Raghunath Temple at Sirkanda


BY: SUN STAFF - 27.8 2019

In the village of Dev Prayag, Uttaranchal, is an ancient temple of Lord Rama. Dev Prayag resides at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, and is considered to be one of the Panch Prayag. The town lies along the route between Rishikesh and Badrinath, about 87 kms from Narendra Nagar. Dev Prayag is the abode of the Sri Raghunathji Temple, believed to be about 10,000 years old. The mandir was destroyed by an earthquake in 1803, but was rebuilt by under the patronage of Daulat Rao Scindia.

"He who thinks on Himachal, though he should not behold him, is greater than he who performs all worship in Kashi. In a hundred ages of the gods I could not tell thee of the glories of Himachal. As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the sight of Himachal." ~ SKANDA PURANA

The Raghunath temple at Sirkanda (Dev Prayag) was described by author Gerald D. Berreman as being the only temple in Sirkanda that is a real building. 'The Raghunath temple in Sirkanda consists of a small and simplified reproduction of the standard two-story village house, about eight by twelve feet, with a door opening to each floor. It is whitewashed and roofed with corrugated iron. The lower floor is used to store anything belonging to the temple, while the upper floor is the shrine containing the items used in puja (bells, conch, paraphernalia) and items in honor of the god, including the chamar, several chatar (hanging umbrella-shaped objects of cloth with silver fringe), and two iron staves four or five feet in length.

The current temple structure was built by a Rajput family of Sirkanda around 1900 A.D. They control and maintain it and are its keepers (pujaris). The Raghunath temple is the most sacred and restrictive of the Sirkanda temples. Low castes must worship from afar, and aliens are kept away from it unless they have come to worship. Shoes are removed in its vicinity, and it is opened only for special worship. If a stranger asks for the village temple, this is the one that will be pointed out.

The temple is most often used for conducting marriages. When a village boy or girl is married or when any outside wedding party passes Sirkanda, they detour to this temple where the bride or groom makes an offering and is blessed by the pujari.

Sri Raghunath Temple, Dev Prayag (Sirkanda)

Other occasions upon which Lord Raghunath is honored are similar to the times of worship of the local household gods. The household of the temple keeper and one other family occasionally hold kalratra and puja for Raghunath at this temple to alleviate suffering. Devotees offer a cash donation to the temple or a puja and sacrifice at the temple, with the pujari officiating.

At village-wide kalratras on any occasion Raghunath is believed by local people to possess a particular person (in Sirkanda, in Srikand typically a Rajput woman) much as Devi is believed to do in t he region. Raghunath may also be honored with a kalratra by the village at large on almost any occasion when powerful help is felt to be needed.

This temple is the only one which attracts outsiders to worship in Sirkanda. Occasionally someone of Pahari descent will come from as far away as the valley to make or fulfill a vow at this temple. On these occasions, the temple keeper keeps the person as his guest and receives the offerings. More frequently people from neighboring villages worship at the temple.

In association with Lord Raghunath are two other deities, Parasuram and Bhairu. These deities are just inside the door of his temple. Parasuram is, of course, the Vishnu avatar, while Bhairu/Bhairo is identified as Lord Shiva's chief executive officer. He is often worshiped separately in Pahari villages at a shrine identified by linga. One such shrine exists in a village close to Sirkanda. This is further evidence of the lack of clear-cut distinction between gods identified with Shiva and those identified with Vishnu in this area.

Another of the most honoured local shrines is that of the Pandavas at Sirkanda, which will be discussed in the segment to follow.