Long ago, a local Royal Enfield dealer invited me for a ride expedition. The name given to the expedition was ‘Janjehli – Banjar Connection’. Immediately, I refused but at the same time, I took to Google Maps. I did not see any connection, as I couldn’t spot any road connecting these two far flung regions.
I was wrong. There exists a road connection between these two valleys. A dirt road leading through thick forest and bizarrely bending curves connects these two beautiful valleys.
A ride through thick conifers is one of the best things that has happened to the humanity. That’s what this Banjar – Janjehli road connection is all about. On a dusty road, you attain a maximum height of 2500 meters at Chach-Galu that can be called a low altitude pass.
And like the road leading from Janjehli to Banjar, even names of the villages enroute are equally interesting. Sample these names; Chach-Galu, Gattu, BillaGahad, Chattri, Jogini Dhar.
Our first stop comes at Chattri Village, twenty-five kilometers from Janjehli. The famous Magru Mahadev Temple of Chattri is probably the best tribal artistic woodwork I have seen so far.
Magru Mahadev is a temple dedicated to Shiva, located in the heart of Chattri Village. The temple is built in pent and gable style, although much of its exterior has been changed in the name of modernization and refurbishing. Nevertheless, the exterior of the temple looks amazingly beautiful. The rooftop is decorated with sculptures of hanuman and an unknown (to me) historical figure.
A couple of decades back, the exterior of the temple was blue in color but now it has been changed to annoying yellow exterior.
But it has rightly been said that exterior beauty doesn’t matter. So take a step inside the temple and you will find yourself gawking at one of the finest woodwork carvings depicting historical figures from Mahabharat and Ramayan.
The ceiling is richly decorated with historical figures from Hindu epics, painted in black, made of locally available wood. There are carved panels on the ceiling, right half dedicated to the stories from Ramayan where as the left half is dedicated to the life of Sri Krishna!
There is a sparkling illustration of Sri Krishna dancing on the head of a ten-mouthed snake. Despite being made hundreds of years ago, these wooden carvings looked like fresh woodwork. I was told that at the time of Shivratri festival, the entire ceiling is polished with herbal oil and then one can see these illustrations speaking for themselves.
This temple also features in the Protected Monument list of Archeology Department of Himachal Pradesh.
And in case you did not know, that’s all they do, they make great lists.
Moving forward, right across the small rivulet that flows across the Chattri Village lies a small tower temple, popularly known as Panahar Kothi. And that takes our count of Tower Temples of Himachal Pradesh to eight.
Panahar Kothi is dedicated to a Nag Devta known as Chaplandi Dhar Nag Devta. A local told us that there is a little ‘Shanghar like grassland’ up in the mountains where the original temple of the devta has been constructed. The lure of Shanghar works like a magnet, you may see it yourself here. We decided to take a detour and head towards the little Shanghar of Chattri.
After off-roading for an hour, we finally reached atop a fine grazing ground. It was half as big as the Shanghar Grasslands. There are devdar trees guarding the premises of the temple atop this ridge while the other side is a wide-open valley. The devdars of the valley form an oblique semi-circular arrangement and the blue color emanating from the valley works like magic. A sight to behold till eternity.
From the highlands of Gattu, it is a gradual descent to another wonderland village of Mandi; Gada Gushaini. The name itself is so fascinating!
We shall explore this village some other time.
1. This road merges with the Banjar – Jalori Pass road near Ghiyaghi on the NH-305.
2. Janjehli – Chattri (25 km, bad road) | Chattri – Gadagushaini (30 km, bad road) | Gadagushaini – Ghiyaghi (15km, average road)