Tuesday, January 29, 2008

THE PATIA BOATS OF TALSARI

Subarnarekha estuary

River clinker Patia

River clinker Patia

Fishing in River clinker Patia
River clinker Temple Art

River clinker Temple Art

River clinker Patia

River clinker Patia

River clinker Patia

River clinker Patia
Flat beach, small and playful waves, a few country boats, roving fishermen and casuarinas coves…near by is the estuary of Subarnarekha River. The beach is no other than Orissa's Talsari, which lies close to the West Bengal border. Kaibartas, the fishermen community are the main group of people living here for generations. The boat used by them is called patia for fishing both in the estuary, beach seining and open sea. Yet perhaps they may not know their boats built in reverse clinker method has a parallel to the boats that once dominated the oceanic trade of Medieval Europe.

Patias are reverse clinker sailing boats built almost entirely of Sal (Shorea robusta) and are heavily coated inboard and outboard with tar. Apart from modification made to accommodate the engine, all sizes of boats are evidently built in the same manner. The strakes of the patia are fastened together by nails, which are driven through the overlap and clenched by hooking the emergent point back into planking.

The builders of Patia boats are simple folk with no formal background in boat designs. Hence, no drawing, models or moulds (templates) are used when building a patia…measurements are used mainly to ensure symmetry. The boats are largely built 'by eye' and much depends upon the experience of the builder.

Patias are used in specific seasons of the year. The main season begins from September/October to March/April. The sailing of patia works within about 5 km of the shore, while the motorised may go out to 20 km.

There is no historical record of Patia boats, when it came into use in Talsari water, who were its first users, and so on. The only evidence was provided by Thomas Bowrey, a traveller of late 17th century on Orissa coast. Thomas described the boats as Patella – flat bottomed, barge like clinker-built boats with protruding crossbeams, used to transport salt. They had a single mast and were steered by large median radar.

Prior to Bowrey are the art historic evidences – Reverse clinker planking, in which each succeeding strake overlaps in board the upper edge of the strake below (rather than outboard as in the European clinker), is depicted on 11th/12th centuries monumental carvings from Orissa. A12th century stone relief in the Jagannath temple in Puri has a depiction of reverse-clinker boat.

Presently, the use of reverse clinker boats is found in Sweden and Bangladesh, beside Talseri and nearby Digha (in West Bengal). There are several medieval examples in Europe, where the reverse clinker boat has been depicted on seals, in archaeological remains and drawings.

Monday, January 28, 2008

LAKHPAT - A JOURNEY INTO A GHOST TOWN

A tectonic erosion near Lakhpat

Arid landscape around Lakhpat

Road leading to Lakhpat

Remains of Lakhpat fortification

Remains of Lakhpat fortification

The Great Rann of Kutch

Sayyed Pir no Kubo

Sayyed Pir no Kubo
Sayyed Pir no Kubo - Intricate design

Sayyed Pir no Kubo - Ornamental design

Sayyed Pir no Kubo - Domes

The Ghaus Mohammed no Kubo

The Ghaus Mohammed no Kubo - dome

In one of India's remote corners on India-Pakistan border lies a deserted village of hardly a few hundred populations within a sprawling fortification. The village is no other than Lakhpat, once a thriving port with daily revenue believed to exceed one hundred thousand (one lakh) koris. Hence its name is Lakhpat.

A visit to Lakhpat was in my mind three years back during the Diwali vacation in 2004. I had made a visit to near by Siyot where Kalini my wife worked for months in an Early Historic site called Kateshwar to trace the spread of urbanism in ancient Gujarat. Shivjibhai and his extended family was my host at Siyot for the two days stay. Kalini also stayed with them for months while doing her fieldwork. Some how I could not make my Lakhpat visit during that time.

This year during my visit to Siyot I had firmly decided that I would make a definite visit to Lakhpat. One may wonder about why such importance to a deserted village…but if he is told about its fascinating past and how it all became the nature's victim, he might gain the same curiosity as I had.

I asked Shivjibhai if he could give me company. He firmly accepted. We hired a jeep and drove towards Gunheri, the last village in the Indian mainland on the edge of Great Rann of Kutch, the vast saline flat desert. The landscape is extremely barren. There are traces of natural erosions due to frequent earthquakes. With no souls around for miles, the landscape looked stunning and peaceful. The view of the great Rann was spectacular. Equally fascinating was the desert wildlife – monitor lizards playing hide and seek, birds of different species mellowing and nilgai hoards grazing in the far-off horizons. The road was dusty and narrow. After a drive of thirty minutes we approached the giant fortification of Lakhpat.


Lakhpat fort sits at the point where Kori creek meets the Great Rann of Kutch. Lakhpat was built in the year 1805 by Jamadar Fateh Muhammed, a celebrated Kutch general, to defend the frontiers of the kingdom against the encroachment of the Sindhies. The fortification erected by him enclosed the entire town within a 7 km long fort wall, most of which still stands. A report published in a British – India journal says that it was garrisoned by 50 Arabs and 150 native soldiers, and contained a population of about 5000 persons, composed principally of merchants and Hindus, who had fled from Sindh to escape the tyranny of the Amirs. Near Lakhpat was Koteri (Kotri) a landing place on the bank of river Indus, where numerous ferryboats constantly passed between them, full of men, cattle and merchandise. From Koteri, the goods were conveyed on camels to the eastern part of the Indus delta, and distributed throughout the inhabited districts of the Thar.

It was the year 1819. An earthquake of high magnitude (over 8 in the Richter scale) shocked Kutch. Lakhpat crumbled. The sea rolled up to the Kori creek (the eastern mouth of Indus which divided Kutch from Sindh) as far westward as the Goongra River. An eyewitness account suggests that from 19th June to 25th June 36 shocks were counted. The river permanently shifted westward and altered its both physical and economic landscape. After the displacement of the Indus River in 1819 the busy port was abandoned and the town that once brimmed with 10,000 people stands almost completely inhabited today. A traveller in 1838 found the only legacy of Lakhpat's maritime legacy were the remains of several boats buried in the soil that filled the bed of the old river.


Guru Nanak is believed to have camped in Lakhpat on his way to and from Mecca. The house where he said was later converted into a Gurudwara, which still stands though heavily renovated in this deserted village.

