The Great Triad-MANDI, KULLU and MANALI

A landscape tinted by golden sunsets over silvery snow. Rolling meadows dotted with wallflowers. Places of pilgrimage and heady adventure sports-a

place to lift hour spirits and discover spirituality. The Himachal’s ‘Silver Valley’ the breathtaking triad of Mandi, Kullu, and Manali.

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Situated on the banks of river Beas is the picturesque town of Mandi. A busy, bustling relic of the age-old bazaar town, Mandi is said to be built on the principles of Vastu Shastra, with the architecture of the town having been designed the harmonious living. Add to this the air of spirituality that pervades this ‘Kashi of Himachal’, the home of numerous temples and you have a pilgrim’s delight-for Mandi, despite the antiquity, caters to the 21st-century tourist with adequate amenities to make a visit comfortable.

Bhootnath Temple

Mandi’s most famous shrine is also said to be the fountainhead of the original settlement. Legend has it that it was here that the phenomena of a cow, washing shivalinga with milk that was released of its own accord, occurred. Lord Shiva appeared to Raja Ajbar Sen, the ruler of the area, and told him that the shivalinga was a manifestation of himself as ‘bhootnath’. Lord Shiva’s blessings led to the building of this temple in the shikara style, and the growth of the fledgling town of Mandi in the 12th century.

Temples of Mandi

 

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The temples of Mandi are largely dedicated to Lord Shiva with each being noteworthy both as a pilgrimage spot and as an architectural wonder. The Trilokinath temple is an essential visit for its unique depiction of the three-headed Lord Shiva as the ‘Lord of the Three Worlds’ while the Panchvaktra Temple has the five-headed shiva-portraying his five aspects. Another important shrine is the Ardhanarishwara Temple that depicts Shiva in his composite form the right side being male and the left side, female.

A walk up the Tarna Hill brings one to the 17th century Syamakali temple which was built by Raja Syama Sen and dedicated to the goddess Kali. Numerous other temples and palaces are eloquent monuments of the rich past of the town. Shivratri fair held annually for one week in March is worth the attention of any traveler. The images of hundreds of deities are carried on elaborately decorated palanquins to make their way through the temple of the town. Music, song, dance, and drama make the week a spiritual yet enjoyable experience.

Rewalsar Lake

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25 kilometer from Mandi at a height of 1360 meters above sea level, is the jewel-shaped lake of Rewalsar. Surrounded by lush, verdant scenery and a comfortable day trip from the town, this popular picnic spot is sacred to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists alike. The three Buddhist Monasteries, set on the banks of the lake, are worth a visit. There are also three Hindu temples which are dedicated to Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and the sage Lomas. A Gurudwara was built here in 1930 to commemorate the month-long visit of Guru Gobind Singh in 1738.

The lake itself has a fascinating story to tell, as it is said to have been miraculously created by the great 8th century Buddhist tantric, Padma Sambhava.

Prashar Lake

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This beautiful lake, set at an altitude of 2730meters, is sacred to the sage Prashar. Framed by snow-capped peaks and looking down on the fast flowing River Beas, the lake lies 46 kilometers from Mandi and can be approached via the town of Drang. Prashar Lake is famous for its three-tiered pagoda temple dedicated to the sage-after whom it is named. The village and lakeside are the scenes of many local fairs and festivals. Several Camping sites are located here and it is the base for numerous soft and challenging treks.

Around Mandi

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The area around Mandi provides the tourist with several options for daytime visits. It abounds in temples and monasteries that beckon the spiritual traveler but also has a rich variety of adventure sports, treks and camps that appeal to the ardent fan of the outdoors.

Jogindernagar

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Further afield, at a distance of about 55 kilometers from Mandi is the town of Jogindernagar. A quiet retreat, the town is the gateway to the thickly wooded, unspoiled Barrot Valley famous for its wildlife and angling. The area hosts the annual paragliding festival and international paragliding meets at Bir-Billing. Jogindernagar is also the base for many treks and excursions.

Close at the hand is the nargu wildlife sanctuary, home to a variety of species such as Monal, Musk Deer, and Himalayan Bear. A visit to the herb garden of Joginder Nagar is also highly recommended.

Jatingri is another tourist spot( 12 kilometers) which is approachable from here.

Janjehli

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The scenic Janjehli valley is 85 kilometers from Mandi, is a tranquil and calm place, the beauty of which is enhanced by its lush surroundings and soothing greenery. The valley can be used as the base for a variety of treks to places like Shikari Devi, Chindi, Karsog, and Shoja.

