I was looking for places to visit from Manali and there were many suggestions pouring in like Kasol, Kheerganga, Malana, Tosh all of which were hippie destinations. Spending a couple of days in Manali and hopping between cafes itself made me realise that Himachal is well known for the abundant weed that grows in the state. Sit in a cafe for a drink or even tea and they try to sell you weed or the world famous Malana cream. This trip was very eye-opening to me in terms of learning about weed, how they prepare it, what are the different kinds, how to take it and so on. I do not smoke up and I have never tried, so somehow it did not excite. The funny part was all these days I thought people were flocking to Kasol because of the beauty of Parvati valley and cafes. Innocent, ignorant me! Between all these hippie destinations stood out one odd man out! Manikaran!! Manikaran is a pilgrimage town known for its Shiva temple, Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara and Rama temple. I was surprised to see this! Kind of funny to have temples surrounded by weed farms. On other note, we make up all kind of mythology stories and believe that Lord Shiva smokes pot so this could be a perfect adobe for Him. Anyways, let me take you around this holy town and narrate all the stories around it.
I left Manali about 8’o clock in the morning and started to Manikaran in a cab. Actually, there are plenty of buses plying from Manali and you can very well manage with the bus. Even otherwise you can change buses at Kullu or Kasol. It was raining when I left Manali and the pine trees were dripping with raindrops as we passed through them. A little out of Manali starts orchards and orchards of Apple, all glistening in the rain. It was not the plucking season yet and the apples were just green. A lot of homestays along these orchards made me feel why didn’t I book a stay in this part of Manali, it would have been like a retreat. All through the way, people were selling honey and apples. Soon the road was either side covered with towering pine trees dropping pine corns on the car as it swayed in the wind.
We passed the town of Kullu and turned left at Bhuntar towards Kasol. And that was the first sight of Parvati river. Oh God! How ferocious she was! She silenced everything around her. The chirping birds, the swish of the wind, honks from the trucks, everything was subdued by her roar. Beas is so subtle when compared to her. That is one of the reasons why people come to Parvati valley. She has the power to silence you, all your thoughts, your nerves, fears, everything! And you just keep watching her meditatively. The valley turned picturesque with pine trees and green mountains on either side and Parvati river dashing in the middle. We crossed many small villages and the road was narrow at quite a few places. It was little past 9 in the morning but the mist was still hanging around. Private buses had just arrived at Kasol and sleepy passengers were trying to figure out the way. The cafes were closed, people at campsites were just out stretching. Manikaran is just 5 to 10km away from Kasol and the mood changes slowly. It changes into youths riding on bikes with a turban and carrying Sikhism pertaining flag or huge sword in their hand. The cab stopped at a point which looked like a car parking area behind the Gurudwara, it was also where the buses were stopping by.
Contents - Read all the way though.
Story of Manikaran
Manikaran nestled amongst the Parvati valley comes with a mythological story associated with it. Once upon a time Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati while passing through the region found Parvati valley to be too beautiful that She said let us halt here for some time. Do you get it? Parvati stays here, so Parvati river, valley, etc. What they think as to halt for a while to enjoy the beauty of the place turns into living there for years, believed to be eleven thousand years. On one such day when they are frolicking around the river, one of the precious gems of Parvati falls into the river. Parvati urges Shiva to find it for Her and He, in turn, orders His helpers to look for it. When they cannot find it, He gets angry and opens up His third eye. That is when Sheshnag or Adiseshan, the Serpent God comes to help. He moves shakes up the earth and breathes heavy that all the precious gems from under the earth float up. And hence this place gets the name Manikaran translating to finding the Gem. And wherever Sheshnag moved the earth, hot springs sprouted up and we can still see hot springs around Manikaran. That is said to be the history of Manikaran.
Manikaran Hot Springs
It is a wonder to see hot springs right next to a cold river. There are hot spring all around the place, steaming out fumes at you. And it is believed that it has medicinal values that people bathe in it and cook food in it. So one of the stories associated with hot springs is what you read above, Sheshnag breathing through the river. There is one more story associated with it pertaining to Sikhism. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was once passing through the Himalayas with his Sikh followers. When they get hungry, the Guru decides to arrange for Langar, the community lunch that Sikhism is well known for. Many donate wheat flour and rice however they are not able to set up a fire along the river. So the Guru says to lift up the rock and when the disciple does that, hot spring pops out. So they start cooking by placing the vessels over the rock and cook rice and curry. The story does not end here! They start to make chapattis and chapattis start to sink into the hot springs. The Guru says dedicate truthful yourself to God and He will bless you. One of the disciples does that and the Chapathis float back. Till date, the langar in Gurudwara at Manikaran Sahib is cooked on top of these hot springs. Now that we have seen to stories associated with the hot springs let us see the science also behind it.
