Jun 5, 2012

Yatra- Manikaran, The hot springs

In Himachal Pradesh, though Manali is honeymooner's paradise, Kullu is referred to as Valley of Gods. Nearby Kullu Valley is Parvati Valley where a small religious town called Manikaran resides, main attraction here being a hot springs in the beautiful landscape. The existence of many temples and a gurudwara indicate it is an important pilgrimage center for more than one religion. A half-a-day or day-long excursion from Manali.

There are two legends associated with Manikaran. The first, Manu Maharshi created human life from this sacred place.
The second legend which gives the name to the place is related to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is believed that both lived here for eleven hundred years. Once Shiva-Parvati were walking on the banks of river and Parvati lost one of her wish fulfilling jewels (chintamani) in the water. She asked Shiva to retrieve it. Shiva then ordered his gana (attendents) to find it. Shiva was extremely angry when the jewel was not found. The Gods asked the serpent God Shesha Nag to pacify Shiva. To do this Shesha Nag hissed which resulted in a flow of boiling water with the jewels. Parvati was happy to see the jewels and Shiva calmed down. Since then the hot spring exists here and the water is considered very auspicious. It is believed that the water has curative powers.
The water is so hot that the rice can be cooked here. The whole area is so hot and walking is difficult on the hot pavement. There are gunny-bags and wooden planks to walk over. There is a stone image of Lord Shiva in his angry mood just over the boiling pond. It is the most beautiful Shiva image I have ever seen. Little distance from here at the center of the town is a Lord Ramachandra temple. It is believed that the idol of Lord Rama installed here was brought from Ayodhya by the King of Kullu.
The Gurudwara has a bath just below it. There is Hot gufa (cave) which is a natural steaming center. It seems Guru Nanakji visited this place for welfare of the people in this region and is hence holy for Sikh.
The trip to Manikaran was part of the 2N/3D package. With me were a group of Bengali seniors and a group of phirangis (foreigners). It was a good contrast. The foreigners were for only one way trip and vanished after disembarking. I hear Manikaran is popular destination for "personal gifts". The group of elderly walked slowly and rested in a place telling me to take my own time and enjoy, there was no need to hurry. So, I listened to them, visited all the temples, gurudwara, took enough pictures, spoke to the pandas (priests) to know about the place. One Panda offered me the rice cooked in the hot springs!

It was a great religious trip. I only wish that the dharmashala and baths were little away from the temple and hot springs keeping the place clean and peaceful!

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