Vedas are considered as the most comprehensive scriptures since times immemorial. Brahma, the God of wisdom, delivered the four sacred Vedas through each of his heads. Not only he delivered the Vedas but he is also believed to be the creator of our Universe. Preserving the life on this Universe was Vishnu’s job whereas it was Shiva’s job to destroy the evil and transform life into good again.
Ironically, one can find temples of the preserver and the destroyer all across India but there are only a few temples dedicated to the creator God. One being the Pushkar Temple, one in Khokhan Kullu, and the other one being the Kedarbrahma Temple in Kerala. If you want to know why Brahma is not worshiped in India, you can click here and here.
That’s what the general public believes. That’s what I used to believe until I made this trip to the hinterlands of Mandi and Kullu in April’2014. There are as many as six Brahma temples in Himachal Pradesh, four of them in Kullu Valley alone. The most popular temple among all these is the Aadi Brahma Temple of Khokhan Valley in Kullu.
The famous British lady explorer Penelope Chetwode and her team also wrote about this temple. Chetwode chronicled her experiences in Kulu : The End of the Habitable World. Chetwode was so obsessed with India, Kullu Valley in particular that she wanted herself to be cremated like Hindus. She wanted her ashes to be scattered in the holy waters of Mother Beas, if she died in the Himalayas, and that’s exactly what happened. Mother Nature granted her last wish and the natives of the Khanag Village performed her last rites.
The Aadi Brahma Mandir of Kullu is an architectural wonder constructed in the Himalayan Pagoda Style. The palanquin of the deity is kept at another village across the mountain. The deity visits the temple only when he has to meet any other deity or for a festival or community affairs.
The entire structure is approximately 20 meters tall entirely made up of stone, wood, and schist slate. The unabated restoration works going on since late 60’s have done more harm to the temple than good. Random structures and private properties have been constructed on every inch of free space available near the temple. A concrete structure constructed next to the entrance of the temple hinders its front view. The local panchayats and district administration have constructed a new gate and painted the building with sparkling colors but they forgot to take care of the main temple building.
If not for religion, the authorities can take care of these temples for preserving the ancient Himalayan architecture. There is money, there are rules and regulations, but not the will.
Despite all these restoration works gone bad, the temple is a marvel of Himalayan wooden architecture. The wooden bells hanging from the roof of the temple produce hypnotizing sounds. It is believed that this temple was built in the 14th Century, somewhere around 1350 A.D. The Parashar Temple of Mandi was also constructed during the same time and both these temples have remarkably similar features.
The Aadi Brahma becomes Aadi Purkha: From Kullu to Mandi
The Aadi Purkha Temple of Uttarsal Mandi is another temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in Himachal Pradesh. The temple is located right across the Parashar Hill in Tihri Village in the North West direction. On a bright sunny day, the rest houses atop the Parashar Hill are clearly visible from the Tihri Village.
It is believed that once both the Tihri and Khokhan Villages belonged to Kullu Riyasat and natives from both the villages worshiped the Khokhan Brahma. However, a territorial dispute aroused between Mandi and Kullu and resulted in separation of these two villages. The Tihri natives decided to have their own Aadi Brahma Temple and they named it Aadi Purkha Temple. The new temple shares not only its name with the Khokhan Temple but also the architectural style.
At the time of separation, some of the idols and images from the Khokhan Temple were shifted to the Tihri Temple and at the time of the installation, it was decided to name this temple as Aadi Purkha Temple of Tihri – Uttarsal.
The pagoda structure of Adi Purkha is interesting for its imposing and well-intentioned arrangement of the three tiers and the formal harmony of the entire structure. In the treatment of this pagoda, the compositional parameters have fully been adhered to, so that the diverging lines of the topmost tier, when extended downward, precisely touch edges of the succeeding lower roofs to form an isosceles triangle. The mid-dip in the roof of the lowermost tier has further accentuated the aesthetic effect of the composition.
(O.C. Handa, Temple Architecture of the Western Himalaya: Wooden Temples, Page 228)
Mian Goverdhan Singh and another noted historian from Himachal Pradesh, O.C. Handa have written extensively about the wooden architecture of Himachal Pradesh.
Tha Aadi Brahma takes part in the Kullu Dusshehra Festival where as the Aadi Purkha graces the Mandi Shivratri along with the Pashakot and Hurang Narayan Deities from the Chuhar Valley.
Reaching Khokhan and Tihri
Both the villages are connected to the road and you can take your vehicle to the entrance gates of both the temples. The Khokhan Village is located 5-6 KM on a left diversion from the NH-21 (Chandigarh – Manali) near Bajaura.
On the other hand, Tihri Village can be approached either from Mandi – Parashar road or from Bajaura. A right diversion from Bajaura towards Chandigarh takes you to the Tihri Village. This road is a single lane approach devoid of any major traffic and full of rhododendrons as late as April – May. There are no petrol pumps on this road so you must get your vehicles fueled at Bajaura itself. The road meets the Parashar Mandi road near Baagi Bridge. Here from you can either go to Mandi or head towards another ancinet wooden wonder of Himachal, the Parashar Lake. (33KM)
In next few posts, we will talk about other ancient wooden wonders of Himachal Pradesh. Until then, goodbye!
P.S. Other Brahma Temples in Himachal are at Rahla – Kullu, Shilpihar – Kullu, Kanaun – Sainj/Kullu, and Nahan