Chaini Kothi: Towering Tower

Where to travel

If beautiful wooden buildings and walking in the mountains fascinate you, visit Chaini (Chaihni) Kothi in Chaini village, Kullu district, Himachal Pradesh (India). Chaini Kothi is also called the Castle Temple of Joginis, the Dhadhiya Kot or the Great Tower. 

What to do & see 

Bagi (Bijepur), a small hamlet above Banjar, has a magnificent Shringi Rishi Temple from where a 45-minute muddy trail, winding through steep mountain slopes covered with apple orchards, fields and / or forest, leads to Chaini village. The village (about2,000 meters), known for highly skilled wood and stone workers, commands sweeping views of the Thirthan Valley and surrounding mountains. Shringi Rishi is the main deity of the Thirthan valley.

Chaini Kothi, consisting of four blocks, has a bhandar (storehouse), Murlidhar Temple, an oblong courtyard and a tower.  The loftiest freestanding tower built in local architecture in the Western Himalaya dominates the Kothi complex. Since the tower is built on a spur’s shoulder, it looks very tall. Over 45 meters tall tower, a defense structure, lost its two top floors in Kangra earthquake (1905). The tower’s walls facing the valley have slim recesses that were used to place matchlocks. Solid stone masonry is used for the 15-meter high plinth of the tower. The plinth is further strengthened with huge deodar beams. Katth-kuni walls of the top floors feature deodar beam framework and hard white stone. Katth-kuni style walls’ corners are made of wood only.

Ultra slim steps cut into a huge narrow tree-trunk are the only means to enter to the tower. This main ladder is erected diagonally across the wall. It can be moved but requires lots of effort. Climb carefully, as there is no support on either side of the ladder. The ground floor still has a pit, where arms and ammunitions were stored. A wooden altar is on the fifth floor where images of Joginis are installed. The fifth floor is surrounded by a projected balcony that lends itself to views of the valley and mountains. A low-pitched gable roof covers the tower.

Every year Chaini organizes Veeth fair for merrymaking. Highlight of the fair is dressing up in traditional costumes and dancing around the Banshira (Forest God), an idol made of grass. The fair welcomes all.

The 5-storey MuralidharTemplenear the tower has black stone idol of Krishna-the flute player. The imposing bhandar is not as tall as the tower but features Malana’s Jamalu Devata’s silver horse. 

When to go 

April – October

During rainy season (July-August), the slippery trail requires extra care and effort. 

How to reach 

Kullu on the National Highway (NH) 21 is about570 kilometersfromDelhi, the capital ofIndia.

A 70-kilometer rough road connects Kullu to Shoja via Banjar. Drive for another twenty minutes to reach Bagi, where Shringi Rishi Temple is located. From the road, broad cement / stone steps lead to the temple, from where the muddy track to Chaini village starts.

Alternatively, you can trek from Banjar to Chaini, a 6-km steep trail.

We rented a taxi from Him-Anchal Taxi Operators’ Union (Patlikul) for Katrain (one kilometer from Patlikul)-Shoja-Chaini Kothi-Katrain trip. We paid INR 2,700.00 for this one–day trip during July 2010. 

Accommodation 

You can stay at Public Works Department (PWD) Rest House at Shoja. The rest house has two suites only.

Or, you can enjoy a home stay at Banjar.

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