Spiritual wisdom lies beneath appreciation of
natural beauty all around. Atop Kullu Valley lies the picturesque
hill town of Manali hemmed with the silence of the mountains, a noisy
river, calm meadows and bountiful orchards.
Kullu Valley belongs to the Gods and sages and
heavenly happenings are daily encounters for the innocent
villagers who smile and cry within the ambience of the mystic land.
Their belief system is deep rooted. Every village has it
own God and every day is planned by His wish as local MLA and HPCC
Chairman Chander Sen Thakur laments!
Some two kilometers away from modern Manali town
which was earlier known as Dana Bazar there are two villages, Aleo
and Chooga, whose ishtadeva is Brahman named Shristi Nangji.
It is a matter of anthropological interest that there is a living
medium called Gur. In a state of trance he dicates the
wish of God. Roshan, a local village boy narrated that
this place is even used to vouch or take the oath
of truthfulness. When judiciary is doubted they refer people to take
oath before the Gur.
According to mythology Brahma, the creator of the
universe, created first Manu and Manu in turn created all the
creatures of the world. Initially there was water all around.
Manu and his wife were afloat in a boat cruising in search of land.
The first land sighted came to be known as Manualaya. It was later
accepted as the gate of creation. Today there is a unique new temple
called Manu Mandir.
The temple has a monolith stone statue of Vishnu on
the left of Manu and on the right is Brahma. The latest addition is
Shiva to complete the Trinity of the gods. There is a pyre beneath
the temple which is perhaps unparalled in the temple tradition of
India. The story goes that there used to be a demon called Tundi who
used to kill human beings. Manu intervened and said the demon could
have dead bodies if he desisted from killing living beings.
Furthermore Manu promised to worship him as well. Since then 11 logs
of wood are kept beneath the temple on a pyre to appease the demon,
Tundi. People say some 70-80 years ago people used to burn the dead
here as ordered by Manu.
In the month of Magh (January), an eleven day fair
called Fhagli is celebrated to appease the demon Tundi. On this day
liquor is offered followed by dance and festivity. The Manu temple
is also linked to another festival called Chatt festival which
celebrates the birth of Manu. It is held after the festival of
It is interesting to note that the people of Manali
go in procession to a village called Goushal every alternate year and
people from Goushal come to Manali. In this three day festival Manu
Rishi and Mata Hiramba go in a palanquin to Goushal village. The
whole village follow them in procession. After a community feast
they return to Manali. Similarly, form Goushal, Gautam Rishi, Vyas
Rishi and Kanchan Naga are brought in procession to Manali. The
festivity of God and Man has been continuing since time immemorial.
Through festivity the ecclesiastical spirit lives on the temple
remains the epicenter of spiritual vibration.
A little up in the woods is Dhoongri Temple also
known as Hidimba Devi Temple. According to hearsay she was a
mountain belle rescued from her evil brother by Bhima. One of the
Pandav brothers in the epic, Mahabharata.
The temple symbolizes the Mother Goddess. Till date
animal sacrifice to appease the Mother Goddess is in practice. The
temple, made of timber, is unique from the architectural point of
view. The pagoda type structure was erected in 1553 AD. It is said
the Pandavas spent their period of exile in Kullu. The world famous
Kullu Dussehra is linked with the ceremonial opening or closing of
Hidimba Devi Temple.
There are masks and antler horns hung around the
temple. The series of wooden carvings animal motifs are exquisite.
One can see a unique symbolism where there is a body of a jumping
lion with the face of an elephant, an unparalleled factor in temple
motifs and designs.
A little away from old Manali, in the hills amidst
nature, is the Vasishtha Temple.Vasishtha was an ascetic who
meditated here for a thousand years. He was the Kul Guru of
Shri Ram of the Ramayana era and a worshipper of Shakti.He
worshipped near the Arjoga river (now known as Beas) during the Satya
Yug (Golden Age). It is interesting to know that the sulphur
kund (hot spring) sprang up out of Vasishthaa
meditation.Desh Raj Sharma whose family has been worshipping
Vasishtha for five generations said that this land has remained a
seat of meditation for sages. People down the ages come here to get
blessed and besmear themselves with mineral water. There is also a
small akhara where ascetics gather for a religious discourse.
