Bijli Mahadev temple is one of the most ancient and sacred temples in the spectacular Kullu Valley in Dev Bhoomi Himachal Pradesh. This temple is seated at an altitude of 2,460 metres and an arduous trek of 7 – 8 km through a scenic Cedar forest leads you to this divine place that offers a panoramic view of Kullu and Parvati valleys. On a clear day, one can see the Indrasan Mount and Deo Tibba of the Pir Panjal range in the distance.
Legend has it that there was a fearsome daitya called Kulaanta who took the form of an enormous serpent and kept on increasing his body till he reached Mathan (18 kms from Kullu). Upon reaching this sacrosanct place, he decided to submerge all the beings by stopping the flow of the Vyas (Beas) river with his monstrosity. Lord Mahadev, protector of all understood the cruel intent of Kulaanta and decided to create an illusion to trick him. Lord Shiva went to Kulaanta and raised an alarm saying that his tail was on fire. When Kulaanta turned his mighty head, Bholenath struck his head with his trishul. The gigantic body of Kulaanta transformed into a mountain range that stretches all the way to Rohtang Pass and beyond and it is said that Kullu derives its name from Kulaanta.
Another legend is that Lord Mahadev killed the invincible demon Jalandhar in this place. However, there is a powerful prayer made by Vasishtha Brahmarshi in the Rig Veda requesting Lord Rudra to save the universe from the electrically charged particles that had wreaked havoc on all beings in the universe. This divine manifestation of Lord Rudra who absorbed this excessive electric current took place at the confluence of Parvati and Beas rivers. It is said that this temple was established in the olden times in accordance with that story of Lord Rudra who is called as Bijli Mahadev or Bijleshwar Mahadev.
Another story is that Kullu Valley used to be at the receiving end of innumerable lightning strikes that destroyed cattle, forests as well as mankind. The people prayed to Lord Shiva to save them from this natural occurrence and Lord Shiva chose to manifest himself in this place to absorb the lightning strikes and protect his children. It is also said Lord Shiva commanded Lord Indra to use his vajra (thunderbolt) to create lightning in this place once in twelve years to maintain the balance of the universe. Locals say that a priest had a dream where Lord Shiva said that the Shiva Linga would break into pieces whenever lightning strikes and he should join the pieces with butter and sattu (flour) for the Shiva Linga to become whole again.
Even today, one can see charred patches on the walls inside the temple caused by the lightning strikes. Interestingly, a pool of water manifests itself beneath the Linga whose source is unknown. Scientists have been unable to deduce how lightning strikes in this place only once in twelve years and how the Linga regains its form despite being split into pieces every time!
It is also believed that this Shiva temple was worshipped by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya and the present wooden structure built in Pahadi style is about 500 years old. There is a 20-metre-high staff here of Deodar tree which locals say attracts the divine blessings in the form of lightning and is replaced by another one made from the tallest tree found in the forest as and when the need arises. The tree is carved in a square shape and fixed in the appointed spot. The natives have a grand celebration whenever the pole needs to be replaced.
This mystical place draws you with its breath-taking beauty, divine radiance and serenity.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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