Nerti – The Lost World of Kangra Folklore | Har Gaon Ki Kahani

Although a good number of Himachali’s join the Indian Armed Forces, I never imagined that we too have a history of wars. I mean bloodshed, horses, spears, swords, loyalty, betrayal; that kind of war. The Chamba King (Raj Singh) and Kangra King (Sansar Chand) fought the Great Battle of Nerti in the late 1700s.

The battleground was Nerti, formerly known as Dehra.

Nothing much is known about the strength of armed forces on either side but there is an interesting story that is still a popular folklore of the region. It is said that the Chamba King fought for more than 48 minutes (adhai ghadi) without head. How’s that possible, I don’t know. But this story is now an integral part of the folklore and songs.

Nerti Kangra Har Gaanv Ki Kahani
Nerti Kangra Har Gaanv Ki Kahani

After the Chamba King lost to Sansar Chand, and eventually died, his son built a Shiva Temple in Nerti in the year 1796. The name Nerti came into being not before 1980. In the past, it was called Dehra, loosely translated as an entry point. Soon this temple became a hub of cultural, religious, and economic activities.

Every year in the month of Āsāṛh (आषाढ – June-July) a festival was organized here until 1954. After the region was connected to a National Highway, the festival was shifted from Nerti to Rait, just next to the national highway near Shahpur. Back then it was just not a village fair but a trade cum cultural event. Traders from both the valleys used to gather here and it was a kind of Vibrant Gujarat Himachal event back then.

Raw Wool, woolen clothes, dry fruits were the major trade items here. However, post independence, because of poor water management and ignorant administration, this region waited for years for someone to come and revive its soul.

That happened in the year 1974. The Kangra Lok Sahitya Parishad invited 50 scholars from Kangra and Jammu. These scholars helped in establishing the Folklore Research Center at Nerti. A Rural Theater, in the form of an Open Air Theater was constructed to promote traditional dances and cultural activities.

Folklore Research Center Gautam Vyathit Nerti Kangra
Folklore Research Center – Confined to a Forlorn Room

And if we are talking about the Kangra Arts and Culture, it would be unfair to not mention the name of Dr. Gautam ‘Vyathit’. It was his undying efforts that not only helped setting up a library at Nerti but also revived the traditional Kangra dance Jhamakra. 

Jhamakra is a humorous cum satirical dance form that focuses on the social, economic, and political problems of day-to-day life of a common man.

And I hate to admit that I didn’t know the name of this dance form before visiting this place. Bhangra, Garba, Kuchhipudi were all taught to us but nobody told us to study our own traditional dances. Well, somethings are meant to be learned on your own.

Anyway, the library is forlorn, the temple gates are rusting in the rains. Even the pittars (idols made in the memories of the loved ones) are eating dust here. There is not even a shelter for these idols. On the other hand you can read this and feel more ashamed.

A few kilometers from Nerti is the famous Garhmata Mandir but I didn’t pay a visit because temples often disappoint me. The man management of temples, not the temple actually.

Surprisingly, there is a natural hot water spring (a pool actually) at Tatwani. Across the year, hot water runs effortlessly into the pool and not this is a great picnic spot for lovers who can’t afford a hotel. You know what I mean. Even the Welcome board at the entrance has given up. It hangs hopelessly while the temples, must be 200 years old, are waiting for the messiah from the external world. I am sure these temples and boards will soon demolish themselves only to be found out again some 1000 years later during an excavation.

Afterall, How long can one wait? 

Nerti Tatwani Kangra Machial
Hot Water Springs Tatwani

Har Gaanv Ki Kahani – A Revolutionary Concept or Hogwash?

The fundamental problem with Indians or Indian system is implementation. This Har Gaanv Ki Kahani (HGKK) programme, like our constitution was a well thought, effectively planned venture. Deputy Commissioners’, SDM’s, panchayat members, et al. sat together and formulated this project, which could have done wonders to boost the rural tourism scene in the state. At the planning stage, grand feasts (dham) were organized to get onboard as many people as possible.

However, as I already said, the fundamental problem persisted. To be honest, I don’t think even the government remembers anything about having started this project. For instance, a substantial amount (ranging in Crores) was sanctioned for the Nerti Project when this project started. Today, both the Nerti and Tatwani Temples are in an abysmal state. The Tatwani Temples must be at least 200 years old and so is the board placed outside the temples welcoming guests. Not even a sign board in 5 Crores?

Great Planning, this!

Har Gaanv Ki Kahani Kangra nerti
My Lovely Goddess
Har Gaanv Ki Kahani Nerti Kangra
These will Self Demolish One Day

These temples, these bawris, trees, rivers are our culture. These must be preserved. Each one of them has got some story to tell. A temple is just not about idols. It is much more than that. Festivals, economy, inter-cultural meets; everything was dependent on these temples. Today temples means God Religion but actually it meant gathering of human-beings to talk, share, and trade with each other.

Often we see people complaining about the preservation of our culture and traditions. Complaining is not the solution. Traveling Knowing is.

The idea is simple, go visit these villages. Rest will fall in place on its own.

Tatwani Hot Water Springs Nerti Kangra
Temples at Tatwani – Self Demolition Mode

 

*This is fifth article in the Har Gaanv Ki Kahani Series. Click to Read More*

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5 thoughts on “Nerti – The Lost World of Kangra Folklore | Har Gaon Ki Kahani”

  1. Personally, I think we should stop all this tourism thing. I don't want to share. I even think we should stop these industries and corporate influx into Himachal. It is getting too crowded day by day, and Mother Nature, and people and I could go on and on. I know it is a rather negative viewpoint, but look around you. Tourism should be discovery, not tell tales by puny guides. It is a different taste when stories are narrated in the very same environment, by the people who belong. I am being conservative, but conservation is the dire need of the moment.

  2. The fundamental problem is implementation. What we see today, happening in Simla, Dalhousie, Dsala was once well planned but poorly executed. So when I say tourism, I don't mean fuck-the-place-and-make-money tourism. It has to be well planned and effectively managed. See for instance European countries; the laws are strict and the money is good. But then that's wishful thinking on my part. But still, I wish people of my age go and visit these villages, get to know more and more about the way of living in the hills.

  3. Had the pleasure of visiting the Tatwani springs and temple in the winter this year and was absolutely astounded by the neglect of such a wonderful place.

    Your narrations are so amazing, what a wonderful way of exploring too.

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