In Manali Gods and sages remain part of the peoples
Walking in the Shadow of the Woods
Take a walk through the Nature Park where there area
some three thousand trees on 29 acres of land strewn with boulders.
I ventured out on an afternoon. It was windy pre monsoon June. As
soon as you step in you are faced with gigantic sky high trees. The
light remains minimum and the sun is allowed to peep whenever a tall
tree permits a vision within her. Arrows direct you to different
parts of the woods. One takes you to see a rare endangered bird, the
Himalayan Monal. Retracing your steps, a small wooden bridge takes
you to an arrow marking that reads River View. Following
the arrow mark I walked into the woods. The shadow of the trees
overcast a serpentine path. The sound of silence is the thing to be
discovered here. It is the perfect spot for meditation. There was a
young man in his mid-thirties in deep pranayam (meditation).
Suddenly some naughty crows dived out and banged
against my head! Covering my head with a handkerchief I walked up to
another locale strewn aesthetically with boulders. One large boulder
had chhupa chhupi (hide-and-seek) written on it. Children can
play here all day without getting tired. However, one can feel
thirsty. There was no water in the midst of the woods. (Better
carry your water bottle). A narrow serpentine path led me to river
splashing youthfully over large boulders. The scenic beauty of the
gushing water, the mountains, boulders, shrubs and wild flowers all
maintain their identity with a touch of harmony. After walking
through the woods man can only get tired yet the quest remains to
understand nature which is a rare commodity today.
Manali provides all kinds of adventure activities:
skiing, trekking, angling, river rafting, mountaineering
Travel agents offer a variery of scopes
for various seasons with varying price tags.
The Mountaineering Institute in Manali remains the
centre for training and guidance. One can go trekking from April to
October. Rock climbing is a popular sport here. Paragliding can also
be arranged with prior coordination.
Popular trekking routes are to Beas Kund, Hamta
Valley, Bhrigulake, Laomadugh. One can also trek to Malana village
or Parvati Valley. The charges for these routes are Rs.700-800 per
day or $200 per day. It is interesting to note that when Manali
comes under the grip of the monsoons then can trek to Lahul Spiti
which is a rain shadow area where trekking is possible.
Himalayan Adventures Pvt. Ltd. in Manali organizes a
21 day trek from Manali via Lamayuru to Leh. This trek takes you
through high mountains deserts, rivers and gorges and the wide, deep
valleys of Zanskar and Ladakh Himalayas. There are also many
Buddhist Monasteries on the way. A 21 day trek and jeep safari
combination takes you through Ladakh-Lahul-Spiti-Manali. The time
period is July-September. There is also the Great Himalayan Jeep
Safari that covers Shimal-Kinnaur-Spiti-Lahaul-Ladakh.
For professional fishing and amateur angling try the
tour circuit of Kullu-Manali-Dharamsala-Nadaun-Dehragoppipur-Pong
Dam. The rivers Tirthan, Sainj, Beas, Parvati, Garsa are ideal for
For skiing Manali remains a hot destination between
January and April. Then again in winter from January to February one
can ski in Solang Nallah. There are institutes that organize
orientation courses for beginners. Apart from skiing there is scope
for rafting in the Kullu-Jeri stretch. The rivers Chandra Bhaga and
Sutlej are rafting destinations.
Paragliding is another prominent sport in Manali
which is the biggest centre for paragliding in India. The Solang
valley is the place for even amateur paragliders.
There is also scope for mountain biking between mid-July and
mid-September. The gradation is medium to strenuous high altitude
terrain. It is generally 12 days from Manali-Lahul-Ladakh which
encompasses 475 km per day.
Manali provides many avenues for a spirited journey
in the lap of the great