The breathtaking Kullu Valley flanked by Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges of the Lesser Himalayan mountains on either side is referred to as the Valley of Gods or Eden of Apple. This historical place was called as Kulantapitha meaning end of the habitable world and is held in high esteem in the ancient texts of Brahmanda Purana, Brihat samhita and Markandeya Purana. Kullu Valley holds the distinction of having four out of the six temples dedicated to Brahma in Himachal Pradesh.
The most famous of them is the Aadi Brahma temple of Khokhan in Kullu. There are many interesting legends associated with both the Aadi Brahma temple at Khokhan and the Aadi Purkha temple at Tihri – Uttarsal in Mandi district. Locals say that Aadi Brahma temple at Khokhan was the original place of worship but a territorial dispute between Mandi and Kullu resulted in the separation of the two villages of Tihri and Khokhan. The people of Tihri decided to have their own Aadi Brahma temple and named it as Aadi Purkha and some of the idols and images from Khokhan temple were shifted here.
Legend has it that centuries ago, the city of Mandi was terrorized by evil spirits and people were plagued with illness and disease. The ruling king was at his wits end and prayed to the devathas for protection and remedial measures but only Aadi Brahma came forward to undertake this monumental task. Aadi Brahma went around the entire city and blessed the city and its people with his abundant radiance and knowledge. The effect of that was immediately experienced by the people who were relieved from the clutches of evil. This tradition is followed even today during the annual Shivaratri festival when Aadi Brahma is taken out in a grand procession around the city of Mandi and Parashar where sacred wheat is thrown around to protect the people and ward away evil spirits. Aadi Brahma is called as the King for protecting the city from illness and disease. It is Aadi Purkha who graces the Shivaratri festival while Aadi Brahma of Khokhan takes part in the Kullu Dussehra procession.
The temple of Aadi Brahma at Khokhan is at the centre of the complex with two smaller temples of Gadh Jogini on the left and Manikaran Jogini on the right. The main temple of Aadi Brahma is constructed in the traditional Himalayan pagoda style with four roofs. The entrance gate has some lovely carvings depicting stories from the Hindu scriptures. The entire structure is approximately 20 metres in height and made up of stone, wood and schist slate. Aadi Brahma is seated in a temple of fine wood along with a chariot and mohras (masks). Two brass masks, eleven silver masks and one ashtadhatu (amalgamation of eight metals) mask is fixed to the majestic chariot.
The locals say that years ago, there was a Rajput woman who worked as a farm labourer in the vicinity. One day, her daughter of six months fell asleep under a tree. When the mother came to check on her, she found her daughter digging the ground with a hoe. The mother came closer and saw something shining hidden in the earth. When she dug around the area, she found a finely carved smiling face mask made of gold. The mask had a mark on its cheek made by the hoe. The importance of this incident is visible even today in both the temples as well as festival processions.
The palanquin of the deity is kept in the Aadi Purkha temple and locals say that the deity visits the temple only when a person of importance comes to worship him or on festival days. An idol of Lord Vishnu is also enshrined in the temple. This 14th century temple has wooden bells hanging from its roof that produce such beautiful musical sounds that it sends one into raptures.
Aadi Purkha at Tihri – Uttarsal located right across the Parashar hill in the Beas valley has a more elaborate and detailed structure but does not possess the same artistic skill of Aadi Brahma. The imposing pagoda structure has three tiers and many compositional elements adding to its aesthetics. There are ornamented structural members and brackets, bells and intricately carved relief work. There are four masks of Brahma hung on each wall. This temple is also believed to have been built in the late 14th century and is an exquisite example of the wooden architecture that Himachal Pradesh is famous for.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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