The Ghaus Mohammed no Kubo is the mausoleum of the mystic Pir Ghaus Mohammed, who became a fakir at the early age of 12. The kubo is a classic example of stone architecture with very intricate carvings. Pir's body rests here along with other members of his family. The mausoleum stands besides a water tank that is believed to possess therapeutic properties, which can cure skin diseases.

The other attraction of Lakhpat is the Sayyed Pir no Kubo, a beautiful mausoleum dedicated to Sayyed Pir Shah. It had nine domes with the largest dominating the centre while eight smaller domes surround it. The entire mausoleum is built in stone with exquisite carvings and fine details along the doors and windows. The latticed jails are especially outstanding.

Friday, January 25, 2008

CHAMARS – THE LEATHER WORKERS OF AGRA AND THEIR FACINATING HISTORY IN MUGHAL INDIA








Since the rise of civilisation animals have been part of human life, both while they are alive and also when they are dead. In their death their skins are found of various uses, especially as leather products. Leather, simply, is preserved animal skin. The process of preserving animal skin is known as tanning – first, the skin of dead cattle – cow, buffalo, pig, goat, sheep, camel – is peeled though specialized expertise. The communities involved in leatherwork are known differently in different parts of India for example, Madigas in Andhra Pradesh, Arundhatiyars in Tamil Nadu and Chamars in Uttar Pradesh.

Chamars, a dalit community has been known for their scientific pursuit, yet for which they have been hardly acknowledged. For examples they were the first discoverers of the role of salt in keeping the wet skin from rotting. The natural tanning process adopted by the Chamars is largely eco-friendly. The salted skin is dipped into the powered mixture of the bark of Tarwar plant. The Chamars discovered that the tannic acid of the Tarwar bark could be used to convert raw skins into leather. The treated skin is then put into a tub of lime. After a week it transforms into leather. The leather is then washed clean in a stream or a pond. To give a finish touch to the leather the Chamars use the dried and powered fibre of a fruit called Karukkaya. The fibre is boiled in castor oil. On cooling, this solution is systematically applied to the leather to give it a polished, smooth look.

Chamars then transform this leather into shoes, sandals, ropes, bags and belts, and even musical instruments such as tabla.

Chamars however are placed at the lowest end of the social hierarchy. They are denied respect and access to resources like education, land and water. For historians the history of Chamars is not significant because their labour and scientific pursuit is never treated as dignified. Yet the community has an interesting history.

It was the time during the rule of early Mughals in 15th century Agra, also known as the leather capital, the Chamars had began an interesting journey.

Emperor Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. However, his son Humayun, lost to dreams and opium, was not a worthy successor. To make matters worse, he had inherited a fractious kingdom and was forced to engage in battle. Sher Khan, a rebellious Afghan chieftain was soon to oust Humayun to become Emperor Sher Shah Suri founding the short-lived Sur dynasty. He led his soldiers to victory against the Mughals. Hunmayun barely escaped with his life, almost drowning in a river nearby. A bhisti, a low caste water carrier, rescued him and ferried the emperor to safety on an inflated buffalo skin. In a typical expression of gratitude, Humayun made him king for a day. The bhisti invited fellow leather workers from all over to participate in his good fortune, establishing the foundation for Agra's considerable low caste population and its famous leather industry.

However, Agra's leather industry received its main impetus during the time of Emperor Akbar, who decreed that his soldiers wear shoes. Till that time the Mughal army had fought barefoot. Shoe-makers were summoned from all over the empire and work began to produce hundreds of thousands of pairs per year. Besides the hard-wearing leather jootis with slightly turned up toes for the soldiers, there were also a huge demand for more delicate versions for nobles, their ladies and vast entourages. Besides shoes were the Mughal shields which at least for the common soldiers, were made of leather.

In the British period the Agra Chamars (known as Jatavs) were the first to enter the manufacture of leather goods. Many became millionaires by supplying shoes and belts to the British army during World War II. That continued after independence aswell. But by the 1970s, non-Dalit traders entered the field. They acquired army tenders and began to fabricate leather goods, forcing many Jatav families out of business.



Thursday, January 24, 2008

CASTE, POLITICS AND RELIGION - STORIES FROM MEDIEVAL BENGAL

Chandi Mangala

Manasa Mangal

Satya Pir

While travelling in the countryside of Medinpur in West Bengal, one come across several villages of chitrakaras, called Patua Paras. Patuas, the chitrakaras straddle the ideological border between the two faiths of Islam and Hinduism. Patuas however have traditionally been painting mythological themes and move from village to village to attract audience.
In a typical Patua scroll, the first frame is devoted to the main character of the story, as the singer would call for attention of the audience and explain who it was about. Following are three well-known Patua themes.
A close analysis of these paintings and songs also reflect the social and political episodes that shaped the society in Bengal during the Medieval era.

Chandi Mangal

Durga, Durga, Tara oh mother, the remover of distress
Hard to vanquish Dakshina Kali, the daughter of the king of mountains (Himalaya)
Laxmi and Saraswati are on the left. Kartik, Ganesh, the lion, the demon, Jaya and Bijoya (the two friend – Sakhi) are with the mother.
One day mother Durga was very pleased. She showed the jewels under the Pomegranate tree.
Kalketu got the jewels from under the dalim tree and established a city, cutting down the Gujarat jungle.
Sadhu was imprissioned for 14 years. Shrimanta was born in Khullana’s womb.
Shrimanta grew up, was educated & wanted to go in search of his father.
You are my only son, the apple of my eyes. I will be lost if I let you go.
If you must go, first invoke Durga. When she was invoked she appeared.
His mother gave him to the goddess. He started the boat saying – Jai (hail) Bhavani.
In a storm in Magra Shrimanta saw Kamini swallowing an elephant, sitting on a lotus.
Kamala Kamini in a lotus, swallowing an elephant, the mother of Ganesha.
The goddess swallows an elephant in a silence unbroken by any movement. Sadhu Shrimanta does a million pronams.
After bowing to her Shrimanta shows up in Ratnamala’s ghat.
There is the sound of Dhamsa (a kind of drum) in the ghat. The king’s officers are fighting among themselves.
Whose is the kingdom? The officers are bleeding in white. They don’t bother to ask or inform the king.
King Shalibahan was sitting, having neglected his golden kingdom Shrimanta stood before him with folded palms.
He said oh King I have seen a goddess on a lotus swallowing an elephant in your kingdom.
Where is that Shrimanta? Show it to me – I will give you half my Kingdom and marry you to my daughter.
But if you can’t, listen to my words. You will be killed in execution ground in the south.
Having made that promise, King Shalibahan came to Kalidaha to see Kamala Kamini.
Mother Bhagabati played a trick. She hid within the hundred petals of the lotus.
Being unable to show her Shrimanta was in a fix. The city keeper came to execute him and tied him up.
Ensnared, Shrimanta prayed to Durga & she displayed herself, resplendent with 18 arms.
Where did you go mother? Who worshipped you? Indra the king of gods became the king of heaven, having worshipped you.
I am giving you this boon Shrimanta. You will marry king Shaliban’s daughter.
Manasa Mangal

Victory! O Victorious One, We worship you "Oh Mother."Victory! O Victorious One, who takes away the poison. Your bed was made of serpents; your throne was made of vipers. The snakes on which the Goddess' seat is made are enchanted by good words.

The bark is shaken with fury the ropes are pulled.Who is the fool to abuse Mother Manasa?Who is he but the husband of a woman of easy virtue?

If I get hold of that easy virtue womanI will beat her with a hental stick and break her bones forever.[Curses Chando, the merchant]

But altercation and enmity are never really good. Think you of Ravana of Lanka who nursed enmity and this was the cause of his deathHis ten thousand sons died and fourteen thousand grandsonsNow there is none in the city of LankaTo keep the family light burning.Wicked Chand Merchant, he did not understand anything.He abused Mother Manasa calling her "sister-in-law's son"That abuse Mother heard with her own ears.In wrath she ate Chand Merchant's six sons.Six sons' wives became widows.

The old man does not have this wisdom to offer her a token flower.He has his youngest son who is named Lakhindar.He says, let's go to Nichaninagar to marry him off.In Nichminagar lives Amulya Merchant.He has a daughter - he calls her Behula Ballerana.

The old matchmaker went to finalize the match.His teeth are like black pepper from taking pan.At the wedding Lakhindar rides a palanquin,Bandmaster Ray Harimohan's band plays with pomp.The room for the newlyweds is made of ironIn it sleeps Behula and LakhindarLike a thread, Kalia [venomous snake] gets into the roomSeeing how beautiful Lakhindar is, he begins to thinkSuch a beautiful body, where shall I sting?When the gods ask me, what shall I say?Then an unlucky thing happened to Gentleman Chand's son.He turned the other side, slack with sleep.Then, calling the Moon and Sun as his witnesses, the snake bit LakhindarThe burning venom makes Lakhindar senselessHe cries, "Wake up, get up, O daughter of Saya the Merchant, what has bitten me?"She makes a wick by tearing her sari and lights the lamp.Seeing the snake, she threw the betel nut cutter.People came running to the merchant and said, "your son is dead."Merchant Chand listens, "It is good my son Lakhindar is dead."And saying this, he took up his stick and began to dance."When the day dawns, I will roast a fish and eat it with day old rice.

Behula said: O Father-in-law, I did not live for 20 days in your house.There are so many gods, what made your quarrel with Manasa?You gave me conch shell bangles and saris, take them back as compensationCut up banana tree bark, and put then in the water.Taking the banana plant, the old man cut them and made a raft,Behula set sail.Say how many ports she missed.Her six brothers followed her.Her brothers called out "O elder sister, our loved one, why are youdrifting with a rotten corpse? Come back home, we'll take care of you.You have six brothers' wives, we'll make them work under you."

Behula: "The parental home in not for me anymore. Your wives will always befighting with me. I have become a widow at a tender age. I will not returnto my parents' home." Consoling the brothers, she sails on.

The corpse on its raft reached Goda's wharf. Goda is a clever fellow. Sittingon the sandy banks of Dangra, he doesn't eat rice, only rui carp.Seeing a young woman, Goda mocks and teases: "Tell me woman withvermilion on her forehead, where do you live?"
Behula: "Ash in your mouth, Goda, ash in your mouth. I am the handmaiden ofMother Manasa. I float downstream." And she floats away.

In this fashion, she passed by the landing places.For six months they traveled in this fashion.Arriving at Tamluk Port, the corpse begins to dance.Netai goes and washes clothes, flowery draperiesBehula also goes and washes clothes as bright as the sunTaking these clothes Behula goes to the city of the gods.She asks a boon from Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswar"We bless you Mother Behula, we bless you with a boon. Take your sixbrothers-in-law and your husband and depart to your father-in-law's house."
She prepares six rafts in a joyous frame of mind.Resurrecting her dead husband, Behula comes back to her native land.She worships Mother Manasa back homeChand Merchant gives Manasa a flower offering with his left hand.

No woman is as virtuous as BehulaThe old man gets seven sons and their seven wives all at home.From that day on, people began to worship Manasa in every house.

Satya Pir

Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame? Arise oh Baba.
Arise oh Baba, oh Saheb Satya Pir.Baba has clogs on his feet; shackles round his waist, with a stick in his hand.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.Baba, you are Narayan for the Hindus, Pir for the Muslims. You are great, having sinni from both communities.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame? Baba says: I will be true to my name. I will preach my worship in the kingdom of king Sindhu.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame? Arise oh Baba.
Having thought it out, Satyapir went to Sindhu kingdom as a fakir (Muslim priest), with a stick.The king welcomed the fakir carefully & said I don’t have any issue—tell me what to do.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.Baba said—king takes my blessings. You will have a child if you worship me.Repeat
The king asked—Baba what is required for your puja?The fakir said—let me tell you.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.You will have to gift a golden seat; & a cow & calf tied to it.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.The royal couple agreed. Some time later, a son was born to them.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.Having seen the baby, the couple forgot their promise & he died from Cholera & small pox.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.They said—alas, how did this happen? Oh unlucky me.In my old age I can leave no heir (who will carry on my line)
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.The king went for trading on a ship, & it sunk in the middle of Deep Ocean.Repeat — The king lost consciousness; the Fakir showed himself then.Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.He asked—why did you forget your promise—the shinni?
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.The king evinced pride in his sleep. Satya pir was sad & left immediately.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.The king & queen cried then & said—Baba if you rescue the ship we will certainly worship you with shinni.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame? Arise oh Baba.Finally the blessings of the Pir were evident. The sunken ship came to the banks.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you— Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.The dead son was revived.The king went home & did the Puja.The king gave the golden astana, the cow & the calf. The queen gave shinni. From that time the worship of the Pir was widespread.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.Sanatan Mandal was the noted miser in the village. He kept promising to worship the Pir but never got around doing it.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.The scoundrel was caught by a tiger round his neck while a crocodile held on to his legs.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame? Arise oh Baba.The miser was being pulled apart, while the villagers abused.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.They said come on, kill birds, and let the world arise. What legacy have you left behind?
Arise oh Baba.Those who won’t worship the Pir in this life will suffer thus here.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame?
Arise oh Baba.You are the Narayan of Hindus, Pir to the Muslims. You are strong with the sinnis (worship) of both communities.
Arise oh Baba—Saheb Satya pir.Where are you—Satya pir, I have taken shelter in you. Who else will cover our shame? Arise oh Baba.

