Art & Culture, History, Mountains

On royal animists… Sun Temple, Katarmal

Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

A temple is a kernel around which settlements, permanent or temporary, are spun… across history and religions, they have laid the ground rules for civilizations, defined the contours of culture and cradled the arts… one might say it comes at a price though… an opacity of belief and conviction beyond which societies offer little incentive or encouragement to venture… a bubbling broth of violence that spurts up wars every now and then… one could say it is an evolutionary construct, the temple… where the food chain can’t drag one down, controlled doses of self-destruction might…

Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

The Sun Temple at Katarmal, one could say, is still in the process of being excavated and face-planted on mainstream public conscience… looking at the dust flying around the road being metaled to the top and the freshly varnished wooden gates one gets the hint… the annual festivals are more political now and comparisons with Odisha are drummed up a notch a two…

Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

For now, the temple is perfect as it is (except for maybe the electric wires that creep into every frame), a quintessentially sedate presence perched a little below a hilltop overlooking the Kosi river wriggling its way down the valley below… assumed to be built by a namesake Katyuri king in the 13th century, the main temple follows a triratha geometry dotted by forty-odd smaller structures… the sanctum is cold and dark, which makes one wonder why reverence to the sun translates into something quite the opposite…

Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

The sun god wears shoes, the only north Indian deity to do so… an interesting possibility of theories… from the Varaha Purana that proclaims sun as the bringer of shoes and umbrella (yet these and other ancient texts forbid the depiction of feet in iconography) to the Iranian influences at a time when Gupta art was developing to even Buddhist undertones… the intricacies of architecture are exhilarating, it is their instigation that often takes the wrong turn…

Katarmal, Almora, Uttarakhand, India

Not that it stands in a static, mute disposition, the temple… it has kept adding forms, the smaller temples supposed to be added later to the complex, each one a seeming spectator to the central tower brooding on fallen amalaka at its feet… it has had its fair share of plunder as well, the carved stone doors now kept at the National Museum

On a cloudy April afternoon, the temple is chirping with the activity of a flock of Russet sparrows, a couple of Oriental turtle doves quietly observing them from temple tops… in between catering to the devout, the priest rummages through local news basking in whatever sunlight filters through the clouds… it is an environment that smells more of homeliness that grandeur, not a bad thing at all, for the latter often leads more to delusions than enlightenment…

Life in Himalaya

Sun Temple, Katarmal, Almora, Uttarakhand…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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