I spent two months in the Tirthan Valley of the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh once the COVID lockdown was lifted on the tourism industry. While I made a base at primarily two villages in the valley, I frequented Chehni Kothi often. Mostly because of how beautiful the structure is, and also because there are other hikes around the area that somehow or the other lead you to this quaint little village.
Chehni Kothi – or Kothi Chehni – is a tall, wooden fortress, located in village Chehni. It is believed that this kothi was built sometime in the 17th century by King Dhadhu – which is why Chehni Kothi is also sometimes known as Dhadhiya Kothi. This fortress was originally seven storeys tall but the Kangra Earthquake of 1905 destroyed the top two storeys and now only 5 levels remain. The chehni Kothi height is approximately 45 meters and in the Western Himalayas, it is known to be the tallest temple tower of its kind.
The Chehni Kothi architecture is as fascinating as its history. It is built in the traditional Kath-Kuni architectural style with deodar wood and stone. This fortress was built as a defence structure, to provide a vantage point for the surrounding valleys in case of an invasion. Because of this reason, the fortress did not have a permanent staircase to its entry. Instead, a hanging wooden staircase was used in the architecture of Chehni Kothi which was pulled up once everyone was inside. Today, things are a bit different. A steep, wooden staircase is attached to the tower for visitors to use. However, the villagers are very strict about tourists visiting this kothi. They believe the staircase is too steep for outsiders to use – who may fall and injure themselves. Though I visited the village thrice, I was not allowed entry to the tower, even when I was accompanied by a local man from a neighbouring village pleading on my behalf!
Once you climb this steep set of stairs, you enter a balcony. You can climb further up through another set of a staircase which is inside the tower and reach the topmost storey which has a projection balcony circumambulating the entire floor and inside is the temple where idols of the local goddess, Jogini, and sometimes even a palanquin resides. Of course, this is all second-hand knowledge since I couldn’t actually go inside myself.
Village Chehni – Other Attractions
The namesake kothi in the village is not the only marvellous thing to look at here. In the village, there is another tower temple – though shorter than Chehni Kothi – which is dedicated to Shringa Rishi, the presiding deity of Banjar region. Shringa Rishi’s temple is located at Bagi, just below Chehni that can be clubbed with a visit to Chehni village.
Apart from Shringa Rishi’s tower temple, there’s another old temple dedicated to Lord Krishna here. This temple is known as Muralidhar Mandir and also has some Tankri inscriptions on its walls. Tankri, or Takri, is the script to the Dogri, Kangri, Chambyali, Kishtwari, Kulluvi, Garhwali and many other Himalayan languages.
From Chehni, one can even hike up to Myagi village for some breathtaking views of the surrounding higher mountain peaks. There is also a waterfall near Myagi village, beyond which one can also venture towards Bashir village (which is a longer trek).
There are a few cafes propping up in the village area, and from 2021, the village’s first homestay should also be up and running. If you wish to stay near Chehni Kothi, homestays in Chehni village may be something you want to look into!
How to reach Chehni Kothi
A motorable road now exists all the way up to Chehni village, though as of November 2020 it was only a month old, and was more of a dirt track than an actual road. But the best way to reach Chehni Kothi is through a short hike.
The Chehni Kothi trek has two starting points – one at Bini village, and the other at Bihar village. At Bini village, one can take the flight of stairs going uphill towards the Shringa Rishi Temple, and then continue the hike for some more time to reach Chehni village. The total time will definitely be less than one hour if you walk slowly. (I took half an hour and the villagers take 15 minutes).
The hike to Chehni Kothi from Bihar village is shorter but steeper and I found it more tiring than the other route.
A twenty-something solo adventurer, Avantika finds comfort in learning about various cultures, its people and listening to age-old folk tales. When not on the road, she can be found cuddled up with her dog in her room, with a book in her hand.