Location: Himachal Pradesh
Altitude: 1,100m
Places of Interest: The Temple Complex, The Garbhagriha, Sunpuri Hills
Best Time To Visit: April to October & December to January.

Some 105-km east of Shimla , in Jubbal Tehsil on the banks of the river Pabbar, lays the mysterious valley of stone temples Hatkoti. Close by stands a small village by the name of Parhaat. At Hatkoti, two other small mountain streams Bishkulti and Raanvti join the Pabbar. The color of the Bishkulti or vish-khalti water is somewhat grayish and the local belief says that the stream oozes out poison. With the convergence of the three water streams, according to the Hindu mythology makes Hatkoti a place fit to be a pilgrimage. Himachal itself, though studded with temples, has a very special reverence for Hatkoti, the abode of Goddess Mahishasurmardini an incarnation of Durga.

PRIME ATTRACTION:


The Temple Complex: The temple complex consists of a main temple dedicated to Durga and a smaller temple dedicated to Shiva, the two standing side-by-side. There are some conical stone structures meant for storing grain, presumably built by the local people at a much later date. At Dharamshala, a kirtan ghar and a rest house make up the complex. On the basis of the architectural design and style of sculpture, it is believed that the Hatkoti temples belong to the Gupta period and must have been built between the 6th and 9th century AD.

The Garbhagriha: The Garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum is naturally dark, but the idol, exquisitely cast in bronze, emits a soft, ethereal glow. It depicts the goddess Mahishasurmardini also called Mata Hateshwari, eight-armed and riding a lion as she drives her spear through the heart of the demon Mahishasura. On either side of the image, there is an inscription in a variation of the Brahmini script that no one has been able to decipher so far.

Shiva temple: The Shiva temple nearby is very similar in architecture and design with the rest of the temples present in Hatkoti. One of the remarkable features of this temple is the shivling situated within the temple, which is wider than the doorway.

Sunpuri Hills: At the heart of the Hatkoti valley stand the hills of Sunpuri, merging into each other, making it sacred for the localities to call it the Ardhnarishwar. Surmounting this hillock is a small temple with another finely chiseled image of Mahishasurmardini, made of stone.

Panzo Pandoora Ghaurdoo: Small temples scattered near Sunpuri Hills are said to have been built by the Pandavas and are called by local people as ‘Panzo Pandoora Ghaurdoo’ or the toy houses of the five Pandavas.

Charoo: Charoo, which means a large bronze vessel, stands battered with age on one side of the mandap of the Mahishasurmardini temple securely chained to an image of Ganesha positioned inside the temple.

Khara Patther: Khara Patther is an upcoming skiing hotspot, which falls enroute to Hatkoti from Shimla. Besides, if one is in a pilgrimage mood can visit Giri Ganga, a few kilometers away from Khara Patther.

ADVENTURE:

Angling & Trout-Fishing: From Khadralla, the way to this paradise for anglers, lies through Sungri. Beyond Hatkoti, 11 km away, is Rohru situated on the banks of River Pabbar – an excellent spot for angling, with fishing pools teeming with trout. The trout hatchery at Chirgaon, upstream, ensures a well-stocked river.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Air: Shimla is the nearest airport.
Rail: Nearest rail heads Shimla narrow gauge Kalka broad gauge.
Road: One can either take the Shimla -Theog-Kotkhai-Khara Patther-Hatkoti-Rohru motor road or the Dehradun to Hatkoti route, which passes through Chakrata, Deoban, Tiuni and Arakot. Hatkoti is at a distance of 105 km from Shimla , the capital of Himachal Pradesh

Valley of Stone Temples:

The gentle river Pabar, tributary to the mighty Yamuna, flows through the Jubbal tehsil of Himachal Pradesh. On the way it is joined by the little mountain stream, Bishkulti. And at the confluence of the two, some 97 kilometres east of Shimla, lies the mysterious valley of stone temples – Hatokoti. Close by stands a small village of the same name.

The Pabar is not one of the better known rivers of Himachal, Bishkulti even less so. And the area they encompass can at best be described as remote. Which explains why Hatkoti does not attract too many visitors from other states. But Himachal itself, studded though it is with temples, has a very special reverence for Hatkoti, the abode of abode of Goddess Durga. Twice a year, during the Chaitra Navratra (April) and the Asawag Navratra (October), the temple complex reverberates with the sounds of bells and cymbals and khartals. On both occasions a fair is held, attracting pilgrims from far and near. Those who worship Durga in the form of Shakti sacrifice a goat or sheep, those who worship her in the form of Vaishnavi, offer flowers and halwa. Himachal women made offerings of parched rice and home-grown walnuts as these are considered highly acceptable to the Devi.

