Mandyali Dham: 5 Underrated Dishes Of The Himachali Feast

If you’ve never heard about Mandyali Dham, you may be unaware of a crucial part of Himachali cuisine. It is a traditional meal originating from the Mandi region in  Himachal Pradesh and is typically served during weddings, festivals, and other special occasions. 

Dham is typically a vegetarian feast that features some of the commonly made household dishes of the region, cooked using local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Dham is usually made using firewood and involves meticulous planning, and skilled cooking, and is typically carried out by a team of skilled cooks known as botis. Usually, a Dham consists of Madra, dal, kadhi, khatta, and meetha, so it is a complete meal in terms of tastebuds.

The other famous Dham in the region is the Kangra Dham, originating from the Kangra Valley region of Himachal Pradesh. It’s similar to Mandi Dham in many aspects but Kangra Dham has unique variations and specialities in terms of recipes. Some of the common dishes found in Kangra Dham include Madra, Rajma, Khatta, Kadi and Chana Dal. 

The history behind Mandyali Dham

It is believed that more than 13 centuries ago, the King of Himachal Pradesh, Jaisthamba developed a liking for the Kashmiri Wazwan, which is an elaborate that can have up to 36 courses. He ordered his cooks to prepare a similar meal without using meat; the king also wanted the meal to be so elaborate that it could be offered to the local goddess. The chef accumulated different dishes and cooking techniques from the valley and curated a meal that offers diverse flavours that work well together. Here are some underrated dishes which are usually made a part of Mandi Dham. 

Kaddu Ka Khatta

Khatta refers to a tangy and flavourful dish that breaks the monotony of the palate. Traditionally, it is made with tamarind pulp, jaggery and a blend of spices such as cumin, coriander, and turmeric. The ingredients are simmered together to create a thick and luscious sauce that complements the other dishes in the meal. A khatta can be made using a number of sour veggies, but kaddu ka khatta is a dish that is often made in Mandi as part of this meal. It uses a sweet and sour gourd and methis and chillies for seasoning.

Sepu Ka Vada

Sepu ka Vada is commonly associated with the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and is made from colocasia leaves (arbi patta) and stuffed with a spiced lentil mixture and then deep-fried until crispy. But it has emerged as a beloved part of Mandyali Dham as foodies enjoy its texture and flavour; it’s often served with a kadhi or some yoghurt which brings out its savouriness.

Mah Ki Dal

Over the years Mandyali Dham has included several flavours and dishes from neighbouring regions. Mah Ki Dal, for instance, is often made a part of this vegetarian feast though it originated in Punjab. It is made from black gram lentils (urad dal) that are soaked overnight and then cooked with various spices, tomatoes, onions, and cream; it can be identified by its rich and creamy texture.

Jhol Or Madra

Madra can be any rich and creamy dish made with soaked and boiled chickpeas (also known as kabuli chana) cooked in a yoghurt-based gravy. The gravy is often called jhol and is flavoured with a blend of spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves, which lends it a distinct aroma and taste. Madra is typically slow-cooked to allow the flavors to meld together.


Rajma has not always been a part of a traditional Mandi dham; but its unique taste and hearty profile have made it a big favourite with locals, as it’s filling as well as nourishing. It’s made with rajma soaked overnight and then cooked with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and a blend of spices until they are tender and flavorful. It is often simmered for an extended period to allow the flavors to develop fully and is usually served with steamed rice