The Legend of Bhambu Rai

Source: A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province Volume 1 – H.A. Rose

Folklore narrated by Raj Purohit (Khaneti Riyasat) Daya Nand Sharma Ji of Batari village.

Map Source : Google Maps, Picture Source : Internet

Note: The folk tale is based on public legends, it is difficult to assess their right and wrong as there is no written evidence. The purpose of this story is not to hurt any sentiments but to introduce the younger generation to the culture.
Feedback is welcome, it will help to correct the story. Send your suggestions in the comments section, we will be happy to include them in the story post discussion.

Bhambu Rai was a legendry king who lived at Kot, he along with his deputy Ahimal was believed to come to this region during the Mahabharata period.  Soon he became a hero by virtue of his strength and Charity. According to folklore, he was so powerful that he used to go for morning bath to Duttnagar, 20 miles on the bank of river Satluj, return back to meditate and then go to Hatkoti, 20 miles on the other sides of the hill, situated on the bank of River Pubbar, for daily prayer and get back to his fort for breakfast. It is said that he used to cover 100 miles in 6 hours.

Two stories are prevalent about Raja Bhumbu Rai.

According to the first folk tale (As described by Raj Purohit (Khaneti Riyasat) Daya Nand Sharma Ji of Batari village):

According to folk tales and legends, this story dates to different periods. Some suggest it of the Mahabharata period, or the Banasura period, the Mauryan period, and some to the period of external invasions.

Bhambu Rai was a justice-loving, truthful, and obedient king. He was the ultimate devotee of Lord Shiva and Shakti. After the daily puja, as described above, he used to play chaupad ( chess-like Game) with Chaunsath Yogini at a place called Rani Patangan of Moral Kanda (now known as Moral Danda). One day while playing chaupad, he became fascinated by the Yogini. The enraged Yogini cursed him to death for his lust (as cited by Pandit Dharm Pal Bhargava Ji of Sholi village).

One-day King set out towards the forest of Addu (name of the place) for hunting. While hunting he met a beautiful woman in the forest and the king was fascinated by her and proposed her to become his queen. The woman accepted the marriage proposal by keeping certain conditions.

Conditions were ......

The Lady asked for two promises.

1. The king will not ask anything about her clan.

2. He will not restrict her for whatever she asks to eat and will provide it.

The king agreed to both the promises and brought her to his palace and lived happily.

A few days later, the queen asked the king to fulfill his promise. The queen requested for the meat.

Surprised by the queen’s desire, the demand put the king in a fix as it was against his ethics and devotion towards the god. At the same time, he was also committed to fulfilling his promise.

He called his advisors to discuss the problem and ordered them to arrange the meat but no creature should be killed.

The advisors were also confused as if how to provide meat without killing any creature? They could not think of anything better than providing the meat of the breasts of women and started feeding the queen with the meat every day. There was a wave of anger in the state. The people got angry with this inhuman act.

The king was compelled by love and promise. He could not do anything despite wanting to do so and the atrocities started to cross the limits.

At the same time, in a state called Gaya, there was a kingdom of the king named Kirtiman Singh. One-day Raja Kirtiman Singh went out to hunt. While hunting, the King shot a meditating sage. The king, frightened by the sin of shooting the sage, asked the mahatma for forgiveness for fear of the curse. The Mahatma said, "O King, there is a state called "Kot" in the Himalayas, where the subjects are being tortured by a king, go to the Himalayas, and free the people from the tyranny of that king. You will be free from the sin of this arrow”.

Thereafter, the king reached his palace and informed his courtiers about the accident. The King Kirtiman Singh donated all his kingdom to the Brahmins for the purpose of atoning the sin of shooting arrows to the Mahatma and proceeded towards the Himalayas with his four brothers.

The king, along with his brothers and other servants, reached the kingdom of Kot after a few days’ journey.


Under Kot state, there is a place called Karangla where there was a temple of Devi Mahishasura Ghatini, king Kirtiman Singh started living there.

Wearing saffron robes, he came to know about the powers of Bhambu Rai from the people of the state. He concluded that he could not defeat Bhumbu Rai in war, so he decided to abandon the plan of war and plan Bhambu Rai's death in another way. He stayed at Karangla for one year.

Afterward, he made his base at the Sholeshwar Mahadev temple in Kot state and spent twelve years in penance. By this time, the persecution of Bhumbu Rai was also at its peak.

At the same time, in Kot state, a woman's breasts were cut to feed the queen. The woman crying in pain went to a brave and powerful man from the Punan village and asked for the promise of killing Bhabhu Rai. According to legends, the man was considered very powerful and was known as Punani Mahta. When Kirtiman Singh came to know about Mahta's commitment at the Sholeshwar Mahadev temple, he met him, and the killing was planned. Thus many secret meetings were held between Kirtiman Singh and the local man Mahta.

