Ever visited a new place and felt that it was always close to your heart? Ever loved a place from the word go? Well, if not then you need to visit Chamba.
Chamba is a poem. A love song that stays with you forever. Every time I visit Chamba; I always find something novel about this place. And whenever I leave, Chamba often throws a question at me whose answer must be found. And then I come back again, and again.
Every village of Chamba has a story that speaks through its streets, temples, and age-old traditions. Mother Ravi and Chenab flow through Chamba and every rivulet rushes to meet them so as to spread the stories of remotest corners of Chamba to far-off lands.
That’s Chamba for me.
Saho – 1100 Years of Civilization
Saho is a small village in the Northeastern corner of Chamba. It is one of the Heritage Villages of Himachal Pradesh. It features in the ‘Har Gaanv Ki Kahani’ (HGKK) program started by the govt. to promote rural tourism. It is one of those ‘model villages’ adopted by the Tourism Department that make you feel proud.
Saho is at a distance of 18 kilometers from main Chamba town. A road branches off from the State Highway 33 (Chamba – Sach Highway) near Balu Bridge and up you go on the banks of the ‘Sal River’ towards Saho. There are terraced farmlands all around. During the rainy season, these terraced farmlands look like a flawless ‘pahadi painting’.
In my previous post (Road to Langera – Bhaderwah) I talked about a folk song mentioning Chamba hidden between two rivers. One of the rivers is Ravi whereas the second river is supposedly Sal River originating near the Saho Village. I am not sure but many people I have inquired have confirmed Sal being the second river mentioned in that song.
It is believed that nowhere else in the world one will see a natural ‘ShivaLingam’ of such size. It is made of natural stone and copper plating has been done to its outer surface which gives it a unique look. Chamba was once popular for its copper mines and the ‘Saho Shivalingam’ is coated with copper extracted from these very mines. The legend says that during the construction of this temple, size of the ‘Shivalingam’ started to expand on its own.
Yeah, you heard it right. Stories of stone expansion are not uncommon in the Himalayas. At least stories I have been hearing since childhood suggest so.
So moving forward, when stone Shivalingam started to expand, construction plans and estimates had to be changed repeatedly. But the stone wouldn’t stop expanding and then finally the Emperor had to consult Shiva by means of meditation probably. Shiva suggested stopping the construction work there and then.
Lo and behold! The Shivalingam stopped expanding.
Another story says that the ‘Nandi Bail’ of the temple was once made of copper but somehow for reasons unknown it turned to stone. Except for the bell tied to its head. While everywhere else you get dead sound upon knocking bull’s body, the bell produces metallic sound. It does look like a stone bell but produces metal sound.
I guess the bell is hollow and that’s why the metallic sound. But, in the Himalayas, you never know.
Saho natives call themselves descendants of Shiva. It is also believed that from this village only, Shiva embarked on a journey to Manimahesh Kailash in Bharmour and settled there finally.
Every year in the month of September an annual fair is celebrated here. And ‘Bhasmasur Dance’ is the specialty of this festival.
And what do they sing? Sample this:
साहो जात्रा जो जाना, ओ मेरी नथ घडी दे
साहो जात्रा लगी-री बैशाखे दे पंद्रे सोहले |
साहो जात्रा जो जाना, ओ मेरी नथ घडी दे
A young bride requesting her beloved for new jewelry (nose-pin) for the New Year Festival at Saho (Rough Translation)
Bhasmasur Dance. Ever heard a name so strange?
These guys surely belong to Shiva! And I wish to learn this dance.