Temple bells of Kumaon

Bells or ghaant, as is called in Kumaoni language, have a huge significance in the Indian Himalayan states including Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Often as an act of reverence to their kul-devta, people offer bells to please or thank their ‘Isht devta‘ or ‘kul devta’ for their blessings.

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At the 9th century group of ancient temples in Jageshwar located 36 km north-east of Almora. (June 2014)

 

These brass bells carry the name of the person who offers it in the temple. And, if you’ve been to any of the temples in either Uttarakhand, Himachal or Nepal, you will notice one big bell that people ring upon entering and exiting the temple. One of the most widespread belief is that the bells are rung to invite the Gods to accept the prayers of the worshipper and to drive evil forces away from their lives. When they exit they ring the bell again to give thanks to the Lord.

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Smaller bells inside one of the temples of a locally worshipped deity in Munshiyari (Musiyari), Uttarakhand. (September 2014)

When the people offer the bells, they do so by first conducting a small puja or a prayer in presence of their pandit and family, at least in Kumaon where I hail from.

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Another cluster in the same temple.

At times a procession is carried out when people offer an idol or a huge bell in the temple of their kul devta or elsewhere. Amidst the drowning and trance-inducing reverberating sounds of drumbeats the deities are invoked.

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Local temple at Munsiyari

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The Gods apparently choose a human vessel (oracle) to express their happiness or discontent. What I’ve experienced from being a part of a couple of such prayers/puja back home in Kumaon is that elderly people are often invited so that they can interpret what the Gods are actually saying.

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Dhuni or the fire around which the oracle moves in circles and conveys God’s message.

The invitation is sent to the dangariya (oracles) days ahead of the puja as can’t be conducted without those who’ve been chosen by the God as their vessels. Also heard plenty of stories from my parents and relatives wherein oracles would eat stones, walk on fiery coals or hold hot trishul in their trance-like state and nothing would ever happen to them except for the discomfort (joint pain) when the Gods decide it’s time to go.

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Nanda Devi Temple, Munsiyari. (September 2014)

How much of it is true or believable is still questionable, but the people in the villages still invoke Gods not just to pray to them, but seek help in acute state of distress. For instance, when there’s a robbery in the house or if their children are unwell and no amount of medication is helping them or there’s a discord in the family or if some people suspect foulplay in their lives and have suspicions on someone for their current situation.

So, in the Dev Bhoomi or the Land of Gods, does God really have everyone’s back. Or not?

It’s for you to believe.

Or.

Not to.

 

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7 thoughts on “Temple bells of Kumaon

    1. Thank you 🙂 Yes, you see plenty in the temples in the hills. Besides, for me, more than the bells, the magical deodar trees created an enigmatic effect at the Jageshwar temple! What other temples did you see. There’s Golu Devta temple a few kms from Jageshwar.

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