She said "We are heading to Hemkund along with the Pandavas to visit Laxman temple".I was puzzled.I felt, Yes. Of course I smelled the fragrance of Mahabharat all along the Uttarkhand. But, how on the earth Pandavas have descended here after 5000 years ? Their claim of traveling with Pandavas was something beyond my imagination.
I was coming down from Ghangaria to Govindghat after visiting the Valley of flowers and the Hemkund Sahib.Ghangaria is the base camp to visit Hemkund and Valley of flowers. It is a 13 kms walk from Ghangeria to reach motorable road in Govindghat.
|During y morning walk Sun was playing hide and seek|
I wanted to cover this distance as early as possible so that I can visit Badrinath which was originally not part of my itinerary.
|People from Niti Vilalge|
Amidst the general trekkers, devotees to Hemkund sahib on this path, a large group of people arrested my attention. And I almost stopped walking and started observing them with curiosity.
The group was looking different from the crowd due to their attire. Women wore saree with a jacket kind of a blouse and black skirt. Men were wearing white robe and pajama and yellow stole around their waist. Some of them were wearing garland and very few men and women were riding horses. All of them wore head gear and lot of jewelries.
My porter was also not around to know about them. He was far ahead of me. I managed to talk to a lady in garland. I asked her, where are they heading to. She said that they are going to Hemkund Sahib to visit Laxman mandir(temple) and she moved ahead.
|Arjuna and Yudhistira on horse from Niti Village|
My inquisitiveness was soaring. I again stopped another lady from the group and I threw her the same question. The reply was “ we are going to Hemkund Sahib with Pandavas."
She continued "the lady with whom you just spoke is Kunti and the one on the horse is Arjuna. Didn’t you see Yudhistira in the front ? The young girl who is going along with Kunti is Subhadra, wife of Arjuna"
|Lady who was kind enough to talk to me from the Bhotia tribe from Niti village|
As I kept listening to her, she shed little more light about them. The group was from the village Niti in Chamoli district,Uttarkhand,India. Niti village is one of the last villages located towards Indo China border . They consider them selves as the descendants of Pandavas of Mahabharat. They belong to Bhotia tribe and they believe Pandavas of Mahabharat as their deities. They worship them. They even assign the role of each of the characters of Pandavas and their family to their people and treat them as deities. Every year, on the full moon day of August-Sep they visit Laxman temple in Hemkund Sahib. They walk from Niti till Hemkund. This is the festival time for them and they wear their best jewelleries and travel along with their deities –Pandavas To Laxman Mandir at the altitude of 15,200 ft to pay their tribute to god. There is a legend that Pandavas before starting their journey to heaven( Swargarohan) had visited this place and it has become part of Niti village’s tradition to visit this place every year on full moon day during Aug – Sep. There is another legend that Pandu father of Pandavas had done penance at Hemkund then called as Lokpal.
|Entire villagers walk up to Hemkund on full moon day of September|
For those who are new to Indian culture, two lines on Mahabharat.It a national epic of India, narrating the story of cousin brothers Kaurava and Pandavas. Victory of Pandavas over Kauravas with the help of divine lord Krishna is the central theme of Mahabharat.The story has flown in to all the social and psychological layers of Hindu mind.People give names to their kids based on Mahabahrat. All the Indian languages have at least one big epic on Mahabharat.
Mahabharat is not just a history to them but is a tradition. The Mahabhath which is an anthropological curiosity to many scholars is a living drama to be enacted by the current generation of the people of Niti.
I am a stanch lover of Indian mythology. You can imagine what kind of excitement had hit me. I started wondering if they believe they are the decendents of Pandavas, then does that speak a logical answer to the birth of Pandavas ? Do they practice polyandry system ? I tried to find more about them. Even google didn’t provide any more details.
|Parva- Novel by S.L Bhyrappa on Mahabharat|
This reminded me of Parva, a Kanada novel written by S. L Bhyrappa narrating the Mahabharat on modern realism perspective. It has been translated to English and many other Indian languages. In that he weaves a story of Pandavas birth as - Kunti and Madri wives of Pandu conceived babies from the tribal heads living in the upper Himalayas with the permission of Pandu. It is a landmark novel exploring the human side of Mahabharat.
My inquisitiveness about Niti village is ever growing. I have added Niti to my bucket list to explore the stories around.
Have you come across any such stories during your travel ? Pls share
Related post which might be of interest to you