Art & Culture · Himalaya · India · Kinnaur · Photography · Temple · Travel Writing

The temple of Vishnu and Nagin (and more Kalpa)

Himachal Solo Bus Trip – Post 9

I shouldn’t have bothered wearing my shoes back so quickly as a few dozen feet after the Buddhist temple, lies the entrance of the temple of Vishnu and Nagin (a female serpent – an unlikely consort for the creator of the Hindu trinity, but this is a hill temple). This Hindu temple is an excellent example of Kinnauri style of architecture.

The main doorway is a building unto itself ; topped with a sloping slate roof.

In all my travels in Himachal (across Manali, Dalhousie, Simla, Kinnaur and Spiti), I have not come across a more profusely carved temple. As if it was not enough to carve the ceiling and door frames of the gateway, the builders have hung masks on the outside of the gate!

The doors are again made by the repousse technique I had observed in Sarahan. It depicts scenes from the life of Krishna and also has sundry other gods not limited to Vaishnavism.

The eaves of the roof are individually topped by a crocodile or a monkey (both are avatars of vishnu – one of the dashavataras).

Many other animals stand atop the roof while serpents coil around the pillars in a protective manner. Later I learnt that the temple gate is brand new and that it replaced an older one that stood here since the 1890s!

In the mythical beliefs of the people of Himachal Pradesh, the role of gods is interesting to say the least. God is not a unified entity, but rather many beings with supernatural powers. Their gods demand obedience, sacrifice and can get angry and vindictive if their will (interpreted by the priests in the temple) is not heeded. Thus, here at this temple, I found a list pasted near the main gate that listed names of people who had neither attended the major prayer offering ceremony in the previous year, nor donated the requisite amount as dictated by the gods.

Further, the temple serves a necessary function due to the belief system of the Kinnauris. When there is commencement of construction, relief from any kind of calamity or even from a disease is sought, the priest often has to travel to a distant location – it could be dozens of kilometer and quite a bit of it would be on foot. The funds collected by the temple priest during such prayer ceremonies help pay for their expenses during all other times as well as for the maintenance of the temple itself.

The temple carvings are not limited to mythology – some are erotic and leave nothing to imagination – such as this man riding his lover.

As I was absorbed in looking at this wonderland, trying to decipher the meaning of all that lay before my eyes, a child came running and hid himself inside a coal burner – evidently he was hiding from a seeker. As the other boy came running towards me, unwittingly, I was now a party to the game and honorably, I gave nothing away.

Instead I looked up as the temple area is also a fine viewing spot for the massif which was bathing in noon sunlight. The clouds touching the snow cap made them look so majestic indeed.

The mountain opposite was variegated with rivers of snow.

I also shot this brief video to give you a three sixty degree view of what Kalpa looks like.



The temple is ideally located to have a look at the mountains that surround Kalpa. It is in the town center that is seen below and the video is shot from behind these buildings where the temple is located.

Lunch was at blue lotus hotel – and was a significant improvement over the one at Vishaal guest house. Walking back to the guest house for a siesta, I got a few more shots of the massif that encloses Kalpa almost three fourths around.

What a place to be! Dark clouds were moving over and the mountains around halted their rapid strides.

When I woke up at a half past four, it had rained a bit and the air smelt fresher. The rain had ruled out a possible ascent to the Kanda (the semi frozen lake at the top of Kalpa that provides the village with its perennial water supply). Now, I really didn’t have anything at all to do – no sightseeing spot that was a ‘must do’, no bus to board hurriedly, not even anyone to call nor any call from work (I was technically unemployed at that time). It felt great!

So I just repeated the walk to suicide point and got a few more shots – The ones below should probably help convey the sense of amazement as to how can anyone not only live in the middle of nowhere but actually construct houses, build fields and a whole life – even on such treacherous ground. The mountain opposite had stepped fields at this altitude – I reckon since they were level with Kalpa, we’re talking 2900 meters. The second shot is a crop from the first and should show you –

Similarly there were more houses – nay an entire village along a rocky spur of another mountain.

After the light faded, I wanted to get to the Buddhist temple for the evening prayer but I was late. I think there may be an aarti at the Hindu temple as well but by the time I got there, there was nothing. So I just polished off some more food at Blue lotus hotel and walked back the kilometer to my room and called it a night.


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