Monday, May 3, 2010

Abode of Star Goddess

Rajesh Singh

Tara Devi temple is located on, well, the Tara Parvat. Situated a little over 1800 metres above sea level, it is around 10 Km from Shimla and five from Sunrise Villa at Shoghi. The road to the temple is uphill… and further uphill through various bends. As I travel I wonder if I shall arrive there at all. Alongside the pinewoods and the valley from which the sun so tantalizing rose, accompanied by soft winds, I am finally there.

The history of this temple dates back to 250 years. There is a belief that Goddess Tara was brought to Himachal Pradesh all the way from Bengal. A temple trustee told me this story: Several hundred years ago a king from the Sen Dynasty visited the place. He had with him the family deity in the form of a gold idol within a locket tied to his arm.

For years the idol remained encased, until Raja Bhupendra Sen had an unusual vision. While on a hunt in the forests of Juggar near the temple, he `saw’ the deity – Goddess Ma Tara – who asked that she be unveiled before the people. Without any delay, the king donated a huge tract of land in her name and got a temple built there. A wooden idol of the Goddess was installed in accordance with Vaishnavite traditions.

Years later, the trustee continues, Raja Balbir Sen of the same dynasty too had a vision. The Goddess this time expressed a desire to be installed on the hill top. The king got an idol made out of ‘ashtadhatu’ – eight precious metals - and carried it over an elephant named ‘Shankar’ to the hill top, where it still stands. But, before it reached the hill, several goats were sacrificed to appease the Goddess, who for some reason, would suddenly put on weight, rendering the process of her transportation difficult.

The temple itself is understated but its simplicity gives a sublime feel to the visitor. There is another temple – that of Lord Shiva, a stone’s distance away on the top. While I stand atop, I look at the deep plunge from where our vehicle had only some time ago emerged. On the other side is a pedestrian path that leads through a forest to the Tara Devi town. Years ago, when the road had not been built, visitors and devotees used this tortuous route to reach the temple.

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