Madho singh Bhandari, also called as Madho singh “Maletha”, was born around 1595 in village Maletha of Tehri district. He was from a well known family. His father,warrior Sonban Kalo Bhandari, was from Lakhanpuri. He was famous for his bravery in that region.Then Garhwal king was so impressed with his bravery and intelligence that he has given Sonban a big estate as a gift. Madho singh was also brave like his father. Maletha village is located on Rishikesh-Shrinagar road between Devprayag and Kirtinagar. Maletha village was very dry at that time. Villagers used to grew some coarse millet like Jhangora.
Madho Singh joined the royal court in Srinagar at a young age and rose to the rank of general in King’s army.Madho Singh Bhandari was the commander-in-chief of Mahipat Shah, the king of Garhwal (1629-1646). As a brave soldier he built great forts and led his army to different region to expand his area.
Once when he visited his village and his son was growing into a young man he could not get the fine food and vegetables which he used to get in royal court. The poverty of Maletha was unbearable yet he got angry with his wife and asked for good food.His wife showed him the dry and empty fields where no vegetable or grain was there due to shortage of water.Seeing this, Madho Singh got restless and he vowed that he would bring the water into the fields.
The nearest water point from the village was Chandrbhaga river but there were hard rock mountains in between. Madho Singh had to burrow through that mountain to draw the water from the stream. He thus organized the villagers with the priests’ blessings, and began excavating tunnel. For months they laboured and made a tunnel. The length of the canal is about two kms and it has been constructed from Takoli Gad to Maletha. This is carved out in hard rock. The upper part of tunnel is made using big stones secured using iron nails so that even natural calamity can not destroy the tunnel.
Madho singh had to sacrifice his son for this canal. 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. 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. 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 on 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 is the story that is told and retold during the traditional harvest time in Uttarakhand, commemorating both Madho Singh’s exploits and sacrifice for the fertility and prosperity of his home village.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.
Some times back a VCD film was produced under the banner of Parvatiya Films by Beer Singh Thakur. The name of the film was ‘Maletha Ki Kool’ and it was based on the script of renowned cultural activist of Uttarakhand, Shri Jeet Singh Negi. Music director of the film was Shri Bhagwati Prasad Pokhriyal and Roshan Dhasmana and Jagriti Dhobal performed the lead roles under the direction of Shri Balraj Negi. Above the cover of that VCD.
One song clip and intro from that movie courtesy Rajiv Rawat.