Located about 20 KM from our place is a temple dedicated to Aedi Raja Barsi Gaja (ऐड़ी राजा बरसी गाजा), a demigod who appears in local folk tales. Villagers name the temple simply ‘Aedi Devta Temple’ (also spelled Ari, Aeri, Aidi). The temple is on a hilltop with valleys all around.
The temple is on top of a small hill, with beautiful forest all around. On three sides, there are steep slopes with pine trees, on the fourth side, there is a forest of deodars and oaks.
(Story about Aedi Devta is at the end of the article. Scroll down or Click Here)
The forest floor is covered with a soft carpet of dried leaves and some tiny wild flowers. A narrow winding pathway through a dense coniferous piece of woods leads to another beautiful temple nearby.
The place is peaceful and the only sounds that can be heard here are the occasional bird calls or the rustling caused by the blowing wind.
These woods are a perfect place to relax, feel the power of nature and God, both at the same time, and have some quiet conversations with oneself.
Lots of interesting photographs can also be clicked around here.
The temple complex also has some really old buildings, hundreds of years old, in the traditional architecture. Some new additions have also been done to the area to cater to various religious gatherings and festivals.
The Aedi Devta temple can be reached by many short treks from different sides of the hill. A motorable road is also being made (to our disappointment, but good for children and elderlies). All the pathways have arches indicating entry to the religious place, as is the usual for temples in our region.
The woods around the temple are so beautiful, that one can spend hours there. Every place provides a different view and awe-inspiring feel.
Traditionally, Aedi Devta has been considered a reincarnation of Arjun (from Mahabharat). Various weapons like Trishul, Bow and Arrow, Club etc. were used as offerings. Now the temple also has many other deities too. Bells are also offered as a way of showing respect.
Inside the main temple, there are various deities. At some times of the day, the head priest also performs the daily prayers (aarti). Sitting in such peaceful surroundings, these prayers feel special.
Aedi Devta (ऐड़ी देवता) is prayed to and often feared by the villagers. Here are some snippets from the local folklores –
Aedi Devta was a king from ancient times from the region now in Nepal. He faced injustice during his earlier life. One night, he and his brothers were also poisoned by his trusted family priest, who was jealous of Aedi Devta’s success and wealth.
One of his servants, Dharmdas came to know of the poisoning in his dream and so he went and checked out the king and his brothers in their sleeping chambers. On realizing that they had been poisoned, Dharamdas procured some herbs to cure them. Some villagers say that the same Sanjeevni herb that was used to treat Laxman (from Ramayan) was used to cure Aedi Devta and his brothers.
Being a justice-loving person, Aedi Devta started helping the villagers wherever he went, by holding people’s courts (similar to Lok Adalats of today). Aedi Devta was very fond of nature and frequently ventured out into deep forests. He also enjoyed hunting in his free time.
After Aedi Devta’s soul left his body, people say that he still continued to help villagers who prayed to him for justice. Usually by influencing people concerned to act just, or by way of some intermediary who appears at times to help the people.
Being fond of hunting, it is said that his soul sometimes roams around in these forests in his carriage, with two of his aides, Shau and Bhau (शाऊ व भाऊ) riding on dogs alongside. The dogs are supposed to have bells around their necks, that can be heard at night, as told in the folklore. Aedi devta travels in a carriage because his elder brother had died while on a hunting expedition when he was on foot.
Villagers fear this folklore and are usually scared to venture out at night, especially those who have been involved in doing some kind of harm to the forests or doing some kind of injustice to others. Another popular Kumaoni proverb, ‘डालामुणि से जाणो, जाला मुणि नी सेणो’ says that if one has been unjust, then sleep hidden away under a tree at night if he has to, but never under a chimney inside a house. Aedi Devta’s arrow will find the person under the chimney.
Folklores also consider Aedi Devta as an incarnation of Arjun and his elder brother as an incarnation of Yudhistir. Some say that the Aedi devta is from the people of Lord Shiva. There is also a mention of Aedi Devta being blessed by Lord Ram during his time in the forest.
People also offer their prayers when starting something on a supposedly inauspicious occasion. Aedi Devta then helps if the purpose of the task is rightful and fair. Nowadays, when people go to forests to collect wood, they first pray to Aedi Devta, and also make small offerings so as not to upset him unknowingly. Some of the offerings commonly made to Aedi Devta are cow’s milk (not before 22 days of having given birth to a calf. some say that this is to ensure that injustice does not happen to the young calf.), and various cold weapons like bow and arrows, tridents, clubs, swords etc.
The Story of this Aedi Devta Temple :
Around 300 years ago, there was a couple that lived in the Salam region here. The husband, Bam Singh, who was almost 60 year old prayed to Lord Shiva to bless him with a child. It is said that one day in his dream, he was told by the Lord to go and find the symbols of Aedi Devta in the deep forest under a bush. Next day, when he woke up, he went there and found a bow, a conch, a bell, and a sword; just as he had seen in his dream. He brought these items to his home and religiously prayed to these as icons of the Lord. Later the couple was blessed with a girl.
When the girl attained adulthood, she was married to a man from Tairni village. She went and stayed in her new home and her father kept looking after the four items he had found. One day when Bam Singh left this world, the daughter decided to bring the icons with her to her new home. She went to her father’s house and gathered the icons. She then started for her new home with the icons. On the way, she felt tired and took a nap near the hill where the temple stands now. In her sleep, she was told that this hill was where the icons were originally found by her father and this is where they should be returned. So, the bow, the conch, the bell, and the sword were all placed here, and a temple was made in honor of Aedi Devta. Locals from adjoining villages constructed the temple premises in a joint effort.
Every year, 22 days of prayers are held here, during the months of monsoons. Various other religious festivals are also celebrated here from time to time.