Lakhamandal – rediscovering Mahabharat
The car had become a veritable bedlam with all the five of us trying to prove an argument. We were arguing whether or not Lakhamandal was once a temporary home to the Pandavas, when they were on their Agyat Vas (incognito). My friends and I were on our way to Lakhamandal, a holy village in Jaunsar-Bawar, which is situated 2800 ft above sea level and approximately 128 km from Dehradun.
While two of my friends adamantly argued that Lakhamandal being home to the Pandavas, is a story made up by the locals and that Mahabharata is a mythical legend; the rest of us argued even louder of the story being a fact.
The ancient temple town had derived its name from the fact that the temple has almost a lakh stone and sandstone carvings of many Hindu Gods and Goddesses. I could not wait for the 128 km journey to get over, so that I could win the argument.
I always feel a slight adrenaline rush when it comes to winning, be it arguments or wagers but when you are driving through such a smooth road set to relief by the green and peaceful hills, one can only sit and breathe in the fragrance of the Deodar trees which are now preserved under the Forest Conservation Act.
When we reached the ancient and quaint village, we scrambled out of our car eager to put the other party down.
We joined a group that was being escorted to the temple of Shiva. This Shiva Temple was built in the 16th century by the Garhwal rulers. Although this temple is in ruins, the two statues at the entrance are still standing high. We were told that the statues represent Manav and Danav, good and evil and also Arjun and Bhima. On hearing this, my eyes twinkled with a sense of victory but I waited for the rest of the story before gloating in victory.
Besides the meticulous carvings of sandstone, the temple also boasted about its beautiful deodar works. But amidst all of these artworks, the granite Shiv ling attracted me the most. Seeing my crystal clear reflection on the smooth, cold and black surface was a feast to the eyes.
When we were done admiring our reflection on the Shiv Linga, we were guided to a set of caves. The guide told us that when the Pandavas were exiled they took shelter in those caves. As soon as I heard this, my friends and I almost jumped in glory. Lakhamandal was indeed a home to the Paanch Pandavas.
To add cherry to the cake, the guide also said that Duryodhan had built a palace for the Pandavas in Lakhamandaal. The palace was build out of flammable materials like ghee, fat and wax; it was a death trap for Kunti and her sons. When the house was set on fire, Lord Krishna helped them escape through a secret tunnel. The house was called Lakshagriha.
This story was the trump card to prove that we were standing in the home of the Pandavas and Mahabharat was a true story after all.
Though my friends were sad on losing the argument, the welcoming nature of the locals soon set their mood right.
Indeed, this ancient temple town has a lot to boast about; be it the art, culture, surrousndings, climate, food and even the people.
Pandavas were sent there by Dhritarashtra with the intention of burning them, and a Lakhsha Grih, house of lac was built by Purochana, his evil aide and architect. The Panadavas were helped in their escape by their granduncle Vidur. Vidhur has foreseen this murderous attempt and deputed a miner to dig a tunnel. He engaged a miner to dig a tunnel. Kunti invited a Nishada woman with five sons in to their house, offered them a sumptuous dinner and strong wine. When they were in a drunken state, Kunti and her five sons escaped through the tunnel after setting the house on fire. Yusshisthir, it is said built many temples to atone for the sin of killing the Nishada women and her five sons.
Lahamandal lies on the banks of Yamuna. Some versions of Mahabharata place this village on the banks of Ganga.