The Chandi and Manasa patas have been drawn from Medieval Bengali Mangalkavyas (auspicious poems). Both deal with religious conflict between competing sects, with the deity being honored in the hymn usually winning out in the end and thus establishing worship.

These poems were written between the 13th and 18th centuries, also depicting the social scenario of Bengal. These were written to celebrate the victory of the local gods over the Aryan gods. Contemporary political and social conditions had some connections with the emergence of Mangalkavyas in the 13th century. It was at the juncture of the 12th and 13th centuries that Turkish force lead led by Bakhtiyar Khalji defeated Laksmanasena and conquered Bengal. Senas, who were patrons of the Brahmins, did not have the support of the lower castes who were neglected and oppressed.

When the alien Muslim forces became the new rulers, the pride of the dethroned upper class Hindus was hurt. At the same time, they realized their mistakes, and the ignominy of their defeat brought them closer to the hitherto ignored lower class Hindus, ending years of social divisions. The upper class Hindus then started respecting the religious beliefs of the lower classes. Their defeat also demoralized them and resulted in a lack of confidence in themselves and an ever-increasing reliance on supernatural forces. They started believing that fortune and misfortune were in the hands of a providence that regulated everything and that, no matter what heroic qualities human beings possessed, they were helpless without supernatural aid. This led them to create new deities who combined the power of the Aryan gods with that of the indigenous gods and who could be implored for all sorts of material and spiritual boons. This new breed of deities became their mangal gods, and the epics composed in their honour became the mangalkavya. The defeat of the alien deities and the victory of the local deities depicted in the mangalkavya were in fact symbolic of victory of the Bengalis over the foreign races.

Worship of the Satya-Pir (or Satya- Narayana) was almost similar to the worship of local deities Manasa or Chandi; the Satya-Pir was represented not by any deity but by a simple wooden plank. The Satya-Pir worshippers generally came from the poor class people and their offerings were also simple. There were both Muslim and Hindu elements in the concepts of Satya-Pir and it can be said with some amount of certainty that the Satya-Pir (Satya-Narayana) concept originated through a fusion of Muslim idea of the pir and the Hindu notion of the local deities. It is a local variation of the Muslim concept of pirism, when the local people were converted to Islam, they got the conception of pirism mixed up with the old idea of the supernatural power of their deities.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

TIGER HUNTING IN MUGHAL AND BRITISH INDIA


Tiger Distribution Map (Past and present)

Emperor Babur Hunting a Tiger

Game of Wolf Running During Humayun's Time

Emperor Akbar entrolled while hunting expedition

A Prince hunting in 1555


Emperor Jahangir and wounded lioness

Emperor Shahjahan hunting lions


Advertisment in British India highlighting Tiger Hunting

Tiger Hunting by a Maharaja in Karnataka

British Period

British Period

Tiger Hunting 1903


The Sher Khans of Indian jungles are in trouble for the only reason that they are being poached and killed, every year in hundreds for their fur. Today, the tiger population is dwindling to a mere 2000 numbers across this vast Subcontinent; they are found only in certain pockets (look at the map). Would you believe that once tiger roamed freely in almost all part of the Subcontinent, including the cities like Mumbai and Ahmedabad? Tigers roamed freely in the forests around Mumbai till 1780. Even Thane, the capital of Salsette, today a modern city, was home to tiger. In 1806, two tigers were seen at Kurla and a tiger was spotted on Malabar hill too in Mumbai! In the 1700s, tigers, lions and other large games were common in Ahmedabad. In 1783, tigers were found in desolate grounds outside the city walls.

In India, tiger was found as early as the era of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Terracotta figurines of tiger have been reported from Harappa. However there is not much evidence till the rule of the Mughals. In Mughal and British India tiger was hunted for prestige as well as for taking trophies. Tiger hunting was a sport for centuries, the consequences were larger during the British Raj due to the use of far superior firepower and an interest to hunt shared by a much larger number of colonial aristocrats.


In the Mughal Empire, leisure was a luxury confined to the pleasures of the aristocracy. High cuisine and wine, garden parties, game hunting ( shikar), animal fights, pigeon flying (Ishqbazi), archery and horse riding constituted imperial entertainment. According to Abul Fazl the court historian of Emperor Akbar, the Mughal ruler had three favorite amusements in which he excelled: the game of Chaugan (a kind of hockey with the player on horseback), Ishqbazi or love play (a game of pigeon flying) and the game of chandal mandal which was like chaupar and had been invented by the Emperor himself. Akbar was also passionately fond of hunting and pursued the noble sport in its different forms, especially the tiger hunt and the trapping of wild elephants, but he also hunted with trained falcons and leopards, owning no less than nine hundred hunting leopards. He was not fond of battue; he enjoyed the excitement and exertion of the actual hunt as a means for exercise and recreation, for training the eye and quickening the blood. But as Abul Fazl reminds us there was more to it than mere pleasure: "His Majesty always makes hunting a means of increasing his knowledge and uses hunting parties as occasions to inquire into the condition of the people and army." Akbar's hunting parties were elaborate and headed by the Mir Shikar (Master of hunting). The Emperor's favorites being tiger hunting, leopard hunting and elephant catching.

