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....

16 June 2010

The memorial majesty of Time, Impersonated in thy calm decay

I was travelling from Sojha to Banjar, when like my more famous travel predecessor, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, I decided to stop off at Bagi to check out the Shringi Rishi temple. I have repeated ad nauseum my dislike for the blatant and impious skullduggery that is Indian's temples. Shringi Rishi proved no different. Also, unlike Himachal's temples, the keepers of this one allow devotees to climb right into the sanctum sanctorum. What results is a lot of noise and typical filth carried in my human feet, and an all-pervading wretched fragrance which is a mix of human perspiration, cheap incense and decaying flowers.

Exeunt temple. It must have been an attractive one before it went commercial with a vengeance. Sitting outside was an old couple who watched my entry and speedy exit. Would you like to see a far more beautiful jewel, they asked. Of course I would, I replied, somewhat indignant that this pair of strangers should doubt the extent of my curiosity. Right then, you see that trail going up? Just follow it and you will see one of the most beautiful forts in all Himachal.
I am glad I listened to them, or I would have missed this nonpareil, this pearl of a ziggurat!

Chaihni is what Wordsworth would be delighted to call "a hoary pile". Not visible from the main road, this gorgeous castle is a couple of kilometres of walking at an almost 40-degree angle. The walk is breath-taking, and I do not say this with irony. For most part, you have a 360-degree view of dense evergreen forests and a patchwork of step-cultivated farms. Here and there, you come upon picturesque little barns with piles of golden, sweet-smelling hay, here an abandoned loom, there a curving path. This is a tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss.

It s not as though there is no toil or strife. But on the whole, a silence pervades. You feel that Nature breathes ease into the lives of those who live here in Chaihni, high up, in steadfast peace.
As you walk up, you are forced to tilt your head to look up at this gorgeous castle, standing there in all its sublime beauty, a picture of fortitude in the face of the ravages Time wreaks on men and material alike.

The fort is 125 feet tall. An architectural marvel of unknown age. Is it a temple, a watch-tower, or a citadel, it is hard to tell. Like forts and castles all over Himachal, in a sense, it is all three. It displays all the attractive features of timber-bonded stone topped off by a chalet-style wooden roof. A little ladder clings precipitously to one wall, the only tiny symbol of a pageantry this imposing hulk seeks to impose on its viewer.
As I've mentioned before, it is not possible for anyone to enter such an edifice, doubling up as it does for a citadel, temple, and village treasury. As luck would have it, I had met the priest or caretaker of the Chaihni fort on my walk up to the village. This kindly old man had, in the span of the thirty minutes it took for me to huff and puff up the hill, developed an amused interest in my antics. It was only logical, he said, that if the Gods had willed me to come thus far, that I should be allowed in the celestial presence. So off we went, up into the fort. The sight was magical and to this day, I do not know if I was giddy from the height or the idea that I was being allowed into the sacred space. But the way that roof rises to the sky in fatastic pride makes blood rush to the head...

The sight was a fascinating one. Gods piled upon Gods. Polished to a burnished gold. Decorated with flowers and Chinese-made baubles and doodads. Up here, the divinities appear content and amenable to being propitiated. The priest asks me if there's anything I want. And foolishly, like a beauty contest participant, I blurt out: world peace!

Go see Chaihni if you are travelling in the southern parts of Kullu. It will surpise and please you yet.


iguana said...

What good fortune!

Kamal Sharma said...

WOW! You have become one of my favorite writers with this piece. I look forward to more of your sojourns through the woods and valleys and hope you chance upon the most wondrous unexplored stories.

Gallimaufry said...

Thank you, Iguana! Believe me, I know...

Kamal, you're much too kind. Your post made me realise that I haven't written about many of favourite places yet: Sujanpur-Tihra, Arki, Dhami, Spiti... to name but a few.

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