Are you aware of the story of the Taj Mahal? Yes, one of the seven wonders of the world. Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor, built this monument in memory of her beloved wife. However, it required a massive number of people to built the same. Also, it is believed that the emperor ordered to cut the hands of all laborers who built the Taj Mahal so that no other monument of such beauty could be built again.
This story is not of the Taj Mahal, neither of an emperor but of a man whose love for his wife and determination to achieve something will give inferiority complex to even the world’s most romantic and motivating stories.
Dashrath Manjhi was a native of Gehlaur Village, Bihar in India. From a young age, he was staying away from his home and worked as a laborer in the coal mines of Dhanbad, an adjoining state to his native place. After working there for seven years, he came back to this village. On his return to the village, he fell in love with a girl named Phalguni Devi.
The girl also seemed to like Manjhi, and they were having a good time together. Manjhi approached Phalguni’s father for their marriage, but his father turned him down since he did not have any job. Manjhi and Pahlguni nurturing their love, eloped against their parent’s will and got married.
Dashrath Manjhi started working as an agricultural laborer in fields, and her lady love used to get him lunch during the day. Gelhlaur village lies in the backward area of the state, and development seems non-existent in the area. There is a mountain standing tall between the village and the nearest town where the villagers can fulfill their daily requirements.
The path was around 70Kms from the village to the nearest connecting town by going around the mountain. However, due to the absence of a proper commute facility, the villagers took a shortcut by climbing the mountain and walking on risky terrains.
Phalguni climbed the mountain daily to take lunch to his beloved husband. One day when Phalguni was pregnant, she was bringing lunch for Manjhi like just another day. However, due to scorching heat and maybe the weakness she might have felt due to her pregnancy, her feet slipped off the mountain, and she got severely injured.
Somebody informed Manjhi the Phalguni fell and got injured. Manjhi, in panic, ran from the field to see his wife. She lifted her and started running towards the doctor who was available in a nearby town, but that was around 70kms from there. When they finally arrived at the hospital, the Doctors has declared Phalguni as brought dead. This left Manjhi devasted and demolished from inside.
With the fire of love burning inside him, Manjhi decided to take revenge from the mountain, yes, the Mountain. He also thought of serving society by cutting down the mountain wide enough to get a road laid. He took a resolution for the same and left his agricultural field job. It seems a task impossible enough, but there was more to it; Manjhi did not have any access to the modern-day tools.
He just had his hammer and a chisel ( a small pointed iron tool). It seemed foolish to break such a massive mountain with just a small hammer. Passing people mocked him. Soon the news spread, and Manjhi was made fun of among the villagers. He was even ridiculed by his father for this act.
A severe drought hit the area, and everybody relocated to a new place, searching for food and shelter. Manjhi’s father tried to convince him to leave the site, but Manjhi decided to carry on with his colossal mission. Manjhi had to face all the wilderness; he had to drink dirty water collected in some pits to avoid dehydration. His food was just a few leaves for the day.
All this while he also tried to convince various government officials to help him carve out a road on the mountain. He even walked to Delhi (the national capital), which is more than 1000kms from the village. All this journey on foot because he does not even have the money to buy a train or bus ticket. But, everything he pursued was turned down.
He carved a route through the ridge of stone that was 110 meters long, 7.7 meters deep in places, and 9.1 meters wide. “When I first started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic,” he said, “but that just intensified my resolve.” He worked on the mission for 22 years (1960–1982). The distance between the Gaya district’s Atri and Wazirganj sectors was reduced from 55 km to 15 km.
Despite being ridiculed for his efforts, Manjhi’s efforts have made life easier for the residents of Gehlaur village. “While most villagers taunted me at first, there were quite a few who later lent me support by giving me food and helping me buy my tools,” Manjhi later explained. In 2006, he was proposed for the Padma Shri Award in the field of social service.
Manjhi died of gall bladder cancer on August 17, 2007, at the age of 73, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He was given a state funeral by the Bihar government. He was also featured on a postage stamp issued by Indian Post in 2016.