Friday, May 11, 2007

Our luxury bus stopped close to the wire bridge. Across lay Manikaran, the place famous for its hot water springs, a gurudwara, temple and a mosque, all of which lie in close proximity. The bridge crossed the span of one mountain to another with a gushing river that lay in between. It was not that cold here. It is boxed in at the bottom of a vast sheer-sided chasm. It is a damp, dark place and all the action revolves around the springs. It is also called Parvati Valley. It is a good spot for trout fishing too. Everyone took off towards his or her places of worship. We were intrigued to find that the hot springs rose in bubbles close to the shore of the river, with people bathing, drinking, collecting or trying to cook rice in the hot water.

Legend has that Shiva and Parvati loved Manikaran so much that they chose to stay here for over a thousand years - until the day Parvati lost one of the gems she wore on her ear ring. Shiva searched high and low for the gem, but to no avail. The furious God opened His third eye, which would lead to the destruction of the Earth. Fearing the worst, the Gods requested Shesh Nag to search for the lost piece of jewellery. The Nag (snake) hissed and hissed, creating bubbles and hot water in the river, which threw up many precious stones including the one which Parvati lost. Legend has it that the bubbles sometimes reached and became waves 15 feet high.

Ram Temple
Since then, the water here boils and spews sulphur gas close to the shore. The water of Manikiran is used by people of all faiths for general and religious purposes. The temple has created a kund, which is used by the pilgrims coming to the Ram temple to cook rice and dal. The temple is carved in pale gray stone. There are several other temples in Manikaran, but the temple of Lord Ram has an image, which was from Ayodhya and brought by the Raja of Kullu. It has since disappeared. On one of the stones of this ancient temple, its entire history is written, but the script is not readable. During festivals, the devatas or lords of the temples in Manikaran pay regular visits here. They are carried in ceremonious processions to the Ram temple on auspicious days.

Guru Nanak Devji Gurudwara
We passed the temple to reach the Gurudwara, a two-storeyed building. After praying, we went for lunch. I found the food quite different from other Gurudwaras, with two dishes which have always been my favourite. It was a combination of dahi kadi (curd gravy), meethe chawal (sweet rice), palak (spinach) and roti (Indian bread). You may find this combination an odd one, but it was very well cooked.This Gurudwara is open to all and is highly venerated by the Sikhs. Guru Nanak visited this place with Mardana, and he is said to have performed many miracles here. This is mentioned in the autobiography of Bhai Mardana. One of the hot water baths is within the Gurudwara, while the other two are privately-owned. Some of these hot springs have been tested to contain a high dose of Uranium and radioactive minerals.

You can take the HPDC bus/luxury bus; taxies can be hired. There are all types of hotels, where you can stay and cafes where you can eat.t is 45 km from Kullu. The nearest airport is at Bhuntar in Kullu. In winter, the temperatures become quite low and heavy woollens are required. In summer, cottons are recommended. The nearest railheads are at Chandigarh, Shimla and Jogindernagar.Manali is also close by, and there is a lot to see and do in Manali, including adventure sports.


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