A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…..
You can be the indefatigable Joe Simpson fighting your way out of the dark gulleys of a blind crevasse or you could be that adamant Swami Pranavananda who propelled his metal boat in freezing waters of the holy Kailas Mansarovar Lake.
Books give you infinite possibilities of being.
We, my brother and I, were too fond of comics. We shared a special bond with our paper characters. Our stay in Dharmshala, which lasted two years, was spent between the pages of our comic books and the mountains of Dhauladhars. Dharmshala helped us shift from comics to Amrita Pritam and Swami Vivekanand but the white mountain always stayed with us. And so did the temple of Indru Nag.
The Indru Nag temple was a stone’s throw away from our place and we used to walk in our chappals to catch a closer glimpse of the mystical white mountains. We would often run away from our colony and wait until the melting sun turned ‘our’ mountains into a painting adorned in gold.
The year was 1999.
Sixteen years later, I visited that place again. This time in a car because unlike them yesteryears, a road has come up leading straight to the temple. This place has not changed a bit in all these years. It bears the same old bewildered look. You don’t see much tourists up here. There is a random paragliding party trying their luck against the winds. Probably this place draws it’s inspiration from the mountains that guard it.
The only change that I see is a library. A series of whispering bookshelves. As curious as the reader browsing through wooden racks.
My good friend, Arvind ‘Cartoonist’, told me about this library. Although he didn’t mention that he is one of the two founding members of this little library. The other one being Dr. B.C. Khanna, a living encyclopedia on Dharmshala.
This library, if you want to call it that, is mostly a collection of books that have gone out of print. The popular genres being Philosophy and Travel. Sanju, the shopkeeper who takes care of this little treasure helps readers with juices and tea while they witness history unfolding through worn out papers.
Does he get paid? No. He just enjoys the bewildered look at the faces of tourists who come in search of bottled water and instead find an unprotected treasure.
Snacks and tea are not free, obviously!
I found what I had been looking for a long long time. Rahul Sankritayan’s Kinner Desh and Younghusband’s relation with Dhamrshala. There’s a lot more that I need to explore in those wooden shelves.
The Temple of Indru Nag
Dr B C Khanna, a retired psychiatrist who has made these mountains his home, has written about the history of this temple at Indru Nag. In one of his research works namely ‘A House for Mr. Shaw’, he says –
Sir Francis Younghusband in his book Wonders of the Himalayas published in 1924 has given an interesting account of his visit to Dharmshala in April, 1884…….
I reached Dharmshala on the third day, and went straight to to Robert Shaw’s house on the top of a little hill a mile or so outside… The house itself was name Easthome, and was one which Shaw had occupied when managing the tea plantation which lay all around it.
Robert Shaw was Sir Younghusband’s uncle. After his death in 1879 – Major General Younghusband became the owner of this temple. On this very piece of land, there used to be a small structure enclosing a small stone image. Dr. Khanna, in another of his research work ‘A Tea Planter’s House’ mentions-
The image had a charming face with a crown on its head. The lower part of the body below the waist of the sculpture was like that of a snake. Villagers worshiped this image as the village God named Indru Nag.
Then one day, a baba ji [Pillai Swami] ascended this path stationed himself near the Indru Nag.
Coming down from Indru Nag, I saw an old man smoking bidi while he waited for his partner. That man was Amar Singh ‘gaddi’ who was about to embark on his long sojourn across the Dhauladhars’ into the valley of Lahaul.
As we chatted about ‘our’ summer plans, he nonchalantly invited me to his summer camp in Lahaul. I think I will go.
You too should go. If not to Lahaul then at least to the treasure chest at Indru Nag that is silently waiting for someone to come and explore it.