Odisha’s Mahendragiri hills brims with nature’s bounty, mythology

By: Himanshu Guru

Bhubaneswar: Mahendragiri in the Gajapati district of Odisha is not merely a scenic gateway rather it is a treasure trove of biodiversity, housing rare and threatened species of flora and fauna apart from its immense mythological significance. Mentioned as Mahendra Parvata, the hill finds place in the pages of mythological texts. The same finds place in legends associated to all the four yugs.


Mahendragiri is situated in the Rayagada block of Gajapati district in Odisha. The hill is situated amongst the Eastern Ghats at an elevation of 4,925 feet. The hill is spread across the neighbouring Ganjam district and the Srikakulam boarder of Andhra Pradesh. Mahendragiri is the second highest mountain peak in Odisha.

How to visit

To visit Mahendragiri one needs to reach Burukhat. From there he needs to travel 7 km in ghat roads to reach the top of the hill.

The District administration has constructed roads from Burukhat to Gokarneswar temple situated atop Mahendragiri. It was a big challenge. Since this road work has almost been completed with the supervision of the Collector of Gajapati District and the officials of the RD Department, now many tourists have started to visit this place.

During Shivaratri lakhs of devotees flock to this place. Also, in the month of Shravana, a few Bol Bom devotees reach the place with sacred water to pour on the Shivalinga. Now, after road communication it has been hoped that this number will grow. Now, security arrangement has also been taken up by the Administration.

Photo: Gajapati.nic.in

The Sunrise point

The mountain peak is also famous for being a sunrise point. One can enjoy the spectacular scene of sunrise from this mountain peak. It is said the first look of sunrise can be seen without any hassle from here provided the weather should be clear. And hence it is also called the Himalaya of Utkal (ancient name of Odisha)

What to see

Mother Nature has amply blessed this place. It is said all the six seasons can be felt in a single day here.

The hill also houses temples dedicated to the five Pandavas such as Yudhisthir, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadev. Also, there is also a Kunti temple, named after the mother of the five Pandavas. Besides, the hill has the shrine of Lord Gokarneswhar. Not only legends associated to each of these temples, but we can also see ancient art structures carved in the walls of these temples.

It is said more than 200 caves are there in Mahendragiri. Also, people can hear the roaring of sea from here. The cave is also strangely constructed. It is observed that stones have been put one above another to erect the cave walls which gives a feeling that a very strong man has built the cave.

Mythological association

Odisha’s Mahendragiri has been depicted in the pages of mythological epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. A number of legends are associated with this place and the temples bear the proof of it.

It is said Lord Parsuram had meditated in this place. He is the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Being a Chiranjeevi many believe that he is still present here. Actually, the sun offers him the opportunity of his first look at the dawn and hence it is a sunrise point.

Legend of Lord Shiva in Satya Yug

As per a legend, in the Satya Yug, Lord Shiva once was busy preparing for Tarpana. He kept all the elements in the River bank of Ganges and went for bathing. After he returned saw that the Kapila cow has eaten out his rice particles and kusha leaves that he had kept for worship. He hurled his Trishula (weapon) to drive away the cow. And thus the cow got destroyed.

Accordingly, the Lord became guilty of Go-hatya (cow-killing) and wandered here and there. He meditated in the River bank of Ganga to get rid of the vice. During meditation he came to know that body of the cow has tumbled in the sea. One of its ears has dropped in the Mahendragiri.

Thus, he came to Mahandragiri and meditated for seven yugs and got rid of the vice of Go-hatya. From that day the Lord is being worshipped as Gokarneswar named after the holy cow.

Association with Tretaya Yug

As per mythology Lord Shri Ram and his great devotee monkey God Hanuman had worshipped Lord Gokarneswar in the Tretaya yug in Mahendragiri.

There is a place called Hanuman Kuda in the foothill of Mahendragiri. As per legends during Ramayana, monkey God Hanuman had jumped from here for Lanka in search of Mata Seeta.

During Mahabharata

Kunti temple (Photo: gajapati.nic.in)

As per another legend, during the Agayantbas (living in disguise) of Pandavas during Mahabharata time, mother Kunti was living near Gokarneswar temple. She was worshiping Lord Vishnu.

In the middle part of Mahendragiri situated the temple of Yudhisthira. While different views are available over construction of this temple, it is believed that performing shraddha of forefathers near this temple three generations of the host gets rid of vices. Hence, today also people perform the shraddha rites here.

Also, there is a Bhima temple atop the hill. It is believed that the powerful Bhima had constructed it. However, the construction style of this temple is unusual and spiritual. The temple has been erected with 19 big boulders. Weight of each of these boulders is about 150 kg each. There are two gates, one in front and one in rear part of the temple. Unlike other temples, no statues of any deities found either in the surrounding, entrance or on the wall of this temple. It is believed that the temple is around 5000 year old. Lord Mahadev is being worshipped in this temple.

