Maletha’s melody of Madho
I was on a spring break from college when my classmate Shristi invited me to her hometown in Maletha, Uttarakhand. Famous for many short and unknown legends, this state houses many small hill stations, towns and villages which one should visit at least once. One such legendary place is the village of Maletha well known for its picturesque plain fields. However it used to be a barren land until a few centuries back. But thanks to its hero Madho Singh’s supreme sacrifice that Maletha’s offsprings did not succumb to draught. As I had heard a lot about this small legendary village, I decided to spend my vacation there.
The two and half hours bus ride from Dehradun to Maletha passed in a jiffy as my Garhwali co-passengers left no stone unturned to entertain me. The roads were as smooth as the folk songs the passengers were singing. They were singing about their hero Madho Singh, who had brought fertility into their village.
Maletha is a small green hamlet tucked away in the curvy bank of the Alakananda River, 30 Km upstream from Devprayag. Soon the bus dropped us off at Maletha where I said goodbye to the light-hearted group of passengers only to be greeted by yet another group of equally warm people – Shristi’s family.
I so wanted to respond to their warm welcome but the pleasant weather of the place distracted me. While the wind played with my hair I could just stare at the lush green fields which unfurled itself before me only to contrast the clear blue sky of the lazy March.
The 137 km ride had left me hungry and the aroma of the food wafting from the kitchen was like a catalyst to my growling stomach. Though a hard core non vegetarian, I could not thank them any less for the succulent veg dishes that they had served me. The Gahat ke Paranthe served with Bhaang ki chutney (Oh yes, the same Bhaang that gets you high in Holi) and the Dubuk (dal) along with steamed rice tickled my taste buds like never before.
When I thanked my friend’s mother for the meal, she asked me not to thank her but Madho Singh—the hero of Maletha. This was perhaps the fifth time I heard the name of this hero since I had left for Maletha. Amused at the puzzled look on my face her grandmother decided to enlighten me.
Back in the sixteenth century, Maletha used to be barren and arid land. Madho Singh Bhandari, the son of a warrior called Sone Baan Kalo Bhandari, was a soldier in the royal court of Srinagar. Once when Madho Singh had come to visit his village, he asked his wife to serve him dinner. His wife sarcastically asked him what his majesty would like to be served, whether he wanted fine vegetable curry or fruits. This mockery rang in his ears and he vowed to end the sufferings of his village.
Singh decided to burrow a tunnel through the Chandrabhaga River and thus irrigate his lands. Having offered prayers to their Goddess, the entire village engaged in the tedious task of digging a canal. But the ordeal did not end there. Even after the canal was made, the waters from the Chandrabhaga River refused to flow into the tunnel. That night, the Goddess came in the dreams of Madho Singh and asked him to sacrifice his only son if he wanted to see his work yield results. Madho Singh was hesitant at first but his son who was a brave and strong man did not hesitate to give up his life. The young man was sacrificed and his head was placed at the origin of the tunnel. Water gushed into the tunnel and flowed into the dry fields of Maletha.
While Madho Singh left with a heavy heart, prosperity and fertility sowed the dry lands. When the old lady ended her story, her shaky voice had a deep tinge of pride in it.
The lush paddy fields swayed before me as a reminder of the bold sacrifice of Madho singh. The sun setting behind the snow-capped Pauri hills looked like the epitome of the hero of Maletha, breathing peace and serenity.
Even today when the villagers harvest their fields, they sing their praises of the great hero of Maletha.