Uttarakhand is one of the mesmerizing states of India which has its own specialty related to culture, tourist spots, and education, and most importantly, it has been referred to as the land of God (dev bhumi) due to the presence of many holy temples in its vicinity. The name Uttarakhand has been derived from the Sanskrit words Uttarakhandam,‘Uttara’ means north and ‘Khandam’ means country or part of a country. The judicial capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, which features holy temples, beautiful mountains, suitable climate and a lot more.
Apart from its incredible vistas, the land of Uttarakhand is abounding with myths and legends. The history, culture, mountains, rivers and every component in Uttarakhand is closely associated with the Hindu mythological stories of Gods and Goddesses. The supreme powers like Nagraj, Ghadiyal, Narsinh, Bhumiyal, Bhairav, Bhradraj and Mahasu are worshiped in various parts of Uttarakhand. Due to the lack of proper records and documentations, not many people are aware of the mythological stories of Mahasu Devta. So, my next step was to analyze the myths and facts affiliated with Mahasu Devta, who was regarded as “God of Justice” and his decision was believed to be respectable by people and local rulers of Jaunsar-Bawar Region. Number of temples were scattered in his dirty dom. The ancient and principal temple was at Hanol, Chakrata, which was included in the Archaeological Survey of India list of ancient temples in Dehradun circle, Uttarakhand. The name of the village according to the legend was kept after the name of Huna Bhatt, a Brahmin. Besides this, other villages namely Thaina, Gabela and Bisoi were regarded as Thans (Adobe) of Mahasu. The early morning meditation compelled me to seek for the unexplored traditions of the temple village of Bisoi which were regarded as one of the best in the Jaunsar-Bawar range dedicated to Mahasu Devta. This was also treated as a sort of pilgrimage place for people living in vast areas in the mountainous parts of Uttarakhand in Dehradun. Local people of Bisoi and nearby villagers worship Lord Mahasu, the chief deity of this area. A pujari later told that though it was an ancient temple built in Jaunsari architectural style with rubble and mud walls initially, over the ages, it acquired mixed style with woods and beautiful carving on it.
Not many people were there in the temple premises except few devotees, pujaris and their helpers. My queries related to assumptions and faith of this place finally found an interpretation in a devotee who unfolded the secrecy of Mahasu Devta. The Mahasu Devta were four brothers namely, Botha Mahasu, Pavasik Mahasu, Vasik Mahasu, and Chalda Mahasu.
Villagers considered that there were many mythological stories in the region of Jaunsar related to Pandvas, who moved to Jaunsar when Duryodhan was planning to kill them in Lakshaghriha. The place which Pandvas left in order to escape their death is now known as Lakhamandal.
I took notice of the narration as told by the devotee. At the start of Kaliyug, the demons wandered all over Uttarakhand devouring people and devastating villages. The greatest demon was Kirmir, who devoured all the seven sons of a pious-hearted Brahmin named Huna Bhatt and had an evil eye on his wife Kratika. The demon wanted to have her as his spouse. The poor Brahmin couple was thus in a state of panic. Kratika prayed to Lord Shiva to protect her chastity. Her prayers were granted and Lord Shiva blinded Kirmir and thus, she could run away to her husband. They then prayed to Hatkeshwari Devi of Hatkoti (Ashtbhuji Durga) to express their gratitude. The goddess advised the couple to go to the Kashmir Mountains and offer prayers to Lord Shiva for help. They did as they were directed, and Lord Shiva granted them their wish and assured them that all the evils will be killed and the people and villagers will be saved shortly. The Brahmin was told that the four gods would appear on the fourth day of the bright half in the month of Bhadon. They would be collectively known as the Mahasus and would kill the demons and free the people from the terror.According to another tradition as notified by the devotee, Huna Bhatt was told to go back to his home and perform certain rituals and worship Devi. On doing so, the Devi Shakti emerged from the ground and told Huna Bhatt to plough a part of his field into five trenches, with a plough of solid silver and a shoe of pure gold but with a pair of bullocks who had never mulched before every Sunday. On the seventh Sunday the Mahasu brothers with their ministers and the army would come out and rid the people and villagers from the clutches of the demon. Huna Bhatt did accordingly, but on sixth Sunday when he had completed the first round of plowing, Botha Mahasu appeared, from second appeared Pavasik Mahasu, out of third appeared Vasik Mahasu and Chalda Mahasu from the fourth one. All the brothers were called by a common affix of Mahasu (Char Mahasu). From the fifth trench appeared their ministers and the brothers’ heavenly mother Devladli Devi. Countless army sprung out like mushrooms from the field. Mahasu Devta Brothers and their ministers and warriors killed the whole army of They would be collectively known as the Mahasus and would kill the demons and free the people from the terror.According to another tradition, as notified by the devotee, Huna Bhatt was told to go back to his home and perform certain rituals and worship Devi.
