Visiting Kamru Nag…The Reigning Deity of Mandi–3

Up above the world so high, Like a cloud in the sky! …

Moving up the hilly trek we would feel to have reached the highest point and our destination but it would meandour into another hillock which would raise its head from nowhere. Though we would be disappointed but the challenge that nature put before us would make us accept it. To compensate and to more than make up for the tiredness was the pristine and seemingly untouched nature’s splendour opening up its coffers before us.

Every scene was more beautiful than the other.

We felt like having been transported to an altogether different world where the mundane problems, of the world that we had left behind, simply evaporated. The delicate meandouring path among the greens would suddenly give rise to solid and rocky path and we would be transforming ourself to face the changes. Is it not what the life as well does to us?

My Maa, in her early seventies, surprised us all by her mental and physical strength. She walked all the way despite her weak heart! I could see where I have got this physical and mental strength. Its all in genes. The Lake was nowhere in sight and we were dead tired but up we treaded like a pack of excited small kids on their first outing! Every new step heralded a step towards the goal, howsoever far that may be!


Visiting Kamru Nag…The Reigning Deity of Mandi—2

The Verdant Green–Mystifying,  Enigmatic and Daunting…

Walking along the deep green meadows we talked about all that anyone of us would share about the deep jungle around us. The anecdotes, though hard to believe, added to the feeling of awe that ruled our hearts. The verdant green seemed enigmatic, daunting and mystic. Yes, these are the feelings that the verdant green surroundings filled our hearts with when we looked around the dense pine jungles with thick vegetation sprouted with big solid rocks in between! Was it not this very jungle that saw the aircraft carrying the then Governor of Punjab going down. In 1994,  Punjab governor Surendra Nath — who was also officiating as governor of Himachal — and nine members of his family were killed in a plane crash on the Kamrunag mountains, bordering Kullu and Mandi districts. Call it a coincidence, but Surendra Nath was going to Kullu from Chandigarh and accompanying him was his younger son, Vikram Malhotra, who was then the deputy commissioner, Kullu. The accident occurred on July 9. The unfortunate mishap took the lives of three generations of the 68-year-old governor’s family.

I tried to imagine a complete family in a happy mood going down in flames amid these very trees. These trees seemed to have watched it all. The tragic death of the twelve members of his family and also the crew made headlines in almost all the newspapers at that point of time. The rumours by the local people that the jungle was littered with cash and ornaments added to the mysticism of the accident. The local people have a tale to tell about the unfortunate incident. The hearsay is that the Governor wanted to purchase some land in the adjoining area and was on a visit to pay for the land. The local deity had not assented to such a deal and this was the way to stop the deal. The tale justified the scattered cash and ornaments in the jungle. Enigmatic godly interference! No one would ever know the truth of the tale. We looked at the deep thick jungle and the verdant green around us fand the sight filled us with enigmatic, mystic and daunting feeling.

Interestingly since my mom, too, had decided to trek with us, the three generations of our family were represented in this trip! I shuddered to think.“Can gods be so ruthless?” shaken to her core, asked my little one. “Yes, they are, but only to those who transgress the boundaries made by the gods” I added thinking of so many persons who try to play god in the lives of others. Is it not that Kamrunag always sides with the party that is losing? The local people might have been on the losing side when it came to put a stop to a land deal where high and mighty were interested and the deity showed his wrath. The tales about the large forest area littered with cash further substantiated the myth of the Kamru Nag where devotees throw ornaments and coins in the lake as an offering to the god. The excitement in the mood had given place to somberness. Everyone was deeply immersed in  thoughts about the tragic incident.

If there was deep forest on one side the other side had rocks whereon feet of innumerable people might have treaded to pay obeisance to Dev Kamru Nag. We, too, marched ahead leaving the past behind, literally as well as psychologically!

Visiting Kamru Nag—The Reigning God of Mandi… 1

   A Panaromic View of the Road to Rohanda

01 July, 2008


The first thing that I did on the morning of 1st July, 2008 was to look at the sky. The sky, blue and shining, seseemed to smile at me. It was clear of the clouds that filled it last evening. The sun peeping from behind the mountains seemed to rejoice at the childlike enthusiasm that filled my mind with. I was excited and shouted aloud to everyone in the family to get up. Suddenly the silent and sleeping home came to life and was filled with commotion as everyone was up and about. And why would they not be as today we were going to trek all the way to Lake Kamru Nag, but only if the sky would not be cloudy! The only stumbling block would had been an overcast sky with impending rain following it!


