Located in the land of gods, rishis and goddesses, amidst the sprawling beauty of Manali, one can find the temple dedicated to Goddess Hidimba, who is the guardian angel of the Manali region, extends her protection to the whole surroundings with his presence and his piety.
Walking among tall Deodar trees, and through a narrow alley, leads you to the temple of Goddess Hidimba which is easily distinguished due to its elaborate roofs and metal canopy. Although the area has a calm and sleepy atmosphere, the Hidimba Temple with its bright colors and unusual architectural style is a silent witness to the passing yuga.
This historic temple of Goddess Hidimba Devi was built at a place called Dungri, just one kilometer from the main hill station of Himachal Pradesh, Manali. The Kullu dynasty of Himachal worshiped this goddess as Kuldevi. This temple has been declared a ‘Monument of National Importance’.
Hidimba Temple: Architecture
The Hidimba temple is built around a cave with a rock emerging from the ground, which is considered the main deity of Hidimba. There is a small metallic idol kept nearby. Another rock with its footprints is placed on another side. Characterized by four roofs and the wooden terraces of which one roof is metal while the other is made of pine wood, the roof terraces present a particular sequence in their placement. The smaller roof looks like a vase. Stone walls, carvings at the entrance and a statue of the deity inside evoke a very harmonious and congruent image of rusticity and symmetry.
A rope hanging inside the shrine has its own chilling story. In ancient times it was used to hang criminals. The temple certainly had a colossal role to play in punishing the criminals and bringing justice to the good. It is built in a tribal Kathkuni style, which is commonly found in these areas. The temple is built with stone and wood arranged in alternating layers. The three-tiered sloping roof with a conical brass shikhara attracts the attention of history buffs. According to an inscription on a wooden panel near the entrance, it was built by King Bahadur Singh in 1553 CE. Also known as Dungri Devi, she provides care and education to the villager of Dungri.
What catches the eye at first moment is the intricately carved wooden door with carvings of goddess shapes. You can trace auspicious symbols like a purna-kumbha, foliage and animal figurines on the door. There are other deities including Mahishasurmardini, Vishnu Lakshmi on Garuda, Shiva Parvati on Nandi, with a devotee with clasped hands.
Lord Ganesha with a Navagraha panel is placed just above the lintel. The horns hung on the walls of the temple may indicate the animal sacrifices that were practiced in the past. There is a separate shrine for Ghatotkacha, her brave son, near the temple.
Goddess Hidimba: stories and legends associated with her
Born of demonic origin, Hidimba was the sister of Hidimb, the powerful demon king ruling over the Kamyaka forest. The Pandavas escaped Duryodhana’s attempt to assassinate them by heading straight for the forest of Kamyaka, which was the home of the Hidimbas. Knowing this, Hidimba ordered Hidimbi his sister to kill the Pandavas. Disguising herself as a nymph, Hidimba came to where the Pandavas were, aiming to trap them so she could kill them. But Hidimbi herself failed in her mission as she found Bhima too handsome to be killed. So she sincerely helped the Pandavas and let them win against Hidimba.
When Hidimba tried to kill Bhima to avenge his defeat, Bhima killed him instantly. Now Hidimba’s marriage proposal was in Bhima’s court. Bhima, on the condition that he be separated from her upon the birth of a child, he agreed. A baby boy called Ghatotkacha was born to the couple. Hidimba was a brave woman and she raised her son alone and made him a brave warrior with leonine prowess. Much later, she started strict tapasya and eventually gained superpowers and transformed into a devi or protective force of that region. The locals who held her in high esteem built a temple to her. His temple has now become one of Manali’s most popular tourist attractions.
It is also believed that Hidimba in Manali is an incarnation of Durga, who is believed to save the people of Manali from all perils.
How she came to be worshiped as the Kuldevata of the Kullu kings is another fascinating story. A person, named Vihangam das, had a dream in which Hidimba Devi visited him and gave him a boon to be the king of Kullu. After this incident, Das killed a tyrannical king and replaced him as king of Kullu, and from that moment Kullu people revere Hidimba Devi.
Goddess Hidimba: Festivals
Navaratri is when the days are busy here in the temple. Nine days are celebrated vervely with fairs, which are conducted to add to the gaiety of the festival.
Vasant Panchami happens to be Hidimba Devi’s birthday which comes around February when nature is in full bloom. Some say it happens on the 1st of the month of Jyeshtha around May. This is actually held on the 14th of every May falling on Hidimba Devi’s birthday. This festival is marked by a musical celebration and a dance performed by the local women who visit the forest area of Dungri
For three days, neighboring villagers gather here, with their gods and goddesses arranged in chariots. Deities like Kartikswami from Simsa, Chhandal Rishi from Parsha, Shrishti Narayan from Aleo, Shriganh from Jagatsukh, Vishnu from Shajla, Maladevi from Sial and Sankh Narayan from Nasogi, are brought in processions with the accompaniment of music in Doongri.
For the fourth day, a fair would again be held in the Manu temple of Manali where they fly kites, play games and indulge in prayers. Hidimba fair or mela, is the name by which it is generally called.
Saroohni Or Bahadur Singh Ki Jatra
It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Shravan during the monsoon. This is to celebrate the successful transplanting of the paddy.
The annual Dussehra does not begin or end unless she blesses the ceremonial horse. Before the coronations, the royal family visits the Hidimba Devi temple. There is an arrangement for taking a pleasant walk around the temple, for which yaks are used. This is commonly called Dungri Van Vihar.
The photographers wear traditional Himachali outfits which tourists can try on themselves and get clicked, just to help you preserve the memories of this place for times to come.
Hidimba: Timmings And How To Achieve
Hidimba Temple is 40 kilometers from Bhunda Airport in Kullu. You can get around by local buses and taxis. It opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. daily. .
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Article first published: Wednesday, September 7, 2022, 10:00 a.m. [IST]