Madho Singh Bhandari
Madho Singh Bhandari is a legendary figure in the history of Garhwal who is still remembered by the people of Garhwal. He was the chief in the army of Mahipati Shah, the ruler of Garhwal in the seventeenth century. He led the king’s army to many victories and the noted victory led by Madho Singh Bhandari was over the Tibetan army in 1635.
Madho Singh Bhandari was born around 1595 in village Maletha of Tehri district. He came from a warrior family. King of Garhwal was ipressed by the bravery of his father, Sonban Kalo Bhandari and thus gifted him a huge estate. Madho Singh grew up as brave as his father. But the sacrifice made by Madho Singh Bhandari is unsurpassed. Madho Singh joined the royal court in Srinagar and rose to become a general in the king’s army. He became the commander-in-chief of King Mahipat Shah from 1629-1646.
Once on a visit to his native village, Maletha, Madho Singh Bhandari found that the place was very dry. Villagers used to grew some coarse millet like Jhangora. He could not see the crops as the fields were virtually barren. This situation made the villagers worried and poor. Moved by the plight of the people he vowed to bring water to the fields.
The nearest point from where the water could be brought was the river Chandrabhaga which separated the village by hard rock mountains. Madho Singh set himself to dig through the mountain to make a tunnel, which proved to be a daunting task. Yet he persevered and working tirelessly for several months succeeded in constructing a two kilometer long canal from Takoli Gad to Maletha. The upper part of tunnel is made using big stones secured using iron nails so that even natural calamity can not destroy the tunnel.
The folk story of that region tells that when the tunnel was fully ready all efforts were made to curve the motion of Chandrabhaga river but they could not succeed even after many alteration in design and many worships to local goddess. Madho Singh became desperate as Maletha remained dry. One night the Goddess appeared in Madho’s dream and asked him to sacrifice his son, she said, only then will the water flow to Maletha. Madho Singh Bhandari didn’t slept that night as tragic turn in his life was waiting to unfold. He sacrificed his son, Gaje singh to propitiate the goddess to facilitate the construction of canal. The young man was sacrificed and his head was placed at the mouth of the tunnel. The water flowed through and carried the severed head with its powerful waves and placed it on a field. Soon Madho was summoned back to duty. With a heavy heart he left his home, never to return. This tragic story of Madho Singh is narrated in Maletha Ki Kool a folk song which is full of pathos. Today, Maletha is green and fertile, abundant and prosperous, and its people remember their hero with pride and yes that canal still functions even after nearly 400 years. There is a statue of Madho Singh Bhandari in Maletha Village.