Bagi Mandi

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The famous Dev Kotlu Markanda temple at village Bagi is about 70km from Mandi. The son of Hidimba and Bhim known as Kotlu Deva is believed to be the supreme judge. It is believed that any victim of theft, social and economic loss etc can seek justice by hammering a nail on wooden logs in the temple premises. Thereafter, the Devta finds the culprit and nail hammered by the victim cannot be removed by any other person.

FAST FACTS OF MANDI

Altitude- 960 meters

Languages- Hindi, Pahari, Punjabi, English

How to Reach

Road-There are direct buses from Shimla, Chandigarh, and Delhi to Mandi. Many Buses run during the tourist season.

Shimla- 145kms

Chandigarh-205kms

Delhi-450kms

Railway-Broad gauge trains travel up to Pathankot, from where to a narrow gauge train takes you to Joginder Nagar. The Jogindernagar-Mandi distance of 55kms can be covered by road.

KULLU

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What greater feeling of romance and awe can be at ‘Kulapita’-, the end of the habitable world’? This is Kullu, or Kulantpita as it was earlier called. Beyond it rise the forbidding heights of the Greater Himalayas, and by the banks of the River Beas lies the fabled ‘Silver Valley’, the core of an intricate web of innumerable valleys-each more beautiful than the other, with spectacular mountainscapes brilliantly clothed in sunshine or shrouded by mist. The Kullu region is brim-full of natural treasures rolling glens and mossy meadows, rushing streams and meandering brooks that provide tourists, trekkers, mountaineer, artists, and pilgrims  an escape from the heat and dust of the plains, Kullu also provides a delightful shopping experience and is famous for its exquisitely woven colourful handmade shawls and Kullu caps.

Kullu Pilgrimage

Himachal Pradesh is, in fact, a land of temples and Kullu and its surrounding area have a fair share of shrines, temples and holy places. Just one kilometer uphill from the Kullu bus stand at Sultanpur, is the Temple of Lord Raghunath, the chief deity of the area.

The temple is the hub of activities at the Kullu Dussehra for all the deities from the valley come to pay their respects to Raghunathji, as Lord Rama is called here. The shrine of Vaishno Devi, a cave temple on the Kullu-Manali road, is another important shrine dedicated to the Goddess Vaishno Devi. The Bhuvaneshwari Temple at Bhekhli, five kilometers from Kullu, is famous for its Pahari paintings and the stone sculpture of a lion that adorns its compound.

The Temple of Lord Vishnu (Triyogi Narayan) at Diyar is also worth a visit. The 8th century Vishweshwar Temple of Lord Shiva at Bajaura, 14 kilometers from Kullu, is the largest and most attractive temple in the valley, famous for its intricate stone carvings.

Royal Kullu

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Rupi Palace at Sultanpur contains some fine examples of the Kullu style of miniature paintings, characterized by simple rural scenes and the lack of human subjects. The residence of the erstwhile royal family of Kullu, it lies close to the temple of Raghunathji, as it was believed that the rulers were the regents of the real king of Kullu, Lord Rama.

Shopper’s Kullu

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Kullu is famous for a wide range of handicrafts. Colourful hand woven borders of the traditional Kullu shawls and caps are famous the world over. Mufflers, socks, pashmina shawls, Tibetan carpets and Thanka paintings are other popular items famous from this region. Shop at the Tibetan market where you can be sure of getting a variety of goods-or at one of the many emporia that line the route up to Kullu.

Around Kullu

Bijli Mahadev

 

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Placed at a height of 2460 meters is Bijli Mahadev, sacred destination 14 kilometers to the south-east of Kullu and a three-kilometer trek from Mansari village. A beautiful meadow with an ancient Shiva temple, famous for its stone ShivaLinga which shatters each time lightning strikes it, only to be resurrected by the pujari. The prospect from bijli Mahadev is enthralling with a panoramic view of the Kullu and Manikaran valleys. It is a favourite spot for visitors and the local populace alike. You could also visit the Palani Fall which lies six kilometres to the north of Bijli Mahadev and is a popular picnic spot. If you visit the falls in March, take a stop at the fair which is held annually during this month.