Akbar's successor Jahangir's Memoirs is replete with accounts of his hunting expeditions. In the narrative of the year 1606, he is recorded to have spent three months and six days in hunting at Lahore, during which time 581 animals were killed with the gun, hunting leopards, nets and qamargah. He called 158 animals by his own gun. In 1607, on the way from Kabul to Lahore, he was again engaged in hunting in which nearly 40 red antelopes were killed and a female panther was captured. A qamargah (ring hunting ground) was laid, a little father, and about 300 animals were captured which were carefully counted and recorded.

His Memoirs, which devotes free space to the accounts of his testing expeditions, shows that a full fledged hunting department (Diwan I – Shikari) was maintained, of course, at a great cost, for the pleasure of the King, and every detail was meticulously recorded. It is noted in the account of 1610 that he ordered the clerks of the Hunting Department to prepare a list of animals which had been killed from the time of his leaving until re-entering the city, and it was represented that 1362 animals and birds, including tigers, peacocks and surkhabs had been killed in 56 day's time.

In his Memoirs

Tuzuk-I-Jahagiri, IV New Year 21 March 1609

"On the 20th I killed with a gun a tigress and a nilgai. There were two cubs with the tigress, but they disappeared from view in consequence of the thickness of the jungle and the number of trees. An order was given that they should search for and bring them. When I reached the halting place, my son Khurram brought me one of the cubs, and the next day Mahabat Khan caught the other and brought it. On the 22 nd, when I had got within shot of a nilgai, suddenly a groom (jilauder) and two kahars (bearers) appeared, and the nilgai escaped. In a great rage I ordered them to kill the groom on the spot, and to hamstring the Kahars and mount them on asses and parade them through the camp, so that no one should again have the audacity to do such a thing. After this I mounted a horse and continued hunting with hawks and falcons, and came to the halting-place.

The day after the New Year's day, I mounted and started for a tiger-hunt. Two males and a female were killed. On the 26 th of the same month I went and busied myself mostly with hunting nilgai. As the air was hot and the (propitious) hour for re-entering Agra had nearly arrived, I went to Rupbas, and turned antelope in that neighborhood for some days. I had ordered the clerks of the hunting department to write out (a list of) all the animals that had been killed from the time of my leaving until I re-entered the city. As this time they represented that in 66 days, 1,362 animals, quaderupeds, and birds had been killed; the tigers were 7 in number; nilgai, male and female, 70; black buck 51, does and mountain goats and antelopes (rojh), etc., 82; kulang (cranes), peacocks, surkhab and other birds, 129; fish, 1023.

On Sunday, the 4th Shawwal, when near the end of the day, I engaged in a cheetah hunt. I had determined that on this day the Thursday no animals should be killed and I would eat no meat, on Sunday especially because of the respect my revered father had for that day in not being inclined to eat flesh on it, and in forbidding the killing of many animals for the reason that on the night of Sunday his own honoured birth had taken place. He used to say it was better on that day that all animals should be free from the calamity of those of a butchery disposition. Thursday is the day of my accession. On that day also I ordered that animals should not be killed, so that whilst sporting I should not shoot an arrow or a gun at wild animals.

In hunting the cheetahs as Anup Ray, who is one of my close attendants, was heading the men who were with him in the hunt at a little distance from me and came to a tree on which some kites were sitting. When his sight fell on those kites he took a bow and some pointless arrow (tukka) and went towards them. By chance in the neighborhood of that tree he saw a half –eaten bullock. Near it a huge tiger got up out of a clump that was near and went off. Though not more than two gharis of day remained, as he knew my liking for tiger-hunting, he and some of those who were with him surrounded the tiger and sent someone to me to give me the news. When it reached me I rode there at once in a state of excitement and at full speed, and Baba Khurram, Ram Das, Itimad Ray, Hayat Khan and one or two others went with me. On arriving I saw the tiger standing in the shade of a tree, and wished to fire at him from horseback but found that my horse was unsteady, and dismounted and aimed and fired my gun. As I was standing on a height and the tiger was below, I did not know whether it had struck him or not. In a moment of excitement I fired the gun again, and I think that this time I hit him. The tiger rose and charged, and wounding the chief huntsman, who had a falcon on his wrist and happened to be in front of him, sat down again in his own place. In this state of affairs, placing another gun on a tripod, I took him. Anup Ray stood holding the rest, and had a sword in his belt and a baton (kutaka) in his hand. Baba Khurram was a short distance off to my left, and Ram Das and other servants behind him. Kamal the huntsman (qarawul) loaded the gun and placed it in my hand. When I was about to fire, the tiger came roaring towards us and charged. I immediately fired. The ball passed through the tiger's mouth and teeth. The noise of the gun made him very savage, and the servants who had crowded together could not stand his charge and fell over one another, so that I, through their pushing and shock, was moved a couple of paces from my place and fell down. In fact, I am sure that two or three of them placed their feet on my chest and passed over me. Itimad Ray and the huntsman Kamal assisting me, I stood up. At this moment the tiger made for those who were on the left-hand side. Anup Ray let the rest slip out of his hand and turned towards the tiger. The tiger, with the same activity with which he had charged, turned on him, and he manfully faced him, and struck him twice with both hands on the head with the stick he had in his hand. The tiger, opening his mouth, seized both of Anup Ray's arms with it, and bit them so that his teeth passed through both, but the stick and her bracelets on his arms were helpful, and did not allow his arms to be destroyed. From the attack and pushing of the tiger, Anup Ray fell down between the tiger's forefeet, so that his head and face were opposite the tiger's chest. At this moment Baba Khurram and Ram das came to the assistance of Anup Ray. The prince struck the tiger on the loins with his sword, and Ram Das also struck him with his sword, once on the shoulder blade. On the whole it was very quick work, and Hayat Khan dealt the tiger several blows over the head with a stick he had in his hand. Anup Ray with force dragged his arms out of the tiger's mouth and struck him two or three times on the cheek with his first, and rolling over on his side stood up by the force of his knees. At the time of withdrawing his arms were partly torn, and both his paws passed over his shoulders. When he stood up, the tiger also stood up and wounded him on the chest with his claws, so that those wounds troubled him for some days. As the ground was uneven, they rolled over each other, holding on like two wrestlers. In the place where I was standing, the ground was quite level. Anup Ray says that God Almighty gave him so much intelligence that he bore the tiger over deliberately to one side (in the original that side), and that he knew no more. At this time the tiger left him and was making off. He in that state of bewilderment raised his sword and followed him and struck him another blow on the face, so that severed by the sword, fell over his eyes. In this state of affairs, a lamp man of the name Salib, as it was time to light the lamps, came in a hurry and by a blind chance came across the tiger. The tiger struck him one blow with his paw and knocked him down. To fall and give up his life were the same thing. Other people came in and finished the tiger's business."