When the noise and bustle of the fairs has died down, the Hatkoti temples revert to a slumberous state, tended by a lone pujari and visited by the odd devotee. But weddings and other ceremonies are often held at the temple of Durga because the presence of the Devi on these occasions assures happiness and fulfillment. Shimla-Theog-Kotkhai-Khara Patthar-Hatkoti-Rohru goes the motor road, making serpentine loops around the hills, while the road from Dehradun to Hatkoti passes through Chakrata, Deoban, Tiuni and Arakot. The temples at Hatkoti stand below the road, on a somewhat dry plain that slopes gently towards a belt of rice fields flanking the river Pabar. The complex consists of a main temple dedicated to Durga and a smaller temple sacred to Shiva, the two standing side by side. There are some conical stone structures meant for storing grain, presumably built by the local people at a much later date. A dharamshala, a kirtan ghar and a rest house make up the tally.

On the basis of the architectural design and style of sculpture it is believed that the Hatkoti temples belong to the Gupta period and must have been built between the 6th and 9th century A.D. Some go so far as to believe that the Durga temple was built by the great Shankaracharya himself. The main temple, square and two storeyed, was originally in the classical Shikhara (tower) style. But in the year 1885 it was re-roofed by Maharana Padam Chandra of Jubbal. As it stands today, the roof of the temple rises in a gentle pyramid, overlaid with squares of slate and surmounted by a golden kalash. A delicate wooden fringe circling the base of the shikhar proclaims its Himachali origin. As is the case with most other temples in the hills, the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) is naturally dark. But the idol, exquisitely cast in bronze, emits a soft, ethereal glow. It depicts the goddess Mahishamardini (an aspect of Durga), also called Mata Hateshwari, eight-armed and riding a lion as she drives her spear through the heart of the demon Mahishashur. On either side of the image there is an inscription in a variation of the Brahmini script which no one has been able to decipher so far. The Shiva temple nearby is very similar in architecture and design. Curiously, the Shivling within the temple is wider than the doorway, leading one to conclude that it must have been installed before the temple was raised. The ceiling is set with figures of gods and goddesses, each carved out of a block of wood two feet by two feet and later made to fit into an ornamental wooden frame. Unfortunately, someone in a fit of restorative zeal, has whitewashed the roof obliterating the finer points of light and shade in the carving.

The Hatkoti temples have suffered at the hands of time. Further down the river Pabar there used to be many more temples of this nature, with elaborately carved stone walls and doors made of wood. But most of these temples have been reduced to rubble. Mercifully, in recent years the Himachal government has removed to the State Museum at Shimla many stone sculptures and idols that would otherwise have been lost. At the heart of the Hatkoti valley stands the hillock of Sunpuri, shaped almost like a plateau. Surmounting this hillock is a small temple with another finely chiseled image of Mahishmardini, only this image is made of stone. It is believed that this was the site of the fort of Raja Virat, of Mahabharata fame. Small temples scattered nearby are said to have been built by the Pandavas and the local people call them ‘Panzo Pandoora Ghaurdoo’ (The toy houses of the five Pandavas). Across one end of this hillock, some 50 yards below the surface there runs a long tunnel roughly six feet high and three and a half feet wide. At one point it curves up to the top and is said to be a relic of an underground passage leading to the fort of Raja Virat. Directly below is a cave with a rock inscription from the Gupta period. Two other rock inscriptions exist in the vicinity of the cave, and all of these suggest a Buddhist influence.

Nothing can of course be said with certainty about their origin though the temples of Hatkoti are worthy of some detective work. It is possible that they were in existence even during ancient times. But recorded history, supported by local tradition, says that Hatkoti was the summer capital of the Raja of Jubbal who, in medieval times, used to rule both Jubbal and Sirmauri Tal. Every year the king, his family and retinue would come to Hatkoti to worship the goddess. It was under his patronage that the town flourished and the temples were erected. Once, at the end of the 12th century, the queen and her three sons moved to Hatkoti, as usual. But the king stayed on at Sirmauri Tal to attend to urgent matters of state when a giant flash flood swept away the entire capital and the king perished. Taking advantage of this situation, the ruler of Jaisalmer swooped down on Sirmaur and captured it. The sons of the old king had no choice but to fall back upon the smaller state of Jubbal, with its capital at Hatkoti. Nobody knows when Hatkoti fell to ruin. Blocks of grey stone, many of them exquisitely carved, still lie scattered about the valley. And true to the character of any place linked with antiquity, Hatkoti is steeped in legend. Thus the story goes that during the Gurkha expansion in the Central and Western Himalayas (early 19th century), Hatkoti was one of their strongholds. Under the command of Ransur Thapa, a Gurkha army was garrisoned in a fort named Rawingarh, on the banks of the river Pabar. Once, at the height of their supremacy, the Gurkha tried to remove the image of goddess Mahishamardini, housed in the main temple. But, to their chagrin, they found the lower part of the image buried so deeply in the ground that it could not be dug out and the attempt was abandoned.