Shoja

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69 kilometres from Kullu, at a height of 2692 meters is Shoja, one of the most beautiful spots in Himachal. Its wooded forests, rivers, streams, and meadows dotted with wildflowers provide a quiet break for those who just want to absorb nature’s bounty. Shoja is also a base for treks to Jalori Pass, Khanag, Pana, Takrasi and Saryolsar Lake.

Banjar Valley

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It is one of the beautiful valleys in Kullu district. The visitable places in the valley are Bala Temple of Markanday Rishi and Durga Mata Temple, both located in the village of Bala, just 1.5km from Banjar. The Shringi Rishi Temple at Bagi is 8km from Jibhi. Chaihani Fort in the Village of Chaihani is approximately 1500 years old and stands 11 stories high. The fort offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Valleys. The fort also has a tunnel and Krishna temple. It is 10km from Jibhi.

Sareolsar Lake

Sareolsar is a small lake located at a height of about 3400 meters from sea level. The area is extremely beautiful as well as a sacred spot of Goddess ‘Bhudi Nagin’ is a Goddess of ghee(clarified butter) and pilgrims walk around the lake pouring an unbroken stream of ghee as an offering. The area is surrounded by dense forest and fields of wildflowers. It is 17km from Jibhi.

Raghupur Fort

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This picturesque place is located at approximately 3540 meters height from sea level and is the former location of an old fort that was built by the King of Kullu. The Fort is surrounded by wide trenches and there is a small pond inside. The walls of the Fort are marked by bullet holes from past sieges. It is 15km from Jibhi.

Lambhari

Lambhari offers beautiful views of the Himalayan Mountain Chain. The peak has two distinct faces, one of which gives the feeling of walking on the moon and the other is meadows full of wildflowers which provides excellent camping for those wishing for the pure solitude of nature. It is 11km from Jibhi.

Jibhi Valley

The main attraction of Jibhi Valley is the Shesh Nag Temple in the village, where many colourful festivals are held.

Sainj Valley

The village Sainj is situated on the bank of the river 14kms before Larji. Beyond Sainj there is village Shanghar which has a beautiful area for camping and a sulphur lake. It is 10 km from Sainj.

Tirthan Valley

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This valley is marked by the Tirthan River. The Tirthan Valley is famous for trout fishing and Great Himalayan National Park with its thick forests and different wild animals, birds. The park has brown bears, mountain lions, wild goats and musk deer. There are many treks routes in the area.

Gada Goshaini Valley

Gada Goshaini is a beautiful area. There are many temples and forts, including Bahu Temple, Baloo Temple and Tungasi Dibber and Dalnu. The Road to Gada Goshaini village breaks off from the state highway just after Jaipur Jibhi.

Jalori Pass

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Jalori Pass is located at a height of about 3300 meters from sea level. Jalori Pass is a beautiful place that offers a wonderful view of the Himalayan Mountain range as well as access to outer Seraj. Jalori is home to a Kali Temple and is the starting point for the day trek to Sareolsar Lake.

Shamsgar Mahadev, Kullu

Famous for Shamshari Mahadev’s temple, the village Shamshar is 3km from Ani. According to legends, a shepherd was grazing his herd at Sareolasar and his wife’s prayer for a son was answered. She had promised to offer gold earring. On fulfilment of the wish, she offers earring to ‘Budhi Nagin’ but said with some disbelief that the child naturally would have been born in their home. The goddess returned back the earring to her through the water of Sar.’Sham’ means tree and ‘Shar’ means pond i.e Shamshar.

FAST FACTS OF KULLU

Altitude- 1230 meters

Languages- Hindi, Pahari, Punjabi, English

How to Reach

Airway-Kullu is connected by Indian airlines, Deccan and Jagson flights with Delhi and Shimla. The airport is at Bhuntar, 10kms from Kullu.

Road-There are direct buses to Kullu. All these direct buses continue to Manali. 42kms further north.

Shimla- 220kms

Chandigarh-280kms

Delhi-535kms

Railway-The nearest railway station is at Jogindernagar. However, for people travelling from Delhi, it is more convened to alight at Ropar, Una or Nangal and cover the remaining distance by road.

MANALI

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Picture postcard perfect Manali, with its fertility valleys, imposing forests and fast following rivers set against the backdrop of high snow clad mountains provides everything that a holidaymaker desires. From temples of antiquity to picturesque sightseeing spots and adventures activities, Manali is a popular resort for all seasons and for all travellers. Although the town itself is quite small, it acts as a base camp for varied excursions in the vicinity and into the inner Himalayas. A visit to the Club House is a must when in the town. Run by Himachal Tourism, it offers various sports facilities like Table Tennis, Badminton, Tennis, Squash, Skating, and Boating and is popular with young people. It also has a bar and conference facility. Manali has a busy market where innumerable handicrafts, both local and from other states, are available with traditional woven shawls, Kullu caps, and slippers being the most popular buys.