The month of July is the month of heavy rains in Himachal and curiously the legendary Kamru Nag is the god of the rain for the believers. I had prayed hard to the god the previous night to save us from rain in the mornig and the god had listened to my prayers. I was filled with gratitude and hoped that it will surely listen to my other prayers and bless me with his benevolence. With a heart filled with rekindled hope, I started making preparations—preparations to trek to Lake kamru Nag. I packed some Paranthas, fried potatoes and some pickle as working lunch as  I had been told that there is no shop at Kamru Nag lake.

 Starting early we travelled by vehicle from Mandi to Sundernagar a distance of about 24 Kms. And from there we took Mandi—Karsog road. The trek would start from Rohanda that is about 50 Kms. from Sundernagar. We started the trek from Rohanda and when we looked down; the panoramic view of the valley looked majestic. I marvelled at the look of the road that seemed like a serpent from this place. I marvelled at enigma of the nature and also at man’s ability to reach the unreachable! The undying spirit of can-do attitude!The verdant surroundings added to our enthusiasm and we moved ahead with a thrill in our heart and with a can-do attitude we started the ascent!

Nalwar Mela, Sundernagar, Mandi

22 March, 2008



Mute Animals at Mela Ground

I had heard so much about the Nalwar mela that I could not contain my excitement when I got a chance to actually see the mela on 22 March, 2008. It was  a  news to me that there are three Nalwar melas i.e. Nalwar Bilaspur, Nalwar Bhangrotu and Nalwar Sundernagar. Among all these three Nalwar Melas the  one at Sundernagar is the most famous one. It was a treat to my eyes to watch hilly bullocks all decorated in red ribbons and other fineries, heading for the mela. No, they were not going there out of their own sweet will but their owners literally dragged them to the mela ground. They were to be sold! I felt sorry for them as their wish had no value for the owners. Many of these young pairs of bullock, it must have been their first visit to a town and many of them might have seen and experienced the vehicular traffic for the first time in their young life as fear was writ large on some of the countenances, if I could read the expressions well.

Eager to collect as much information as I could from the bystanders, I interacted with many a people and collected a lot of interesting information. There were many breeds of bullocks as Punjab, J & K, U.P. and the local area farmers actively participate in the fair. I saw a number of pairs of bullocks that had red ribbons tied on their foreheads and some even had a red tikka mark as well. I could see the love and care that was showered on these mute animals by the persons who had reared them, especially the women accompanying the pair were more compassionate towards the stubborn animals!


Charging Menancingly…

With camera in hands I wanted to click a few pictures that would capture the true expressions on the countenances of the bullocks but when some bullocks came running towards us, I literally forgot about everything else and ran to same myself from some injury. The bullocks were not comfortable for being led to the mela ground as it was something that was happening for the first time in their life. Like human beings, they too seemed to resist change in all forms. I saw a pair that was so adamant that the owners had to pull the bullock with such a strength that their was bleeding from the nostril of one of the animals. I felt  so sorry for the animals. My accompanist told me that there are veterinary doctors camping at the mela ground to provide all  possible medical aid to the animals. I was a bit relieved t0 learn of this angle of the management. Talking to the vets made me appreciate the hard work that goes behind the scene to make such melas possible. The Animal Husbandry department vaccinates all animals at the Mela against Foot and Mouth disease that some of them might have contacted through the long and arduous journeys that they have to undertake to reach this place. The department has made this service available to the bullocks free of cost so that the owners may not shy away from getting their bullocks vaccinated. Every owner has to get his bullocks registered at the Veterinary stall and get a certificate. I was all praise for the stalwarts of the department who were providing such a service when I just ran for my life when a pair of uncontrolled bullocks charged towards me!


Another interesting fact that came to my notice was that the manual for of ploughing was still the feasible and practical way of farming in some areas of the hilly state as the terraced fields could be ploughed with the help of bullocks only. But the sad part of the story was that the rearing of male calf was on a decline and the number of bullocks had declined considerably. Someone chipped in another startling information that some persons leave their incurable animals at the Mela ground as they find no reason to feed a useless animal. I was at a loss of words as how could someone do this to a mute and suffering animal but then have we not become so progressive that carrying a dead weight is the last thing that we would do.

dsc05520.jpgProf. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister inaugurated the week long State Level Nalwari Fair of Sundernagar in district Mandi by nailing the stake at Nagaun Khad and worshipping a pair of oxen, symbol of hilly agriculture. He said that the cattle fair were directly linked with the agro-economy since trading of oxen had been taking place during such fairs and every farmer visits the mela to buy best pair for ploughing their fields. He said that the significance of domestic animals was still of utmost importance with the hilly farmers where scientific farming was not practical. He emphasized the need to rear best species of the domestic animals to carry their agricultural activities more effectively besides adopting the modern scientific modes of farming.
I wish that the Chief Minister initiates some plans so that the farmers are encouraged to take care of the male animal rearing in the right spirit and the symbolic worshipping of the pair of oxen turns into the real worshipping of the oxen in the everyday life of hilly areas.

