Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there ~ Rumi
What if I tell you that I have seen this ground, of which Rumi talks so passionately. One look at the majestic grasslands of Shangchul Mahadev in Sainj Valley (Kullu) and the first thing that came to my mind was Rumi.
If at all, there is such a field, this is it.
The Shangchul Grounds are one of the finest pine savannas I have ever seen in my life, arguably the best in Himachal Pradesh. Located in Shangher Village (शांघड़ ) of Sainj Valley of Kullu Region, this grassland actually lies in the heart of the Great Himalayan National Park’s (GHNP) Western boundary.
In the middle of the grassland, there is a temple dedicated to Shangchul Mahadev. There are three temples in the vicinity, one of them in a dilapidated state, while another one in the village is being renovated. The one proudly standing in the middle of the ground is probably the oldest of the three.
However, the devta resides at the village temple and only visits the ground temple during the festive season. The deity participates in the Kullu Dussehra and the journey from Shangarh to Kullu is an awe-inspiring spectacle. The palanquin of the deity is carried all the way from Shangher Village to Kullu on foot by devotees every year.
Deota Shang Chul has a temple at Kothi Shangarh. Three fairs are held annually here and there are four temples of deota (deity). One contains a stone pindi (shivalinga), a foot high. Mohars (coins) of gold and silver are also kept in the temple. Its administration is carried on by a kardar who is also a pujari and a gur. The sacred lamp is lit only in the evening.
Rose, H.A., Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab and the North West Frontier Province, Page 422
This temple you see in the photograph above was gutted in the fire that broke out in August 2015. An identical temple was erected again in record time by devotees.
Kullu Valley is famous for its ganais’, an interesting way of telling historical stories by means of songs. Ganai’s can be compared with Smriti, an ancient Indian way of preserving and passing down the age old religious teachings from one generation to another.
With time, these ganais’ may have undergone certain changes, but these songs are certainly worth listening to!
It is believed that the grasslands of the Shangchul Mahadev came into existence during the exile of Pandava’s. People believe that the Pandava’s actually fine sieved the soil before laying them in layers for the construction of this ground. And this ground is literally free from any boulder or stone mass.
Unbelievably smooth like watery sponge!
Another ganai says that when Shangchul Devta arrived at Shangher from Rakti Sar (origin of
Tirthan Sainj River in GHNP), he saw a cow grazing at this ground. He was so moved that he decided to divide this ground into two parts. One corner for himself, and the remaining corner for the grazing animals.
There is a huge dip in the middle of the ground and it appears as if someone has neatly bisected the ground into two parts.
However, I believe that this ground was once a lake and gradually felling of trees into the lake eroded the soil from nearby regions and a new grassland surfaced, devoid of any stone or rock because heavy stuff was already resting at the bottom of the lake.
I believe, is larger than the Khajiar Lake and across the entire grassland, its surface is saturated with water, at places swampy too, making it a little difficult to step your feet firmly.
I say this, because there is another lake near Sainj, almost twice as big as Lake Parashar that is undergoing a similar geological change. The lake is dedicated to Pundrik Rishi and it measures almost 1km (or maybe more) along the circumference. It is surrounded by trees and all you see at its surface is a thick layer of leaves and also huge tree trunks floating in the middle of the lake.
The white guardians of Sainj Valley constantly guard these vast grasslands. The other side is guarded by towering pine and deodar trees that reflect bluish light in the evenings giving the entire landscape a magical look.
The moment we arrived at the ground, it was slightly overcast and with animals grazing in their half, it all looked like a poetic landscape, painted green and white by Mother Nature, as if she too wanted to make Rumi’s field a reality.
Right across the Shangchul Grounds, there is another pagoda temple, a five storeyed wonder constructed hundreds of years ago. Surprisingly, the temple belongs to Manu Rishi, of which we were told there is only one temple (Manali) in the entire country.
The Legend of Jehar Devta & Rishi Pundrik’s Lake
In the entire Sainj Valley, you will see temples at sharp turns and accident spots, where devotees put iron items, particularly vehicle parts as offerings. Tire rims, steering wheels, gear boxes, chassis parts etc. make the most of these offerings. It is believed that the Jehar Deity protects the commuters from accidents and in turn he demands iron scrap.
The road leading to Sainj Valley is accident prone and these temples act as a warning sign. You will find almost every vehicle either slowing down or the driver getting down to seek blessings of the deity. The main temple of the deity is atop a hill in a village called Jhilli, some 10km from the main Sainj town. The road leading to the road is not in a very good shape.
The lake, as I have mentioned already, is covered with leaves and sooner or later, it would remain a lake no more. The lake, it is believed, belongs to Rishi Pundrik who meditated here and blessed the land with his spiritual knowledge long ago.
And right next to Rishi Pundrik’s temple, is the cave of Jehar Devta. All around the cave you will find trishuls erected by devotees and iron parts of auto-mobiles wrecked in road accidents brought to the temple by vehicle owners or family members of the deceased.
The ways of Kullu Valley are mesmerizing to say the least. If rest of the India stays away from Brahma worship, these guys proudly construct wooden wonders dedicated to Brahma. While rest of us don’t even want to look at accident sites, these guys bring wrecked motor-parts and place them at the feet of their deity.
I am sure, Penelope Chetwode was so surprised with the ways of Kulu Valley that she wrote a book and rightly named it, Kullu: The End of the Habitable World.
However, what she saw or experienced was not an end actually, that is how it is done in the Kullu Himalayas!
How to Reach?
1. Shangchul and Pundrik Temple are both connected with road. All it takes a half an hour walk from the roadhead to reach at these places.
2. The route for Shanghar is via Aut Tunnel- Sainj – Niuli – Shanghar (40km, 10 km kuccha road from Niuli to Shanghar)
3. Pundrik’s Temple is 10-15 km from Sainj Town and it takes a half hour walk from the road-head to reach at the lake. Jehar Devta’s lake is another 10 minute walk from the lake.