Pilgrimage Sites In Himachal Pradesh
India is the’ Land of Gods’. An amalgamation of different cultures, different languages and various traditions, India is also a country of different religions and faith. One can find temples, churches, mosques, shrines and various other prayer houses in every city, village and town all over the country. Many of these have a special spiritual significance and are thus thronged in large numbers by ardent devotees, making these religious houses aquire the status of pilgrimage sites.
In this article, we shall list a few of such pilgrimage sites up North, in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Mata Vaishno Mahadevi Tirth Temple – Kullu
Mata Vaishno Mahadevi Tirth is situated on the river Beas, about 5 kms from Kullu and is dedicated to Goddess Parvati. This temple was founded by Swami Sevak Das ji Maharaj, who was in quest of eternal peace and finally found Mahadevi’s abode in the lush green beautiful valley of Kullu. Swamiji, throughout his life, propagated the value of ‘Selfless Service’ (Nishkaam Karmseva) through word and action and with his magnetic aura and spirituality displayed the magic and outcome of love for all living beings. An idol of Goddess Vaishno Devi is enshrined in a small cave here and so is an idol of Goddess Durga installed. Over the years, a Lord Shiva temple was also built within the complex which is visited by thousands of pilgrims each day. The Management running the shrine now, offers free langar and a saraye for pilgrims to stay overnight. The whole environment radiates spirituality, peace and tranquility.
Timings: 5 am to 12 pm
How to reach :
By Air – The Bhunter Airport (Kullu-Manali Airport), at a distance of about 10 kms from Kullu is the closest with regular flight connectivity to Delhi and Chandigarh. From here, one can take the various buses available or hire taxis.
By Train – The nearest railway station is at Joginder Nagar, which is approximately 100 kms from Kullu. One can also take the train to Chandigarh and then travel by the several buses plying to Kullu.
By Bus – Regualar buses are available from nearby towns and cities including Delhi, Chandigarh, Pathankot, Ambala, Palampur.
Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara – Manikaran
This Gurudwara was built to honour the visit of Guru Nanak Devji way back in 1574, when he was on a tour with his disciple to different places, to preach life lessons and Manikaran was his last stop. One of the most sacred Gurudwaras, this structure is located at a distance of about 42 km from Kullu and built on the banks of Parvati river, in Parvati Valley, in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh and right next to it is the Shiva temple. It is a very important pilgrimage site for both Sikhs and Hindus. The Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak Sahib performed several miracles here, giving the place its sanctity, while as per Hindu belief, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati stayed here for almost 1100 years, making it an important place of worship. The hot water springs present here are considered auspicious and spiritual enough to heal and cure various diseases of the faithful pilgrims who throng this site, as well as help to boil and cook the food that is served as free langar to the devotees.
Timings: 5 am to 12 pm & 4 pm to 9 pm.
How to reach :
By Air – There are no direct flights to Manikaran. The nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport.
By Train – Manikaran does not have a railway station. The nearest one is at Summer Hill in Shimla.
By Bus – Buses are available to Manikaran from all the major cities in the North.
Bijli Mahadev Temple – Kullu
The Bijli Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. One of the most sacred temples of Himachal Pradesh, this temple is located at a distance of about 26 km from Kullu, atop Mathan Hill, at an altitude of 2460 m in Kullu Valley. This temple is famous for its 60 feet high flagpole, which looks like a silver needle against the bright sky. The temple built at quite a height, gets struck by lightning every year and the Shiva Linga is shattered to pieces. Believed to be divine blessings from the Lord, this Shiva Linga is then put back and bound together by a temple priest, with a mixture of butter and sattoo and it’s due to this reason that the temple is called Bijli Mahadev. The temple is done in Pahari style architecture with some spectacularly carved temple doors with sculptures and an impressive carved image of Nandi at the entrance to the temple.
Timings: 6 am to 8 pm
Hatkoti Temples – Shimla
The Hatkoti temples are a group of temples situated on the beautiful banks of the Pabbar river, at a distance of about 97 km from Shimla and 84 km from Kufri in the Hatkoti village of Jubbal. This temple houses Goddess Mahishasurmardini, one of the most powerful incarnations of Goddess Durga. The idol, which is installed in a sanctum, is made of 8 precious metals and has inscriptions on both sides of it, which has not been able to be deciphered till date. The complex also contains a separate temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and five other stone temples of decreasing size, symbolizing the Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata. Besides being one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in the state, Hatkoti temples is also marveled at for its splendid architecture. Built against a spellbinding backdrop of snow capped mountains, dense green forests and beautiful valleys, these temples were designed in the classic Shikhara or tower style, where the structures are conical or narrow at the top and have a wide base at the bottom and the walls have beautiful ornate carvings.
Timings: 6 am to 10 pm
How to reach :
By Air – Instead of Jubbal, one can get regular flights to Bhuntar Airport at Kullu.
By Train – Jubbal does not have regular trains coming in from other cities. The nearest railway station which has good connectivity is at Shimla.
By Bus – Regular buses to Jubbal, are available from major cities in the north.
Naina Devi – Bilaspur
One of the most prominent places of worship in Himachal Pradesh, the Naina Devi Temple in Bilaspur district is located at an altitude of 1177 metres on top of a hill and is accessible via a road that curves around the hill upto a point and then by concrete steps till the top. A cable car facility from the base of the hill to the top is also available for the thousands of pilgrims who visit this temple regularly. It is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths and believed to be built on the site where the eyes of Sati fell on earth according to a legend. This temple welcomes a huge crowd of faithful devotees around the year and especially during Shravan Ashtami and in the Navratras of Chaitra and Ashwin. Special fairs organized during these periods, attract hordes of visitors from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and many other corners of the country.
Timings: 6am to 10 pm.
How to reach :
By Air – The nearest airport to Bilaspur with regular flights is the airport at Raipur.
By Train – Bilaspur has a good rail network with several other cities across the country.
By Bus – Regular buses to Bilaspur are available from several other cities in India.
Bhimakali Temple – Shimla
The Bhimakali Temple is situated in Sarahan in Himachal Pradesh and is dedicated to Goddess Durga, locally known as Bhimakali. Located at a distance of about 180 km from Shimla, this 800 year old temple is another one of the 51 Shaktipeethas. The temple complex houses another three temples; of Lord Raghunathji, of Narsinghji and of Patal Bhairva ji, the guardian deity. Constructed in the Tibetan architectural style, with both Hindu and Buddhist influences, the temple contains bronze statues of both faiths. Slanted slate roofs, pagodas, golden towers and a carved silver door are features unique to this temple. The present Bhimakali temple is a newly constructed one in 1927 as the old temple was believed to have tilted in the 1905 earthquake and which then rectified itself in a subsequent tremor. Celebrations during Dussehra are held on a grand scale at this temple.
Timings: 6 am – 7 pm.
How to reach :
By Air – Regular flights to Bhuntar Airport are available and one can travel to Sarahan from here.
By Train – As there are no regular trains directly to Sarahan, one can travel to the nearest railway station at Shimla.
By Bus – Regular buses are available from nearby cities to Sarahan.
Picture Credits : Mata Vaishno Mahadevi Tirth Temple – travelmyglobe.com, Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara & Hatkoti Temple – Temple Advisor, Bijli Mahadev Temple – gohikes.com, Naina Devi Temple – Famous Hindu Temples In India, Bhimakali Temple – Himachal Taxi