Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

26 March 2010

Some lovely Temple, Tenantless...

My wanderings in Shimla's surrounds have revealed an unexpected treasure trove of temples. It is interesting how quickly word spreads when you reveal an interest to your circle of friends. There you are, sitting with your fingers wrapped around a cuppa, saturated with postprandial bliss, when someone says "G, you simply have to go to X, or Y or Z!". There's little to do but oblige! The trip to Balag was the result of one such evening, and the provocation came from my revered friend B. S. "Billy" Malhans who is an authority on the temple architecture of this wonderful state.

There are three temples in Balag, a small village in the sub-division of Theog. Two are of the rock-cut variety and one built in the old "devra" style which is my personal favourite. As with many temples in Himachal, this temple too has legends connected with the famous Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. What is more interesting is that in Balag, mythology surrounding the Hindu deity Shiva has got inextricably linked to the allegories related to Mahabharata.

The most important temple is dedicated to the divine destroyer, Shiva. The temple displays all the motifs and symbols connected to his apologue. Nandi, the divine bull, guards the entrance to the temple. The shikhara, the rising tower which covers the sanctum sanctorum, is bedizened with his emblems, weird animals and grinning ganas, his attendants or ghostly hosts, on account of their nature.These are supposed to be of ghostly origin and generally benign except when someone transgresses against their Lord.

The temple is built of blocks of sandstone some of which are coming sadly undone. There is a huge vertical crack running through the northern end of the "shikhara" which could prove catastrophic in the future. The temple's "kaardars" (keepers) say they have knocked on several doors, but to no avail.

Ganesha, the son of Shiva is a deity beloved of Hindus, for it is his name that is invoked before the commencement. He stands for a heightening of every sense and of pursuit equally of knowledge as well as good food! I saw a small stone statue of his in Balag, resting separately from the temple in its own niche. The provenance was of the same era as the main temple. The statue had suffered the depredations of time, its surface worn smooth, yet still revealing Ganesha's elephant ears (symbolising wisdom), his pot-belly (symbolising a huge apetite) and long trunk (which stands for heightened sensory perception).
Similarly, there are small staues, no more than eighteen inches in height of Shiva and his divine consort Parvati ("Daughter of Mountains"), and of Shiva as "Mahadeva" the Supreme Soul.

Among several of his anthropomorphic forms, Shiva is also represented in the shape of a vertical rounded column. Regarded by some as the phallic symbol, worship of the lingam actually originates in the Atharva Veda in the praise of the sacrificial post: the Yupa Stambha.
Standing close to him is Nandi, his divine mount, another symbol of Shiva being the Lord of Animals.

T little temple in the picture above was the second in the little triad. This temple is dedicated to Nakul, one of the five Pandava brothers and twin borther of Sahdeva. It is embellished most attractively on the face of its little "shikhara" (temple dome) with the face of a figure not unlike that of Pashupatinath ("Lord of Animal-like Beings"). Surrounding this are gorgeous floral and lacy patterns, wrought delicately in stone.

This is the oldest devra of Balag, which, while not de-consecrated, no longer sees regular worship. As can be seen, it looks to be of an entirely different age and design than the other two temples.


Ravinder Makhaik said...

Its truly an tribute to hill temple architecture to freeze these frames on this space

Gallimaufry said...

Thank you, Ravinder.

Bibliophile said...

It's a charming old temple and you have captured it well with both words and photos.

Gallimaufry said...

Thank you, Bibliophile :)

Antonia/EdenSol said...

Your pics are Beautiful, and temple/God/Goddess histories so well explained. Many thanks for this!

Priya said...

Hello! It's been awhile since I got the chance to visit your blog and I see that I have missed much! Your blog on the Shiva template prompted me to comment...I know very little about you, but based on what I've seen so far, I have a feeling you'll enjoy the book "The Immortals of Meluha" - nope, I don't have anything to do with the author/selling the book :) It was rather un-putdownnable so just thought I'd share...

Gallimaufry said...

Antonia: thank you for stopping by and for the kind words.

Priya: I'll surely check the book out. Am quite the bookworm and this one sounds fascinating.

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