Bhima Temple (Photo: Gajapati.nic.in)

In Kali Yug

Not only in the Satya, Tretaya and Dwapara yug Mahendragiri also bears mythological importance even in this Kali Yug. Lord Nilamadhav who is also compared with Lord Jagannath is being worshipped in Mahendragiri since long. It is said this is the place where Biswabasu was worshipping Lord Nilamadhav. Being a hermit he was offering the roots and fruits available in the forest to the God. Later, the Lord was shifted to Sri Khetra Puri with the intervention of Vidyapati.

The then king Indradyumna and Vidyapati dreamt that Lord Nilamadhava has come from Mahendragiri in the shape of Darubramha (a wood log) and is present in the sea at Puri. The idol of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra was crafted from this holy wood log.  The place in Mahendragiri from where Darubramha rolled into the sea is called as the abode of Darubramha.

Even in present time, he is being worshiped there as Nilamadhava. However, it is tough to reach this place of the hill. Though, it is also believed that the people who take all the pain and reach here and pay obeisance to the Lord miraculously get rid of all the tiredness instantaneously.

Arjuna Cave

On the South part of the Bhima temple is the Arjuna cave. As per legends, during the hermitage of the Pandavs, the third pandava Arjuna shot an arrow aiming a ganda but it hit the Kapila cow and it got killed. Filled with disgrace and distress he picked body of the cow with the tip of his arrow and threw it into the bushes of Malatikunja. Later, without knowledge of the other brothers, he meditated to please Lord Mahadev here. And hence the cave has been named after him.

Perfect place for meditation

Mahendragiri is a perfect place for meditation as even Gods have meditated in this place in all the four yugs. Hence, many saints choose this place for meditation. Besides, the calm and quite atmosphere and picturesque scenery we can also find some tribal hamlets here. They tribal people have been working on the safety of this place.

Tale of Mahendra Budhi

There is a cottage near the Yudhistrir temple atop the Mahendragiri hill. A 100 year old woman lives there. The locals call her Mahendra Budhi (Mahendra old woman). She has been living there since long. She claims herself to be the daughter of the God. She claims that God at times visit Mahandragiri and she gets the opportunity to pay Him her obeisance. She has planted flowers around her cottage. Astonishingly, these flowers bloom atop the hill without even watering.

Similarly, another old man named Bhaskaratirtha Laxmi Baba is also living in this place since long. He often is seen meditating. Many such saints are seen here and they predict about the future of Kali Yug.

Tribal hamlets

Tribal people live in the nearby villages like Madaba, Baraghara and Badamasingha. They are keen on the safety and development of Mahendragiri. The prime deities of these tribal are the Gods and Goddesses of Mahendragiri. Starting from the naming ceremony of their new-borns to the shraddha of their forefathers, they perform here. They claim themselves to be the descendants of Biswabasu. They are worshiping here generation after generation. Mahendragiri is included in their culture and traditions. Even, these people have named 75 Gods and Goddesses of Mahendragiri in tribal language. They observe their festivals here and offer the first yield to the Gods of Mahendragiri.

Flora and Fauna

As many as 1358 species of plants are found in Mahendragiri peak. Out of them 300 are medicinal plants. Similarly, as many as 388 species of animals are found here. In this place, water scarcity has never been an issue. Also this place has not witnessed any natural disaster. Like Himalayas, many precious herbs are found here.

Miracles of Mahendragiri

Astonishingly, we can see tree growing above other trees, plants budding without soil and flower blooming in dry lands here. Another surprising thing is if you hit the stone near the Arjuna cave, you can hear ringing of bells. Besides, there is no instance when the wild animals here have attacked any humans. Only during day time, monkeys venture here in search of food. All these miracles make this place distinctive.

A Forest safety Committee has been formed with the villagers to protect Mahendragiri. They take care of planting medicinal plants and do patrolling regularly. The government has also been informed about development of this place.

Even today there is a Shivalinga here beneath which a whole is there whose depth is yet to be measured. It is said if you put your ear near the hole, you can hear the sound of the sea wave from there.

As per reports, the Central government has recognized Mahendra giri as the Ramayana Tirtha in lieu of its mythological importance. The locals hope, researchers will come up to find out the answers to the mysteries hidden in this place which will make Mahendragiri popular.

With inputs from Santosh Patnaik, Gajapati

Mahendragiri hill

Also read: 2022 Flora and Fauna survey in Odisha’s Chilika Lake out: Check details

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