By Monidipa Dey
While thousands travel to Kullu-Manali every year to enjoy the cool mountain air and breathtaking beauty of the Himalaya, very few are aware of the historical significance of this valley. The Kullu district is dotted with many early medieval temples; hence it is of no surprise that the place is often termed as the Valley of Gods.
Kullu was earlier known as Kulut or Kulantapitha and finds mention in the Puranas, and the Mahabharata, where we find Kuluta as one of the tribes or republics (janapadas) of northern India. The term Kulut/Kuluta is historically important, as it denotes a place that lies beyond the popular socio-political norms or kula- vyavastha. Fast forwarding to the 6th century CE, we find that after defeating the Guptas, the Khashas take control of this area and establish a Gana-Rajya, a form of theocracy, which is still in practice in the village of Malana. Later the Rajputs came to power and established their own feudal system. Until the British conquest, the area remained divided under different Rajput kingdoms, Marathas, and the Sikhs.
The Kullu valley, famous for its apple orchards and ethereal landscape, lies by the side of the rippling clear waters of the Beas River. The hillsides covered with forests of pine and deodar trees lay sandwiched between the Great Himalayan Ranges, Lower Himalayan Ranges, and the Pir Panjals. The area has many beautiful stone temples built in the Nagara style and dating roughly from 10th – 13th c. CE. These temples are seen spread across the entire valley, with some particularly beautiful ones in Mandi, Bajoura, Naggar, and Manali.
Baseswara temple in Bajoura: Built between 10 th -11 th century CE this beautiful stone temple has a tall shikhara and carries the three faces of Shiva within a circle at the front upper face of the temple (sukhnasa). The three faces are a common sight in most Himalayan temples and represent the Sadashiva. The calm face in the middle represents the Tatpurusha; on the left is Aghora, which is the face of anger and destruction; while the third one on the right represents Vamdeo, the feminine aspect depicting the creation of life.
There are large stone idols of Mahisasurmardini, Vishnu, and Ganesha, in the three cardinal niches of the temple; while a beautiful Viswarupa Vishnu stands separately. The temple entrance holds the two river devis: Ganga and Yamuna on their vahanas; while the walls are filled with carvings of purna-kalashas, Kinnaras, kirtimukhas, yalis, and animals.
How to reach: Bajoura is a small town in the Kullu district and is around 2-3 hour drive from Manali, so one can cover this temple and explore the Kullu town all in one day. Since the temple town of Mandi is nearby, the other option would be to stay a day in Mandi, see the temples there, and next day stop for a visit at Bajoura, en-route to Manali. There are plenty of buses and other local conveyances on this route for those wishing to take the public transport. For those looking for adventure sports, this area is well known for rafting and paragliding.
(The author is a travel writer. Views expressed are her own.)