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The Legends and Folklore of Himachal Pradesh
The Stuff of Legends
There is hardly any place in Himachal Pradesh which is not associated with the Mahabharata in general and the Pandavas in particular. The fragrance associated with Sita and Rama, Radha and Krishna is absent in Himachal, but it is a land of Shiva – Shakti and Pandavas.
So many temples and springs are associated with Pandavas, the five sons of Pandu, who wandered in the hills during their exile or when they passed through the region on their way to heaven.
Khajjiar in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh is well known for its scenic beauty. It is associated with the Pandavas. In the midst of thick deodar forests lies a small lake. Nearby is a wooden temple dedicated to Khajji Nag Devta or the snake deity. The Vedic cult of worshipping the snakes is still prevalent in the hills.
It is believed that the temple was built by the Pandavas. They are also believed to have meticulously carved their own images on the pillars of the temple.
Next just adjoining the historical town of Chamba on the other side of River Ravi stands a large hillock which resembles an inverted basket. It is known as Bheem ki Tokari or the basket of Bheem. It is said that the basket fell from the hands of Bheem when he was carrying the dug up earth to build a castle. The basket took the permanent shape of the hill which we see now as standing today.
View from top of Kangra Fort overlooking river
Also in Kangra district, most of the most of the shrines including that of Jwalamukhi, owe their existence to Pandavas, who built them during their sojourn in Himachal Pradesh.
The Kangra fort is said to be the creation of these epic heroes. In ancient days Kangra was known as Trigarta.
In Mahabharata, there are several references to this kingdom ruled by two brothers who had fought on behalf of Kauravas.
MandiClick thumbnail to view full-size
In Mandi district on finds several references claiming association with Pandavas. In Mandi town itself, at the confluence of Beas and Suketi, there stands a huge boulder known as Chikni Chattan or the slimy rock. The people believe that the Pandavas had spent a night here. The steps leading to the top of the boulder are said to be carved by the epic heroes themselves. The sentiments of the local people about the rock are so strong that a plan to blast this boulder had to be abandoned due to stiff resistance of the residents of Mandi town.
Nearby in the heart of the fertile valley of Balh, there is a sacred shrine dedicated to goddess kali at Hatgarh. Not only is the place associated with Pandavas, but the sacred idols and parts of temple indicate that the Pandavas halted here during their sojourn in hills.
Similar to that in Khajjiar in Chamba, there is a lake in Mandi district at Rewalsar with a floating island of reeds. Situated nearby are seven small lakes one of which is quite large and is known as Kuntbhayoh or the pond of Kunti, named after the mother of Pandavas. In the regional folklore, it is mentioned as a spot where Kunti felt thirsty. Since water was not available, her great archer son Arjuna sent an arrow into the spot where the lake appeared.
The scenic beauty of Janjehli area of Mandi has remained un- spoilt mainly due to not being mentioned in the tourist guides. The boulders near Janjehli have been so placed that people believe them to be the marvelous structures created by the Pandavas. These boulders are known as Pandav Shilla or Chukati Jaan or shaking stones. It is a strange phenomenon seen nowhere else and without any scientific explanation that, why the boulder weighing several tons gets shaken when touched gently and still does not topple over?
Further ahead towards Shikari Devi Dhar or peak, there is a Nasol of Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas. A Nasol is a part of the place where only the women are permitted to enter.
Near Shikari is another place Budhakedar, where an impression of foot and tail of a bull can be seen inside a cave. Again a strange story has been woven around it. It is said that after the war of Mahabharata, Yudhishtra, the eldest of the Pandavas got afflicted with leprosy as a curse for killing the members of his own clan. He was advised by the sages to meet his father Dharamraj in the Himalayas to get rid of the disease. The father had his own compulsions not to meet his son. Therefore when Yudhishtra approached him, he took the shape of the bull to hide his identity, But somehow the eldest Pandavas saw through his disguise and caught him by the tail, but the bull, however, managed to escape. It is said that the head of this bull could be seen in the Badri-Kedar area of Garhwal.
Kunt Bhayo or Kunti Sar or Kunti Lake at Mandi
Kinnaur and Sirmour
In the far flung areas of Kinnaur and Sirmour, a number of mountains peaks and temples are said to be linked with the Pandavas
In Shimla district, the Bhimakali temple at Sarahan is believed to have the coins used by the Pandavas. The famous temple of Hatkoti is believed to be built by the Pandavas.
The Hatkoti temple in Shimla District
Some people believe that the entire Bilaspur district was the center of all activities of Pandavas. One place still derives its name and is still called Panja Gaon or Panjgain or the five villages of epic heroes.
Lahaul & Spiti
The Kunjam pass in the inner Himalayas connecting the valleys of Lahaul with Spiti is known as a spot where Draupadi was the first to die when the Pandavas and Dharamraj in the guise of a dog were journeying to heaven.
Kullu and Manali
Manali in Kullu district is a beautiful hill town and a favorite tourist destination. The famous Hidimba temple has been built on the site where Bhima and his demon wife Hidimba spent many a happy day in each other’s company. Hidimba gave birth to a son named Ghatotkacha who earned undying fame for his valor on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Bhimasen Killing Hidimb the brother of HidimbaClick thumbnail to view full-size
No one knows that how much of these accounts are authentic. But these legends do show the extent of the faith and devotion of the people to the epic heroes. Since the Pandavas during their incommunicado exile were moving constantly to evade detection by the Kauravas, they used to stay at a particular spot for the night and move on in the morning. In this way, they traveled the entire area now known as Himachal Pradesh.
On the other hand, Himachal, on the whole, remained culturally isolated from the mainstream for a long time due to its inaccessible terrain and inhospitable weather. As such the ancient myths, legends, traditions, and beliefs have survived intact over the ages and cannot be dismissed casually.
© 2014 Sanjay Sharma