Worship of The Pandavas at Sirkanda

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BY: SUN STAFF - 29.8 2019

Pandavas Temple, Sirkanda

 

The most honored deity or complex of deities in Sirkanda, as important as Raghunatha and Devi in Bhatbair and the surrounding Pahari region, are the five Pandava brothers, whose story is told in the epic Mahabharata. These deified cultural heroes are reputed to have lived for many years in the hill area of Kedarkhand, latterly known as Garhwal.

There are many small temples and shrines dedicated to the Pandavas throughout the region. One of these is the Buda Kedar Temple, situated at the confluence of the Bal Ganga and Dharam Ganga rivers, about 60 km from Tehri. Duryodhan is said to have offered tarpana here. At this temple, the Pandavas encountered Rishi Balkhily at Bhrigu Parvat, when they were searching for Shiva after the Kurukshetra battle. Rishi Balkhily pointed them towards the confluence, saying they would meet an old man meditating there. When the Pandava arrived, however, the old man was gone, and in his place was a Shivalinga. Following the Rishi's instructions, the brothers embraced and worshiped the linga, and their impressions are stamped into the linga, visible to this day.

Throughout the Himalayan regions of Uttaranchal, in places like Srikanda, the villagers' feeling of respect and admiration for the Pandavas is derived from a long and close association quite different from the vague feeling they have developed for most other Hindu deities and heroes as a result of hearing about them from traveling priests and mendicants. The Pandavas may well be indigenous objects of worship in this area who have been universalized to become a part of the literary tradition of Hinduism. In most other areas they are not considered to be gods. But every village in the Pahari region has its shrine to the Pandavas, and every villager honors them.

In Sirkanda the descendants of one man who was an especially devoted follower of the Pandavas are still identified in that light, though they comprise eight households now. The Pandava brothers are known in Sirkanda as Yudarshter (Yudhishthira), Bhim (Bhima), Arjan (Arjuna), Nikul (Nakula), and Sedev (Sahadeva). They are worshiped as a group. In addition, their common wife Dropti (Draupadi) is included in worship, as well as a second wife not mentioned in the Mahabharata, but known here as Basudunta.

The Route to Buda Kedar

The Pandavas' temple in Sirkanda and other nearby villages consists of a small stone platform against the side of a village house. On this platform is a stone altar upon which are kept a tirsul representing the gods, and the wooden maces, bow, and iron staves representing the weapons used by them in their epic battle, and used during worship by the dancers they are believed to possess.

Near the temple or mandir is a small square house known as the Pandavas' chaurl (umbrella, shelter). It is used as the place of worship or puja room for the presiding Brahmin and the storage place for his ceremonial apparatus during important ceremonies. In many villages a convenient room in a house is used instead. Finally, there is an open, flat area adjacent to the mandir and chauri which is called a madan(stage). This is the site for village-wide worship and dancing in honor of the Pandavas. It is also a gathering place for social occasions not directly related to their worship. It is the ceremonial center of village life and the site of most village dances.

The Pandavas are worshiped on five major occasions: (1) when there is trouble that they may be able to relieve, or when a vow has been made to them on such an occasion, (2) at the annual Diwali festival, (3) at the annual Navratra observance, (4) at the occasional performance of the Mundkile ceremony reinforcing village solidarity and security, and (5) after the performance of a rain or crop ceremony. In addition, dances may be held at the madan at the time of weddings or any other village celebration.