Text & Photographs: Mamata R. Singh
Sirmour – where nature reigns supreme – is located in the south-eastern corner of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Nature manifests here in all its forms – hills, rivers, lakes, wildlife sanctuaries, fossil park, reserve forests, valleys, et al. Many hills in Sirmour rise to a height of about 3674 m. They are dotted with big and small waterfalls that come alive during the rainy season. Rivers Giri, Markandeya, Tons and Yamuna pass through Sirmour. Yamuna, which flows between Sirmour and Dehradun, in fact serves as the natural boundary between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. There are abundant forests in Sirmour full of Sal and Pine trees.
The eastern part of the Sirmour district is endowed with limestone mines that feed the cement manufacturing factories located in and around Sirmour. This district with many small-scale industries is also equally famous for its places of pilgrimage.
Nahan, the district headquarters of Sirmour, is a historic city. The city was founded by King Karan Prakash in 1621. It is situated on a ridge of the Shivalik Hills. Located at a height of 932 m, it offers panoramic views of the valleys and forests around it. As Nahan is not located at a very high altitude, it has a pleasant climate throughout the year.
Located in the heart of the town is Rani Ka Tal. There is a beautiful temple on the eastern end of this tal (lake) dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is constructed on a raised platform with one large central dome surrounded by four smaller ones.
There are many buildings and monuments near Rani Ka Tal dating to the period of Sirmouri kings. The city boasts of two palaces, located at its highest points. In close vicinity is the Chaugan, a rectangular ground, where all the major functions and festivals of the city are celebrated.
Nahan can be used as a good base for many short or long treks, such as to Sansari Devi temple and the Markandeya temple. Fifteen km from Nahan, there is a fossil park at a place called Saketi – a huge forested area. The museum here displays various fossils and the life-sized models of animals which once existed here.
The many famous religious places located in this region include the Renuka Lake and temple, Parshuram temple, Pataliyan Shiva Temple, Shillai Tibetan Monastery and Gurudwaras at Paonta, Bhangani and Tirgarh.
Trilokpur, 17 km from Nahan, is famous for the temple dedicated to Goddess Bala Sundari, where a fair is held twice a year. King Deep Prakash of Sirmour built this temple in 1573. A waterfall known as Banganga enhances the beauty of the temple.
Renuka lake, 32 km from Nahan, is a famous spot thronged by both pilgrims and tourists. It is one of the largest and most beautiful lakes of Himachal Pradesh. This lake is believed to be the live embodiment of the goddess Renuka, mother of the Lord Parshurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is shaped like a sleeping woman. Every year after Deepawali (festival of lights), the Renuka fair is held here in honour of the goddess. On the western bank of the lake is a temple complex devoted to the goddess and Parashuram. As the lake is regarded sacred, all its water creatures are well preserved.
Located on the slopes of the hills adjoining the lake is a wildlife sanctuary having a mini zoo and a lion safari. The whole area has been so developed as to conserve the local fauna and flora. The fauna includes nilgai, spotted deer, tailed macaques, mithun, barking deer, monkeys, Himalayan black bears, etc. The lion safari offers close glimpses of the jungle king.
Nearby is Rajban, king’s forest, now declared a reserve area wooded mostly by Sal trees.These trees have an average life of 100 years and their wood is mostly used for making furniture.
On the way to Paonta from Rajban is the Pataliyan temple. The monolithic Shiva lingam (phallus) of the temple is believed to be growing in height every year.
Forty-five km from Nahan lies Paonta Sahib on the western banks of the river Yamuna. It is believed that Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru, had lost his Paonta (ring) here while taking a bath in the river Yamuna. Thence onwards, this place has been known as Paonta Sahib. It is a sacred city with many temples and a Gurudwara. Thousands of devotees come here during the spring festivals of Holi and Baisakhi.
The Paonta Sahib Gurudwara was founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs. From the Gurudwara one can have spectacular views of Yamuna and the nearby hills of Uttaranchal. The importance of this place also lies in the fact that Guru Gobind Singh spent four years here, during which time he composed many verses, such as Jaap Sahib, Sawaian, Chandi ki Bar. Above all, he also wrote here the Dasam Granth. Moreover, the weapons used by Guru Gobind Singh during his various battles are also displayed inside the Paonta Sahib Gurudwara.
Twenty-two km from Paonta is situated Bhangani, where a Gurudwara has been built to commemorate the victory of Guru Gobind Singh over the combined forces of twenty-three kings.
Reprinted with permission from India Perspectives
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