ome the month of May, and the locales of Manali, a popular hill station in the Himachal Pradesh state of India, get all prepped up to celebrate the Birthday of Goddess Hidimba (or even pronounced as Hadimba) and popularly known as the “DhungriMela” in this region. If you wish to witness a splendid view of this picturesque town, then I would highly recommend you do not miss this event, a popular one amongst all the locals of Manali and visitors from all over the world, celebrating this festival with utmost joy and vigor.
Let us learn a bit more about the history and the significance of this DhungriMelafestival and the Hidimba Temple in brief.
This temple is an ancient cave temple built in the 1553 AD by the ruler of Rajasthan – Maharaja Bahadur Singh. It has a four-tiered pagoda (commonly seen in the northern and northeastern states of India) decorated with exquisite wooden carvings on the front, basically narrating the scenes from the Lord Krishna’s life and even the Navagrahas.
It is located in the cedar forest known as the Dhungri Van Vihar on the foothills of the Himalayas.
This temple is dedicated to the Goddess Hidimba, who was a demon and had sworn to marry anyone who is able to defeat her brother Hidimb (another fearless and brave demon). Bhima, (one of the Pandava brothers from the epic of Mahabharata) during their exile period of 12 years, visited Manali. Hidimba attacked them and thus Bhima, being the strongest of all the Pandava brothers, killed Hidimb.
And thus, Goddess Hidimba married Bhima and gave birth to their only son – Ghatotkacha.
After their marriage, Hidimba didn’t return with Bhima but preferred to stay here in the Dhungri Van and perform Tapasya (a form of Meditation and prayer) and eventually achieved the status of a Goddess.
The people of Manali town worship Goddess Hidimba as their deity. And this is pretty evident during the Navaratri, where people queue up outside the Hidimba Temple to have a glimpse of the Goddess to worship her. Just about 70 meters away from the Hidimba Temple, you will also find her son, Ghatotkacha’s temple, which also includes the foot imprints of the goddess Hidimba, where people come and make their religious offerings.
The DhungriMela, or the Hidimba Temple festival, as I already said, signifies the Birthday celebrations of the Goddess Hidimba. It takes place every year from 14th May – 16th May, where people come together to enjoy with extraordinary enthusiasm and joy, performing their local dances, music, in this scenic sanctuary. Truth be told, this festival is bliss to the eye of visitors who get to see the variety that the culture has to offer here.
During this festival, the Hidimba Temple is surrounded by many Locals and tourists alike to witness the exuberant ambiance, filled with happiness and merriness. The crowd is simply exhilarating. People from all across the globe come here to visit this temple and many offer their prayers to the Goddess. It is truly a remarkable visual treat for photographers around the world.
With so many colors, music and dances and many cultural activities and events happening around for a period of 3 days, you can find the ambiance totally like that of a true Funfair with many vendors selling food and snack items, to fun rides for kids and adults alike, toys and other items, etc.
The key performance, which is the highlight during this festival is – the KulluNatti Folk dance, where the musicians sit around in a circle and the folk dance is carried out on this local traditional music. The dancers wear traditional tunics accompanied with embellished typical caps. This dance form includes linking of arms by the dancers and swaying in tune to the beats of the traditional music along with their handkerchiefs as well. It is worth watching and a treat to the eyes leaving the audience absolutely awestruck.
In this northern region, each the smallest possible village has its own gods and goddesses. During this festival, they all bring their gods and goddesses, wrapped up all in exquisite silk fabrics and garments, and adorned with ornaments. They are brought on the beautifully carved Wooden Chariots (Raths), albeit still veiled. These chariots are extremely heavy, but the locals are so full of vigor and energy that they claim the Gods and Goddesses propel the Chariots forward with an invisible kind of a force. Such is the strong belief of the people here.
Before the parade commences, the Gods and Goddesses are unveiled, uncovering their shiny silver faces glinting in the glory of the festival. And now the Gods and Goddesses are merrily paraded around with a huge musical procession. The energy is something that is worth watching and experiencing here during the time the chariots are being carried. Sound of the traditional and folk music fills up the ambiance to add to the energy of the chariot carriers.
This parade is carried around to various other temples of Manali with many people joining on their way. People religiously offer their prayers and worship the gods and Goddesses during this procession.
The most peculiar thing about this festival is the Trumpet blowers. They are known as the Karnals, or the long brass trumpet, which is a traditional musical instrument played by the locals with much zeal and truly mark significance at this festival. This is a must watch show indeed. Such is the zeal and enthusiasm at this festival, which is a must-attend event in the region of Manali.
If at all you are wondering where to spend this summer in a most exciting and offbeat way, I would highly recommend you visit Manali this year and witness an unforgettable event that you will cherish for the rest of your life.