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Introducing Sarahan

The former summer capital of the Bushahr kingdom, Sarahan is dominated by the fabulous Bhimakali Temple, built from layers of stone and timber to absorb the force of earthquakes. There are two towers here, one recently rebuilt after the 12th-century original collapsed, and a newer tower from the 1920s (on the left) containing a highly revered shrine to Bhimakali (the local version of Kali) beneath a beautiful silver-filigree canopy.

There are some strict entry rules. Male visitors must wear a cap (which can be borrowed inside the temple), shoes must be removed, smoking is banned, and cameras and leather goods like belts and wallets must be left with the guards. Behind the temple is a small display of ancient ceremonial horns, lamps and weaponry, and across the courtyard is the squat Lankra Vir Temple, where human sacrifices were carried out right up to the 18th century. The tradition lives on in a tamer form in the Astomi ritual during October’s Dussehra celebration, when a menagerie of animals is sacrificed to Bhimakali, including goats, chickens and buffalo.

The grounds of the flamboyant Shanti Kung Palace (1917), a summer retreat built by the last maharaja of Bushahr, are worth a visit, just behind the Bhimakali Temple.