During the course of many travels around our country, i’ve noticed an interesting fact…almost every region boasts of a temple or landmark that dates back to the ‘Pandavas’!! The ‘Ramayana’ is the epic that is worshipped and revered; in contrast the ‘Mahabharata’ it is said should not even be kept at home and yet you have tales of the five brothers everywhere!
In Manali too, the star attraction of the town is the Dhungri reserve deodhar forest and an old temple dedicated to Hadimba. If you remember your Mahabharata tales, Hadimba was the sister of a ‘demon’ ruler who wanted to ‘eat’ the brothers for his supper. A temple for a demoness seems a bit incongruous but the story goes that she fell in love with Bhim when she saw the Pandavas camped in the forest during their incognito exile or ‘agyatvas’ and took on human form to woo him. A battle ensued between the demon-brother and Bhim, the demon was killed and Bhim took Hadimba as his wife. The great warrior Ghatotkach was born of this union and he went on to become a great ruler. Hadimba herself chose the path of spirituality and is said to have meditated in a small cave. The temple has been built over that and inside the sanctum is a rock which has a footprint believed to be that of Hadimba. For the local populace she is the patron deity and it is her palanquin that leads all the other mountain deities during festivals and celebrations.
The temple itself is not very impressive…a four-storey pagoda like structure with a roof covered with galvanised iron sheets.The temple’s wooden doorway though is exquisitely carved with panels depicting mythical beasts, animals and dancers while antlers and ibex horns adorn the outside walls. What adds a sublime air to the place and creates a tranquil atmosphere hard to express in words is the surrounding forest. The stately deodhars lend a serenity to the place, their leafy canopy through which the blue skies barely peep keeping under wraps the wisdom of many more legends and tales that our limited minds struggle to grasp.