India is mystical and captivating. It enthralls with its myriad of colors and cacophony of sounds. Rich in cultural heritage, ancient temples, and monuments, it has plenty of myths and traditions that draw people to its spiritual power. With layers of history embedded in every corner, there are places that go unnoticed even if one may have lived in the vicinity for years.
I was born in Kanpur and have spent many of my summer holidays in the city while growing up. Being industrial, it never boasted of any tourist attraction but for a few temples and Moti Jheel, a children’s park that was a must-go-to every visit. This time, I was visiting the city after years, with Mom by my side. As the taxi sped from Lucknow to Kanpur, conversations began with our driver, Dubey. A talking encyclopedia, he had snippets of information about everything. Wanting to know more, I asked him about unusual places around Kanpur. It was then that I first heard about the “Monsoon Temple’ in Behta Gaon that predicts the monsoon in advance. As Dubey narrated I heard with rapt attention, fascinated. “Kal leke chaloge hume, Dubey?” I asked. Dubey nodded his head in agreement. He would take me. He wanted to see it too.
Why is the Jagannath temple called the “Monsoon Temple”?
Built in the 11th Century during the Chandela period, the “Jagannath Temple’ is made entirely of stone. The intricately carved pillars and stone structures in the temple belong to that era as well. These pillars that surround the idols of Lord Jagannath, Baldao and Subhadra support a framework on top of which rests a decorative stone slab piled with more stone slabs.These form the ceiling. This slab is what makes the temple unique. About a fortnight before the monsoons arrive, the water starts trickling from the ceiling indicating that the monsoon showers are around the corner. This gives the villagers, enough time to make arrangements for sowing crops and repair works in their houses. Depending on the number of water droplets that fall, signals whether the farmers will receive a heavy or a light monsoon. No water droplets on the ceiling in a particular year indicate drought. This prediction has been true for centuries and is relevant for a radius of 50 kilometers. What is even more fascinating is that 12 hours before the monsoon, the stone dries up and there are no trickles once the monsoons arrive. Media, researchers, and scientists have conducted investigations but have found no answers to this strange phenomenon.
Structure of the Jagannath Monsoon Temple, Behta
The design of the temple is unusual. It is mound-like with two domes on top. A wheel can be seen atop on the latter dome. According to the ASI guide, Mr. Devendra Kumar, the shape of the temple symbolizes the chariot that was taken by Krishna and Arjun in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. A petal-like design on the walls depicts the lotus which is a symbol of divine beauty and purity. Lord Jagannath is a form of Lord Vishnu ( the preserver in the Hindu Trinity) and is often called the “Lotus-eyed One”. a part of the decorative ceiling slab now lies in the courtyard along with pillar remains and stone carvings.
In July, the Jagannath Rath Yatra takes place in Behta too. More than 20,000 people from different villages join in the procession. These idols made of black stone, are placed on the chariot as it travels through the villages before they are placed back in the temple.
The maintenance of the temple is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which is doing its best to preserve the monument. For years, the temple was managed by a priest and his family continue to live in its courtyard. Since the ASI has started maintaining the temple they’re particular about burning incense sticks, performing aarti and feeding the idols. All these practices have affected the pillars and the idols and there is a constant debate between performing century-old rituals and preservation of the monument.
As we drove back, both Dubey and I were quiet. The visit had left a profound impact.The constant discussions and worldwide arguments about the existence of God seem to fail when one enters a place like this. There are unexplained wonders in the world that defeat all logic of Science. A hidden gem in a rural area, the Jagannath Temple is one such wonder.
How to reach the Jagannath Monsoon Temple?
Distance from Kanpur: 35 km (via NH34)
Address: Behta Gaon, Bhitargaon, Ghatampur Tehsil , Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh (3 km from Vikaskhand)
Map location: https://www.mapsofindia.com/villages/uttar-pradesh/kanpur-nagar/ghatampur/behta-bujurg.html