Hunting in Mughal time was not only confined to the royal men. Nurjahan, Jahangir's Empress was also a markswoman and enjoyed hunting as much as her husband. On the occasion, she killed four tigers that came out of the bushes near the elephant carrying the royal couple. The emperor gestured silently to Nur Jahan, telling her to dispatch two with arrows and two with her guns. Nur Jahan quietly prepared two muzzle-loading guns and placed them within easy reach on the howdah. Then she chooses two arrows, seized her bow, took careful aim and loosened two arrows in quick succession. Two tigers fell to the ground. Without passing for a moment, the empress picked up a gun and fired, dropping the third tiger. The fourth fell with her final shot from the second gun. Jahangir was delighted. 'Such shooting has never been seen until now,' he exulted.

In the succeeding British Period, the English were keenly aware that as royal beasts and masters of the jungle, tigers had been closely associated historically with Indian rulers. They emulated various Mughal emperors for whom tiger hunting was an element of kingship. But more than emulation, tiger hunting was the symbol in the construction of British imperial and masculine identities during the 19 th century – The British had great pretensions to becoming successors to the Mughals during the19th century. Before they could attain such power, however they had to outdo regional powers, such as Mysore's Tipu Sultan, who also employed the tiger in his symbolic arsenal. Among other uses, the tiger or the tiger stripe (babri) was used as decoration on his throne; on the uniforms of his soldiers; and on his coins, flags, and arms. Here, then, the tiger has a different meaning than in the British Mughal tiger hunts the British sought to emulate. The symbolic meaning of Tipu's Tiger was the emblematical triumph over the British. Therefore by killing tigers the British were also symbolically staging the defeat of Tipu Sultan and other Indian rulers who dared to get in the way of Britain's imperial conquest of India.

Tigers also represented for the British all that was wild and untamed in the Indian natural world. Thus, the curious late Victorian and Edwardian spectacle of British royals and other dignitaries being photographed standing aside dead tiger carcasses depicted the staging successful conquests of Indian nature by "virile imperialists".

British tiger hunting represented also its natural environment. British exerted control over India's timber supply, among other natural resources, over the course of the 19 th century. These efforts culminated in the promulgation of Forest Act of 1878, fenced the forest by placing over one-fifth of the landmass of South Asia directly under British control, making the Raj's forestry department not only the largest land manager in the Sub Continent but also one of the largest forestry enterprises in the world. The law had major implications for colonial hunting. Hunters were now required to hold permits to hunt in government forests. Permits were rarely, if ever, granted to Indians and not even automatically to all British, this system not only deepened racial divisions between British and Indians but also placed considerable power over hunting in India after 1878 in the hands of forest department officials. British hunted tigers largely with the aim of dominating India's natural environment.

After the fall of the Mughals, India was divided into various smaller principalities and ruled by weak rulers, who were unable to provide safety to the natives. Tigers were danger to the Indian society as their presence often caused "the passage of the Ghauts [Public Baths] or Public Roads [to] become…imminently dangerous to Travellers" (East India Company Revenue letter June 1826). Tigers also inflicted "serious injury on industrious husbandmen" and often destroyed their cattle and crops. British blamed Rajas, Zamindars, and other landed elites, generally perceiving them as lazy and indolent, and took tiger hunting into their hand for the protection of natives. They encouraged Indian hunters for killing tigers. To destroy tigers, the Raj also offered financial rewards to hunters – Indians as well Europeans – who killed them.

While British hunted tigers to emulate the Mughals as well as to dominate India's natural environment, the greatest attraction of the sport for many of these hunters was in association with masculinity. Hunting for the Raj was central to the development of all-important victorious trait of "character". For instance, Bengal Army Captain Henry Shakespear pleaded with parents in the preface to his 1860-hunting memoir that they encourage their sons to partake in big game hunting so as to keep them "out of a thousand temptations and injurious pursuits". He argued that hunting was an "innocent, manly, and useful" activity that would not only keep their sons "fit for their duty as soldiers" but would also prevent from "taking to the game table, or to an excess of test firing, rioting…debauchery" and other "frivolous pursuits or effeminate pleasures".

The hunting strategy

During the British rule, tigers were killed by the native for their safety, although the strategy was primitive. A Madras judge reported a case in 1815 when over 700 villagers from his district "formed a circle round a Tyger" and killed it by spreading it (East India Company Report). Indian villagers also used traps involving nets, which were inefficient with chances of tigers to escape. The most effective method by the natives was however the use of poisoned arrows to kill tigers.

The British during the initial period before the advent of High-velocity hunting rifles adopted the strategies either by waiting for it overnight in sometimes very uncomfortably manchans constructed in tall trees, usually fifteen to twenty feet above the ground, or else to beat for the animal during the middle of the day (when it wiould typically be asleep) while riding elephants. During this latter type of hunt, several Indian beaters on foot would bang drums, crush cymbals, and play other noisy or "discordant" instruments, as well as shoot blanks from matchlocks, all to rouse a frustrated tiger at British hunters, who shat at it from atop their elephants.

A British account of Tiger Hunting

Louis Rousselet – India and its Native Princes – Travels in Central India and the Presidencies of Bombay and Bengal 1875

"About the beginning of October, the fine weather having pretty well set in for good, I availed myself of an opportunity that offered itself to explore the ruins of an ancient city of Champaneer, about 50 miles east of Baroda. Captain Lynch, of the Guicowar's army, had organised a tiger-hunt, and had invited Schamburg and myself to join it. Tatia Sahib, who accompanied us, had obtained permission to employ the beaters of huntsmen of the royal hunting establishment. The plains which extend between Champaneer and the capital are remarkably dry, which is the more strange in that the surrounding country is singularly fertile. The surface is so flat that, at first sight, one would judge them to be admirably suited for cavalry manoeuvres; but, after proceeding a short distance, the traveller finds himself every moment checked by deep ravines of great width. It would be very expensive to lay down a permanent way across this tract, on account of the great number of bridges that would have to be constructed.

