Samlasan Devi Temple is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Durga, atop a hill at village Samlotha some 10 KM from the Morni town. The hill offers a commanding view of the plains of Raipur Rani and the erstwhile Kotaha estate and the ruins of the forts of the Meers at Kotaha and Masoompur.
As per the folklore, Goddess Durga after slaying the demon brothers Shumbh and Nishumbh in a fierce battle stopped at Samlotha for rest. She assumed an asana (sitting posture) on the lotus (kamal) flowers in a pond and was thus called the ‘Kamalasan’ Devi, literally the goddess who sat on the lotus flowers. Over time the name got distorted to ‘Samlasan’ Devi. She is also referred to as ‘Samlothe Vali’, belonging to Samlotha. The ubiquitous Pandav princes came upon the holy spot during their exile and built the original ancient temple at the site in deference to the Goddess. As the devotees experienced great difficulties in accessing the temple, the Goddess sat in a palanquin (a sedan chair lifted by four bearers) and descended to the Chhota Tirlokpur village in the foothills of Morni where she appeared in statue (moorti) form in the dream of the Raja of Raipur Rani. The Raja got a second temple constructed at the spot where the ‘moorti’ was discovered. It is believed by the devout that the Goddess grants any wish made by praying at her feet at Samlotha temple. A two-day annual fair is held at Samlotha (during Chaitra Navratri) that is attended by thousands of devotees from the surrounding villages and towns.
The legend of Shumbh-Nishumbh
According to Devee Bhaagvat in Vaaman Purana, Shumbh and Nishumbh were two demon (asur) brothers – sons of Kashyap and Danu. They performed severe penance (tapasyaa) at the Brahma temple at Pushkar and obtained a boon (var) from Lord Brahma, the supreme creator, that they could not be killed by any male, be it a human or an animal. Only a female could kill them. Emboldened by Brahma’s boon the demon brothers increased their power and became arrogant. They started committing atrocities on the gods making them leave their seats of power and flee for their lives. The gods then got together and prayed to the primordial power to save them from the terror. They prayed and did penance for nine days, where on the primordial power (Aadi Shakti) appeared in the form of Goddess Durga for destroying the demons.
Durga ascended at Vindhyachal where the demons had founded there pagan kingdom. Sugreev the minister of the demon king Shumbh spotted the Goddess and reported her divine beauty to the king. He sent him with a marriage proposal to the Goddess who challenged the demon king to a battle. Shumbh then despatched Dhoomralochan to bring the Goddess to his palace as a captive. Dhoomralochan was slain by the Goddess. Sugreev followed and met the same fate. Then Shumbh’s deputies, Chand and Mund followed who also perished in combat. Durga gets her name ‘Chamunda’ for having slain the duo. Nishumbh was to die next by Durga’s trident that pierced his evil heart. Durga’s tiger (simha) devoured the demon army. The final battle between Durga and Shumbh was fought on the ground and in the skies until Shumbh exhausted his weaponry and like his brother fell to Chandi’s trident. The gods rejoiced at the victory and peace prevailed.
In the tradition of the nine day prayer and penance by the devtas to invoke the power of Shakti to destroy evil, the devotees of Goddess Durga fast and live in austerity for nine days in a festival called Navratri, literally nine nights. Navratri is celebrated at the beginning of spring (lunar month Chaitra) and the beginning of autumn (lunar month Ashvina), the exact dates being determined by the clergy with the Lunar Calendar. The fasting ends on the tenth day, when the eternal victory of good over evil (the slaying of demon king Ravana by Lord Rama) is celebrated as ‘Vijaya Dashmi’ in the Dushehra festival.
The Samlotha village, is a mere hamlet atop the hill-top with the impressive 70 foot high tower of the Samlasan Devi temple that covers a smaller and much older temple. A nearby pond is referred to by the locals as the Draupadi Kund. A couple of Dharamshalas (guest houses) have been added over the years but they bear a deserted look barring the days of the annual Samlasan fair.
An observation tower of the fire department can be spotted from a distance while approaching Samlotha from Morni.
The village and the temple can be accessed by a rather steep climb up the hill along a cemented track that has been extensively damaged by the rains.
The road to Samlotha branches off from the Morni-Badiyal road near the Sherla tal and this 5 KM long stretch is in a state of disrepair.
The temple at Samlotha finds a mention in the Sanad of 1816 by which Meer Jafar Ali Khan received the ilaqa of Morni in recognition of his services to the British in the war against the Gurkhas. The Meer was entitled to the income from the fairs at the temples at Samlotha and Tirlokpur. Thus clearly, the temple had been in existence for a long time and the annual fair was a large enough event to merit a special reference in the Sanad.
Krishan K. Kamra in his book ‘Tourism: Theory, Planning and Practice (1997)’ attributes the story of Durga choosing Samlotha for resting after the battle with Shumbh Nishumbh to Bhrigu Samhita, a Vedic treatise on astrology compiled by the sage Bhrigu.
Captain Proby Thomas Cautley,the famous British Canal Engineer and amateur paleontologist reported in a letter addressed to the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1834 that the Raja of Nahan had gifted the fossils of an elephant tooth and tusk to Lieutenant W.E. Baker of the Engineers. The fossils were recovered from Samrota, a village near the Pinjore valley and were believed by the Raja to be the remains of the giants who were vanquished by Lord Ram. The Asiatic Society printed the drawings of the fossils by Lieutenant W.E. Baker in their journal.
Cautley’s own party in November 1834 found a ‘splendid specimen of a head’ at Samrota that was termed by his Chaprassi as a ‘Deo ka Sir.’ The elephant head was carried off by a hill man who deserted Cautley’s party and presented the trophy to the Rajah of Nahan. Cautley was trying to persuade the Rajah to part with the fossil at the time of writing the letter!
The Samrota village of Captain Cautley is in all likelihood is the present day Samlotha village of Morni. Lt. W.E. Baker in his letter to the editor of the Asiatic Society had reported that as per the Raja of Nahun ‘Sumrotee’ village was located 30 coss west of Nahan. 1 kos equals roughly 2 miles and 30 kos translates to 96 KM. Samlotha is about 80-85 KM from Nahan, the distance being measured by the modern metalled roads that connect the two places ( including Major District Road 118). The distance measured by the winding hill roads and dirt tracks of early 19th century would definitely have been longer.
Alexandra van der Geer, Michael Dermitzakis, and John de Vos in their provocative research article of April 2008 titled ‘Fossil Folklore from India: The Siwalik Hills and the Mahabharata,‘ have hypothesized that the discovery of fossilized remains of large vertebrates in the fossil-rich Shivalik belt has helped sustain beliefs over the ages in the existence of giants and demons and their epic battles with the devtas and mythological heroes. Many species like the giant tortoise, sabre-toothed cats, four-horned giraffes etc were extinct at the time of their fossilized remains were discovered and this made them mysteries around which tales and folklore were created.