Considered to be the longest epic poem ever written, Mahabharata is about the turmoils and friction between two factions of the same royal family, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. It is said to have been written around 400 BC, though the incidents described in the epic are said to have occurred long before, maybe in the 800 BC. Interestingly, many of the sites mentioned in the Mahabharata still exist and Uttarakhand is home to several of them. The Mahabharata Circuit covers all the places associated with the epic in the state of Uttarakhand. Around 250-300 km long, this circuit spans from Mana, the last village of India towards the international border, all the way to scenic Dodital.
It is in this holy destination, it is said, that the sage-author of the epic had resided. Close to the Badrinath temple stands the Vyas Gufa, a cave, where it is believed the sage had sat and composed the epic with the help of Lord Ganesha. Another legend say that when the Pandavas were in exile, they had stayed for a while in Badrinath.
The last village of India, along the Indo-China border, Mana is around 5 km from Badrinath. Mana is believed to have been the site from where the Pandavas had started on their mahaprasthan (last journey), and their wife Draupadi was the first to fall, after crossing the Saraswati river. There is small passage called the Bhim Pul (named after one of the Pandava brothers Bhim) that is located here and the River Saraswati plunges headlong into the path and this is a sight to behold.
The Pandukeshwar Temple lies on the way to Badrinath and legend has it that this was where Pandu, the father of the Pandavas, worshipped Lord Shiva.
Lakhamandal Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is represented in the form of a graphite lingam that shines when water is poured on it. A very interesting tale says that Lakhamandal or the palace of lac was a beautiful structure built by the Kauravas for their cousins, the Pandavas. The former had planned to burn the palace and along with it the five Pandava brothers. However, the Pandavas escaped through an underground tunnel.
Hanol, near Chakrata, is a scenic destinations with several tales from the Mahabharata attached to it. It is said that when Lord Krishna disappeared at the end of the Dwapar yoga, the Pandavas followed him and crossed the Tons river. The eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira, was mesmerised by the beauty of the location and asked Lord Vishwakarma to build a temple there. The place then came to be known as Hanol.
Netwar is the most popular location in Tons valley. This is where the temple of Karna is located. Karna is said to be the firstborn of Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas. Legend has it that he was abandoned by Kunti and later joined the Kauravas.
Deora is home to another temple of Karna. The temple has a compound on the right where six miniature temples stand, representing Karna and the Pandavas.
Legend has it that the Pandavas came to be beautiful Dodital on their way to heaven after winning the war of Mahabharata.