City Landmark – Pahari Wali Mata ka Mandir, Near Prime Minister’s Residence
A wayside shrine.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The strong afternoon breeze coursing through the hill is making the tree leaves shiver like a man in high fever. A bird hidden somewhere is cooing repeatedly. Yellowing leaves litter the cemented staircase that ends into a chippy courtyard speckled with sunlight and shadows. There are brass bells, potted plants and a rusty metal almirah, too. All is tranquil.
Since it is on a pahari, a hill, this secretive refuge is named appropriately as Pahari Wali Mata ka Mandir—as inscribed on a slab. Here the world feels isolated, even though we are only a 10-minute-walk away from the prime minister’s residence, and two minutes away from the 5-star Ashok hotel.
The wayside shrine, perched midway on a small hill, faces a huge rock, the kind that are spread across the Delhi ridge (this rocky landscape is more easily discernible in the nearby Nehru Park). Invisible from the road, the mandir is empty. The courtyard is roofed by the leafy canopies of the surrounding trees, revealing glimpses of the blue sky here and there. A white cloud now begins to cover the glistening sun slowly, wholly, shadowing the courtyard in a deeper green.
The huge rock by the courtyard is partly painted in white, and is decked with tiny shrines, each containing an idol—Hanuman-ji is in one, Shirdi’s Sai Baba is in another. The principal shrine stands in a separate, much larger, alcove. It is of marble, and devoted to the mandir’s Mata, a visitor explains. He arrived moments ago. Gesturing towards the black-and-white portrait of an elderly woman on the wall, he says that she founded the temple in the sixties and is “at home with the gods.”
By now, the noisy bird has fallen silent.
A corner of the courtyard discreetly overlooks the pave down under. Three young people in chef’s costumes are ambling along, loudly laughing. They are so close to the mandir, yet seem so far, as if in another world. The temple’s solemn remoteness is that intense.
While getting down, do stop by a little platform beside the staircase. It shelters something extremely rare to spot in Delhi—the idols of all the navgrih, the nine planets.
A secret in the hill