The festival celebrates the birthday of Hadimba, believed to be the wife of Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers
WORDS: MADHURI. Y
Every year in May, the people of Himachal Pradesh celebrate the Dhungri festival with the utmost pomp and fervour. The celebration takes place in Manali, in the Hadimba temple, which is situated in the forest known as Dhungri Van Vihar.
This festival celebrates the birthday of Hadimba, who is believed to be the wife of Bhima (one of the five Pandava brothers). The great Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’ tells the story of how Bhima fell in love with Hadimba and even
killed her brother, who was the ruler of the region then, to marry her. He stayed with her for around a year and they ruled the kingdom together, but left as he had to go back to his brothers and to his duties. Hadimba, however, kept on ruling over the region with righteousness and valour.
Her rule was so impactful that her subjects began to worship her as a goddess and built a temple in her honour. Built in 1553, it is now known as Hadimba temple and instead of an idol, enshrines a footprint of goddess
Hadimba. People from nearby places come to celebrate this festival and bring along with them the veiled, beautifully decorated idols of their own gods and goddesses.
Many of the local deities – including Kartik swami of Simsa, Chhandal Rishi of Parsha, Shrishti Narayan of Aleo, Shriganh of Jagatsukh, Vishnu of Shajla, Maladevi of Sial and Sankh Narayan of Nasogi – are paraded by their followers to Dhungri.
These are then carried in their own chariots by people who later unveil them and sing and dance to their own local tunes along with drum beats and a wide variety of local food.
Everyone dresses in their finest adornments and enjoys the famous ‘Kulu Natti’ folk dance which is performed by the local artists. They wear traditional tunics and caps and dance in a rhythmic fashion with their hands linked with one another.
This annual fair not only celebrates the rule of Hadimba, but also commemorates the birthday of Raja Bahadur Singh who built the temple. The fair, which is the main attraction of the festival, also celebrates the completion of the transplantation of paddy, known as Saroohni.
The festival usually takes place for three days, after which the procession moves to temple Manu, situated in the village of Manali.
It is a well-known festival of Himachal Pradesh and people of the region wait eagerly for it throughout the year. The magical and extraordinary sights, processions, music and merry making that take place during the fair are worth a visit. It leaves one awestruck and filled with glee and enthusiasm.