Narrative on the Cenotaph.

Mentioned in one of the many versions of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, possibly compiled some 2400 years ago, the Hanuman temple at Pandupol, may after all, be one of India’s oldest pilgrim destinations.

The Hanuman temple at Pandupol has for long been associated with India’s Vedic past, specifically the epic Mahabharata which inspite largely being a tale of fiction abounds with numerous references of historically accurate incidences, regions and tribes of that age such as the Matsya.

An ancient Vedic people that held dominion over large tracks of land in and around the site where the modern temple stands today with their capital city at Viratnagar, district Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Even before there was a road that led to the temple, pilgrims soldiered through the inhospitable dense woodlands (now Sariska Tiger Reserve) braving flash floods and wild animals to pay obeisance to the monkey god whose worship predates the epic and suggests the place possibly existed during the time of Vyasa – the sage traditionally credited to be first to bring together the composition. While there is still no actual evidence to ascertain with authority who created the idol, a cenotaph in the courtyard narrates a tale from the pages of the Mahabharata hinting at how it came to be.

Narrative on the Cenotaph.

In the narrative the building of the temple is attributed to the five Pandava brothers, the central protagonist of the epic and came into being after their encounter with the monkey god Hanuman in the forest. It tells of the story in which the five Pandava brothers when traveling through the region came upon an impassable stretch of the Aravali mountains that impeded their journey and how unable to negotiate past the massive obstacle, the strongest of the brothers, Bhima, resorted to using his iron mace to smash a way through, creating a pass and releasing a hidden stream.

The incredible feat, however, filled Bhima with pride. A very human emotion the story is quick to point out as a vice and remedy with divine intervention in the form of Hanuman who in the guise of a frail old monkey blocked the path of the strongman, a short distance away, and refused to budge inspite repeated requests that soon turned into threats.

Finally after a particular passionate display of vanity by Bhima who boastfully expounded his own might and glory as a warrior, Hanuman, still in the guise of an old monkey, conceded to offer passage on the condition the mighty warrior would have to shift his tail to make way. Bhima set about this seemingly easy task but several futile attempts later, realized the presence of a divine being and quickly asking for forgiveness, requested the true identity of the frail creature. Pleased with the sincerity, Hanuman obliged revealing his gigantic self and requested, the brothers construct an idol to commemorate their encounter for devotees to remember.

A lesson in humility.

As Vedic writers often mixed inspiration with imagination to form stories ingrained with moral messages, the narrative in essence is a lesson in humility and the warning: looks can be deceptive. However, the message is largely ignored in favor of religion and worship, in present day India.

Pandupol is a Sanskrit word, meaning the gateway of the Pandavas. It is named after a gateway like gap in a nearby mountain and where a small streams flows, some distance from the temple. The idol of Hanuman within the temple (see Farbound.Net snippet: The peculiar idol of Hanuman) lies in the same resting on the ground position as narrated in the epic.  It is not known if the idol existed before the epic or inspired it.


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