As a journalist with just a few vacations, any time I leave home, the impulse is to maximize every waking moment. But this time, I needed a vacation like the old times, before whitewater rafting and river crossing became leisure activities. I was looking for a holiday with minimal interaction with people, no late-night karaoke, no group safaris, no adventure camps, no meditation classes, no temple hopping and no waiting outside a restaurant for a table with a bunch of monkey-capped vacationers.
I looked for places that were boring, had practically nothing to do, that no one had heard about and that provided ample scope for supine positions. As puzzling as it may sound I chose Himachal’s most popular and visited district, Kullu. I boarded a bus to Manali packed with newly-married couples and a few wailing babies who I was happy to bid goodbye to at Bhuntar, where the fierce Beas that comes from touristy Manali meets the tranquil Parvati that comes from little-known Manatalai.
From Bhuntar, I traveled alongside the Parvati with small groups of Israelis for the company. Almost 40-odd km later, after crossing a few sleepy villages, the humongous Malana Hydro-Electric Project, signboards in Hebrew welcomed me to Kasol.
With fewer than 4,000 people in the town, cheap accommodation most of which faces a clean, gurgling river, coniferous forests, snow-capped mountains and practically no place to “see”, Kasol is the perfect ‘do-nothing’ vacation spot.
From Kasol, hardly 4 kilometers is renowned for its pilgrimage centers, the small town of Manikaran in the state of Himachal Pradesh is nestled amidst the lush green Valley of Parvati.T his sacred town of hot water spring lies between the roaring rivers of Beas and Parvati. The town houses a number of Hindu temples and a gurudwara for the Sikhs. Hence, a large number of pilgrims throng to this town every year during their visit to Manali and Kullu. The place also holds its significance for its therapeutic spring of hot water and sparkling landscape.
Although the town is symbolic of its religious importance for the Hindus with several temples scattered throughout, the main attraction of the Manikaran lies in the famous Shiv temple and the Sikh Gurudwara between which flows the miraculous hot water spring. Other attractions of the place include the temples of Lord Vishnu, Krishna, and Rama. Apart from the above, the place also holds its importance for its scenic beauty and serene atmosphere.
The misty and mystical place by the river and the hot springs were filled with tons of friendly pilgrims, colorful banners. We’re the only tourists, so again attracted a lot of attention, with families and guys asking to take pictures with us.
At the entrance, shoes must be taken off and heads covered. I didn’t have my scarf and looked pathetic with my raincoat hood on. At Sikh temples, they offer “Langar”, free “food from the Gods”. We were invited to eat with the pilgrims, lined up sitting on the floor, like everyone else. I felt very welcomed and loved to see on one wall, pictures of many Gods and deities, including Shiva.
According to Hindu mythology, Hindus believe that lawgiver Manu recreated human life in Manikaran after the flood. Other legends associate Manikaran with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Once while roaming through the valley, Shiva and Parvati came across the place called Manikaran and they decided to stay for some time. They stayed for over a millennium and during their stay, a jewel from Goddess Parvati’s earring fell in the river.
Goddess Parvati was upset and all attempts to locate the jewel failed. Raging with anger, Lord Shiva opened his third eye. Shesh Naag (Serpent God) was approached by the gods to repress Lord Shiva’s anger. The Serpent God hissed and hot water started oozing from the place where the jewel had fallen which brought out numerous jewels like the one that was being sought. The sight of the jewels subdued Lord Shiva’s anger.
The Guru Nanak Devji Gurudwara also known as Manikaran Gurudwara is associated with Guru Nanak (the founder of Sikhism). Their gurudwara has a langar (kitchen) that offers free food.
Manikaran Gurudwara Sahib
Manikaran Gurudwara Sahib is a sacred place. It is a small town of Manikaran. It is said that the Sikh founder, Guru Nanak Devji visited Manikaran for the betterment of the people there. Once at the small town, his disciple collected flour and pulses from the local people for langar. Guru Nanak Ji then requested his disciple to remove a stone from the area where he was sitting. The disciple did as instructed and was surprised by the sudden hot water spring that breaks out suddenly. The gurudwara also has a free langar for all.
The temple was made by Raja Jagat Singh in the 17th century. This is a really old temple with old construction and a very spiritual place for locals.
Temple of Lord Shiva
This temple belongs to Lord Shiva. An earthquake in 1905 caused damage to the temple and it was slightly tilted. The importance of Manikaran is also judged by the fact that devtas of Kullu valley pay a regular visit.
From Manikaran there are two viable options to reach Tosh village either you can hire a cab which will drop you at Tosh or you can catch a bus which will drop you at Barshaini and from there you can walk (45 mins) towards Tosh Village. Tosh is a small village surrounded by breathtaking landscape and beautiful wooden houses. There are guest houses both at the entrance of the village and at the far end of the village. I will recommend walking uphill passing the village houses and narrow lanes. There are few guesthouses at the end of the village and view from the top of the village is much better than the entrance of the village. Accommodation will not be a problem unless you go during peak seasons.
This trip was definitely a memorable one as we were able to visit these beautiful places in one day. It is always fun to try different cuisine, experience diverse culture, chat with locals and travel with.
WHERE TO STAY
Budget hotels which offer basic amenities are scattered across the town. Mid-range hotels are also numerous and located at convenient distance from the temple and gurudwara. The town also boasts of a few luxury hotels.
WHERE TO EAT
There are many stalls and restaurants that serve good North Indian dishes. Most restaurants also offer Israeli, Chinese, Punjabi and South Indian dishes. Some restaurants attached to the luxury hotels also serve Italian and Continental dishes.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Manikaran enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year. The climate in Manikaran is cold throughout the year. Manikaran temperature remains below 0º Celsius half of the year. The maximum temperature can rise up to 17º Celsius and minimum of 5º Celsius. The best time to visit Manikaran is April to October. April to June is ideal for sightseeing. From September to October, the climate and weather are good for trekking and rock climbing and river rafting. October to February is ideal for snow skiing.