At Champaneer we found our tents pitched, and a great number of attendants and several elephants sent by the king. We were encamped at a short distance from the lofty walls of the ancient city, whose circumference is about 12 miles. Within, there is merely a thick forest, with ruins scattered here and there; a few beautiful Mohomedan minarets rearing their high towers above the jungle, and broken walls in various places marking the site of the ancient places. Immediately in rear of the city rises the superb mountain of Pawangarh, crowned by a famous fortress. It now belongs to the English, and is only used by them as an occasional refuge from the heat of the plains.

From the first day of our arrival Shikarees (beaters) had been sent into the forest to try and discover the tracks of some tigers. As the nature of the ground did not admit of the employment of elephants, and I was not anxious, by way of a beginning, to find myself face to face with one of these terrible animals, a look out was established. For this purpose, a tree was selected, and sundry planks, placed across the branches, formed the hunter's post of observation. To attract the tiger to this spot, an ox was tied up to a neighbouring bush. On the morrow the Shikarees found its body half devoured, and it was decided that the hunt should take place that same evening. At four o'clock, Lynch, Schaumbay, Tatia and I were perched on our tree, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the tiger, our eyes fixed on the carcase of the ill-fated ox that had served as bait. Night came on apace, and perfect darkness enveloped the whole jungle. The slightest sound made us start, and we expected every moment to see the gleaming eyes of the ferocious monster. But I think, if it had come, we should have had considerable difficulty in shooting it. Only a few jackles came to sniff at the prey, but we drove them off. I shall long remember that night in the forest, uncomfortably perched as I was on a plank, and shivering with cold. The first streaks of dawn were appearing, and disappointed with our long watch, we were going to regain our tents, when a Shikaree on a neighbourhood tree attracted our attention by his movements. A few moments afterwards there was crackling so amongst the brushwood, and I perceived the long wished for tiger, who was coming slowly and cautiously, as though scenting an ambuscade. He had scarcely entered the glade that surrounded our tree when all four of us fired, almost simultaneously. Each of us, wrought into a high state of excitement by our sleepless night, was unwilling to lose the chance of a shot, and so was eager to fire. The tiger stopped short, bewildered; one ball had shattered his hind foot, and another, which had entered his side, must have wounded him severely. After an instant's hesitation, he plunged at a bound into the forest. The Shikarees came down from their post and went in pursuit; and we followed their examples: but my legs were so benumbed that I could scarcely walk. Abundant traces of blood showed the way the animal had gone, and the beaters soon stopped us and pointed out at a thick copse, in which they had seen him take refuge. A shot was fired in that direction, and the tiger, infuriated by this last provocation, quitted his lair. He made straight for us, his ears laid back, and his mouths open. We acted in concert as regarded our fire, and the captain advised me, above all things, not to be in hurry. When he was within twenty paces of us, Tatia fired, and lodged a ball in his chest, without checking his advance. I took a careful and deliberate aim, and pulled the trigger. The effect was instantaneous, the tiger sprang into the air, and fell timeless on the ground a few paces from where we stood. The captain and Schaumburg discharged their bullets into him to make sure that he was dead, and we approached him amid the repeated cries of the Indians: "Bag mahrgaya!" (the tiger is dead). He was a superb animal, seven or eight years old, and no less than nine feet in length from the muzzle to the tip of the tail. The wound in the side, which he had received at the outset, had deprived him of a good deal of his strength, otherwise it is probable that he would have given us more trouble".

Monday, January 7, 2008

WOODEN SHRINES OF KINNAUR, HIMACHAL PRADESH

Kinnauri Architecture

Kinnaur in Colonial Painting 19th Century

Kinnaur

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Sarahan - Bhimkali Temple

Kalpa Town


Kalpa

Kalpa

Kalpa

Kalpa

Kalpa

Kalpa


Kalpa

Kalpa

Kalpa

Chitkul Buddhist Temple

Worship of the Devi at Kothi, Colonial Painting, 19th century

Sangla

Chitkul

Kamru Fort

Badrirnath Temple, Kamru Fort

Maheshwara Temple - Sugra

Maheshwara Temple - Sugra

There is a touch of divinity everywhere in Himachal, and therefore an old proverb says, “blessed are those who wonder in the wild valleys, for they shall see nature, and through her, god”. The people of Himachal though subject to almost every empire that ever ruled the North Indian plains, managed to sustain an unbroken tradition of ritual and sacred arts.

Himachal is inhabited by various tribes though there are very little evidences of their history. The tribes were ruled by local chiefs, Ranas and Thakurs in different eras of its 2000-year-old unbroken history. With the formation of dynasties such as the Katoch of the Kangra Valley, the Bushahra of Shimla and Kinnaur and the Vamanas of Chamba, Himachal enjoyed long periods of uninterrupted rule in which these empires built cities and forts, and nurtured strong artistic tradition. Unlike empires in the plains, the rulers of Himachal were rarely threatened by dissolution of outside forces. However they paid tribute to the rulers of the plain, beginning with the Kushanas in the second century AD, the Guptas, and later the Mughals, Ranjit Singh of Punjab and finally the British. The influence of their artistic tradition had also made strong impact in the Himachali heritage, bringing a fusion of the local and alien arts, found especially in the Pahari paintings of Kangra and the British bungalows and chapels.

Great temples were built in different styles and material throughout Himachal through peaceful avocation of its people. The temples of Himachal vary across regions, namely Kinnaur, Kulu, Chamba and Kangra. The speciality of Himachali temples, especially in Kinnaur is the extensive use of wood and stone.

In India, the temples of the formative period, which was prior to the rule of Mauryas in the 3rd century BC, had been built using timbers, though very little of these have survived to these days. Timber was replaced with stone from the Mauryan period onwards and buildings in stone found increasingly sophisticated during the rule of the Guptas. By the 8th century AD, the basic pattern of temple construction was formalised. It is also this era that Himachal’s oldest surviving stone temple, Gauri Shanka in Jagat Sukha in Kulu district was built. But the region’s spectacular treasures are its equally ancient wooden shrines, such as Lakshana Devi and Shakti Devi in Chamba, and Mrikula Devi in Lahul Spiti.

