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I’d heard a lot of things about Jibhi in the last few months. So, I although I was planning to move to Lahaul, I postponed that part for sometime and decided to devote a few days to the Jalori Pass area.
I was told that it is hard to find a direct bust to Jibhi from Aut but I immediately got one moving towards Rampur via Banjar (check the map if this confuses you). It was afternoon and I was dropped in the middle of lower Jibhi (also called Jaipur). The first thing I saw was a Greek restaurant, of all things!
Anyway, I took up a room in the homestay called Jibhi Homestead after some bargaining. It was a nice family owned place with homemade food and a good balcony with view of Apple orchards along with the hills. One night they even cooked Siddu with lots of homemade ghee.
Coming back to the point, I was primarily interested in doing two things here. First day, I planned to trek to the Cheni Kothi village and see ancient Fort and some assorted temples. Secondly I wanted to trek to the Jalori Pass. The second part turned out to be a visual extravaganza but those images are yet to be processed. For the time being, let us focus on Cheni Kothi.
Cheni Kothi, or Chaini Kothi is a small village above the hills, known primarily for an ancient fort like structure. Although it is called a fort, to me they looked more like towers and so I will use the term “towers” to describe them.
It takes a short hike from the road to reach the village. The starting point of the trek is a few kms from Jibhi towards Banjar. I was planning to walk the whole distance but in the morning the owner lady of the homestay gave me lift on a school bus that she was taking. She worked at that school and the bus dropped me right at the point where the trek started.
Initially I just had to walk along a motorable road with gradual elevation for 20 minutes to reach the Shringa Rishi Temple at a place called Bagi. It is a good looking, multistoried building with an architecture that is somewhat unique, almost reminiscent of pagodas of SE Asia. Shringa Rishi is the primary deity of this region. However, this structure is apparently a newer one.
After this point, the motorable road ends and a real trek starts. Thankfully that was not very long either and after 40 minutes or so, the towers of Cheni Kothi became visible.
After a few minutes, I entered the village and reached the main courtyard with two towers on both sides. However, the first thing I noticed was the colourful romantic graffiti that I see in almost every unprotected monument in India. Sexual and emotional oppression in this society has bred a generation of romantics whose only hormonal outpouring is achieved through the defacement of heritage structures.
Anyway, these towers were much bigger than they looked for the distance. for the sake of clarity, there are two towers. The taller one is the famous tower of Cheni Kothi. It was even taller but lost a few meters during the earthquake of 1905 and it is still close to 50 metres as per my estimates. The other tower is shorter and served as a temple. One can imagine that soldiers could garrison inside in case of an attack. Both are made of stone and wood and there are wooden stairs to reach the higher floors. However, outsiders are not allowed to climb the stairs.
As far as the antiquity of these structures are concerned, I am not quite sure. These were built by medieval Kullu kings and should be a few centuries old. However, I have seen some online sources mentioning that they are 1500 years old. Personally I find it highly unlikely but I could not find any conclusive or authoritative information regarding them.
I spent some time around the village, and also explored the trail that goes further upwards. There is another temple somewhere in the upper reaches but I did not have enough time remaining for that and I had to preserve my energy for a much longer trek the next day. So, let me finish with a teaser from the next day. I will be back with more details soon.