The new temple, a replication of the one that stood at the site earlier, will be reopened for the public on Saturday, the first day of the auspicious "navratras", temple officials said.

The old temple was demolished after the wood used in its construction had decayed.

"The temple of Hadimba Devi, the prominent deity of the Seraj Valley, has been rebuilt in typical hill architecture," temple trust chairman Rudramani said.

He said the temple, which was restored at a cost of over Rs.1 crore, was reconstructed in one and a half years at its original site after the old temple was demolished. "The new one is an exact replica of the original one," Rudramani added.

The temple, located amidst forests of deodar in Saraho village in Cheuni panchayat, is some 90 km from Mandi town and 250 km from the state capital Shimla.

Another temple trustee Fateh Singh said that the logs and bricks were removed from the original structure and documented. The new ones were placed at the same place and location to maintain the original architecture. He said that the temple had been rebuilt several times in the past too.

A few deodar logs in the demolished structure had inscriptions of 1855, which indicated that the temple was last reconstructed in that year, temple officials said.

"New logs have replaced decayed ones. Special emphasis was on carving work. For this, special craftsmen were hired. The stonework on the outer walls has been done as per the old style," he said.

Temple officials said that the entire amount for its restoration was spent from temple earnings and donations. Every household in the area contributed a minimum of Rs.10, 000 each.

The doors and the wooden structures of the temple have been tastefully redecorated with miniature pictures of goddesses. Before opening the temple doors for devotees on Saturday, a special ritual for the purification of the temple will be performed.

Thirty-one creatures, 27 goats, a pig, two fish and a lobster, would be sacrificed in the temple premises, said that temple priest Dile Ram. The sacrifice, he said, is part of the ritual for the temple purification.

Hundreds of goats and sheep will be sacrificed in the Seraj Valley to appease the goddess. Every household in the valley will slaughter a goat in the house, in keeping with tradition. The severed heads are offered to the goddess. The feast prepared from the slaughtered animals will be served to the guests too.

"The tradition of sacrificing the animals to appease gods has been followed for decades," said Zile Singh, who lives near the temple. He said that the sacrifice of reared livestock ensures year-round prosperity and protection from natural calamities.

The local people are busy decorating their houses, purchasing new utensils and clothes for the occasion. They will dance and sing folk songs from the epic Mahabharata throughout the night before the doors of the temple are opened in the morning.

Another temple dedicated to goddess Hadimba stands at tourist resort Manali. This temple, known for four-tiered pagoda roof, was founded during the rule of Bahadur Singh in 1553. Legend has it that goddess Hadimba is the wife of Bhima, one of the five Pandavas.

(Agencies)

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