The rolling verdant hills of the Garhwal region are known for its picturesque beauty and charming colonial hill stations that over the years have become popular tourist spot amongst travellers. Be it the lakes in Nainital, the snow capped peaks of Dhanaulti, the mall road of Mussoorie or the spectacular Doon Valley, the region beckons with abundant beauty courtesy of the stunning lower himalayas, the gurgling rivers and brooks and deep, dense forests. However there is one tiny village that is known for more than just its scenic beauty. A village full of mystery, mysticism and legends. The village is Lakhamandal, situated alongside the Yamuna Lakhamandal village in Chakrata Tehsil of Dehradun district and has a history that dates back to centuries.
The village has a huge Shiva temple which is the oldest in the region, standing in the forefront of the staggering Garhwal hills. Outside the shrine are two large carved stones that are believed to be those of Danav and Manav (representing evil and good respectively). The temple walls have intricately carved inscriptions and many dilapidating sculptures that are said to date back to the 8th century. Archaeologists suggest that Lakhamandal may have been a centre for sculpture making back in the 5th century. There is an intriguing cave nearby called the Dhundi Ovarri, which translates to a foggy/misty cave. According to the legend, the Pandavas took refuge here while plotting against the Kauravas. However a few locals suggest that Lakhamandal was actually the place where the Kauravas planned to bury the Pandavas alive, but were saved by goddess Shakti who has a beautiful temple dedicated to her inside the complex. The temple’s main attraction is a glistening Lingam where apparently you can see your own reflection. When it is wet, it gives out a brilliant shine and reflects the temple’s surroundings.
The local people claim that if you excavate this village, you will find hundreds of Shivlings and temple structures everywhere. The complex is an ASI Protected site and excavations have been carried out in the region. The whole complex is protected under ASI, and nobody is allowed to construct or destruct anything here. The ASI website reports that ‘scientific clearance of buried structures on the southern area of temple premises were carried out between 2005 -2007. During the course of the clearance, remains of ancient structures have been brought in to the light. Most important finding are the remains of miniature flat roofed temple assignable to 5th - 6th century AD which are commonly not found from this region. These findings have added new domination in the history of the temple architecture in the Himalayan region.’
With such a colourful history and an intriguing legend, Lakhamandal suffers the same unfortunate fate like the many heritage sites that remain hidden in the remote parts of the country. According to aTOI report, in 2003, 8 idols were stolen from the ancient Shiva Temple which follows the unique tradition of devotees offering Shivlings to deities, out of which 7 were recovered by ASI but not returned to the villagers.They also reported that ASI did not have any more funds to excavate in the area and discover more treasures that still remain buried.
With absolutely zero protection, Lakhamandal is a place that thrives on local legends and mythological stories that are colourful and interesting but lack factual accuracy. Hardly anyone outside the state of Uttarakhand seems to know about Lakhamandal but this is a legacy that needs to be known and preserved.
Lakhamandal is 75 km from Dehradun and can be reached by road using state transport or private buses, taxis or private cars.
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