But the most interesting legend by far concerns the charoo (large bronze vessel) that stands battered with age on one side of the mandap of the Mahishamardini temple. It is believed that at one time there were two such vessels, one on either side. But on a dark night in the month of Bhadon (roughly August) when the river Pabar was overflowing its banks, the pair of vessels stepped off their pedestals without the help of any human agency. Rocking in unison, from side to side, the vessels made their way through the courtyard and out of the narrow gate till they reached the river bank. Emitting shrill cries, they plunged into the water. The pujaris pursued them but were only just in time to rescue one. The other disappeared. The one thus saved is now securely chained to an image of Ganesha positioned inside the temple. But even now sometimes, during the stormy nights of Sawan and Bhadon, it rocks upon its pedestal, straining at its chains, whistling and moaning to be allowed to join its lost companion. Sometimes the peasants, transplanting rice in the field son the banks of the Pabar, see an apparition of the lost bronze vessel tossing in the water. But the moment they try to sieze it, the swirling current whisk it away.

HISTORY:

The temple complex consists of a main temple dedicated to Durga and a smaller temple dedicated to Shiva, the two standing side by side. There are some conical stone structures meant for storing grain, presumably built by the local people at a much later date. A dharamshala, a kirtan ghar and a rest house make up the complex. On the basis of the architectural design and style of sculpture, it is believed that the Hatkoti temples belong to the Gupta period and must have been built between the sixth and ninth century AD. As is the case with most other temples in the hills, the Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) is naturally dark. But the idol, exquisitely cast in bronze, emits a soft, ethereal glow. It depicts the goddess Mahishasurmardini (an aspect of Durga), also called Mata Hateshwari, eight-armed and riding a lion as she drives her spear through the heart of the demon Mahishasura. On either side of the image, there is an inscription in a variation of the Brahmini script that no one has been able to decipher so far. The Shiva temple nearby is very similar in architecture and design. Curiously, the shivling, within the temple is wider than the doorway.

TOURISTS ATTRACTIONS:

The Hatkoti temples have suffered at the hands of time. Further down the river Pabar, there used to be many more temples of this nature, with elaborately carved stonewalls and doors made of wood. But most of these temples have been reduced to rubble. At the heart of the Hatkoti valley stand the hills of Sunpuri, merging into each other, making it sacred for the localities to call it the Ardhnarishwar. Surmounting this hillock is a small temple with another finely chiseled image of Mahishasurmardini, made of stone. Small temples scattered nearby are said to have been built by the Pandavas and the local people call them ‘Panzo Pandoora Ghaurdoo’ (The toy houses of the five Pandavas). A charoo (large bronze vessel) stands battered with age on one side of the mandap of the Mahishasurmardini temple securely chained to an image of Ganesha positioned inside the temple.

PLACES AROUND HATKOTI:
Khara Patther is an upcoming skiing hotspot, which falls en route to Hatkoti from Shimla. Besides, if one is in a pilgrimage mood can visit Giri Ganga, a few kilometers away from Khara Patther.

FAIRS & FESTIVALS:
Twice a year, during the Chaitra Navratra (April) and the Asvin Navratra (October), the temple complex reverberates with the sounds of bells and cymbals and khartals. On both occasions a fair is held, attracting pilgrims from far and near. Those who worship Durga in the form of Shakti sacrifice a goat or sheep, those who worship her in the form of Vaishnavi, offer flowers and halwa. Himachali folks make offerings of parched rice and homegrown walnuts, as these are considered highly acceptable to the Devi. In the past, a buffalo (Mahish) was sacrificed, a practice which has been banned by the government now. When the noise and bustle of the fairs has died down, the Hatkoti temples revert to a slumberous state, tended by a lone pujari and visited by the odd devotee. But weddings and other ceremonies are often held at the temple of Durga because the presence of the Devi on these occasions assures happiness and fulfilment.

HOW TO REACH:
One can either take the Shimla-Theog-Kotkhai-Khara Patthar-Hatkoti-Rohru motor road or the Dehradun to Hatkoti route, which passes through Chakrata, Deoban, Tiuni and Arakot. Hatkoti is at a distance of 105 km from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh

WHERE TO STAY:
One can stay at the Forest Rest House nearby or in one of the few hotels, which have mushroomed lately. Those looking for luxuries can go to Rohru 10 km away. We offer excellent accommodation facilities in and around Hatkoti.
HATKOTI, 105 km from Shimla in the Pabbar Valley, is one of the few archaeologically rich sites in Himachal Pradesh. The road connecting this ancient cultural centre with the plains of Uttar Pradesh runs along the banks of the Tons river and its tributary, the Pabbar. This holy place situated on the right bank of the Pabbar river is famous for its ancient stone temples. Since it has a fairly large number of temples within a radius of 2 km, Hatkoti, is popularly referred to as the valley of temples.

