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Thursday, 29 August 2013 20:40

The Valley of Flower

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This is an ancient story from The Mahabharata, one of the two great Hindu epics, about the Valley of Flowers in the Chamoli district of Uttaranchal near the border of China.

One time the Pandavas (the five brothers/heroes in The Mahabharata) were resting in Pandukeshar on their way to Badrinath. On an especially sunny day, Draupadi found a beautiful flower floating down the river. She was so taken by its beauty that she asked the Pandavas to find more flowers like it for her. Bheem, the strongest of the Pandavas, decided to take on the responsibility, so he set off travelling along the river in search of the illustrious flowers. Eventually, he reached a very large valley that was full of flowers. For a short while, he completely lost his senses while observing the ocean of color that lay before him. After some time, though, he remembered that he had a purpose, to bring back the flowers to Draupadi, and he began to pick them for her.

The problem was that the valley he had discovered lay in the kingdom of Kuber, the god of wealth. Soldiers of Kuber saw Bheem desecrating their master's land. They captured him and started to take him to Kuber, but when they discovered he was one of the Pandavas they immediately released him.

The place that Bheem discovered in search of his flowers has now become known to the world as the Valley of Flowers. This valley is about ten kilometers long and two kilometers wide, and in the middle the Pushpavati River flows. It is completely filled with flowers of every color, and they seem to cover every conceivable surface. Interspersed among the flowers, there are also many different herbs that grow. People say that Hanuman ji took Sanjivani, the life-saving herb, from this place.

The people of Uttaranchal knew of this valley long before anyone else. Local people called it Bhyundar Ghati and Bhistoli Khark. People say that the name Bhyundar comes from the Pandava's Bheem, who discovered the valley. In the beginning, very few people went to this place because there was a myth that it belonged to the fairies, and anyone arriving there would be captured by them.

This valley became famous throughout the world after 1931. In that year, one English mountaineer, Frank Smith, reached the valley after losing his way. He was so impressed by the beauty of the area that he named it the Valley of Flowers. Later, another flower-loving woman, Joan-Margaret Leagh, came to Chamoli to collect the seeds of the flowers that grow in the valley. She also greatly appreciated the valley and was instrumental in introducing the area to the rest of the world. One day as she was wandering in the valley, she slipped and fell to her final resting place among the beautiful flowers. Her gravesite still remains there. Today, people from all over the world come to visit the Valley of Flowers and to admire the splendid beauty.

To reach the Valley of Flowers, there is a foot-path from Govindghat, which is on the way to Badrinath from Joshimath. After 10 kilometers from Govindghat, at a place called Ghangharhia, the path splits. One choice leads to the Hemkund, a famous holy place in the Sikh religion, and the left path takes one over the last four kilometers to the Valley of Flowers.

The government has declared this area protected and has banned people from grazing animals and collecting firewood and fodder there in order to protect the flowers.


Research material for this story was collected from the SBMA library.

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