Hatu Peak at a staggering elevation of 11,152 feet (3400 metres) is the highest peak in Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh. A narrow treacherous single road, a little away from Narkanda passing through dense forests of deodar, fir, spruce, blue pine and others on one side and a dizzying fall into a valley below leads to the ancient Hatu Mata temple situated atop this peak. The journey, though not for the fainthearted is definitely awe-inspiring and the breathtaking scenery at every turn leaves you speechless. On a clear day, one can see the snow-capped Shrikhand Mahadev, as well as Tibet, Pir Panjal range of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and a part of Kinnaur, Kotgarh, Kumarsain, Rampur Bushahr and others from this temple.
Legend has it that this temple is dedicated to Mandodari, beloved wife of Ravana and a revered Panchakanya. It is also believed that Draupadi breathed her last in this spot when she fell from the mountain in the Himalayas on the way to Swarga (Heaven). The temple was established after her demise. There is even an image in stone of Draupadi inside the temple.
Another legend is that the Pandavas and Draupadi spent a great deal of time in tapah (penance and austerities) in this place during their agyatvas. They sought the blessings of Kali Mata who is the presiding deity to win over their enemies in the impending war. There is an ancient rock belonging to that time which is still seen. There are two enormous stones shaped like a chullah called as Bheema chullah where the Pandavas are said to have cooked their food.
This beautiful temple is constructed entirely in the typical Himachali style with bands of wood and stone and has exquisite wooden carvings depicting stories from the Hindu scriptures. The influence of Buddhism is also seen in certain carvings of dragons and auspicious symbols. The architecture is absolutely stunning and all the compositional members are intricately detailed.
People come in large numbers to pay homage to Kali Mata on the first Sunday of the month of Jyeshta. Locals say that the radiance and blessings received by the Pandavas on the strength of their exemplary tapah can be felt here and Kali Mata called as Manokamanapoorna Mata gives you whatever you ask of her.
One can lose all sense of time staring at the mysterious Himalayas, the lush greenery that spreads across miles and the world beyond in silence and solitude in this historically and spiritually significant place.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)