The Mysticism of Mandi’s Mahashivratri…


The Blend of Ancient and the Modern

Mandi and Mahashivratri seem to have become synonymous as when we name one the other comes to mind immediately! Like all other festivals Mandi Mahashivratri, too, has some legends behind it and the legend has Lord Shiva behind it. Legend has it that a cow used to drip her milk on a stone in a forest where the present Mandi town is located. The fact was verified by the then ruler Ajber Sen. In the meantime Lord Shiva appeared in the dream and ordained Ajber Sen to dig beneath the stone. He did it and to his pleasant surprise a large Shivlinga was found. He built Bhutnath temple on that spot in 1926.


Bhootnath Temple Mandi 

Simultaneously the capital of Mandi State was shifted from Bhiuli to this place where the town is located at present. First Mahashivratri Fair was held at that time and is continuing since then. 


The town of Mandi, considered to be the most fashion conscious place in Himachal next only to Shimla, is suddenly filled with an age old mystic presence of gods and goddesses arriving to the town for a great gathering on the occasion of Mahashivratri. For the entire week the town forgets everything else and celebrates the arrival of hundreds of local deities on elaborately decorated palanquins. It is a lifetime experience to watch the gods and goddesses heading for Mandi from various parts of the district, being carried either on back of the accompanying “Gur” or on Palanquins or some even on vehicles!

I was intrigued to find why some of the gods prefer to ride on the shoulders and backs of the accompanying devotees when the journey may take 2 to 3 days to reach the destination? I couldn’t contain my curiosity when I saw a local deity being put on a vehicle at a place near Kataula and asked someone about it. According to my informant the gods and goddesses belong to different categories of Brahmins, Kshatriya and even some lower castes and the Brahmin and Kshatriya would not ever travel in vehicles! The answer surprised me.  


The whole of the town reverberated with the sounds of the nagaras and other traditional musical instruments! It seemed as if all these gods and goddesses had thronged all the nooks and corners of the town and the town had suddenly dotted with reds and orange colored palanquins giving the town a holy and mystic look. The god fearing me would bow my head at all the gods and goddesses making all kind of pleas to fill my life with happiness.  

Though it is a fact that Shivratri is celebrated all over the country, but it has assumed special significance for Mandi, once the capital town of a princely state. A Shoba Yatra called Zareb marks the beginning of the fair, in which the images of gods and goddesses are carried in palanquins. The Shoba Yatra terminates at Padal ground, the venue of the fairs. The devotees first visit the Raj Madhav temple, which is the shrine of the main god of the area, and then visit Bhootnath temple to worship Lord Shiva, during the fair. The gods astride the palaquins would display their feelings of happiness at meeting Raj Madhav Rao and Lord Shiva the Bhootnath by making their palanquins sway in a joyful manner. These deities seemed so very human to me. I felt so close to their world—the world of ego, happiness and anger as well!


Rishi Kamru Nag, the presiding deity of the Mahashiratri, has a wooden temple near a legendary lake located at a height of 9000 ft above sea level and about 63 km from Mandi town. Kamru Nag came to Mandi town on Thursday and straightway headed for paying his obeisance at Raj Madhav Rao temple. After paying his obeisance he headed for his abode that is Tarna ma temple and it is here that he stays throughout the entire Mahashivratri fair. The legend about Rishi Kamru Nag and his Mahabharta connection made sense to me behind his wish to stay at the top most point of the town and watch the festivity from there. Recorded in the history of Mandi state, Kamru Nag is also a god of rains.


Raj Madhav Rao Temple Mandi

The other main gods and goddesses would come to pay their obeisance to Raj Madhav Rao temple that has a very pretty silver idol of Radha and Krishna. These deities would then wait for the procession called Zareb to start from this place where all the deities would march towards Paddal ground—the venue for celebration of the fair.


The excitement was in the air and the small area was thronging with more people then it could accommodate. Excitement filled with exhilaration and unrest was the mood of the thronging crowds. Overhearing the heated discussions among the devotees having accompanied these deities made me feel how human these simple hilly deities are! There was one deity who was participating in the Zareb after 45 years and his devotees were arguing for the position that they had earlier but was now usurped by other deities! It was a tough job to assign the position to all these deities and then make them proceed in the procession. Egos at work even among deities!  

Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister led the inaugural procession of Raj Madhav Rao, the reining deity of the week long international MahaShivratri festival at Mandi accompanied by 175 deities participating from different parts of the District. It was a pleasure to watch hundreds of devotees, folk dancers with traditional musical instruments clad in colorful attire. The Kesariya turbans of the dignitaries made the scene more colorful! The whole of the procession started for Paddal ground and it seemed as if whole of the inhabitants of Mandi in their Sunday bests were heading towards the venue.

The day was warm and clear. Festivity was in the air but suddenly strong winds gushed forth and the clear sky was dotted with clouds and lightening. We were surprised at this sudden change of weather and wondered about this strange happening. The rain drops made us look towards the sky and also the Tarna Hill where the presiding deity of the Mahashivratri fair Rish Kamru Nag had taken abode.The sudden gush of rain finished as soon as it had started and a sense of relief swept me. But the local people around me were feeling ecstatic as the “god of the rain” Kamru Nag had shown his happiness by this act and had showered his blessings! It sure was a miracle and I bowed my head in reverence at god Kamru Nag and made another silent wish for the happiness of all my loved ones!

Mystic and Enigmatic Mandi…1

The Sunken Garden and tbe Gantaghar: The Heart of Mandi


The Heart of the Town….

Mandi, situated on the left bank of Beas River in the foothills of Shivalik range, had fascinated me since my early childhood when we passed through the town during our yearly sojourn back to our ancestral village. The rickety HRTC Bus would stop at the old bus stop that was in the middle of the market. I would raise my little head from the lap of my mother and would watch out of the window. The sunken garden, at that time, was a deserted place, full of garbage and wild plants with heaps of rubbish lying around it. The Ghantaghar would raise its head proudly from behind all the littered waste that made the place.

I would be mystified and would ask my father about this strange combination. “This is the place where a princely ruler of Mandi had hung his enemy to death.” Afraid that the restless soul of the killed enemy might be hovering around, I would again sink my head in the comfortable lap of my mother.  The ancient past always haunted me especially the hoary legend behind the sunken garden! I wonder whether the youth of Mandi who throng the lush and green garden and the Indira market, a modern business complex, around it know the hoary story that is buried under this green façade? The pagoda-type structure with a clock tower, a marvel of hill architecture and the star attraction of the garden, hides a hoary secret under it.Beneath this precious monument are buried the tragic tales of the hoary past. It reminds of the cruelty, betrayal and perversion of Sidh Sen (1684-1727), who beheaded his son-in-law, Raja Prithi of Bhangal. A small area near Jogindernagar used to be Bhangal state in that time. His head was buried in the centre of the garden and limbs at the four corners of what became the Sunker Garden. According to the legend the Rani of Bhangal, Raja Sidhsen’s daughter, had come to her father following strained relations with her husband. Sidh Sen wanted to teach him a lesson and perhaps another reason would be to take over the small princely kingdom of Bhangal.  He laid a trap and sent for Prithi Pal who came to Mandi but on his arrival at Mandi he was taken captive. An abortive attempt was made by Prithi Pal to escape from prison with the help of Raja of Sukket, the present day Sundernagar. It is said that Prithi Pal was hidden in a sack and was to be ferried across the river Beas but the ferrymen were able to detect him when they poked the sack.  Ferrymen recognised and informed Sidh Sen. Prithi Pal was then killed.  The ghastly murder of Prithi Pal was followed by many natural calamities. Sidh Sen summoned astrologers and tantrists who attributed to the wrath of the raja’s wandering spirit. Sidh Sen grew panicky and on the advice of astrologers started lighting an earthen lamp daily at the place where the head of his son-in-law had been buried. The subsequent rulers kept up the tradition of lighting earthen lamp for centuries. The Sunken Garden used to be a small lake in the days of Sidh Sen and was called Sidhsar. Joginder Sen, the last ruler of Mandi state, converted it into a garden. A clock tower was built during him regime. Though the historic Sunken Garden located on the confluence of the Beas and the Suketi in this 500-year-old town, has regained the grandeur of its royal past when all cultural and religious festivities were held here, but can we forget the tale of treachery, cruelty and betrayal that marked the place?Watching the gaiety and life reverberating the sunken garden I thought of the mortal remains lying buried under the garden and a restless soul hovering over it questioning the betrayal, cruelty, greed and spite that guide all tales of sadness and pain.