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The legendary episodes speak volumes of the rich historical background attached to the temple for Goddess Bhimakali

Apple orchards, rich green forests of pine and deodar, overflowing watercourses, the snowcapped range of Srikhand Mahadev, deep ravines of the River Sutlej, colourful wild flower fields and neat farms surround the historical temple of Bhimakali which is situated in the small village of Sarahan, ‘the gateway to Kinnaur’, in Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 2,150 mt. This valley of the gods, famously known in the Puranas and epics as ‘Kinnar Khand’ is 160 km from Shimla.

Shrine for Shakti in the Land of the Shakthas

When Lord Vishnu disembodied Sati’s body with his Sudarshana chakra, different parts of her body fell at different places creating Shakti peetas. Her left ear fell at this site, where the Bhimakali temple stands.

In another instance, when there was a war between the demons and the Gods, who were led by Lord Vishnu, the Gods focused their mental strength and created a fire from which emerged goddess Adisakti. They presented her with different items such as a white tiger, a crown, clothes, water, conch, chakra, lotus garlands, etc. One of her eight avatars appeared at Sarahan as Bhimakali.

The legend revolves round the thousand-armed Banasura, who was the first of the hundred sons of Bali and the great grandson of Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Mahavishnu. Banasura’s daughter, Usha, fell in love with Anirudha, who appeared in her dream. Her friend Chitralekha, who was well-versed in performing magical tricks, brought Anirudha to Usha, when he was asleep. When Krishna learnt of his grandson’s abduction, a war between Banasura and Krishna ensued, in which the demon king was defeated. Lord Krishna got his grandson Anirudha married to Usha and gifted the kingdom of shonithpur (Sarahan) to Banasura, which he and his descendants ruled thereafter. It is believed that Banasura brought the river Sutlej from its source in Manasarovar to flow through his kingdom.

An example of Indo Tibetan architecture, this traditional temple has been built in the kath-khuni style where strong walls are built interlocking wood and stone. The stone images date back to the Kushan era. The top storey of this temple is dedicated to the idol of goddess Bhimakali who is represented as a virgin. The second floor holds the icon of Parvati, the daughter of Himavan and the consort of Lord Siva.

Goddess Bhimakali is the presiding deity of the Bushahr kings. There are shrines for Lord Narsinga, Raghunath and Bhairava in this 800-year-old temple complex.