Manali, an important hill station in the hills of Himachal Pradesh state of India, has been the land of many deities and sages. Hidimba Devi is the presiding deity of Manali. Located in Dungri Van Vihar of Manali, their temple appears to be emerging from their landscape despite its elaborate roof structure and metal canopy. The narrow road leading to the temple of Hidimba Devi surrounded by tall cedar trees seems to be very enchanting.
Interesting legends related to Hidimba Devi
Hidimbi along with her brother Hidimb resided in the forests located in the foothills of the Himalayas. We now know this region as Manali. Hidimbi and Hidimb, both brothers and sisters were related to the demon clan. Hidimbi vowed that she would marry the one who would defeat her brother Hidimb. This can mean that Hidimba wanted to marry a very powerful groom.
When the Pandavas came to this part of India at the time of their exile, Bhima defeated Hidimb in a duel battle. Later Bhima married Hidimbi, making Hidimbi Kunti’s first kulvadhu. But due to the rules of the community and his own will, he decided to remain in his forest. She did not go with the Pandavas. Hidimbi gave birth to Bhima’s son Ghatotkacha, who later became the king of that forested region. Ghatotkacha had played an important role in the Mahabharata war and protected Arjuna’s life.
Ghatotkacha’s son Barbarik is the only witness to the Mahabharata war. Due to the boon received from Krishna, he is worshiped in the name of ‘Khatu ke Baba Shyam’.
Must Read: Hidimba composed by Narendra Kohli. It focuses on the dialogues between the Pandavas and Hidimba, which is presented as an interaction between a civilized world and tribal culture.
Hidimba is considered to be the form of Durga in Manali. Devotees come from far and wide to see Mother and tell their agony. Her devotees have great faith in her that she will overcome all their sufferings and sorrows.
History of Hidimba Temple
At some time this Hidimba temple must also have been a cave temple, as are most of the Devi temples on the hill. This present-day Hidimba temple is built around a cave. The image of the chief goddess is actually a rock emerging from the earth.
According to the inscription written on a wooden plaque near the entrance of the temple, the present temple was built by Raja Bahadur Singh in 1553 AD. It is designed in the typical Kathkoni style of temple architecture, which is a prevalent style of mountainous regions. Layers of rock and wood have been interchanged respectively to construct the temple. The roof of the temple is of three layers and on top of it is a bronze metal built sundark peak.
The temple of Hidimba Devi is located in the village of Dungri. For this reason, Hidimba Devi is also known as Dungri Devi.
Read more: Bhimakali, goddess of Sarahan
Hidimba Devi temple visit
I was doing a road trip in Himachal Pradesh for 15 days, under which I was traveling through the mountain ranges of Himachal by road. After 15 days touring some of the most risky routes of this earth, I reached Manali. After observing the desolation of the barren ranges of the Himalayas for several days, I finally saw the lush greenery in Manali. It seems as if I have returned to my known civilization again. I was finally relieved after the end of this unique risky journey of life. So when I reached the temple to see Hidimba Devi, it felt as if I had come to thank her.
As I was going through the tall trees, a thought flashed in my mind. How subtle is the power of humans before nature. How helpless and powerless we are before him. Even our existence is dependent on nature itself.
I have seen many small and big temples built by rock and wood before this. This temple would be considered one of the larger temples of that type. The temple appears to stand proud amidst big trees.
Wood carved door
The first thing that attracted my naines after reaching near the temple was the finely carved wooden gate. Various forms of the goddess are engraved on this gate. Many holy signs were also built on it. There are mainly images of Purna-Kumbha, foliage, animal sculptures etc. Images of several gods and goddesses including Mahishasuramardini, Vishnu and Lakshmi riding on Garuda and Shiva and Parvati sitting on Nandi are also engraved. I also noticed the image of a devotee with folded hands. Ganesha and Navagraha are engraved above the door frame.
Within the temple, you will see a huge stone sculpture that symbolizes the principal goddess. There is a small metal idol near this rock. There is the footprint of the goddess on top of another rock. This means that the Goddess is present here in three forms.
Shila, Murthy and Charan Paduka.
A rope hangs inside the sanctum sanctorum, which has an interesting story. According to the popular legend, criminals were hung on this rope in ancient times and their heads were banged on this rock. This temple played an important role in ensuring justice by punishing the criminals of their region.
Coming out of the temple, we naturally began to revolve around the temple. Then I saw many horns hanging on the temple reefs. At first sight, it creates fear in the mind. After some time I came to know that these are part of the temple itself. These are the remains of animal sacrifices given in the past.
The number of horns was so high that it took me a few moments to remove the sight from them. It was only after that that my eyes fell on the richly carved windows of the temple.
Near the Hidimba temple is a small temple dedicated to his son Ghatotkacha.
There was an information board also informing that there is a temple dedicated to Barbarik somewhere nearby. But destiny had not written my meeting with him here and now. But after a few years, I was going to meet Barbarik at Khatu Shyam Temple.
Hidimba Devi Temple Celebrations
Being a Goddess temple, it is natural that Navratri is the most important festival of this temple. I was told that during those nine days of the Goddess, a large number of devotees stand in rows around the temple. Nine days of Navratri create a fair atmosphere here.
The Dungari festival is celebrated on the day of Vasant Panchami which is considered to be the birth date of Hidimba. This day falls in the month of February, when a variety of flowers are strewn all around. The same festival is also celebrated on the first day of Jyeshtha month, which falls in the English month of May.
Residents of nearby villages bring their deities in adorned palanquins here to celebrate the three-day fair. They are brought to Dungri, taking out the procession of the Gods and Goddesses on the song and music. These deities mainly include Karthikaswamy of Simsa, Chandal Rishi of Parsha, Srishti Narayana of Aleu, Srigana of Jagatsukh, Vishnu of Sajala, Maladevi of Sial, Shankha Narayan of Nasogi etc. On the fourth day of the festival, this fair is shifted to the temple of Manu located in the village of Manali. Kites are flown at the fair, different sports are played and prayers are offered to the Goddess.
This festival is also called Hidimba Devi Fair. I came to know through the internet that the entire event is organized and organized by local women.
Saruhani Jatra or Bahadur Singh Jatra is celebrated on the first day of Shravan month which falls in the rainy season. This festival is actually celebrated to mark the successful sowing of paddy.
The goddess also participates in the Kullu Dussehra celebrated at the end of Sharad Navaratri. Not only this, the beginning and end of Dussehra festival is done only in the presence of Goddess. The goddess blesses the festival horse. The royal family of Kullu considers Hidimba Devi as their grandmother. Before the royal kingship of the future king, the royal family comes here to see the Goddess and seek her blessings.
Tourist activities in the temple
This temple is very popular among tourists. Whoever comes to visit Manali must come here to see Hidimba Devi. The area around the temple is called Dungri Van Vihar. There are many yaks here that can make you go on their backs.
There are many photographers who roam around in the local costumes of Himachal Pradesh and take your photographs. This may be a unique memory of Manali. Many new couples come to visit here and make their pictures in Himachali costumes to show their future generations. Overall, there is a very enjoyable environment here.
This temple has been declared a ‘monument of national importance’.