105 years after quake, Himachal temple rebuilt

January 6th, 2012 - 10:40 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Jan 6 (IANS) A 400-year-old Hindu temple in Himachal Pradesh that was partially damaged over a century ago in a devastating earthquake has been reconstructed in its original style and will be open for the public later this month.

The foundation of the Bharari Devi temple, located in Sarah village near Dharamsala town in Kangra district, was damaged when the Kangra Valley witnessed its most devastating earthquake of the century in 1905, killing more than 20,000 people.

The quake had tilted the temple, some 250 km from state capital Shimla.

“The temple was reconstructed at its original site after demolishing the original one. The new one is exactly a replica of the original one,” Intach (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Himachal chapter convener Malvika Pathania told IANS here.

She said the stone and bricks were removed from the original one and documented. New ones were placed at the same place and location to maintain its original Shikhar style of architecture.

“New stones were brought from a mine near Baijnath, 65 km from the temple site. The stonework on outer walls has been done as per the old pattern. The revival of the temple was a Herculean task,” Pathania added.

Before starting its restoration work in 2006, the Lucknow-based Indian Conservation Institute, an Intach unit involved in carrying out conservation of heritage sites, carried out research to ensure that the temple restoration is done as per its original architecture.

She said no cement had been used in the building as it was not used in the original structure either. Lime mortar was used in masonry work.

The Language, Art and Culture Department of the Himachal Pradesh government is now the custodian of the temple.

“Special artisans from Odisha were brought for its construction. Now its foundation is eight feet deep and 27 feet tall,” she said.

The temple is dedicated to local deity Bhadrakali.

For reconstructing the temple, Intach had approached Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who gave a grant of Rs.700,000.

Temple priest Vidu Ram, 88, said the exact date of construction of the temple is not yet known, but his great grandfather was also a priest here.

“Even when the temple was tilted, the religious ceremonies were performed regularly. When it was demolished, the idols were shifted to a nearby makeshift temple,” he said.

Pathania said after the Bharari Devi temple, Intach would now try to relocate some of the centuries-old temples that got submerged in the backwaters of the Bhakra Dam in Bilaspur town over four decades ago.

For this, Intach will seek help from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The ASI is planning to relocate seven to eight temples of the total 28 submerged. Some of the temples date back to the sixth century.

Most of the temples are visible during summer when the water level of the Bhakra Dam reservoir recedes.

The historic town of Bilaspur was submerged in the Gobind Sagar Lake, the reservoir of the Bhakra Dam, on July 1, 1954, and the new town came up near the old one.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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