, it seems very out of place, with elements reminiscent of structures found in many places from Japan and China to Scandinavia. Dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali, it is one of the most prominent temples to a Hindu goddess in Northern India. It is now one of the most popular non-Buddhist pilgrimage temples in Himachal Pradesh.
The city of Sarahan is an old place, though not as old as other Indian settlements. For the better part of its history, it was little more than a stopover point on the ancient road to Tibet. Its religious importance stems from the presence of one of Northern India’s greatest temples.
According to Hindu tradition, Sarahan was the site of several legendary episodes. It is one of the many locations where part of the body (in this case her ear) of Sati fell to Earth. It is on this site where the temple was later constructed. It is also believed that Shiva periodically visited this place disguised in another form, Kirata.
Another tradition holds that the first ruler of the area, one Banasura, was the son of a demon and great-grandson of Vishnu, established an early dynasty in Sarahan. Ages later, beginning in the 15th century, Sarahan became the capital of the state of Bashahr. It was during the rule of Bashahr that the current temple was constructed.
Thanks to its remote location, Sarahan and its temple largely remained undisturbed during the eras of the Mughals and the British Raj. In recent decades, with the opening up of the Indian north, many Hindu pilgrims and other travelers have come to discover this amazing and rare sacred architectural treasure.
The Bhima-Kali Temple may be one of the finest wood-frame structures in east of China and south of Russia. This sprawling temple looks like a combination of a Japanese pagoda, a Norwegian stave church and a fort from the 19th century American frontier. Its setting, with the majestic peaks of the Himalayas in the distance, makes it look almost as though it were lifted off the pages of a fantasy novel.
The temple complex is very large, and in fact incorporates an old building and a new building. The main shrine of the temple’s chief goddess is located in the new building. Other deities honored here include Raghunathji, Narsinghji and Lankra Veer. Artistically, the temple’s most prominent feature is the magnificent, intricately carved woodwork.
The Bhima-Kali Temple dominates the otherwise tiny village of Sarahan over 200 miles north of New Delhi. Despite its remoteness, it is reasonably close to a major road that connects Northern India to Tibet. As of this writing no other visitor information was available. Web: http://bhimakali.nic.in (official website).
There are no other major temples of note in the general vicinity of Sarahan.