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Nestled amongst the beautiful cedar forest of Dungiri Van Vihar at the foothills of Himalaya, in the picturesque hill station of Manali, is a quaint temple dedicated to Hidimba Devi, the wife of Bheema, the Pandava. The Hidimba Devi Temple, locally known as the Dhungari Temple, is a 16th-century edifice, whose architecture narrates a story that intertwines mythology with local folk culture.


Hidimba Devi Temple


Front view of the temple

The story of the Hidimba Temple can be traced to the epic, Mahabharata. After the Pandava brothers along with their mother narrowly escaped an assassination attempt plotted by their kin Duryodhan, they escaped to the Kamyaka forest. The Kamyaka forest was home to the demon siblings Hidimb and Hidimba, and on learning about their presence, Hidimb ordered his sister to kill them. Hidimba then transformed into a beautiful woman to lure them but instead ended up falling in love with Bheema, the second of the Pandava brothers. Bheema killed the demon Hidimb and married Hidimba. The couple had a baby named Ghatotkacha after a year, who proved to be an important warrior in the War of Kurukshetra. When the Pandavas departed from the forest, Hidimba did not accompany them. During the latter years of her life, Hidimba resorted to severe penance, whereby she attained supernatural powers and the status of a “Devi”, thereby becoming the protector of this region.

The Hidimba Devi Temple was constructed by Maharaja Bahadur Singh in 1553 around a cave. In fact, the royal family of Kullu, consider Hidimba to be their progenitor. It is noteworthy, that the Hidimba temple is devoid of an idol. Instead, the sanctum-sanctorum consists of a rock jutting out of the ground, which is believed to have been the place where Hidimba meditated. A rope is seen hanging in front of the stone. The significance of the rope can be discerned from legends that claim that the hands of sinners were tied to the rope and they were made to swing against the rock as part of their penance. The entire edifice is 24 meters tall, and its slanting roof is in three layers topped by a conical shaped shikhara. Goddess Durga is the predominant theme in the carvings of the central doorway. Additionally, animals, dancers, scenes from Lord Krishna’s life, as well as Navagrahas are also artistically depicted. Mud walls covered with stonework form the base of the temple. The Hidimba Devi Temple is constructed in the Kathkuni style, which is prevalent in the hilly regions.

This temple is bedecked during the Navratri festival and is the centre of elaborate festivities. It is interesting to note that during the Navratri festivities, people in Manali offer their prayers to the Hidimba Devi. The Hidimba Devi Temple is one of the most visited destinations for tourists and travellers visiting Manali. Interestingly, located close to the Hidimba Devi Temple is the Ghatotkacha Temple, which is dedicated to her son.


A view of the Hidimba Devi temple clad with snow