Ever heard of a temple dedicated to someone who is widely regarded as a villain? Well, even if you haven't, the land of gods, Uttarakhand is full of such surprises. The state has a temple dedicated to chief antagonist Duryodhana and anti-hero Karna from the Hindu epic Mahabharata.
The temples are nestled in the remote corner of Uttarakhand and both have an inimitable story attached to their establishment.
It is almost intriguing, the way people of Netwar village in Tons valley of Uttarkashi take pride in the Karna temple located in their village.
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Jakholi is only a few kilometres from Netwar and the residents of both the villages are more than happy to be associated with the eldest of the Kauravas and the abandoned son of Kunti.
Duryodhana on battlefield Image Source: New Indian Express
The temple in Jakholi was built by local inhabitants Saur, who worship the Kauravas as their ancestors. Legends have it that the local people wept so much at the death of Duryodhana in the battle of Kurukshetra that their tears became a river named Tamas (meaning sorrow).
Tamas also known as Tons, is still not used for drinking purposes as the local belief goes that the tear still continues to flow.
Duryodhana Temple is located 13 km from Sankri. He is worshipped in the upper valleys of the rivers Tons, Yamuna, Bhagirathi, Balganga and Bhilangna.
To the disappointment of some, it is now converted into a Shiva temple, but it has still managed to retain a gold-plated axe, which is believed to have once belonged to the Kaurava prince.
While Janak Singh Rawat, head of the temple committee, rejected any association with the Kaurava and claimed, "Our deity has always been Lord Shiva."
A villager on speaking to Times of India confirmed that the temple once had strong roots attached to Duryodhana and revealed, "almost nine years ago, the villagers decided to distance themselves from Duryodhana as they believed that any association with this Mahabharata character was only giving them a bad name."
Duryodhana temple in Uttarakhand. Image Source: Speaking Tree
It is interesting to note that there are other temples in the country as well where the Kaurava prince is worshipped, which can be seen at Osla, Gangar and Datmir.
The picture is completely different in Netwar, the residents are honoured of their lineage with 'daan veer'(sacrificing) Karna.
The village is regularly engaged in philanthropic and charitable activities that are carried out by the funds donated by each family.
Manmohan Prasad Nautiyal, the village pradhan, told, "Karna is our ideal and our deity. We try to follow his charitable and philanthropic ideals fully. The dowry system has been officially abolished by the village committee. He said animal sacrifice was also banned."