Sunday, September 12, 1999
THREE kilometres east of Dhameta, a small town in Kangra, there stands a cluster of antique, unique, tall temples which remain dipped in water for nine months but stand exposed to the human eye only during April, May and June. While these three months attract pilgrims to these temples, the other nine months attract tourists, fishermen and multitudes of a variety of unique colourful birds migrated from islands of various continents of the world. Throughout the year, this place, commonly known as "Bathu ki Larhi" (a string of Bathu stone-structures) enjoys the unique distinction of being a popular tourist spot.
Before 1974, this cluster of unique artistic temples would attract pilgrims from all over the country, throughout the year. Then there was only the flowing Beas water near them, and no dam water engulfed them as it does today. It was in 1961 that the work of Pong Dam was started, giving it the final shape in 1970. This dam, which now occupies the vast stretch of land falling within the boundaries of Terris, Dhameta, Bharmad, Jwali, Nagrota Suriyan, Dada-Sibha and Dehra, was filled with rain water in 1974, carrying waters of the Beas, and those of the rivulets of Gajj, Vool and Bundeir. This water level (1410 feet) uprooted a large number of inhabitants, green flourishing trees were got cut, crops were done away with as the dam was filled with tonnes of rain water.
Bathu ki Larhi is a cluster of eight temples covering a vast area which used to have strong protection walls which are now falling and crumbling in the strong current of waters.
In spite of the fact that for the last 25 years this cluster of temples remains dipped in water for nine months every year, yet their stone structure has the same natural colour, beauty and lusture as it used to have when they were actually constructed. Such is the durability of Bathu stone, a quality preferred in the entire Himachal. Only the colour of plaster and those of the bricks has undergone a change.
It is said that this cluster of temples was made by the Pandavas during one night when it used to be of six months long. The legend reveals how the Pandavas could have completed their ladder to Swarg-Dwar (Heaven), had the day break been a bit late. They had to suspend their work at the break of day, and the lime mixture they had prepared for use is still lying on the roof of a pyramid.
Another version goes that these temples were made 500 years ago during the reign of the Mougals. But since the stone idols (taken out of these temples to Kandrori village) are of Hindu gods and goddesses, there is every probability that they were the creations pertaining to the Mahabharta era.
One has to cross the main gate to enter this cluster of temples. The stone images set on both sides of this gate, one image being of Mother Kali and the other of Lord Ganesha, is an evidence of the fact that the temples were built by the Pandavas who were mainly the worshippers of Kali and Ganesha. Before one enters the temple complex, one has to pass through another main gate, all of which indicate how this cluster of temples was covered with two protection walls in order to save them from foreign invaders. There are also protection walls and protection towers, now in crumpled shape, but show how those days defence system was par excellence.
The broken images of Lord Vishnu and Sheshnag, the antique artistic ladders with images of Hindu gods inside the temple domes, amply prove how the Hindu architecture was simply at its peak. The chisel and stone work on Bathu stone is superb.
Fifty kilometres east of these temples stands another cluster of 15 rock-cut temples of Masrur made by the Pandavas in the 8th century. Further east of these rock-cut temples stand the ruined antique forts of Guler and Kangra made well before the great war of Mahabharata. Since all these four spots are in somewhat straight line, it is an indication how the Pandavas had built their safe defence spots to save their country from the foreign invaders.
The Masrur temples are
now under survey and research. The Kangra fort has now
been improved like the Golconda fort. The Guler fort is
under consideration. But what about this Bathu ki Larhi?
This cluster of antique unique temples would be exposed
to the human eye in April, May and June 2000. The
authorities have eight months to plan and finalise the
steps for this most profitable archaeological research
which would certainly enrich our knowledge about our rich
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