City Landmark – Bani Temple, Gurgaon
A shrine with a view.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
So surreal. These gigantic stalagmites stranded in the polluted air. They are actually far-off business towers, their view diffused in the winter fog. The scene shifts with a slight turning of the head: now you look down at an assortment of single-storey dwellings.
The familiar world is looking unfamiliar from this extraordinary vantage point. One of the most escapist destinations in the Delhi region, Bani Mandir is a temple in Ghata village (pronounced Ghaata). The village lies tucked within the wild ridges of Gurgaon, yet is within eyeshot of the Millennium City’s high-rises. The temple is perched atop a hill; the village lies around the base of this hill. A steep elevation leads to the sacred spot. This evening, a cow is ambling down the slopes, curiously staring at the lone visitor.
At the hill’s flattened top, speckled with a few banyans, the temple spreads into a collection of shrines dedicated to Ramchandra ji, Shiv ji, Hanuman ji, Shani Devta ji, among other immortals. Nobody else is here. Suddenly, a peacock shoots across a white veranda, where a plaque says: “Jai Baba Peer Pahari Wale ki Jai (Salute to Peer Baba of the Hill).” The temple priest’s mobile phone number is painted in red on the veranda’s wall.
Some steps away, a series of picnic tables are mounted on the grassy ground (see photo), overlooking the Ghata village below. An entire system of rural life is seen down there with a solo sweep of the gaze: the buffaloes, the cramped lanes, the fields, and a temple shikhar. The sounds of the villagers—crying, talking, shouting, laughing—are reaching easily to this high point, perhaps owing to a favourable direction of the cold wind.
Some further steps away, a bench under a tree is showing another vivid panorama of the city’s distant towers.
Meanwhile, the winter sky swiftly darkens with the deepened evening. The high-rises, and the village below, start to blink in night lights. It is like being surrounded by stars, though the foggy sky continues to be opaque.