India’s rich mythological inheritance makes it the home to many alchemic and spiritual places. India is the land to many places that can be seen as the proof of the existence of a higher and more intellectual society of humans and creatures before modern times. The epic of Mahabharata narrates many anecdotes that share the physical attributes of humans, but belong to a much higher form of beings than mere mortals. One such story is the story of Ghatotkacha.
The Tale of Ghatotkacha
The literal translation of the word Ghatotkach means a Bald Pot. Ghatotkacha is the first Pandava son, born to Bhim and Hidimbi. After escaping lakshagraha when the Pandavas lost everything to Duryodhana, the 5 brothers along with Draupadi wandered into the depths of a forest that was under the domain of a demon or an asura named Hidimba. While the rest of the Pandavas and Draupadi were asleep, Bhima took up the task to guard them. When Hidimba caught the scent of humans in his forest, he sent his sister Hidimbi to lure them in so the two demons could feast on them. Hidimbi took the avatar of a maiden and went up to Bhima to lure him in, but instead, fell in love with him. She tried to win him over. But when he showed no interest and proved his virtue, she took her true form. Initially enraged, Bhima tried to attack her. However, when Hidimbi explained her initial plot with her brother to Bhima and how her mind and heart were changed, the enraged Bhima took it upon him to defeat Hidimba. After killing Hidimba in a fight, instead of being angry, Hidimbi fell in love with Bhima and his strength even more. She followed the Pandavas everywhere they went.
When the Pandavas went to meet Kunthi, she took it upon herself to ask Kunthi her permission to marry Bhima. Kunthi doesn’t wholeheartedly agree to the prospect of having Bhima married off to an asura or a demon. She gives an ultimatum to Hidimbi where she is allowed to spend the night with Bhima but should disappear during the daytime. After she conceives a child, she has to leave the Pandavas forever along with the child. Hidimbi agrees to this and soon conceives Ghatotkacha who spends his life with Hidimbi. He is also given a boon by Lord Krishna to be the most skilled and unmatched alchemist to anyone without Krishna himself.
The Ghatotkacha temple is established in Himachal Pradesh to honor the demigod or the half-demon, half-human figure in Mahabharata which lies under a canopy of an old deodar tree. Arms and war weapons are kept in the memory of the great warrior with monstrous power and unbent loyalty to his father’s family of the Pandavas despite being abandoned by the family at a young age for not inheriting pure Vedic blood. This temple lies beside the Dhungri Temple or the Hidimbi Temple that worships the demoness who has a minor role to play in the epic of Mahabharata. Unlike his mother’s subtle role, Ghatotkacha’s heroics and noble acts are widely mentioned throughout the epic. This temple is significant because the Himachalis accept a human form of Ghatotkacha and he is depicted as a human in the temple, unlike the contrasting image of him as a demon in the rest of the Hindu cultures. It is possibly the only temple to worship Ghatotkacha as a deity.
It is historically possible that Hidimbi belonged to one of the non-Vedic tribes of skilled warriors with strong physiques that lived during the same time as Vedic Aryans. His birth signifies the mixture of various tribal intermingles, his abandonment underlining the intolerance of the Vedics to this intermingling.