Spirituality and religious centers are so well interspersed in Indian Culture that it even finds its place among the lofty Himalayas. Like many other states, even Himachal Pradesh is endowed with many a religious and pilgrimage centers that are worth a visit for every person visiting Himachal Pradesh:
The Naina Devi Temple –located in the Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, this temple is dedicated to Naina Devi or the Goddess of Sati. This is one of the most popular and holy pilgrimage places in Himachal Pradesh. The temple was built by Raja Bir Chand and is situated on the northern end of the Niani Lake in the town
Legend has it that Goddess Sati sacrificed herself by burning her alive to avenge her husband. According to myth, Lord Shiva was infuriated to see this and carried the corpse of Sati on his shoulders to do Taandav which would have brought inevitable destruction to the Earth. To pacify Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu unleashed his Chakra which cut the corpse into 51 pieces. Wherever a part of her corpse fell, was to be a holy place. Her eyes are believed to have fallen here which is where it derives its name from – Naina means eyes and the temple is dedicated to the same.
The shimmering green waters of the lake are a reflection of emerald green eye of Sati. The town also hosts a cultural festival during the months of August/September dedicated to the Nanda Devi, who is the patron Goddess of the Kumaon hills. The festival is of great religious and cultural significance to the locals.
Baijnath Temple – the Baijnath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is set against the beautiful backdrop of Dhauladhar range. It is an ancient temple which was built in the 9th century AD but was destroyed in an earthquake. It was rebuilt in the 13th century by Raja Sansar Chand. It lies 36 kms east of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh.
The temple is much revered for its ancient architectural style. It is believed that Ravana once worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple. There are many old engraving on the walls along with beautiful images on the stones and walls as well. The temple shows Nagri style of architecture and really epitomizes how ancient architecture in the Himalayas must have been. One can’t help but appreciate the imagination and skilled workmanship with many deities such as Ganga, Yamuna, Surya – the Sun God being engraved on the walls of the temple. Much of the temple has been damaged over time or lost in renovation but still remains a spectacular sight.
The temple also benefits largely from the serene backdrop it is set in. The snowcapped Dhauladhar mountains in the background and the Beas river flowing through think oak and cedar forest beneath make for a lovely setting. A mega cultural festival is also held here on the occasion of Maha Shivratri. It remains a beautiful place to visit to soak in some history and religiosity all year round.
Manikaran – this is one of the most popular pilgrimage centers in Himachal Pradesh and is located at a distance of 42 km from Kullu in between river Beas and Parvati, in the Parvati Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Manikaran is particularly famous for its hot springs.
Manikaran is a pilgrimage place for Hindus and Sikhs alike. The town houses the Guru Nanak Devji Gurudwara also known as Manikaran Gurudwara and is considered one of the most sacred piths by the Sikhs. The langar of the Gurudwara serves free food to thousands of visitors daily. It also houses the Ramachandran Temple which is the most important temple in the town. Dedicated to Lord Ram, the idol of Shri Ram is believed to have been brought straight from Ayodhya. The town has yet another temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
However, much of its attractions are because of its natural hot water springs. The hot springs are believed to possess curative powers and many devotees take a dip in the hot springs to wash away their sins or to simply seek its curative qualities. The springs are on the banks of river Parvati, occurring through a stretch of 1.3 kms. The springs are hot enough that food may be cooked within them. Manikaran remains a beautiful religious place to be visited all year round.
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