Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
These epic lines spoken by Confucius come to my mind every time I pay a visit to these lost temples of Pong Dam. Located right in the middle of the Pong Dam, these temples go underwater and stay underwater for more than six months.
Come winters, and these temples emerge out of the frozen waters of the lake, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
The other side of Pong Wetland is thousands of winged tourists visiting from across the globe, some of them coming from the far flung floes of Siberia and Tibet. Unlike my previous visits, this year I couldn’t see much birds at the wetland. There are primarily two sites where these birds gather together in great numbers. One of them being the site close to the submerged temples and the other one near Nagrota Surian.
These sites have been turned into agriculture fields by the locals and they make the best use of free land made available to them by the receding waters of the dam during winters. And because of this reason only, birds flock at these two sites in great numbers. Agriculture means food.
As of December 10, 80,000 + migratory birds were recorded holidaying at the Pong wetland. The Great Bittern was spotted for the first time at the Pong Wetland, taking the total number of winged species to 421.
However, all I could spot at these sites was bar headed geese and some Siberian Cranes. Even the Dhauladhars’, that had received fresh snowfall the last night were still hiding themselves behind a thick layer of fog.
Despite waiting for more than an hour, we couldn’t see the sparkling Dhauladhars’ bathing in the fresh morning light.
And while we waited, looking at the submerged temples providing the much needed shelter to these migratory birds, a question suddenly cropped up in my mind.
Why do we need to preserve our heritage? Why should we protect and preserve our forts, our ancient temples?
Our ancient temples were just not a place of idol worship. If we look closely at our temples, they were modelled as per our body composition. Outer parts consisting of aesthetics while the inner parts, the ‘garbh griha’, signified the creative energy , the aatman, of the body.
Moreover, these temples are made without the help of cement and steel. Every year these temples go underwater and still come out unscathed, stronger than ever. Some engineering there! And great architectural wonders without any doubt.
These temples are symbol and carrier of our identity through times gone by. If we look at these temples solely from ‘religious’ angle, we will be committing a grave mistake. These temples are also an expression of art and culture during a particular era, which goes back to 7th Century in some cases.
And being a selfish race that we are, there must be something for us in it? Right?
I had a word with a good friend and a famous blogger from Himachal, Aadarsh Rathore and he aptly put in words what I had been thinking about preserving our temples.
These temples tell about our history. And preserving history is important because that tells us about our journey that was initiated hundreds of years ago by our forefathers. He also added, we are always nostalgic about our childhood memories. A broken gramophone, or an old cycle always finds a great place in our hearts and our living rooms. Why can’t the same be done with our ancient temples?
A debt ridden state that we are, we must be thankful to our ancestors for giving us these amazing structures, amazing spectacles of indigenous architecture.
All we need to do is to use some common sense and turn it into a great tourist destination.
Meanwhile, the birds had started moving as the sun was finally out. The golden sunshine spread all across the
The sky was overcast and birds were hurrying to avoid getting drenched in the rain that was about to start.
Today, the wetland is known as a ‘Birding Paradise’. It has been reported that birds are being killed at the wetland and administration can’t do anything about it. I read somewhere that there are no returning birds at the wetland.
If this trend continues, the goalposts will change again, new terms will be coined, and this birding paradise will be forgotten, again.
How I wish we too could hurry to avoid these beautiful temples from being ruined.
This is how these temples look when completely out of the water.
P.S. If you wish to visit the Pong Wetland, make sure you have a camera tripod stand and also a two wheeler at your disposal. Because these birds keep changing their position, a two wheeler helps you move quickly from one place to another.