Today I will like to take you atop the Gandhamardan hills and to two important places located on its southern and northern slopes.
Gandhamardan hill is located between Balangir and Bargarh districts of Orissa and is better known for its rich bauxite deposits and as a home of more than 5,000 rare medicinal herbs.
The hill, that was once a seat of Buddhist culture, had greatly impressed Huen Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist monk, and scholar who travelled to India in the seventh century.
He was greatly attracted by the scenic splendor of Gandhamardan during his tour to Dakhin Kosal and has written about the flowering Buddhist University of Parimalgiri (po-lo-mo-lo-ki-li), which had its campus on the picturesque hills.
According to Hindu mythology, when Hanuman was carrying a hill from the Himalayas and was proceeding towards Lanka to save Lakshman, a portion of it fell here which is known as Gandhamardan.
On the southern slope of Gandhamardan hill, is a Hari-Shankar Temple where Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are worshipped together.
Hari-Shankar temple is located in Khaprakhol Block and can be reached from Balangir via Patnagarh.
The deity of Hari-Shankar was discovered by a Chauhan dynasty king of Western Orissa, during the 14th century.
While devotees in large numbers throng the place on Shivratri day, the place is also a popular picnic destination, and a spring flowing on the granite bed adds to the scenic beauty of the place.
On the northern slope of Gandhamardan is the 13th-century temple of Nrusingnath, a form of Vishnu who is the presiding deity of the hill.
It is interesting to note that Lord Vishnu is worshipped here in the feline form as Marjarkesari.
According to the legend, when people were greatly afflicted by the tyranny of Musika Daitya—the incarnate Mouse Demon—Vishnu Mani in the appearance of Marjarkesari ran to eat the demonic mouse that never came out from the tunnel and Marjara Keshari has been waiting there from that day.
The main perennial flow of Gandhamardan is Papaharini, which literally means, the destroyer of sins.
Nrusinghnath is located in the Paikmal Block of Padmapur Subdivision and can be reached by road from Bargarh covering a distance of about 110 km.
How to reach?
By Flight: The Nearest airports are Swami Vivekananda International Airport, Raipur (201 km) and Biju Pattnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar (248 km).
By Road: One can reach Balangir by bus or train. From Balangir one can visit Gandhamardan and Harishankar by bus or taxi, and trek further to Nrusingnath.
By Train: The nearest railway station is Balangir.
(The author is 1985-batch Odisha cadre IAS officer currently posted as the secretary with the Water Resources Department, Government of India.)