More than a decade has flown by but the memories of our visit to Manali, soon after my board exams, are still fresh in my mind. Those lofty, snow-covered peaks, picturesque valleys, cascading waterfalls and lush green forests—everything about Himachal was magical, a complete tourist’s paradise. It felt like the alluring beauty and the magnificence of the scenic landscapes had cast a spell on me. We visited all the popular destinations—Shimla, Rohtang Pass, Spiti Valley, Kangra and others. But the one place that created lasting memories in mind that I’ll cherish all my life was the Hidimba Devi Temple in Manali. Also known as the Dhungiri temple, this magnificent shrine dedicated to Hidimba Devi, was built in 1553 CE by Maharaja Bahadur Singh.
The Hidimba Devi Temple in Manali dedicated to the Demoness Hidimba
The story of Hidimba Devi takes us back to the days of Mahabharata. Born as a demoness or a raksashi, Hidimba was the sister of Hidimb, the powerful monster king of the Kamyaka forest. Legend has it that after the Pandavas escaped Duryodhana’s attempt to assassinate them, the five brothers headed straight to the Kamyaka forest, which was the home for the demon siblings. On learning that the Pandavas were staying in the forest, Hidimb ordered his sister to kill the brothers. Hidimba then transformed herself into a beautiful woman to lure the Pandav brothers. But what happened next was something Hidimba never expected. She fell in love with the well-built, handsome Bhima at first sight. Instead of executing her brother’s plan, she went up to Bhima with a marriage proposal. Hidimba was so besotted with Bhima that she revealed her real identity and also cautioned him of the impending danger from Hidimb with utmost honesty. She, in fact, helped the Pandavas defeat her brother Hidimb in a battle. On Kunti’s approval, Bhima married Hidimba. However, Bhima had a condition—he would leave Hidimba once she gives birth to his child. A love-struck Hidimba agreed to it readily. A baby boy was born to the couple within a year and as agreed, Bhima and the other Pandava brothers had to leave the region. Hidimba was left to fend for herself and her son in the forest. Although alone and deprived, she had no complaints against Bhima, and single-handedly brought up her son, who grew up to be a strong warrior like his father.