On doing so, the Devi Shakti emerged from the ground and told Huna Bhatt to plough a part of his field into five trenches, with a plough of solid silver and a shoe of pure gold but with a pair of bullocks who had never mulched before every Sunday. On the seventh Sunday the Mahasu brothers with their ministers and the army would come out and rid the people and villagers from the clutches of the demon. Huna Bhatt did accordingly, but on sixth Sunday when he had completed the first round of plowing, Botha Mahasu appeared, from second appeared Pavasik Mahasu, out of third appeared Vasik Mahasu and Chalda Mahasu from the fourth one. All the brothers were called by a common affix of Mahasu (Char Mahasu). From the fifth trench appeared their ministers and the brothers’ heavenly mother Devladli Devi. Countless army sprung out like mushrooms from the field. Mahasu Devta Brothers and their ministers and warriors killed the whole army of demons as predicted by Devi Shakti. It is believed that, Chalda Mahasu took Kirmir in a ravine of Mount Khanda where the marks of his sword on the rocks can be seen even today. During the absence of the Mahasu brothers in Hanol, demon Keshi took control over the whole village. Chalda Mahasu and his warriors finally killed Keshi and returned jubilantly to Hanol. He later on divided the country among the brothers so that they may rule their respective territory and guard against calamities of all the people who would worship them as god and perform jagara. However, a mistake erupted in the venture of the Mahasu brothers. In the beginning, Mahasu Devta pledged their words to Huna Bhatt that they would appear on the seventh Sunday. Huna Bhatt hurt the Mahasu brothers by the blade of his plough as he was working in the field unaware of their untimely arrival. As a result, Botha Mahasu was hurt in the knee and was unable to walk. Vasik Mahasu’s eyes were damaged by the blade of grass which impaired his vision. Pavasik Mahasu had a small cut on his ear. Only Chalda Mahasu and Devladli Devi remained unhurt.
Thereafter, Botha Mahasu preferred to settle within his temple at Hanol on the right bank of river tons. Pavasik Mahasu kept moving over his domain and spent years turn by turn at Hanol, Lakhamandal, Authana and Uttarkashi. Each of four deities had a Bir (attendant), namely Kapala, Kailu, Kailath and Sedkudiya. All the birs had balyayinis (female helpers). When I insisted on the transcripts or report files, the devotee informed me that there is no documentation or written evidence on the myths and legends about the temple, God and Goddesses. The villagers obtained this through their experience in day to day life. They even believe that if someone is in a dilemma and asks Mahasu Devta for help and the pujari performs rites and procedures and if the god is offended and the believer was convicted then he had to sacrifice a goat in the name of Mahasu Devta in order to get rid of all the sins.
I payed attention to all the details of temple, its structure and most importantly its narratives; i was about to enter the sanctum but suddenly, I heard a voice from behind requesting me to pause as girls were not allowed go inside. I then moved back and roamed around the temple. There, in front of the sanctum I found a large room, called bhandar. It functioned as an extension to the sanctum. In it, sacramental objects were stored. The sanctum and the bhandar were pitch-dark. Entry to the bhandar was restricted only to the Brahmins. In front of the bhandar was a vestibule or antaral. On the left side was a small door, meant especially for pujari. The devotees were supposed to perform obeisance to the deity at the door that opened into the bhandar from this room. That door remained closed, except when pujari entered the sanctum to perform the daily puja. No one was supposed to be present at that time in the vestibule. Therefore, the most privileged one could have a fleeting darshan of the bhandar only. As soon as the pujari entered the bhandar, the door was closed and sanctum was opened. Thus, none but the pujari could see the images.
The devotee also briefed me about the Baoli, which was inside the temple premises. Even though Bisoi was facing scarcity of water, nearby villagers and local people were not allowed to use this water except for temples rituals. They considered it to be a holy water which if mixed with the Yamuna water could be kept safely for years without any growth of germs. They even believed that the water inside the Baoli never diminished, no matter how much amount of water is removed. Not only this, they experienced that if villagers were at fault and god is outraged then the water inside the Baoli started decreasing. Then in the form of confession, villagers performed the rituals in temple throughout the day and night. The Mahasu Devta temple complex is undergoing repeated changes from decades. And likewise, many myths are linked with the temple, Gods and Goddesses of this place, but due to the lack of evidences and testimony records, the accuracy cannot be defined. Yet, the local people and nearly villagers accept this as the only truth and worship the Mahasus. These might not interest us but have greatly influenced the life of people living here.