The fame of Sholesh Devta in Kot state was widespread and many fairs were held in honor of the deity. Like every year, a fair was to be held at Nankhari on the second Baisakh. The king also used to come with the family to participate in this fair and was seated on a high seat with the deity. It was decided that Bhambu Rai would be killed on the day when the fair would be held in honor of Sholesh Devta in Nankhari village.

Bhambu Rai's brother was Ahimal. He was also very powerful. He also used to come to the fair with the king. On the second of Baisakh, a grand fair was organized on the Nankhari ranges. The king and all the royal families were sitting with the deity and suddenly a strange and unique bird started flying in the sky. The bird was so unique and attractive that everyone got engaged in watching the bird. The bird dropped the fruit of the Kayal tree called Bhelru which fell on the eyes of Bhambhu Rai, Bhambhu Rai started rubbing his eyes, taking advantage of the situation, Kirtiman Singh and Mahta, together with their allies, attacked and killed the king and his brother.

In the midst of the stampede, the queen and princes managed to escape. The queen rushed to a place called Belu in Kot state. But the enraged people chased and killed the queen. Both the princes reached the place called Duvada to protect their lives, but the people also followed and ended them.

The queen who used to eat the flesh of living beings disappeared and nobody could ever find her.

It is said that all this was the result of the curse given by the Yoginis to King Bhambu Rai.

This ended the rule of the state of Bhumbu Rai in Kot state. Different rulers established their authority over the parts of Kot state. The descendants of Kirtiman Singh laid the foundation of Delath ( Karangal), Kotgarh, Kumarsain and Khaneti kingdom.

It is said that the 'Mahta' belonged to a place called Punan. It was later called Mahta Khund (Division). The descendants of that brave man of Punan village are still revered by the temple during the festivals.

Kirtiman Singh and his brothers from Gaya were called "Gaidu" according to the language of the ancient Kot state.

In order to prevent the Pitra Dosh, people made the idols in the memory of Raja Bhambu Rai and his royal family and started worshipping them. Even today, annual fairs are held in the memory of the local deities, including Raja Bhambu Rai, Rani, and Rajkumars, at the above-mentioned places of Nankhari region. Thousands of people participate in these fairs.

Tale of the Bravery of the People of Punan Village or Punani (Source: Sh. Jai Prakash Singh ji of Village Punan).

For the act of bravery that surrounds the story of Bhambu Rai, the entire village of Punan is rewarded. The Khoond system started in the later era, as per the belief all the villagers were involved in the act of bravery. The following facts support this belief till date.

1.     Punani Deori (Baisakhi Mela) - In this fair (mela), a symbolic fight is played by sill Budle (people who play Nukkar Natya or sings old Traditional Songs) showing how Bhambu Rai was killed by the warriors of Punan village. They throw Relru (Pine tree cone) to attack each other as a symbol of attack on Bhambu Rai.

2.     Nawa Deva Thirshu  Sholi (Sholi Fair) - This fair is celebrated after every  7 to 9 years to pacify the spirit of Bhambu Rai by offering him “Goat sacrifice”. Mali (person who is possessed by the spirit) at the very beginning of the trans verifies that no one from Punan is present around. In the evening, to control him, he is made aware of the presence of the people from Punan. This confirms his fear of the warriors of the Punan.

3.     Nankhari Fair (Bhadra ki Jatre) - This is a two days’ fair and there is a public holiday in Nankhari tehsil for this fair. In the evening the drummers dance at the funeral place of Bhambu Rai.

According to the second folk tale (it is described in many books related to Himachal):

He became so arrogant with his powers that he started to torture his subjects and started relishing the meat of the breasts of women.

Fed up with the atrocities of Bhambu Rai, the locals went to Devta Palthaan, the local deity of the area, for help. On the advice of Devta Palthaan a fair was organized at Nankhari and the family of Bhambu Rai was also invited. The Devta Ji of Patlhaan came in the guise of a golden bird. With the help of Devta Palthaan the locals killed Bhambu Rai, Ahimal, and the family.

All the belongings of Bhambu Rai are placed in a Kothi without any doors and nobody knows what exactly the belongings are.

Later in the palace of the Bhambu Rai, four images or mohras were found which were distributed among the villages of Bedu and Dwada.  A ceremony to pacify these spirits and their images are organized after every eight or nine years in Sholi, Bedu and Dwada respectively.

The Spirit of Bhambu Rai started tormenting the Devta and the people of Sholi, to give him peace, a separate temple was built for him. Every 12 years, the palanquin of Bhambu Rai comes out at night. The children and women shut themselves in the house when the palanquin is out in the night.