A hidden treasure of the Morni hills is the Thakur-dwar temple, a modest structure built at the site of a 10th Century AD temple on the bank of the Tikkar tal lake.
As per the local legend, the Thakur-dwar temple was built in the ancient times by the Pandavas after Yudhisthir saved his brothers by answering the ‘Yaksha Prashna‘. ‘The Book of the Forest‘ constitutes one of the 18 Parvas of Mahabharat and gives the account of the 12 years of exile of the Pandavas in the forest. ‘The Story of the Righteous Crane‘ is a famous episode in the lives of the Pandavas when their 12 years of exile in the forest had just ended. They were approached for help by a Brahman whose wooden sticks used for igniting the sacrificial fire had been carried of by a deer on its antlers. The brothers followed the tracks of the culprit through the dense forest until they lay exhausted and thirsty. Sahadev the youngest set out to find water and came upon a beautiful lake with crystal clear water. As he started to drink to quench his thirst a crane warned him against it, asking him to drink only after he had satisfactorily answered its questions. The arrogant prince ignored the warning and drank the water that instantly turned to poison causing the prince to die. Nakul, Arjun and Bheem followed one-by-one only to die by commiting the same folly. It was finally the wise Yudhisthir who paid heed to the crane’s warning and discovered that the crane was actually a Yaksha, the guardian spirit of the Lake of Death, that had assumed the form of the bird. The 18 questions (prashans) of the Yaksha and Yudhistir’s profound answers are an important episode in the epic tale. A much quoted reply of Yudhistir was that ‘the most wonderful thing in the world is that although people die all the time yet one expects to somehow live for ever’. Impressed by the vituous answers of the eldest prince, the spirit restored his dead brothers to life. The people of Morni believe that the Tikkar tal is the mystical ‘Lake of Death’ of the Mahabharat era and that the Thakur-dwar temple on its bank was built by the Pandavs in gratitude for being spared by the holy spirit.
The excavations at the Thakur-dwar temple site in the 1970s led to the discovery of several Brahmanical stone sculptures of the early medieval and the Pratihara period. While some of these sculptures are housed at the Government Museum and Art Gallery at Chandigarh, yet many beautiful sculptures are still in the possession of this modest lake-side temple. These sculptures place the age of the original temple around 10 Century AD.
Sir William Wilson Hunter makes a reference to this ancient temple in The Imperial Gazetteer of India (1885) as follows,‘ … a large hill tract, known as the Kotaha pargana, … composed of two parallel ranges, the sources of the river Ghaggar. This mountainous region differs widely in its physical features and in the character of its inhabitants, from the level plain at its foot. It is covered by the forest of Morni, in whose midst, enclosed by projecting spurs, lie two remarkable lakes. A hill divides them from one another, but some hidden communication evidently exists between their basins, as the level of either is immediately affected by any withdrawal of water from its neighbour. The people regard them as sacred ; and a ruined temple in honour of Krishna, which stands upon the bank of the larger lake, is the scene of a great annual festival. The village and fort of Morni lie considerably higher up the mountain-side.’