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Hidimba Devi (Hidimbi)
Hidimba Devi (Hidimbi) is a Goddess who is primarily worshiped in the state of Himachal Pradesh. She is not an orthodox deity and she is from the race of rakshashas (giants) who according to the Puranas are descendants of the Sage Kashyapa, one of the 7 Saptarishis (according to the Mahabharata) i.e. the 7 sages who remain constant in each manvantara and the daughter of Daksha (one of the 10 manasa putras or those who were born from Brahma’s intellect) and Krodhavasha.
An interesting fact about the rakshashas is that, in addition to being gifted with tremendous strength, they also have the ability, though they look ferocious and intimidating in their natural state, to take human shape and form or assume any form that they desire for that matter, and they may appear as either male or female. In more contemporary terms, they are shape-shifters.
The next obvious question that springs to mind is that, is it possible to worship them? Well the answer in short, despite not falling into the folds of orthodox or conventional Hinduism, is yes.
In the Mahabharata for example, Amba in order to kill Devavrata (Bhishma as he was known after he’d taken the oath of celibacy or he who’d taken the terrible vow) meditates in a secluded forest and after years of silent devotion gains or acquires the power of the rakshashas and Amba in addition to gaining the strength of giants also acquires the ability to shift-shapes and goes from being a female to a male and is later appointed Arjuna’s charioteer in Kurukshetra.
Because Amba was born a female, she is untouched by Bhishma, who abided strictly to the kysastria code, which prohibited a warrior from inflicting any type of harm or injury to a woman and eventually she helps Arjuna defeat Bhishma. So it is definitely possible and it may be a facet of Hinduism that remains as yet unexplored.
Hdimba Devi’s story starts in the Mahabharata and to some extent it is safe to say that she is a Goddess who surfaced towards the end of Dwapara Yuga and at the start of Kali Yuga and from that aspect or perspective of things, her appearance does conform to the scriptures because Kurukshetra also signals the end of orthodox Hindu practices and the start or the beginning of more ritualistic types of worship (according to most sources Dwapara Yuga ends with Arjuna’s victory in Kurukshetra).
In the story, after the Pandavas escape from Lakshagraha (a house built from highly flammable material that was designed to be a death-trap) they found themselves in a dense forest occupied by Hidimba (male) and Hidimbi (female), who are siblings.
Rakshashas by the way, in addition to being savage looking also feed on human flesh and sensing that the Pandavas had entered their forest, Hidimba sends his sister to lure them into a trap. Hidimbi takes the form of a sultry woman and makes her way to where the Pandavas are resting.
She soon stumbles across Bhima or the second of the Pandava brothers and she instantly falls in love with him and instead of luring him into a trap, as she was supposed to, she asks him to marry her but not before revealing her true identity.
Bhima agrees to do so and with Hidimbi’s help he manages to kill Hidimba. The pair marry soon after and are gifted with a son, Ghatotkacha, who was later summoned to fight along with the rest of the Pandavas in Kurukshetra where he meets his end in the hands of Karna.
The above story tells us a lot about Hidimba Devi. To start with because she is a descendent of the race of rakshashas she is most likely a Bali-Devata. Though there is no harm in worshiping her with vegetarian offerings there might be instances where she would be worshipped with ritualistic (sacrificial) type offerings.
Because of her nature she is a strong Goddess, forceful in her approach and therefore diligent worship will reward the devotee(s) with both mental and physical strength.
She is a potent Goddess especially when it comes to removing hexes and maledictions and will no doubt have the power to forcefully eject any spirit that has invaded the body and thus she is extremely helpful during exorcisms.
Her temple is located in Himachal Pradesh and it is built, according to most sources at the spot where she sat in deep meditation, in Manali. It was built in 1553 but remains stolid until today.
Now, if we go by the Mahabharata, Manali or the area around Manali is most likely the dense forest that the Pandavas entered following their escape from Lakshagraha and the spot where the temple is built was the spot where she sat in silent contemplation with her brother Hidimba, next to her, when the Pandavas encroached into their territories.
It is also fair to say that she is a guardian deity who is peculiar to this part of the world or pertinent to those who originate from this part of the world.
© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward