Garhwal Diary: Mahasu Devta Temple of Hanol

The rugged and mountainous expanse between the Satluj and Yamuna Rivers in the western Himalayas, irrespective of the administrative boundaries of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, has broadly been occupied by heterogeneous group of people; some of whom are native to the land and the others who settled here under various socio-economic pressures. Much like the rest of the Himalayan interiors, the area has remained dominated by primitive animistic cults, a reason enough to invite curious travellers to the region.

Magical morning from the ridges of Chakrata

Magical morning from the ridges of Chakrata. Please visit Flickr for more images of the region

On way back from Taluka, gateway to Har-Ki-Dun.

On way back from Taluka, gateway to Har-Ki-Dun. More images from the region at Flickr

The Tons Valley; the Tons is the largest tributary of River Yamuna

The Tons Valley; the Tons is the largest tributary of the Yamuna. Photo by Sarabjit Lehal. More at Flickr

A few months back, while returning from Har-Ki-Dun, we went over to the Hanol village in the scenic Tons (or ancient Tamas) Valley in the Bawar region of Garhwal. The village happens to be the main seat of the chief deity of the region – Mahasu Devta, an embodiment of Lord Mahashiva, the supreme God of not only the mortals but the innumerable subordinate Gods and Goddesses of the Himalayas.

Mahashiva Dwar marks the main entrance to the temple complex

Mahashiva Dwar marks the main entrance to the temple complex. More images at Flickr Photoset

Surrounded by small hills, the ancient Mahasu Devta temple is sited on a clearing just below the main Tiuni-Mori road by the left bank of the crystal-clear Tons. Built in the ninth century, the temple is secured by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and has emerged as a prominent tourist attraction of the area near Chakrata. Named after a Brahmin – Huna Bhatt, the temple was initially constructed in Huna architectural style and subsequently acquired a mixed style with expansion.

The ancient Mahasu Devta temple at Hanol

The ancient Mahasu Devta temple at Hanol. More images from the region at Flickr Photoset

The main shrine inside the temple complex and the site where animal sacrifices used to held

The main shrine inside the temple complex and the site of animal sacrifices. More images at Flickr

A sacred shrine to mark the four brothers

A sacred shrine representing the four brothers. More images from the region at Flickr

The Mahasu Devta temple of Hanol lies just at the administrative boundaries of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The temple is located at a five minutes walking distance from the GMVN property. Having devoted the early hours of the day for birding, we left for the temple quite late after breakfast. Even though, the village market was yet to open, the prasad shops selling flowers, malas and other religious offerings were fully opened for business. Barring some locals, a few goats and lambs, there weren’t many living beings when we entered the temple complex. The small doors of the sanctum sanctorum were still locked.

The main shrine inside the temple complex

The main shrine inside the temple complex. Photo by Sarabjit Lehal. More image at Flickr

The remote location of the temple may not be as frequented by tourists but is held in very high regards by local Jaunsar-Bawar hill people. Legend has it that in the times gone by, the surrounding hills were terrorized by a demon named Mandarth until pious Deoladi Devi pleaded with the Shiva, who incarnated as her sons to defeat the demon. Since then, the villagers started worshipping the four brave sons – Botha Mahasu, Pavasik, Vasik and Chalda here in the region. The temple of Botha Mahasu is the main shrine at Hanol even as the Pavasi Devta’s temple is located just across the Tons atop a small hillock. The Vasik Devta’s temple is a 40km trek up the mountain from Pavasi’s temple, whereas the Chalda Devta’s temple is a 2km trek from Tiuni.

The Pavasi Devta temple at Hanol

The Pavasi Devta temple at Hanol. More at Flickr

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Lore goes that during the Mahabharata era, the King Duryodhana reached the area after travelling through Kashmir and Kullu. He ultimately preferred to settle down in the region. So he is said to have prayed to the Mahasu Devta at Hanol asking for a piece of land. The deity not only accepted his pleas but made him the king of the area. He made Jakholi his capital village where a temple is commemorated to him.

