My travel experiences have made me conclude one thing- nothing goes as planned. Last night I determined to leave Kausani and head to the next Himalayan halt on the first bus in the morning. But all the planning went in vain. I did wake up early to gaze the snow-capped Himalayas; however, the recent fires in the jungles again disrupted my view and I went to sleep again with disappointment.
Then I woke up at around 8 a.m. and rambled on the terrace facing the valley for some time. Finally I headed to the small bunch of ancient temples known as Baijnath Mandir, near Garur on the Bageshwar route.
I waited for around 30 min at the local bus stand for the next bus. As I waited in anticipation, I could hear the loud voices emanating from the speakers on the private jeeps campaigning for the Gram Panchayat elections. The discussion on the candidates, the prevailing corruptions and future expectation appears to have taken leap over all other discussion at every tea joint in the town.
Amidst these burning political debates, I found the transport to take me to my destination – Baijnath Temples. After swirling through the turns of the mountains accompanied by the pleasant views of the pine trees and terraced fields being ploughed by the local ladies , I finally reached the Baijnath Temple.
The entrance to the precincts temple proudly boasted the ‘protected monument’ status by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) but the conditions seemed to be unkempt. A little walk down the road, I was confronted by couple of teenagers wooing to buy food for fishes down in the river. I went down and was not much surprised to find only a few visitors cum devotees.
The small group of Baijnath Temples (18 shrines in total) situated on the banks of river Gomti is supposed to be built by the Katyuri Kings during 9th -12th centuries but there is no concrete proof tracing their origin to Katyuri Empire. At first look, it appears more like the mini Kedarnath temple. The design of shrines is simple yet elegant with a small three levelled spire. The shrines have been built by arranging heavy stone slabs of various sizes and it is believed that urad dal was used as the binder. The size of the various sizes may be different as compared to each other but their basic architecture and design remains the same. One can find meticulous engravings of ‘shiv linga, nandi (the bull of Lord Shiva) and other Hindu gods on grey rocks. The main shrine hosts magnificent statue of Goddess Parvati made from grey schist and a streak of bells hanged by devotees could be seen.
While strolling in the temples, all shrines except the main shrine and another one which houses the statue of Lord Ganesha were empty. I sat under shadow of one of shrines where some of the locals were sitting. After a bit of some friendly discussion, I intentionally questioned them about empty shrines. To this one of the aged responded that earlier all these shrines has statues but in late 70’s some of them were smuggled out of the region and sold in black markets. Thereafter, most of the statues were put in safe custody by ASI. However, he strongly opined that like many other historical architectures in India, the importance of this one is completely lost in dust of time due negligent attitude by the government.
I too was saddened with the ill fate this immaculate ancient architecture is suffering. As it was too hot, I looked to the river for some her to evade the blistering heat.
Finally, it was time for me to move out but I was about to witness one more thing. While walking out, I saw several people tirelessly trying to lift an innocent round shaped rock. I went closer only to discover another legendary story associated to it. Legend says that the rock could be lifted by nine men by using only one finger each and it stands true till date.
Leaving both the legend and legendary stone to stand the test of time to come, I moved ahead on my solo Himalayan voyage with the hope that it will get the attention and fame it is worthy of in future.