The stone – wood combination in temple building was preferred due to the local climatic and seismic condition. The style is known as Kath Kuni, a method of alternating stone with wood to guard against the earthquake. Similar construction patterns are also found in the secular architecture of Himachal. For temples, however the alliance was not just physical – once the wooden detail had become part of the stone tradition, they were never completely abandoned. The classical traits gradually found their ways into the folk and [they]…frequently intermingled….with each other.

Kinnaur

Kinnaur suurounded by Tibbet in the east is a beautiful district having the three high mountain ranges, Zanskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar, enclosing valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries. The slopes are covered with thick wood, orchards, fields and picturesque hamlets. People are honest and believers of both Buddhism and Hinduism. They believe that Pandavas came and resided in their land while in the exile. In the ancient mythology the people of Kinnaur were known as Kinnaras, the halfway between gods and humans.

In 647 AD, after the death of the Emperor Harshavardhan (Kinnaur was part of his kingdom) the entire northern India was divided into numerous principalities. According to historians, princes of some of these principalities explored the steep mountains in adventurous trails and occupied at Kinnaur. During their rule, the Kinnauries lived in perfect peace and in complete isolation from the events of the plains…or from upheavals of Tibet, Ladakh and Kashmir. Traditionally, Kinnaur’s history has been preserved by generation of Gorkchs – local oracles who recite historical narratives called chironigns during celebrations.

Sarahan

Bhimkali temple at Sarahan, the Bushahra capital is the most splendid among the temples of Kinnaur. Located at a height of 2, 150 meter, the charming village of Sarahan was once the capital of Bushahras. The origin of the temple is steeped in many myths and legends. One talks of Lord Shiva, disguised as Kirata, inhabiting this place that was then known as Shonitpur. After his defeat in battle with Lord Krishna his head was buried where the temples entrance has been built.

After Banasur, Pradumna, the son of Lord Krishna became the ruler of the Kingdom. The Bushahra dynasty that was to rule uninterruptedly from Srahan traces its ancestry to this mythical king. The Bushahras constructed this magnificent temple for Bhimkali, the presiding deity of their family, in what was originally their palace complex.

Another legend tells us that how the sage Bhimgiri on his way back from a pilgrimage to Kailash, carried a wooden stick, which he worshipped as the form of the Devi. At Sarahan, he found the stick had grown so heavy he could not move it and realised that Devi wished to reside here. But the land was full of demons, and it was only after the Devi had subjugated them in battle, in which she assumed the form of the powerful Bhima, that her temple was established here.

The sacred compound measures approximately one acre and includes both the old and new Bhimkali temples, separate shrines to Narasingha, Raghunatah and Patal Bhairav or Lanka Bira as well as the old Bushahra palace. The old temple, built at least 800 years ago, has been described as ‘one of the finest specimens of hill architecture’. The old temple now function as a store house and is best known for the exquisite silver door at its entrance, built by Raja Shamsher Singh (1850-1914); as well as the silver repousse work on its other doors and its carved windows and balconies.

Kalpa

High in the Himalayas, above the district headquarter Recong Peo, sits the small town of Kalpa. Populated by the Kinnauri people, this village is not only hard to get it, but beautiful and heavenly to visit between the months of May and October. It is located at a height of 2960 m. Kalpa is surrounded by picturesque villages and was once the favourite haunt of Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor General of India. The local inhabitants follow a syncretism of Hinduism and Buddhism, and temples in Kalpa are dedicated to both the faiths. Kalpa is a town of with history of ancient temples.

Kinnaur’s most powerful local deity is Chandika Devi, whose temple is located at Kothi near Kalpa. The temple popularly called Devi Kothi has beautiful wood carvings and silver plated doors. The devi is depicted as a rich golden image vanquishing a demon.

According to a legend, Chandika was the eldest of Banasur’s 18 children. She was given the responsibility of distributing Kinnaur among her siblings, and kept Kothi for herself. However, to rule Kothi, she had to defeat the demon that supported the region’s Thakurs. She managed to trick and decapitate the demon, but unfortunately it had the power to grow back its head indefinitely. It was only upon asking her brother, Chagaon Maheswar, that Chandika realised she had to smash a small life-giving beetle that fluttered near the demon at all times.

Chandika deity is worshipped like many other Kinnaur deities, in a quite unique way: four devotees swing her in a dance on her palanquin.

Most of Kinnaur’s temples have separate enclosures for bhoots or demons. In fact in Kinnaur there are bhoots for every occasion: Bakhar Shuna haunts forests, Banshir can assume the form of giants, Ruksas are spirits of sinful persons, while Khunch live in houses, and can pass from family to family through exchange like marriage.

The temple of Nag Devta somewhat weathered, yet colourful and delicately painted is another beautiful temple near Kalpa at Pagi.

The Vishnu temple of Chini, Kalpa town is another wooden landmark of Kinnaur. The temple compound has two buildings, both made of wood and with gabled roofs.

Chitkul

Chitkul is the last village on India China boarder in Kinnaur, located at a height of 3,500 metre in the Baspa valley and has three temples dedicated to Mathi Devi, the oldest which is said to be about 500 years old. According to a local legend, the Devi undertook a long and arduous journey before settled in this village. She visited several villages presided over by the members of her family. Lord Badirnath of Kamru is her husband. Nag of Sangla and Shamshares of Rakhcham are her nephews. When Mathi Devi finally settled in Chitkul, the village found a great prosperity and she continues to be worshipped with great fanfare.

Kamru

The other well-known monument of this area is the five storey fort at Kamru, which is impressive, located high on the hill just outside the village and constructed of stone and wood. Kamru was the capital of Bushahar, before it was shifted to Sarahan.

Sungra

The strikingly attractive three storied pagoda shrine, the Maheswara temple of Sungra often remind the visitors about the Middle Age churches of northern Europe. Indeed, the main wooden temple has a tiny sikhara like shrine facing it, on a square stone platform. It has been dated to the 8th century. The temple newly renovated, has wonderful carvings, including a series of Vishnu incarnations, and even the Hindu astrological signs.