Seraj like Mahasu was once a unified region governed by the deities. A major part of it is still governed by the deities of Kullu, Shimla, and Mandi. Even today the electoral constituencies are divided as Inner and Outer Seraj. Seraj is famous for its historical temples and its age old traditions. On one side we have the Great Dhauladhar in the backdrop and on the other side we have the thick uncharted boondocks of the Janjehli Valley.
In between lies the Court of the Lord Ghatotkach, the Kotlu – Markanda temple.
The name Markanda is derived from the name of Great Indian sage Rishi Markandey who once meditated in the Seraj Valley. There is a temple dedicated to the Markandey Rishi in Bagi Village, 5km from the Kotlu temple. It is believed that Ghatotkach, son of Bhim and Hidimbi, was blessed by the sage to judge the good from the bad. Probably that marked the start of his out-of-the-world (yet effective) justice system.
The justice system of nails, iron rods, and barbed wires.
The court of the deity, Dev Kotlu as it is called in the region, governs a significant number of villages. The court of the Dev handles issues related to theft and social injustice. The sufferer fastens a nail to the wooden plank at the altar of the temple. That means a case has been filed. The justice system starts working with immediate effect. Some fix an iron rod and some choose a barbed wire. Probably a barbed wire is fixed when the theft or injustice is rarest of the rare cases.
Here, the cases are solved with lightning speed. The accused (if guilty) comes to the temple on his own, and requests the Dev to dismiss his/her case. The Goor, messenger of/to the deity then initiates the compromise between the two parties. Only the concerned parties get to know about the details. Dham (feast) is organized and the issue is considered solved permanently.
If the accused is adamant, the Dev tests him by inflicting damage to his crops, cattle, or health. The ‘laato ke bhoot baton se nahin maante’ principle applies here until the accused realizes his mistake.
I spoke to the pujari (priest) of the temple about the effectiveness of the Justice System. This is what he had to say.
“Faith is/was all we had when this village was unknown to the external world. Even today we don’t have road connectivity. To file a court case against a theft, thefts or evil doers can’t be stopped, we can’t think of going to Mandi or Kullu. The best thing is asking the Dev to solve our case. Half of the times the victim forgives the accused. You see walking 5km uphill to seek justice makes you compassionate. I have seen people walking angrily to complain and by the time they reach at the temple, they just can’t afford to be vengeful.”
This was probably the logic behind setting up the court this far. The pujari also confirmed that because of this Har Gaanv Ki Kahani Program, the vice of casteism was also losing ground. Surprisingly, I wasn’t asked about my caste while entering the temple premises and that’s one good thing.
The pujari further stated, “It’s easy to pass our beliefs as myths because outsiders don’t have to live our lives. What is bad is bad and we all condemn it. But something like law and order is always a matter of divine intervention. Even in our courts, an honest judge is called a Devta. Here too, Ghatotkach was a human being who achieved Godly status by governing his state in near-perfect manner. The system still works. We are just continuing the old system in the best possible way. That’s the simple explanation we have to offer.”
Makes sense to me.
What appears as a myth or a superstition today was once the way of life. Times did change but those myths (sic) were so deep rooted in the lives of people that it would take something more than just criticism to forget those so called myths, if at all they are to be forgotten.
How to Reach?
The simplest way is to fill your petrol tanks at Mandi/Pandoh or Aut and then hit the Aut-Jalori road. From Balichowki, head towards the Thachi Village where from a kuchha road of 20 kilometers takes you to the temple. One has to hike for an hour or so to reach the temple from Bagi Village. If you hike further to the right, it’s highly likely that you’ll reach Janjehli or Shikari Devi Temple (3300 meters) by the end of the day.
There is an alternate way from Sudhrani village but that takes a minimum of 8 hours on foot. The walk is pleasant. Rendezvous with a black bear: Highly Likely.
A Word about Thachi
Thach in Kullu means a grazing ground which becomes Goth in Chamba/Dhauladhar’s.
is a cultural hub of the Inner Seraj region and there are at least 100 temples of magnificent architecture in and around Thachi. And because these are the remote regions of the Himachal, Seraj/Thachi is also popular for Budhi Diwali festival, celebrated weeks after the original festival of lights.
This is fourth post in the Har Gaanv Ki kahani series, a rural tourism program initiated by the Himachal Tourism.
This time we travel along the Dhauladhars, upstream the Tirthan River in the Seraj Region, which separates the Kullu and Mandi Districts. The village chosen under the Har Gaanv Ki Kahani Program for the year 2012-13 from District Mandi is Bagi Village, just close to the Kullu-Mandi border across the Tirthan River.