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The prominent temples that the Kangra valley, in Himachal Pradesh, is famous for are Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari, Chintpurni and Naina Devi. There is a major rush of pilgrims throughout the year, especially during the Navratra festival in April and October.

There are fascinating legends associated with these shrines, the most popular of them being that of King Daksh. The story goes that the arrogant king did not invite Lord Shiva, his son-in-law to a 'yagna', and consequently his daughter Sati, utterly humiliated, plunged into the sacrificial fire. Shiva arrived on hearing this, only to find his beloved half burnt. Enraged he carried her charred body and broke into the 'tandava nritya', the awesome dance of death. Her charred remains - tongue, breasts, feet and eyes fell at four places to form the four pilgrimage sites of Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari, Chintpurni and Naina Devi. This temple circuit is one of the most popular ones in North India.

The Jwalamukhi temple is perched on a ridge called Kali dhar. The shrine has a gilt dome and soaring pinnacles. Inside is a square pit, three feet deep with a pathway all around. The rock in the middle has a crack, through which a gas is emitted, and on lighting it the gas bursts out into a huge flame, the priest keeps applying the flame to the gas - which is seen as a blessing of the deity. The shrine has no idol as such, the emanation of the gas is believed to be a manifestation of the goddess Jwalaji. The nine flames have been named after goddesses - Mahakali, Unpurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Bindhya Basni, Maha Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Anji Devi. Jwalamukhi is said to be the spot where the half-burnt tongue of Sati fell, hence the burning flames or 'tongues' of fire. During the Mughal period, a fervent devotee from Delhi, Dhianu Bhagat visited the temple, alongwith several others. Emperor Akbar, his curiousity aroused at such an exodus from his capital, followed Bhagat. He tried to put the flames out but failed. Later Akbar visited the temple with Jodha Bai and presented a solid gold umbrella to the shrine, which can be seen even to this day. The King of Nepal presented a magnificent bell, which adorns the front hall. Milk and water is offered to the flames, the 'puja' going on for the whole day.

The Brajeshwari Devi temple, located in the old Kangra township, is said to have been built over the charred breasts of Sati. This shrine, once renown for its great wealth, has been plundered relentlessly over the ages. The first of the plunderers was Mahmud of Ghazni, who looted it in 1009. A mosque was built on the ruins and a garrison was left behind. 35 years later, the local king regained its possession. The shrine was repaired and a replica of the idol was enshrined. The temple was filled with gold, silver and diamonds only to be ransacked again in 1360 by Firoz Tughlaq. Later Emperor Akbar visited the shrine with his dewan, Todar Mal and restored it to its former grandeur. The temple was razed to the ground by an earthquake in 1905, but a new one came up the very same year, thanks to the Kangra Restoration Committee.

The Naina Devi temple is located atop a hill, commanding an awesome view of the Punjab plains on one side and the Gobind Sagar lake on the other. This is the spot where Sati's eyes - nain - are believed to have fallen. Some devotees cover the last few miles of the climb up crawling, this method is called 'sashtang dandvata'. The puja is performed by thirty priests. The temple is also frequented by Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh is believed to have spent some days here.

The Chintpurni temple stands on the spot where the charred feet of Sati fell. The 'Pindi' or the stone hall symbolises her feet. The Chintpurni 'mantra' is very popular with devotees. In recent years the temple has been renovated with the help of major donations from devotees all over the country.

Gurudwara Paonta Sahib
Believed to have been his abode for over four years, Guru Gobind Singh is said to have penned the 'Dasam Granth' here. The Gurudwara houses the Shri Talab Asthan where he disbursed salaries, and the Shri Dastar Asthan where he judged the turban - tying competitions. The Kavi Durbar was the venue of the poetic conference. A memorial dedicated to Kalpi Rishi, and a museum showcasing the pens of the Guru and the weapons of those times, are also located within the precincts of the Gurudwara.

Yamuna Temple
Directly below the Gurudwara is an ancient shrine dedicated to Goddess Yamuna.

Gurudwara Bhangani Sahib
This gurudwara commemorates Guru Gobind Singh's first battle, wherein he defeated Raja Fateh Shah and his allies.

Gurudwara Tirgarh Sahib
This gurudwara is constructed on the very hillock, from where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have shot arrows at his foes.

Gurudwara Shergarh Sahib
At this site, the Guru beheaded a vicious man - eating tiger with a single wave of his sword.

Nagnauna Temple
The Nagauna temple is located near the Puruwalla village, and is closely linked with the legend of Sirmour's former ruling family.

Nahan ( 45 km from Renuka)
Founded by Raja Karan Prakash of Sirmour in 1621, this idyllic town boasts of several temples, a gurudwara, ancient palaces and pleasant walks.

Fossil Park, Saketi
This happens to be the largest fossil find in the Shivalik hills, and displays a fascinating collection of fossils and lifesize models of now - extinct animals, dating back to 85 million years.

Shiva Temple, Patlian
What is fascinating about this shrine is, that the linga enclosed within the sanctum is said to be steadily increasing in size.

Bhootnath Temple : It is as old as the town Mandi itself and dates back to the 1520s. In March, the festival of Shivratri is a major event and the Bhootnath temple is its focus. For and entire week the town celebrates the arrival of hundreds of local deities on elaborately decorated palanquins.

Syamakall Temple : Also called the temple of Tarna Devi, this is high on Tarna hill which rises above the town. In the 17th century this was built by Raja Syama Sen after a perticularly tring time when the goddess gave him success.

Raghunath Temple : Raja Jagat Singh of Kullu committed a great wrong.
To atone for the sin, he sent a senior countier to Ayodhya for a statue of
lord Raghunath - lord Rama. This temple was built by Raja Jagat Singh
to house the image and even today, is greatly revered.

Bijli Mahadev Temple : It is set on a spur that offers some spectacular views. The temple is famous for its high staff that periodically draws lightning which shatters the Shivlinga and scorches the building. Using only butter as adhesive, the linga is then carefully pieced together by the temple pundit.

Ram temple : This is located near the Yamuna bridge. With exquisite marble work,
this was built in 1889 in memory of raja Partap Chand of Kangra by his wife who originally belonged to Sirmour

Shiva Temple : Surrounded by fields and sal trees, the linga in this temple is supposed to be steadily increasing in size.

Katasan Devi Temple : Also known as Uttam Wala Bara Ban, this is on the Paonta Sahib - Nahan road. This shrine is revered by local people. At this spot, the forces of sirmour defeated the maruding armies of Ghulam Qadir Khan Rohiolla.

Basheshwar Mahadev Temple : One of the most charming temples in the
Kullu valley, this is renowned for its intricate stone carvings.

Balasundari Temple : Legend has it that the Devi's pindi appeared in
the bag of solt brought by a local trader. The temple built by raja
Deep Parkash of Sirmour in 1573.



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