City Faith – Shiv Temple, Jor Bagh
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Hill, trees, bushes, grass. And to top it all—a temple at the top. Being here is like a get together with solitude and peace.
People travel to sacred seclusions in the Himalayas, such as Amarnath and Kedarnath, to pray,, to rejuvenate. That same quest must also take them to this place, in Delhi’s heart.
Perched on the flattened heights of a low hill, the little-known Shiv Mandir in Jor Bagh is that rare spot in the capital region where you escape from the gravitational pulls of daily anxieties. All you have to do is to mount a simple flight of stairs. It takes a minute to climb, after which you step into a tension-free oasis of tranquility.
Besides, in the ongoing monsoon season, the ambiance of isolation here often becomes even more intense, especially during heavy downpours when everything around is misty and wet. Perhaps the only serious challenge to access this remote setting is its address. The heavily secured Jor Bagh is so affluent, the posh houses look so formidable, that a casual visitor trespassing into its borders is likely to expect as much nervousness as entering a 5-star hotel. (The guards at the entrance, actually the most hospitable people here, always ask for the purpose of the visit.)
The temple is welcoming. A sequence of individual shrines, each with a tall shikhar, are spread out along a row. Dating from the 1940s, the mandir was more forest-like as recently as five years ago. The picturesque staircase was weedy with grass; now it is all flawless concrete. The courtyard was paved unevenly with mossy bricks; now it is smoothly cemented. But the old brass bells are still here. So are the courtyard’s two gigantic peepal trees. This rainy evening, their leafy branches must be sheltering very many birds, for the air is restless with their incessant twittering. Meanwhile, the straight silver ropes of the barish is making a pattering sound on the temple verandah’s tin roof. Pools of clear rainwater have collected on the staircase steps, filled with the reflections of trees, of the grey sky, of the occasional birds crisscrossing the sky.
The hilltop is flanked by trees, except for the south-side that faces the adjacent apartments—the private goings-on inside their big windows are too visible. This moment, in a second-floor apartment, a man is combing his hair.
One of the benches in the temple premises is dedicated to the memory of Sukdevraj Nanda. Another bench, at the bottom of the staircase, credits its existence to the MLA fund.
The temple opens daily from 7am to 12pm, and from 4pm to 8pm.