Mandar Parvat (Mandar hill) is a small mountain situated in Banka district of Bihar. This awesome isolated, singular boulder hill appears as a gigantic monolith rising at a height of 700 ft. is aptly connected with a popular mythical tale of immortality in Hindu Puranas. Two very thick and remarkably parallel lines run round the hill. It is approximately 45 km south of Bhagalpur city. The mountain is famous as Mandar Hill. Mandar Hill is a great place of pilgrimage although it is not so well known now. On top of the hill there are two temples side by side belonging to Hinduism and Jainism followers. The mountain has many references in Hindu mythology known as Mandarachal Parvat. The mythological tale of Hindus describes this hill as Sumeru Parvat, the churning pole of Amrit Manthan (Nectar of Immortality) with the winding ‘Naag’ (the Great Snake). The patterns that are visible on the rock is believed to have created by the mythical Great Snake while the churning took place between the Devs and Asuras. Mandar hill is extremely sacred in the Hindu Mythology. The Skanda Purana records the history of the famous Amrit Manthan ( the churning of the ocean ). Due to this mythical association, the hill has assumed considerable religious significance and had been a place of pilgrimage up till now. The Mandar Mahatmya, a portion of the Skanda Purana, describes Mandar Hill.
According to the legend commonly believed, it was here that Vishnu had defeated the notorious giant Madhukaitab in a battle that had lasted for ten thousand years, ultimately the Mandar Hill had been thrust over the body of Madhukaitab, so that the monster could not do any further harm to the earth.).
In the memory of the 12th Jain Tirthankara Vasupujya who attained nirvana here, a Jain temple is also built on top of this hill.
It is said that Raja Chhatra Sen of the Chol tribe, who lived before the time of the Muhammadans, erected the oldest temples at the summit. Some of the carvings on the rocks are taken by some to be shell writings. Mandar Hill is also very important as it has the unique image of Vishnu, probably the only sculpture in Bihar where Vishnu, in his man-lion incarnation, has not been shown as tearing Hiranyakashap. The portrait is 34 inches high and made of black stone. It belongs to the Gupta period. The Baunsi annual fair is a popular one to draw a lot of tourists at the place..
An inscription of Gupta King Adityasena has been discovered on the ‘Mandar Hill. This inscription relates that both he and his queen Sri Konda Devi had installed an image of Narahari (Man-lion), an incarnation of Vishnu, on the hill, and that the queen performed an act of piety by excavating a tank, known as Papa Harini, at the foot of the said hill. “PapaHarini” was also known as Manohar Kund. This holy pond has its own historical significance. It is a place where you can revive yourself after taking a bath in the pond that refreshes mentally and physically. In the middle of the pond is a temple of lord Vishnu and goddess Laxmi. There is a legend about the tank. There was a king in Karnatak, Chola by name, who is supposed to have taken a bath in the tank on Makar Sankranti day before he went to offer his puja at the temple atop the hill. It is said that the king was cured of the disease from which he was suffering. Some say it was leprosy while others suggest that it was a persistent skin trouble. The reputation that the tank has gained for curing ailments attracts a large number of people to it on the Makar Sankranti day for a bath.
From 4 A.M. till 12 noon, hundreds of people have their bath in this tank and a big mela is held near the tank. Thousands collect to have a darshan of Madhusudan Bhagwan particularly on this day. It is said that this deity was enshrined at the temple of Mandar, but left the hill and went to Baunsi when the temple was desecrated by Kala Pahar. On the Makar Sankranti day the image is brought out from Baunsi and is taken in a procession to Mandar. After a worship at Mandar Hill it is taken back to Baunsi. Papaharini tank also attracts a large number of bathers on Mekh Sankranti, solar eclipse, and lunar eclipse, Bhado Purnima, Kartik Purnima and Maghi Purnima days. The water of the tank is often taken for being kept in the houses of the devotees, who regard it to be as sacred as the waters of the Ganga.
Near Papaharini tank at the foot of the hill there are a number of ruined temples said to have been destroyed by Kala Pahar. Of the three routes, which lead from the Papaharini tank to the top of the hill, the path a little to the east is much used. On this path stairs have been cut out of the stone. The legend is that these stairs had been cut at the instance of King Ugra Bhairab. A few yards up this path there is a headless idol or an image. It is the image of either Durga or Kali and it is said that Kala Pahar had beheaded the idol. A little higher up there is a small idol on a small pillar. This idol is worshipped as the Sun God.
Further up there is another very big idol having three faces and ten hands. This deity is Mahakal Bhairab. A little higher but in close proximity to Mahakal Bhairab, there is a small image of Sri Ganesha. Near the latter image, as you go up, there is an idol of Saraswati, which is about two feet high. Near the idol of Mahakal Bhairab and just by the side of the stairs, there is a three-line inscription.After a pilgrim passes the image of Mahakal Bhairab, he will feel as if a lot more of physical exertion has to be put in to reach the summit, especially as the path becomes extremely steep. In spite of the steps cut out of the stone, it is far from easy to ascend. Here also one finds some inscriptions, which are not very distinct. Near about these inscriptions there is another female deity with eight hands. This image is worshipped as Saraswati. Above this idol -one comes across two paths and both of them lead to a cave temple of Narsingh Bhagwan.
There is a tank known as Sita Kund. One of these paths passes by Sita Kund while the other skirts another tank called Sunkh Kund. Sita Kund tank is about 500 feet long and 100 feet wide and is situated in front of the ruins of the oldest temple, at a level of 500 feet above the surrounding plain. Near Sita Kund there are three large tamarind trees which offer shade to the pilgrims. The cave temple of Narsingh Bhagwan is carved out of the hill and the roof is so low that one cannot stand up in it. Near the cave temple there is one small ashram constructed of bricks and stones. The ashram apparently accommodated some hermits in the past. The ashram is now empty. On the summit of the hill there are two small temples. One of the temples contains six marks of human feet. These marks are held sacred and the legend is that they are the foot-marks of Vishnu, Saraswati and Laxmi. There are two other temples at the summit occupied by the Jains and are used by them as places of pilgrimage. The Jain temples are built of stone and mortar and are evidently not very old.The summit of the hill commands exquisite scenery. The tanks surrounding the hill, the fields, and the two rivers, the Chir and the Chandan, look very beautiful. Mandar Hill is extremely valuable for the antiquarian and the Hindu and Jain pilgrims.