Hadimba & Ghatochkach Temple – Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Temples in Himachal were a surprise to me as they were not the usual Hindu temples of Shiva or Vishnu – Krishna/Rama or Hanuman I am used to. This where I first saw Shani Dev temples very common place. Dark black idols often women not allowed within the sanctum sanctorum – Shani dev.

In Manali we went to two temples which are in the city itself. Hadimba and Ghatochkach temples.

For those that are not aware of these two people – they are very well known characters of the Hindu scripture Mahabharata. Arjuna Bhima one of the five Pandavas, a renowned warrior married Hadimba. Hadimba was a Rakshasi or demon. Recent opinions suggest that Rakshasas might just have been a different sect of people. Arjuna Bhima married Hadimba and had a son Ghatochkach! This guy was a total cool dude, who really helped the Pandavas in Mahabharata war.

So I was already quite intrigued to see temples of these Rakshasas. 😉

Wooden temple with slate roofs
Wooden temple with slate roofs

Hadimba temple is a wooden structure in probably a traditional style in the area. Its also a bit odd, cause when I went inside the temple there is the idol and photos of gods and around it seems to be living quarter of the priest. I have seen such temples and they astonish me. An important Hanuman temple in Hampi was somewhat similar. The Priests room n temple are practically co-joined.

Anyway I visited this temple structure of Hadimba. Outside there were large horns of animals and even a skeleton face of an animal. Creepy? I thought the locals have a funny taste in ambiance of a temple.

Horns & animal bone skeletons outside on the temple walls
Horns & animal bone skeletons outside on the temple walls

Later when I went to Ghatochkach temple that is when I realised this was because of Animal Sacrifice being common practice in these temples! In fact Ghatochkach temple was basically just the base of a tree with a stone parapet around it. Open air – and hardly any yard around it. You could make out feathers and fur around it. A common place for animal sacrifices even today it seems. A big government board nearby said Animal Sacrifices can be done only in presence of committee members. Woooh…

Government boards stating animal sacrifice is illegal and punishable
Government boards stating animal scarifices can be done only in presence of committee members

Very recently a Himachal Pradesh court ruled to outlaw Animal Sacrifice in all Hindu temples in the state. Late in the coming considering it was so commonplace http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/02/india-court-bans-animal-sacrifice-hindu-temples

At the base of a tree... surrounded by conspicuous animal horns from previous sacrifices
At the base of a tree… surrounded by conspicuous animal horns from previous sacrifices

Yes might sound creepy especially to the faint hearted, but travellers would be intrigued. I know animal sacrifice is common ritual in Hinduism but always thought it would be done in some shady temples in remote locations. Not like this… open air temple in middle of village like Manali which is so popular. These two temples are common tourist attractions….

Animal sacrifices seem to be quite common at this temple!
Animal sacrifices seem to be quite common at this temple!

If you are interested in reading about interesting Temples, here Tarun Goel a traveller from Himachal writes about Brahma temples in Himachal.

  • Prashant Serai

    Correction: Bhima, not Arjuna, married Hidimba and had Ghatotkacha.

    And animal sacrifice needs to be totally flushed out, it is a result of misinterpretation of the scriptures. Many scholars claim that the scriptures actually intended to metaphorically convey that one should kill the animal like tendencies and impurities within oneself, by offering them to the divine.

    It is sad that, in spite of the court order, this remains to be stopped.

    • Hi Prashant,
      Actually the court order came very recently, so it will take a while until implemented. Will have to check after a few months whether there is any change.
      Yea, and I don’t think animal sacrifice should be happening commonly at all. In fact while I was thinking of these things… I realized that the Bakri killing during Eid is also such an animal sacrifice… which happens very openly.

      • Prashant Serai

        Hmmm… quite a point..also meat that Muslims eat (and often others too) is usually Halal; so could be considered as Animal Sacrifice then? Maybe the motivation is not religion specifically in the case of Eid, but to prove such motive in court might be complicated.. It also needs to be looked in how the ruling defines Animal Sacrifice..

        • Ya .. definition of Animal Sacrifice is interesting topic. Cause in a way if halal is sacrifice then what about other non-veg food related killings? Slaughter houses n so on. Cause the line is thin between a halal and an animal killed for eating purpose.

    • Also made the correction 🙂

  • Nice