Temple of Ghatotkacha.

Dhungri, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Piled up high underneath the canopy of an old deodar tree, weapons of war pay obeisance to the memory of the mighty warrior Ghatotkacha, steps away from the Pagoda style temple of his mother Hidimba at Dhungri, Manali.

The epic Mahabharata recalls the deity (whose name comes from his unusually large bald head that resembled a pot) as a demon chieftain of monstrous power and incredible prowess with a steadfast loyalty to his father’s people, the Pandavas, inspite of being abandoned at childhood and never bestowed the same honor as his cousins of pure Vedic blood.

Yet, unlike his mother, who plays a minor role in the epic, Ghatotkacha has many noble and heroic mentions, among which the most noteworthy is his one on one battle with his paternal uncle Karna that brings about his demise in the Kurukshetra war – historians believe is an allusion to an actual clash of the Vedic clans of some magnitude.

Historically, Ghatotkacha may have belonged to one of the non-Vedic tribes that lived alongside the early Vedic Aryans of the age, perhaps the same that worshiped Hidimba. The men of the tribe possibly skilled warriors, night raiders and expert at guerrilla tactics. His mixed parentage, a subtle hint, the period witnessed an intermingling of the tribes, and his secondary role, an indication, the unions while being tolerated to some degree were largely unacceptable in Vedic society.

Besides his tree temple at Dhungri, Manali, the deity also has a more traditional style temple in the region of Bhuntar where he is represented with the traditional Himachali metal mask. In Himachal Pradesh (and Indonesia), Ghatotkacha is depicted in human form – a stark contrast to his demon image accepted by the rest of the Hindu world.

Other than in India, the warrior Ghatotkacha is also a well known figure in Indonesia where, like in Himachal, he is depicted in a human form. In the country, Himachal Pradesh is possibly the only state that worships Ghatotchaka as a deity and Dhungri, Manali the only place where he is revered with weapons as befitting his warrior status – a testament of scholarly claims the hill state was once inhabited by ancient non-Vedic tribes mentioned in the epics as the Dasyu, whose way of life and practices differed vastly from the Vedics that dominated the rest of India.


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