Hidden in the Himalayas History & Culture

Peaks that became temples

Nanda Devi shrine at Baidni Buggyal. Photo by J. Ramanan   | Photo Credit: Photo by J. Ramanan

The Garhwal and the Kumaon regions have interesting legends woven around the Hindu pantheon of Gods and Goddesses.

One such folklore that has a pride of place in the pahadi’s tale is that of Nanda Devi, presiding Goddess of the Chamoli, Pittorgarh and Bhageshri Districts.

A beautiful, young princess, Nanda, daughter of the King of the Chanda Dynasty of Chamoli, ran for her life to escape the wily Rohilla prince, who was chasing her. He was madly in love with her. As her father refused to give her in marriage to him, he waged war against this Kumaon King and defeated him.

Deified as Devi

To save herself, Nanda Devi climbed up to the snowy pinnacles and merged with the holy mountain. This mountain (25,643ft) came to be revered as a temple for Nanda and she was deified as the Devi, the patron goddess. The Nanda Devi Massif has two peaks on its ridge; the western one is higher and is known as Nanda and the lower eastern summit, is Sunanda, her sister.

She is an angry Goddess who is believed to be an avatar of Durga. Every activity, whether it is a village festival or a special family event, will begin with an offering that ranges from simple stones, coins and flowers to animals.

During Tretha Yuga, when Lakshmana fell unconscious on the battlefield, Hanuman’s search for the Sanjeevani herb took him to the Dunagiri Mountain (23,182ft) in the Chamoli district in Almora. Unable to identify the herb, Hanuman broke off a piece of the mountain, without obtaining permission from Goddess Nanda, and carried it off to Sri lanka.

The Goddess became angry and passed a decree that anybody who utters Hanuman’s name will be severely punished. Hence there are no shrines dedicated to Hanuman in these parts. Interestingly, parts of the Dunagiri Mountain seem to have fallen along the route. One part is believed to exist even today, near Nagerkoil. It is popularly known as Marundhu Vazh Malai. Curiously, the shape of this Hill resembles a reclining Hanuman facing upwards.

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:52:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-legend-behind-nanda-devi/article17475603.ece

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