In the remote village of Gehlaur in the Indian state of Bihar, there lived a man named Dasrath Manjhi. Dasrath was an unremarkable man, working as a labourer and living in poverty. But what Dasrath lacked in wealth and education, he made up for in grit, determination and love for his community. This is the amazing true story of how one man single-handedly broke down a mountain and connected his village to the outside world.
The Turning Point in Dasrath Manjhi’s Life
In 1960, Dasrath Manjhi’s wife Falguni was pregnant with their third child. Due to inadequate medical facilities in the village, Falguni had to travel to the nearest town to see a doctor. The only way to get there was to walk around a large mountain that separated Gehlaur from the town. Unfortunately, Falguni fell and injured herself during this arduous journey. By the time Dasrath was able to get her to the doctor, it was too late and she died from her injuries.
Dasrath was devastated. He blamed the mountain for taking his beloved wife away from him. It was then that Dasrath decided to do the unthinkable – break down the mountain that had claimed Falguni’s life. Even though the nearest town was just 15 kilometres away, the mountain made the travel distance around 75 kilometres. Dasrath realized that removing the mountain could save future lives by providing easy access to medical facilities.
The Grueling Task Begins
Armed with just a hammer and chisel, Dasrath started chiselling away at the mountain in 1960. The mountain was over 300 feet tall and made of hard granite – a seemingly impossible task for just one ordinary man with rudimentary tools. The villagers called him crazy but Dasrath was undeterred.
After a few weeks of work, his hands were blistered and his body ached. He decided that working during the day left him exhausted in the heat. So Dasrath changed tactics and started hammering away at night under the moonlight. He worked all night, night after night, year after year.
Slow Progress Over Decades
Dasrath would first hammer holes into the rock, then fill them with stones and crowbar the giant boulders apart. It was backbreaking and dangerous work – over the years, he used 29 crowbars which kept wearing out from overuse. At times, he would get injured from falling rocks. But Dasrath kept going, even working with a bandage around his head if injured.
His progress was painfully slow, but inch by inch, foot by foot, the mountain started coming apart. Dasrath shortened the 75-kilometre trek to just 15 kilometres by carving a path 110 meters long and 30 meters wide through the mountain. Some estimates suggest it took him 22 years to break down the mountain. Others claim it took him 30 years, working day and night with chisels, hammers and shovels.
The Mountain Man Succeeds
Finally, in 1982, the Mountain Man of India succeeded – a road now ran directly between the villages on both sides of the mountain. What once took hours of trekking now took just 15 minutes by rickshaw on the road Dasrath had carved through the mountain. His act of love and devotion for his community had finally paid off.
Dasrath fondly became known as the Mountain Man. But his body had taken a toll from so many years of hard labour. Dasrath Manjhi died in 2007 at the age of 73. He had survived a stroke and been seriously injured in a road accident.
The Troubles Faced by the Mountain Man
Dasrath Manjhi faced many troubles and obstacles while taking on the monumental task of carving a path through a mountain. He had only simple hand tools like hammers, chisels and shovels to break down a massive 300-foot-high mountain made of hard granite.
The strenuous labour took a huge toll on his body, as he suffered from blisters, injuries from falling rocks, backaches, headaches and dizziness from working day and night. But he kept going despite the pain and lack of help, financial hardship, dangerous conditions, lack of family support and failing health.
What kept him going for over 20 years without giving up was his unwavering motivation to create an easier passage between his village and the nearest town. The Mountain Man’s courage and determination in the face of overwhelming adversity are truly inspirational.
The journey was tough but Dasrath Manjhi stood tall
There are some reports that indicate Dasrath Manjhi did not receive the best treatment from authorities despite his incredible achievement:
- When Manjhi first started his ambitious project, he was mocked and called mad by villagers and local government officials. They did not support his efforts and thought it an impossible task.
- After completing the carving of the mountain pass, he gained fame and recognition. In 1982, the then Chief Minister of Bihar, Daroga Prasad Rai, visited him and promised government support.
- However, the support did not materialize. Manjhi later went to meet the Chief Minister in Patna, but was made to wait for hours and sent away without meeting him.
- In 2007, Manjhi travelled to Delhi to meet the President and Prime Minister. But he was allegedly detained by Delhi police and prevented from meeting the authorities.
- Local authorities later claimed it was due to security reasons and miscommunication. But Manjhi felt humiliated after tirelessly working for his village and trekking miles to meet the leaders.
- There are accounts that the Bihar government provided him with some paltry compensation only after the media reported on his plight. The family lived in poverty despite his feats.
So while Manjhi received national honours late in life, it appears the authorities did not provide adequate and timely support for his selfless work. The Mountain Man undertook the backbreaking endeavour for his village, not for personal gain. But he was deeply hurt by the apathetic treatment meted out to him by officials after the completion of his inspiring labour.
Legacy and Biopic of the Mountain Man
Dasrath Manjhi’s incredible achievement received national attention and government support after his mountain pass was completed. He travelled to Delhi to be honoured by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
His incredible story was made into a 2015 Indian biographical film called “Manjhi – The Mountain Man“, directed by Ketan Mehta. The film stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Dashrath Manjhi and Radhika Apte as his wife. The film received positive critical acclaim upon its release.
Most of all, Dasrath showed how even an ordinary man can achieve the extraordinary through persistence, dedication and community service. Thanks to the Mountain Man of India, entire generations now have access to schools, hospitals and jobs just kilometres away rather than 75 kilometres over a mountain. Dasrath Manjhi carved a road out of a mountain using just hammers and chisels – propelled by nothing but love. That is why decades later, the incredible Mountain Man of India continues to inspire millions around the world.
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