Hatkoti Temple: Simplistic yet mesmerizingby Vandana Bhagra, Shimla
Equally famous by both names, the Hatkoti Temple or the Hateshwari Temple, a winding downhill drive of about 30 kms from Kharapatthar will take you to this ancient temple built during the Gupta period in Nagara style, with a pagoda type structure during the seventh century. This temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga, in the form of Mahishasurmardini, also known as Mata Hateshwari. With her eight arms she is seen riding a lion as she pierces the heart of the Mahisha demon, whose human form emerges from the severed neck of the buffalo. According to the style followed in the hills, the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) is naturally dark but the idol of the goddess is elegantly cast in bronze, which emits a soft, unearthly glow. A walk inside the temple will make you gaze at the intricate architectural designs depicted on the walls. On both sides of the idol one can see Bhrami scripture, which has yet to be deciphered and no one knows what it means.
Along the River Pabbar, the easiest way to reach this temple from Shimla is via Theog, Chailla, Kotkhai, Kharapatthar, taking approximately five hours covering a distance of almost 104 kilometers. One can always stop mid-way to enjoy the beauty of the hills but once the downhill journey starts you can hear the river flowing below and the beautiful temple complex in full view to capture your breath.
At Hatkoti, two other small mountain streams Bishkalti and Raanvti join the Pabbar and locals believe that the color of the Bishkalti is somewhat grayish as the stream oozes poison. With the convergence of the three water streams Hatkoti has now became a famous pilgrimage. The local priest says, “This is a very sacred place and immensely revered by the locals and orchardists as whenever the first lot of apples is plucked people always stop here to pay their respect and make offerings to the deity. An interesting thing about the Devi’s idol is that you can see the expression changing, at times it is filled with anger or at times she has a smiling face, which signifies some kind of a change in nature”.
A small temple, on the right side of the main complex, is dedicated to Lord Shiva with an outstanding octagonal roof and a bunch of shrines with ‘shikharas’. Legend has it that once Gods fought a battle at this spot. Built with stone walls and a wooden roof, this temple also has images of other gods and goddesses. The pagoda style small structures on the right side of the Lord Shiva’s temple, built in stone are dedicated to local gods. The façade of the Shiva Temple is exceptionally marvelous. New additions include a ‘yagyashala’ with a huge ‘hawan kund’ in the centre, a storehouse for grains, a ‘satsang bhawan’ and a rest house for travelers.
The ambiance of the temple complex is quite calm and serene and once inside it just relaxes your senses. There are a number of historic monuments as you walk inside, you can see the five stones or the ‘deols’ which as the priest suggests may be regarded as the five pandavas as they are of different sizes, the first being the largest and the last being the smallest. The two lions on each side of the temple, coins studded door and a huge vessel tide with chains, each have a story to narrate. The priest adds, “Many people who come here make a wish and as a mark, hammer coins on to the door of the main sanctum so that they are fulfilled. The iron-made lions which perhaps the goddess rode or the most interesting story making rounds till date is that of this huge vessel outside the temple door. There were two such vessels on each side of the entrance, but one somehow rolled into the river one day. However, there is no date or proof to authenticate it. After that the second vessel was chained and it is tied to the feet of the goddess”.
It is during the local fairs in April and November that sees this temple booming with tourists and locals who come to celebrate in full spirit and regale. Karan Sood and friends, budding doctors from Chandigarh say, “This place is just majestic and the whole backdrop with huge mountains on one side and river on the other are amazing. It feels that we have been re-energized and sitting on the riverbed with our feet in the water was awesome. We are taking some great memories of this place with us and hope to return someday again with our families and friends. It is a perfect picnic spot”. Vikram Mehta and his wife on a honeymoon trip from Delhi say, “It has been a wonderful journey for us. The calm and serene atmosphere has completely enriched us and the beauty and location of this temple is just mesmerizing”. Locals add, “This place is so sacred that anyone who comes here to make a wish always comes back again when it is fulfilled. The effect this place has on people is just amazing and the beliefs in which they live in are so strong that they only feel and have positive vibes”.
Whether on a spiritual journey or a leisure trip, this place is bound to entice you, if not for its surroundings then definitely for its history and architectural beauty. En route to Rohru or any other small town, a visit is must to this temple.
Photo credits: Vandana Bhagra