The mythical/mystical Hatkoti



The temple of Mahishasur Mardini with the Golden Kalash (Photo: Dhaleta Surender Kumar)

Amidst the paddy filelds, surrounded by towering mountains and a jolly, gurgling Pabbar flowing by, the Hatkoti temple, adorned by the peaceful Mahishasur Mardini stands tall. Filled with devotion, the heart beats faster as the bus approaches the temple. The first view of the golden kalash, the crown of the temple, makes all heads bow and palms fastened. The drivers express their devotion and gratitude for their safe journey with blaring horns. All is peace within, as the pandit in our heart chants distinct mantras in Ma‘s praise.

If you are new to Hatkoti, do not forget to pay your reverence to Ma’s dwarpal, Devta Laankra, who mounts a hill supposed to have been a clay mound collected by Bhim, one of the Pandavs, while he ruled the roost in King Viraat’s kitchen. Did I say, King Viraat? Yes, the local myth says that the present Hatkoti was once the abode of King Viraat, where the Paanch Pandavs passed their thirteenth year of exile – the Agyaat Vaas. Hatkoti, or Haat, the distortion of Parhaat, again a distortion of Viraat. Is this really the capital of King Viraat? If not, where it is, only archaeologists can tell better. But imbibed in myths local, are hundreds of tell-tales of the Pandavs and their valour in Hatkoti. Whether, one believes these stories or not, these tell-tales have their own charm and philosophy of life and music – music imbibed within the vanishing ballads with the old people. According to one such myth, the Pandavas grazed the cattle of a potter by the name of Gogi. (Saubi pauda lee bibti, saubi pauda la beru, paancha bhai paandua, chaaraa Gogi kumbhara ra goru.) The philosophical musings, pity the fate of human-kind and his tendency to fall into troubles. It is this human fate that makes the mighty five Pandavas, once as kings, to diguise themselves and take refuge at Hatkoti and take up the job of grazing potter Gogi’s cattle.

The present temple is not to be mistaken for the one built by the Pandavs. The temple built by them is on the Sunpuri Tila, adjacent to the present temple comples. Sunpuri, with its gold filled caverns, has the old stone idol of Mahishasur Mardini. The sacred Sunpuri hills are shaped in a form of two Lingas merging together, symbolising the Ardhanaarishwar. Where there is Durga, Shiv has to be by her side. The new temple is flanked by a stone temple devoted to Shiv. Interestingly, the Shiv Linga is larger than the entrance of the temple, probably because the temple was built much later than the Shiv Linga came into worship.


The five stone temples devoted to the Pandavs, flanked by the Shiv Stone temple (Photo: Dhaleta Surender Kumar)

The Shiv temple is flanked by five other small stone temples, known as the Raths, which the local myth says are devoted to the five Pandavs. The Pandavs, while grazing the cattle of potter Gogi, built many other temples around Hatkoti. Hence, the apt tag attached to Hatkoti, “The Valley of Stone Temples.” It would not be an exaggeration if Hatkoti is called as the mini Sangam, as the valley is enriched by the Triveni Sangam of the river Pabbar, which makes its way through the Chaanshil mountains, Raanvti and Bishkalti. Bishkalti or Vish Khalti or the ‘poison oozing’. Why, the name? Not sure, probably because the water is some greyish in colour. (This is all over the Net. And you can say that this myth has been created by me, which others have copied without checking the facts. The colour is not greyish at all. Click here to read about how this myth got propagated.)

It is said that once, a sage, because of the Sangam, intended to make Hatkoti another Tirth, but the Gods wished otherwise. The sage, with his pious intentions went to Haridwar and got Ganga Jal for the purpose. On his way back, a few miles away from Hatkoti, at a place near Kuppad (near Kharrapathar), he sat down for his regular prayers, when a crow came and hit his kamandalu, spilling the Ganga Jal. Alas! Hatkoti was left devoid of becoming a Tirth. Instead, this place became blessed from where on flows the Giri Ganga (spilled Ganga), which makes its way towards Kotkhai. Giri Ganga is a sacred place for the local dwellers, who come here to perform the last rites and open doors of the heavens for the deceased.

The entrance of the Durga temple at Hatkoti, is flanked by a charu – a vessel battered with time, enchained to a Ganesh statue in a niche. It is said that once the charu formed a pair. One stormy night in the month of Bhadon, when the rain Gods show their grace on earth and wash away all evil, both the charus freed themselves and rocking, whistling they leapt towards the torrent Pabbar. With the timely action of the priests, one of the charus was rescued, which today increases the mythopoeia of Hatkoti. According to myths, still in the month of Shraawan/Bhadon, in a stormy night, when the Pabbar is to its brim, the charu on the entrance, rocks violently and whistles, while it tries to free itself to join its companion, lost in the depths of Pabbar.

The legend related to the Pandavs is so engrained in the culture, that the five Pandavs are worshipped as deities in Tehsil Rohru. Another myth says that in a Shersha re Baag (the field of mustard) in Tehsil Rohru, once in a year, the five Pandavs clad in white give darshan to their devotees, before they leave for the unknown skies formed as goats. It is also believed that it is in this field that Gandhaari rebuked Kunti for plucking the mustard leaves. When Bhim asked his mother, why she was crying, she laid the blame on the Kujin shrub (Now don’t ask me, from where did Kunti and Gandhaari come here. They were actually supposed to be in Indraprastha / Kurukshetra), for which Bhim is supposed to have wrongly punished the Kujin shrub. It is to be noted here that Kujin or Kuja is the shrub of which the Kamadevta makes his darts of.

And surely, the journey to Hatkoti would not be complete without visiting Giri Ganga, Shersha re Baag and the Chandra Taal from where the Pabbar takes its origin. On the way, if you find any stone temples, do not forget to remember the mighty five Pandavs. However, archaeologists say that these temples were built during the early 9th century A.D., when Shankracharya visited the region.


The above article is simply based on myths and no intention has been made to relate it to the truth. No intention has been made to relate the temples to history and architecture. The purpose here is simply to keep the fading myths alive. Since ages, people live in certain beliefs and the present age advances have made it possible to crumble these beliefs. But these myths have their own charm and philosophy, which give a distinct identity to the culture. Another thing that has to be kept in mind here is that the myths vary from place to place and there could be a difference in that as well. It is human tendency to relate themselves with history; and history as glorious as of Mahabharat or the Dwapar period. So what happened where and how it happened, beliefs in that can vary. Moreover, these have come down to us by word of mouth and no written record prove them. The above article has been written simply keeping human interest and awe for myths in mind. The author takes no responsibility for facts. However, the article should create anxiousness to visit the place. How to reach and where to stay, to find out, you know whom to contact.

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A perfect story-teller, who is madly in love with the hills. Shimla is his first love, and probably the last too. Won't get tired reading Rudyard Kipling. Hopes to pick up poetry again soon.

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  1. Could some one shed more light on Devta Laankra Bir, as to who he was and how he got the position to be the gateman of Goddess Durga?

  2. It was really nice to read this article. It brought back memories of my last visit to Hatkoti, which was almost 2 years ago. But the images are still fresh in my mind, and you just opened a flooggate of happy thoughts.

    And you write quite well 🙂 its a pleasure reading you.

  3. Quite an informative article giving background how Hatkoti got its name, the Mahishasur Mardini mandir, Sunpuri mandir built by Pandavas, etc.

    One feels like rushing to the place and be blessed as soon as one could.

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