As you traverse in the alleys of Srinagar town, 5 km from here you’ll see a hushed village called Maletha idyllically situated on the Devprayag road. This bijou hamlet is a historical place accredited for the bravery of Madho Singh Bhandari, born in 1595 to a great warrior Sonban Kalo Bhandari in Maletha village of Tehri Garhwal district. The charismatic, Madho Singh Bhandari lend his services to the royal court in Srinagar and soon rose to the rank of General in King’s Army. He was the Commander-in-Chief of Mahipat Shah, the King of Garhwal (from 1629-1646).
Surprisingly, not many people know that the international boundary between India and Tibet better known as the Mac-Mohan line was carved by Madho Singh Bhandari. His knightly deeds don’t stop here as the once dry and arid Maletha village now brims with life, the courtesy a 400-year-old irrigation canal famous as ‘Maletha ki Kool’ which is a part of the rich folklore associated with Madho Singh Bhandari. In the early years, Maletha village was a mere wasteland, the soil was dry, only susceptible for growing coarse millet like Jhangora (Bajra) as no other crops nurtured due to the lack of water.
On one such random visit to his village, Madho Singh Bhandari noticed that his beloved son, who was growing into a young man, was not getting enough nutrition. When he asked his wife to serve healthy food to his son, she showed him the dry and barren fields which couldn’t support farming due to the lack of water. Rowing his eyes towards the futile fields, Madho Singh Bhandari vowed that he wouldn’t sleep peacefully until he brings water to the village. The very next day Madho Singh went on a quest and noticed that the nearest water body to the village was the Chandrabhanga River.
In order to guide the stream into the village, they had to dig a 2 km long tunnel through the two mammoth rocks. Madho Singh Bhandari with the help of other villagers excavated a fully functional tunnel from Takoli Gad to Maletha. A strong canal was soon carved out of a hard rock. The upper part of the tunnel was made of big stones secured to the mountain using iron nails, so it does not cave in, even in adverse conditions. But after all these efforts, the water did not flow into the tunnel and the villagers sought help from the regional deity, on whom they had unwavering faith in.
After worshipping the deity for days when everybody had lost hope, one night the goddess appeared in Madho Singh’s dream and told him that the sacrifice of his son could only make the stream flow into Maletha. In order to appease the goddess and to bring life into the village, Madho Singh Bhandari without giving another thought offered his son to the goddess. As he placed his head at the mouth of the tunnel, the water started flowing and hasn’t stopped replenishing the area ever since.
After giving the boon of life to the people of Maletha, Madho Singh Bhandari was summoned back to duty. With a baggage in his heart, he left his village and never returned back. Many years have gone by and whenever someone talks about selflessness and chivalry in Maletha, the legend of Madho Singh is remembered and sang with pride. Even after 400 years, the canal still works and the ‘kools’ of Maletha have made the village prosperous and fertile. To honour the brave son of Maletha, a big statue of Madho Singh is erected in the village which is worshiped by the locals especially during harvesting season.