Pahari Mandir,Ranchi.

Well within the bustling city of Ranchi there stands a gently sloping hill with a winding fleet of stairs that start at the bottom and meander at its own pace up along the curves, pausing for breath once in awhile, till it reaches a white squat building that shelters from the sun and the rain, an old Lingam of the Hindu god Shiva that is said to have been around since even before the city was born.

Each day as dawn comes, residents from near and far, bare of feet and panting for breath, make their way up these stairs to pay humble obeisance or to ask for boons from the god – whom many affectionately refer to as the Pahari Baba, the divine ascetic of the hill.

During Shivaratri – a major India festival celebrated in honor of the god – the place teems with devotees. Women of marriageable age, bearing cups of milk and water queue-up patiently to pour the liquid over the head of the Lingam to be blessed with husbands as pious, strong and loving as the god himself (see Farbound.Net snippet: Tears of Shiva).

Snake charmers, holy men and ascetics with matted locks mingle with the crowd to seek alms and offer blessings in return. Priests clad in saffron or white shuttle breathlessly between prayers and handing out edibles. Each forgetting for a while the real history of this local pilgrim spot.

In the mid 1800s, if you were a native born Indian going up this hill, it likely would have been in shackles and chains, pushed and shoved by armed British guards to where stood a hangman with a noose in hand. Known in the local dialect as Phasni Tinguri – the hill where people are hanged – the top is where prisoners of war were swiftly executed including several revolutionaries of India’s first struggle for independence.

The captives would pay their last obeisance to the Lingam of Shiva before being dispatched to the afterlife. In that era there was neither the white squat building, nor the stairs nor was the place ever visited much even if Shiva had sat on the earthen ground overlooking Ranchi’s countryside, unobstructed by houses or buildings.

Commemorating their memory is a 293 feet flagpole close by that flutters the tricolours on both the Independence and Republic day of the country.The temple is open on all days and can be visited throughout the year.

File Fact, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India: A hundred years before India’s first war of independence (1845), the tribal population of present day Ranchi, Jharkhand, particularly the Munda tribe was already fighting for freedom from the growing power of the British.


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