Last week, we read about worshiping of Ravan as Mahatma Ravan in temples honouring him. As I mentioned earlier, in this, he is not alone. Duryodhan, the ‘villain’ from the epic Mahabharata, too enjoys similar adulation in certain parts of the country and he too is worshiped in temples that have come up in his honour and some of them exist since long.
In the ‘har-ki-doon’ valley of the The Jaunsar-Bawar region in Dehradun, is a place where Duryodhan is worshipped. It is said that during the dvapar yuga (the period of Mahabharata which ended with the ‘death’ of Lord Krishna), Duryodhan arrived at this place and was impressed by the natural beauty of the region. He requested the local deity, Lord Mahasu, for a piece of land for himself near the mountains of Himalaya, which the deity agreed, with a condition that he would look after the locals of the region. Till date the locals believe that the region is controlled by Duryodhan Maharaj. Some people believe that he passes his orders through his spirit which visits certain people in the village, and the orders are followed as a must. One of the villages by the name of Jakhol has a temple where an idol of Duryodhan is installed and it is taken out in processions during certain periods of the year.
The region of Mori in the same area, not only has an ancient temple dedicated to Duryodhan, but also has few temples in honour of the other Kaurava princes, Karna and King Shalya, all supporters of Duryodhan! It is interesting to note the region is also a contradiction of sorts, as one of the peaks is known as “Swargarohini peak” i.e. the gates to heaven. This is the region which the Pandavas had trekked and ascended to the heaven through the peak!
It is said that after death of Duryodhan in the battle of Kurukshetra, the people of the region wept so much that the tears became a river, known as Tamas, locally also known as the river Toms. Till date, people of the region do not drink water from the river, as they feel that the tears still flow in the river!
Finally and probably the most important temple of Duryodhan is said to be the Peruviruthy Malanada Temple in the Kollam district of Kerala, India. The region also has other temples dedicated to the other Kauravas, their sister Dusshala, mother Gandhaari, Shakuni, Karna and Bhishma and Dronacharya, but none of the temples have any idols. There are just platforms where the idols should have been.
There is an interesting myth associated with the origin of the temple. According to this myth, during the exile of the Pandavas, Duryodhan set out to look for them and he traversed right up to the Malanada Hills in South. Duryodhan was very tired and thirsty and saw a woman drinking something and asked for water. The woman was drinking a local toddy and without realizing gave the same drink to Duryodhan who too drank it. As soon as he finished drinking, the lady realized that the person was of royal origin and around the same time Duryodhan realized by the dressing of the woman, that he had taken the drink form an untouchable tribeswoman, from the Kurava tribe.
While the lady was shivering from fear of royal retribution, Duryodhan was glad at the woman’s selflessness to offer him her own drink. Duryodhan pacified her that he was not angry and as part of his royal duty donated about 100 acres of land to them for cultivation. Since then, the priests in the temple of Duryodhan, built in his honour, and other Kuarava family have been from this untouchable Kurava class and the people till date venerate the ‘villain’ of the epic Mahabharata, Duryodhan. It is not surprising to note that toddy is an important offering in the temple!!
It is interesting to read about such myths as they bring out the other side of the villainous characters of such epics. Such myths in Mahabharata goes on to highlight the fact that certain characters were not absolutely negative in nature, but only had certain negative personality traits. While Duryodhan might have been a villain in general, fanned by his uncle Shakuni (who had his own justification for the villainy This is Utkarsh Speaking: Shakuni ), his ability to overcome a caste-bias was obvious in the way, he anointed Karna as the King of Anga. The above mentioned myth too goes on to prove the same thing, his attitude towards the lower caste people, especially in times when caste was the most important aspect of an individual.
Malanda Temple Picture, courtesy - www.sasthamcotta.com