The Himalayan region is called the abode of gods and one generally sees many temples of various gods and goddess all over the region. While the temples of lord Shiva can be seen in various shape and sizes all over the region, the temple of snake god- Nag Devta was new to me and to my information not routinely seen in the region. A health awareness programme, led me to visit Untar village in the winter of 2008. Untar village is in the Jaunpur block of Tehri Garhwal district. I had no knowledge that by default was visiting a place with immense scenic beauty and the temple of Naga Devata. I choose this village, just to see the interior of Tehri Garhwal. Besides the official programme and agenda, I also went round the village to meet the people and visited their homes. What attracted me was the huge Naga devta temple of the village, made of big stone blocks and wooden planks.
On inquiry, the village elders could not tell much about the time when their ancestral came down to this village. I did photographs some writings in the wooden blocks and metal plates shown to me by the villagers. Archeologist and historians can throw some light on the construction and the settlement of the village
. They also informed that while the past earthquakes in the region had made cracks in their homes, the majestic temple has stood the test of time. The Uttarkashi earthquake of 1991 and that of Chamoli in the year 1999, has created awareness not only amongst the educated but also to the laymen that the Himalayan region is seismically highly vulnerable to earthquakes.
I had read the documents published by the Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre (DMMC), Government of Uttarakhand, particularly the ones related to traditional architecture and construction done in the interior villages in Uttarakhand. I could remember the DMMC document, “Earthquake safe Koti Banal Architecture of Uttarkashi, India” by Dr. Piyoosh Rautela and Girish Chandra Joshi. This research document was quite enlightening, besides the photographs also showed the aesthetics of the structure and the natural beauty of the surroundings. The document says, “The people inhabiting the area had developed an elaborate system of selecting appropriate site for construction. Some persons based upon their experience and knowledge are believed to assess and comment upon the bearing capacity of soil by examining soil texture, moisture content and the other related features. Elements of this age old traditional practice need to be studied, documented, innovated and propagated ( with necessary improvements where necessary ) so as to evolve a ready available, easy and cost effective tool for assessing site suitability.”
While the historical sites like the maharaja palaces, forts, museums and temples are in the orbit of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), the temple of Naga Devta in Untar village remains in the heart and mind of the natives. The scenic beauty of the surrounding villages with deodar trees is worth the visit. The student of architecture and archeology must make a visit to the village, to enhance their knowledge. The new state of Uttarakhand has many places of historical and archeological importance, besides many locations are still to be developed for tourism. It time we look beyond the four Dhams to attract the tourists from the country and abroad to the valley of Gods, Ghats and Ganges