What is the Scientific Reason for Manikaran Hot Springs
Okay, you remember geography? The different layers of earth and it gets hotter as you go down the earth, that the centre of the earth is a gooey thing called magma. And do you know how the mighty mountains are formed because of the shift in earth plates pushing out them? So somewhere along the Parvati valley there got to be fissures that seep in water and shoots it out when it comes in contact with the hot part of the earth. And obviously going deep down, brings up all the minerals which are why the waters got to be therapeutic. Although people like to keep it as a religious miracle and say that scientists have been baffled by it, this got to be the most probable reason. Some say hot sulphuric hot spring of Manikaran and then some say no it is not sulphuric but has some radioactive thingy. Well, it is a wonder to watch at the end of the day.
With all those stories about Manikaran let us explore the temples of Manikaran.
Gurudwara Shri Manikaran Sahib
Manikaran Sahib was my first stopover. From the parking lot where I got down, it led to a small bridge over river Parvathi. I could already see hot water springs and pools around the Gurudwara. Pilgrims were taking a dip in the pool. Hot springs here and there were releasing fumes, giving a smoky feel around the area. The Gurudwara was constructing much more resting area around the river. There were high rise buildings on either side of the river and there was practically no river bank on either side. This seemed to me like a disaster waiting to happen. I walked past the hot pools, the entire area was pretty wet and steamy. Though the entire place seemed crowded, inside the sanctum sanctorum there were not many people and I got to sit comfortably for some time. Apparently, the langar served is also prepared on stoves that use the heat from the hot water spring. I did not get a chance to see that. For some reason, the Gurudwara seemed claustrophobic that I came out again to the bridge and stood there just soaking in the views and the ferocious river.
Next, I looked up for the famous Shiva Temple and my map pointed to directions that did not take me there. I asked someone and they said I have to walk past the Gurudwara! That seemed like a close building beyond the sanctum sanctorum but then I walked again and behind the room ran a short way to the other side of the town. Shops were lined up on either side. And lined up along the shops was the Shiva Temple.
Lord Shiva Temple
Now, this temple sits right on top of the hot springs. I realised that the fumes I was observing from the bridge were coming from under the structure of this temple. They have laid wooden planks around the temple to walk on. The impatient me stepped on to the floor and quickly realised my mistake. There is a big Shiva statue in front of a hot water spring. The fumes are very evident in the Shiva temple. Apparently, an earthquake altered the structure of the temple and it is slightly in slanting position. I could not make out much. I offered my prayers and came out. People bring packets of dal, pulses or rice and cook it in these hot springs. They consider it as prasad and good for the family.
This a century old temple but renovated recently that makes it look new. It is common to mistake it to the Ram Temple. No, Ram Mandir is further down this road. Raghunath Mandir wore a deserted look. There were none other than the priest and me. I asked him if this was the Ram temple and he said that is a different one down the street. I posted the innocent question of, “Aren’t Raghunath and Ram the same? Why do we have two temples?” The priest smiled at me and said, “Raghunath and Ram are not the same.” “They are, don’t we call Ram as Raghu?” I seriously thought so… The priest must have thought this one needs a lot of time in brushing up the concepts that he sat down and made me sit down too. Raghunath is the grandfather of Dasharathan! And as we know Dasharath is the father of Lord Ram. King Raghunath from the Ikshvaku dynasty, is the most legendary king that then on the whole dynasty was addressed as RaghuVamsam or RaghuKula. I was under the impression that Raghuvamsam is addressed after Ram but no! Now that my knowledge was refreshed I went back to pray again with a different petition in mind 😛
Naina Bhagwati Mandir
I fell in love with this temple. I think mostly because this was the first temple away from all the crowd, with lots of light, and with a spacious platform in the front. Also the architecture! The wooden architecutre temple with many carvings on it makes it one charming temple. The temple is small but then you can spend time watching the ceiling and windows, carved beautifully..
Sri Ramachandra Ji Mandir at Manikaran is the biggest Hindu temple that I saw at Manikaran. But unfortunately, there was no priest to tell me stories about it. Nothing was written about the temple either. The internet also does not seem to bother about this temple. The only information I have is that the idol was brought from Ayodhya and installed here. There were Ram kund, Sita kund around the temple. Considering such springs around, I guess Ram and Sita must have also halted here. There are many halls around for pilgrims to stay and they serve langar too.
When I walked out of the temple I realised I was exploring the area in reverse order. With that, I bid adieu to Manikaran and moved on to the next destination. Manikaran did not have the serious pilgrim place feel. It was more like tourists and honeymooners flocking around the place. So yea, if you are anyway going to Kasol and Malana you can as well visit Manikaran too. Happy Traveling 🙂
Where to stay?
Kasol would be the closest place to stay with a good variety of accommodation options. I, however, stayed at Manali and did a day trip from there.
For accommodation options at Kasol – click here
For accommodation options at Manali – Click here