The Sarahan Experience – A Spiritual Inquest and Much More || By Vibha Malhotra (TOI - 31st May 2014)
If you happen to visit Sarahan in the Shimla district of Himachal, you will be surprised by how much the little town has to offer. We rode into the town on our way to Kinnaur, and even though the town isn’t exactly on the way, this was one detour we are immensely glad we took. Even though Sarahan gets its fair share of tourists, it manages to retain its rustic charm till date. Such is the uncontaminated air of this place that you always feel at home and at ease here.
You cannot miss the incredibly beautiful and the most majestic building presiding over the place – the Bhimakali Temple. The temple is said to have been built around 3,000 years ago, and as expected in case of such an ancient building, there are several legends associated with it and the mystical landscape that surrounds it. The Shivlingam of Shrikhand Mahadev and the nearby Bhimadwar is associated with the ancient travellers – the mighty Pandavs. The surrounding valleys still seem to echo the legendary love story of Usha, the daughter of Banasur − the king of the region, and Aniruddh, the son of Lord Krishn. The temple itself is dedicated to the Mother Goddess Bhimakali, the presiding deity of the rulers of the former Bushahr state.
The architecture of the temple follows what is loosely classified as the “Sutlej Valley style”, with pent and gable roofs and a main shikhar that is styled like a pagoda. The stone and wood structure of the temple looks completely at home amongst the lush green surroundings. Such is the charm of this place that upon visiting the temple, one finds it easy to believe in miracles. Several sources claim that in the early twentieth century, an earthquake caused the temple to tilt slightly. However, a subsequent earthquake corrected this tilt to some extent. Today, at least to a layman’s eyes, the tilt is barely noticeable.
The temple is one of the very few places where one feels close to God and nature and where one can reach out and grasp the Truth. The perfect combination of peace and solitude is very rare, and makes it possible for travellers to grab those few minutes that have the power to completely rejuvenate the soul.
And once you have thoroughly explored the temple, the Palace of the Raja of the Bushahr State is just around the corner. Built on 1917 and surviving the rampant historical shift around it, this building stands frozen in time. A traveller with some time to spare can take a walk through the Palace’s sprawling lawns and admire the buildings of the palace up close.
When you have had your fill with history you can head out and visit one of the many apple orchards that dot the area. If you happen to visit in late summer you can treat your senses to the delicious fragrance of apples preparing themselves for harvest.
And this is not all that the little town of Sarahan has to offer. Located barely half-a-kilometre from the town is the Sarahan Bird Sanctuary. You can stroll down to this well-known paradise for birds and watch two of the most incredible birds of Himachal Pradesh – Monal and Tragopan. Not only do these birds reside here, the facility also serves as a breeding ground for them.
And if you are social and seek company, you can always take a walk through the sleepy lanes of Sarahan and speak to the charming shopkeepers, and enjoy some simple yet sumptuous local food, served with no pretentions but lots of love. You can also shop for good-quality local goods without ever worrying about being charged an unfair price.
With touching simplicity and mesmerizing landscapes, the town tends to convince you that an encounter with divinity is just around the corner. You need to shed your cynicism and ego, and surrender yourself completely to nature. And when you are able to do so, you can simply close your eyes to feel the comforting warmth embracing you and slowly you will be lulled into that elusive meditative trance that has been so difficult to achieve elsewhere.