The architectural masterpieces at Hatkoti represent the Pahari school of art. The beautiful sculptures placed inside and outside these temples speak highly of the unknown artists of the region. The place retains some influence of the Buddhist period too. Most of the temples, which are in ruins now, are of the shikra style and belong to three different periods. The temples of Goddess Durga and Lord Shiva are quite big. It is believed that these temples were founded by Shankaracharya when he was on his way to Kashmir. These temples were re-roofed by Raja Padam Chandra of Jubbal in 1885 A.D. The Shiva temple, which was re-roofed later, has a pyramidal shape and is panchratha in plan and elevation.

The image of the principal deity in the Durga temple is made of ashtadhatu. It depicts Goddess Mahishasurmardine with one foot on her vaahan, the lion, and the other on the ground. She is shown in the act of killing the demon Mahishasur with a trident. The goddess has eight arms and holds in her right hands khetaka, bell, bow and chasakpatra and in the left hands a khadga, chakra, shakti and a trident. This is a rare image which shows the chakra in prayogmudra (ready to dispatch). This bronze image is almost life-size. The two-metre high ornamental torna is of immense iconographic interest. Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna are engraved on either side, and several geometrical and animal figures also appear on it. Among the animal figures, an imaginary animal, Sardual is engraved on both sides. The animal’s long legs are like those of an elephant, the middle portion is like that of a lion, while the head is of a dragon. On the top of the torna, sapt-matrikas are engraved on a panel with Ganesha and Shiva on either side of the matrikas. An inscription in the siddha-matrika script recording the name of the donor is engraved on both the sides of the torna. On the basis of inscription, the bronze can be assigned to 9th century A.D.

A sculpture of dancing Ganesha is placed on the temple wall. The rare sculpture has been artistically executed. He wears a small crown, necklace, bracelet, sarpayajnopavita and a loin cloth. He is shown, as usual, pot-bellied and has a single tusk with the proboscis turned to the left. This deity has eight arms and is shown holding a snake over his head.

On the lower part two attendants are engraved on either side while on the upper portion of the slab two female figures most probably the two consorts Riddhi and Siddhi, are shown in the relief. This sculpture may be assigned to 10th century A.D. Another sculpture of a four-armed Ganesha is placed in the gavaksha of this temple. The deity wearing usual ornaments is seated on a double- petalled lotus in addhaparyanka pose. In the hands on the left side, Ganesha is shown holding a lotus bud and a parshu. In his upper right hand he holds a radish, while the lower hand he rests on his thigh. The sculpture seems to be of 9th century A.D.

The other interesting and beautiful sculpture of Simhavahini Durga from this place is now exhibited in State Museum Shimla. The goddess has a kumbanda and bleduchur on her head. The deity holds a chasakpatra in her lower right hand, a trident in the upper right hand, a shield in the upper left hand and a bijpurg i.e. the seed of entire cosmos in the lower hand. The deity is seated on her mount of a lion in lalitasna. The sculpture can be assigned to 8th century A.D.

The other temple in this complex is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A large Shivalinga encircled by the yonipithika is installed in the centre of the garbhgriha. An interesting feature of this temple is the wood-carving on its ceiling. Figures of different gods and goddesses like Radha-Krishna, Shiva-Parvati, Mahishasurmardini etc are carved out of a block of wood and made to fit into an ornamental wooden frame. The ruler of Jubbal state in the 19th century got these carvings done.

Some stone sculptures of Vishnu-Lakshmi seated on Garuda, Sheshaivishnu, Uma-Maheshwara and Ganesha have been placed in the garbhagriha of the Shiva temple. These sculptures belong to the surrounding temples which are now in ruins. These have probably been made between the 9th-12th centuries. In addition, some architectural pieces, known as Bhadramukhas, of different temples of this complex are also placed beside the entrance door. All these have beautifully carved floral and geometrical patterns. There are four ancient miniature temples in this complex. These temples have also been built between the 8th and 12th centuries.

2 thoughts on “HATKOTI TEMPLE

  • you6ube

    Himachal itself, studded though it is with temples, has a very special reverence for Hatkoti, the abode of Goddess Mahishasurmardinian incarnation of Durga.

    Reply
  • virginiapackages.com

    Himachal itself, studded though it is with temples, has a very special reverence for Hatkoti, the abode of Goddess Mahishasurmardinian incarnation of Durga.

    Reply

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