Krimchi – a small village located in district Udhampur blinks on the geographical map of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) but for tourists it’s a forgotten and condemned place.
Reason is inaccessibility to the site and responsible for that is none other than local villagers who deny a free access to the place where “Pandav Temples” don the skyline in a most magnificent manner. Nestled in a small valley these stone-temples believed to be having Greek influences find reference on several websites, pamphlets, tourist itinerary and travellers’ analogue but lacks a fair access. Even the seven kilometers stretch connecting main highway to Krimchi has several dilapidated and unsafe stretches that surely give travellers bumpy rides.
Despite all odds if one is able to reach Krimchi, the access to temples still remains secluded because villagers who have picked up a dispute with government and deny access to the place have deliberately painted big boulders with arrows guiding tourists to take an unsafe passage along nullah rather gorge to reach temple site. The path that villagers tread is almost ten to twelve feet wide which has been protected with a huge retaining wall but tourists are told not to take this route rather walk along nullah to reach main gate of Krimchi ‘Pandav Temples’. Fortunately the village-path takes tourists almost straight to the edge of temple site without any difficulty but claimants of some maze fields don’t let this happen.
Seven beautifully carved stone temples built by Pandavas believed to be of 9th century AD not only attract tourists but are an engineering marvel worth seeing. Maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) these temples leave visitors spellbound. One wonders how the Pandavas reached this site which is nestled in a small valley and how did they construct temples using stones only. The kind of precision, alignment, carvings, stonework and chiseling done at the site is just unimaginable especially in absence of tools and machinery that we use in modern day technology. Beams and columns carved out of single stone and placed on one another in perfect alignment speak of engineering skills of that era.
Many beams carved out of a single stone are more than six feet long and rest on columns without mortar or any other binding material. The sapphires of all temples are having carved stones placed on one another. The entire pedestal on which these temples are located is raised and beautifully designed and built by stones only. Another feature of these temples is that stair cases are quite wide and inbuilt that add to the aesthetics and doesn’t obstruct either movement or site of temples or courtyard. Small gardens developed by ASI add to the beauty but what’s not good about the historic site is its road.
Another strange thing about the location of this place known as the Pandava Temples is that even when one reaches Krimchi, the stone structures are not visible from a distance as close as hundred yards. The temple site is little below the ground level that leads to temples. This is the reason temples are hardly visible from any side until one actually reaches there. Since Pandavas after the loss of Hastinapur were condemned to 12 years of exile into forests and asked to spent 13th year in incognito with the rider that if spotted or cover be blown during this year another cycle of 13 years exile would again begin. In order to stay out of sight of people they chose such place which was not visible from any side and was completely aloof.
Visitor V K Malhotra (82) who arrived here from Delhi along with his wife Uma Malhotra speaks of his horrible experience of taking the out-of-the-way, abandoned and dangerously risky path to reach temples this September. According to him while the beauty and sanctity of Pandava Temples mesmerises, the path scares you away. The place is not worth a visit for elders, handicap and children unless proper road or path is constructed, he said adding that ASI, as per the guidelines has constructed a ramp at the site for convenience of aged and those on wheelchairs but unfortunately the facility cannot be used unless one reaches ground zero.
Built by Pandavas these stone-temples are located in a valley which is not visible from any of the sites. If there is no sign board or any of the marking depicting site one just cannot reach the place. This was the reason Pandavas chose Krimchi. Another positive feature of this villages its small mountains surrounding it. During rainy season, clouds hover over the place making it more serene and green. Otherwise also the climate of Krimchi stays comfortable which is believed to have made it an idle place for Pandavas to stay put here.
Raja Kichak of Mahabharat was said to be the creator of this town Krimchi and the Kingdom. Pandavas during exile had stayed here. Kichak was killed by Pandavas leaving Krimchi kingless for many centuries. Thereafter Bhupal Singh of village Landhar ruled this Kingdom but died without any successor leaving Krimchi without any King again. Later King Som Dutt of Bhuti clan ruled by Krimchi. In between it was also ruled several generations of a King. After ruling for next twelve generations by his successors Bhatyal Rajputs, there was a large expansion in the family and many of them settled down at other places.
According to local information, King Bhadur Singh of same lineage ruled Bhuti during the period of Ranjit Dev of Jammu. Himmat Singh was the last ruler of Bhuti and principality was merged with Jammu by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1834 AD. Having such a vast lineage of rulers Krimchi today is a lost and forgotten place. A visit to the temple site unfolds sculptures of deities like Ganesh, Shiva and Parvati carved on stones and especially on main Temple which is around 50 feet high.
A temple courtyard in the middle has access from three sides and stones columns and beams make it an architectural marvel that can well be described resembling Stonehenge of England which is a prehistoric monument. Located exactly in Wiltshire, England Stonehenge consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighing around 25 tons. The formation of stones here in Krimchi is also of same nature but is far too short in weight and size. For the convenience of visitors and keeping records ASI has marked all temples from 1 to 7.
The temples of Krimchi are constructed in ‘Old Nagra Style’ and for many they resemble Baij Nath, Lingraj, Parshurameshwar temple of Bhubneshwar, Barmour Shiva temples and Chamba temple. The architecture of the temples belongs to same school as that of Sukrala Mata, Billawar, Bhimber, Rajouri, Panjnore and Saidabad. The temples contain Indo-Aryan style with reflection of Kashmiri and local Influence. All the temples except one are east faced. It is believed that excavations in the area have already made ASI find some terracotta figurines besides copper coins and iron arrow heads. More such excavations in the vicinity could also lead to more findings.