As we roamed around in the complex, we came across some more stories related to the temple. The locals told us about the site where animal sacrifices were held annually until the tradition was reversed in the year 2004. A fair at the temple is held every year in August when the deity is taken out in a procession by the followers comprising people from nearby districts. Architecturally, the Mahasu Devta temple at Hanol is a perfect example where stone and wooden structure harmoniously blends to form one composite grand edifice. It took a while before the doors of the main shrine were opened.

The fertile Tons Valley near Hanol

The fertile Tons Valley near Hanol. Photo by Sarabjit Lehal. More images from the region at Flickr

Mata Deoladi Temple built a little downstream to commemorate the birthplace of four brave brothers

Mata Deoladi Temple built a little downstream to commemorate the birthplace of four brave brothers. Photo by Sarabjit Lehal. More images from the region at Flickr

On a different note, a curious aspect of the Hanol temple is that what the people worship as the Mahasu Devta in the sanctum-sanctorum, in fact, looks to be a statue of the Buddha seated in the bhumisparsha mudra. It may bring us to the point that before this area was overtaken by the Shivaism, the complex at Hanol might have been an active centre of the Buddhism. Even the layout of the temple complex indicates the possibility of existence of a well-defined monastic complex.

The junction of Tiuni by the river Tons

The junction of Tiuni by the river Tons. Photo by Sarabjit LehalPlease visit Flickr for more images

All in all, other than your religious inclinations, if you have interest in culture and history of the region, devote at least a day to Hanol. Take a walk along the Tons valley floor or the road towards Mori, for watching birds.

Getting There

The heritage temple of Hanol is located at a distance of nearly 100 km from Chakrata. The road length from Dehradun is approximately 190km. Budget more time than usual to cover the stretches because of bumpy and patchy road network. Another approach from Dehradun could be via Mussoorie, Naugaon and Purola.

Average Altitude: 1230m
Best time to visit: Winters and spring
Travel Lure: Heritage and Birdlife
Accommodation: Limited with a GMVN facility

16 Comments on “Garhwal Diary: Mahasu Devta Temple of Hanol

  1. I can imagine the delight of exploring these beautiful places that are still less frequented by tourists. It again reminds of the treasures our Himalayan regions hold…and makes me hate my cubicle job more! 😛

    • Absolutely! Take time off from your busy office routine and plan a visit or two to the Himalayas. Life and Office both would not appear mundane. Till then keep visiting bNomadic for more such travel stories 🙂

  2. Incredible landscape and temple architecture …

    As I mentioned before, I had my first encounter with the mighty Himalayas this year and now I feels like returning, it’s kind of an addiction I heard 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing this post and wish you a very happy and peaceful new year 🙂

  3. Very beautiful place to visit . whenever will go , your post will help us

  4. Nothing could be more enticing than admiring such a peacefully hiking place. Once I nearly paid a visit to the Himalayas Base Camp in Tibet, yet we cancelled at last due to someone’s suffering from altitude sickness. Being tempted by your descriptions, it is still my wish to leave footsteps in Himalayan regions one day, however formidable to get there.

    • Thanks Bauhinia for stopping by the blog. Altitude sickness can really spoil the travel plans of the entire group. Happened with me a couple of times but thankfully we were able to cure it in time. Wishing you a very Happy, Prosperous and travel-full New Year 2017. Keep visiting bNomadic for more such travel stories 🙂

  5. Great post with lovely pics and so many factual tidbits thrown in. I’m so glad some places are still not as commercialized as others in the beautiful Himalayan region. I don’t know if I will have the occasion to visit, at least I went there through this post.

    • Thanks Vibha for the lovely feedback. You should definitely try and visit such beautiful and inspirational corners of the Himalayas. Good for mind as well as health. Glad to know you liked the post. Keep visiting bNomadic for more such travel stories 🙂

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