Manali Pilgrimage

The Manali Gompa

A new monastery built in the 1960s, it is an important gathering place for Buddhists from Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur, Ladakh, Nepal, and Tibet. The gompa is famous for its wall paintings, chortens and a large statue of Lord Buddha.

Hidimba Devi Temple

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Hidimba Devi or Dhoongri Temple as it is called is one of the best-known shrines in the area. Built around a small natural cave and surrounded by dense forests, the temple is believed to enshrine the footprints of the goddess Hidimba, the consort of the Pandava prince Bhima. The beautiful architecture of this four-tiered 16th-century pagoda shaped temple with an exquisitely carved door is one of the high points of local craftsmanship.

Manu Temple

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3km from the main bazaar in old Manali village lies this temple of Manu Rishi. It is believed that this is the only temple of Manu in India, who was the creator of human race on the earth. Manali has derived its name from Manu-Alaya which means abode of Manu.

Other important shrines are the Shiva and Gayatri Devi Temples at Jagat Sukh, the ancient capital of Kullu, and the temples of Lord Rama and the Sage Vashist at village Vashist where visitors can drink the spring water or bathe in the hot sulphur spring water.

Tourists can also enjoy the eco-walks which have been developed at Van Vihar, Manali and Dhungri by the Forest Department or visit the museums at Utopia Complex Dhungri and Shambala Buddhist Thanka Museum at Aleo.

Around Manali

Nehru Kund

Five kilometres down the Manali-Rohtang road is Nehru Kund a spring fed by the Brighu Lake. It is named after the first Prime Minister of India, who, when in Manali, was served the sparkling clear natural water from the kund.

Brighu lake

Situated at a height of 4270 meters the lake lies below the Brighu Peak. The lake is a favourite trekking trail for tourists. It is approachable from village Vashisht and Gulaba.

Solang Nallah

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A beautiful valley, surrounded by white-crested mountains and tall deodar trees, Solang is known for adventure sports like skiing, paragliding, trekking etc. The Nallah has been developed as a sports haven for tourists and also hosts state and national level winter sports.

Kothi

Thirteen kilometres from Manali, en route to Rohtang Pass, is this scenic village below which the River Beas flows through a deep gorge. The PWD rest house located here is ideal for a picnic. The Rahalls Fall at an altitude of 2500 meters, 27 kilometres from Manali, offers an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Rohtang Pass

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No visit to Manali can be considered complete without a trip to Rohtang La. This is situated at a height of 3970 meters, at a distance of 51 kilometres from Manali. Rohtang Pass offers a variety of winter sports skiing, sledging etc. Each year on 20th Bhado(September) the villagers from the Manali area walk up to the Dashir Lake situated near the Rohtang Pass for bathing and festivities set in nature’s wonderland.

This wonderland does not end at Rohtang. It is, in fact, the gateway to the Lahaul and Spiti valleys that offer some awe-inspiring mountain-scapes and numerous Buddhist monasteries. If you have time, take a trip to Keylong the district headquarters or at least to Sisu, 35 kilometers from Rohtang. Sisu is a tourist center with a lake and a spectacular waterfall surrounded by towering peaks.

Beyond this one can travel on the Manali-Leh road, the second highest mountain road in the world which takes you through Surajtal to Sarchu tourist Camps and on to Leh, Ladakh. The road remains open from early June to mid-November.

For those with leisure, a trip to Spiti via the Kunzum pass would provide some breathtaking views of its moonlike landscape, including that of Barashigri, the longest glacier in Asia.

Naggar

Naggar, a lovely village set on a hill surrounded by forests, was the capital of Kullu in the 16th century and the monuments in the region are witness to its glorious past. The Naggar Castle, a stone, and wood structure built by Raja Sidh Singh over 500 years ago have been converted into a heritage hotel. The gracefully built castle has a temple in the courtyard and also houses a small museum.

The temples of the area, such as the grey sandstone Gauri Shankar Temple of Shiva that lies close to the castle, the Chatar Bhuj Temple, Tripura Sundri Devi Temple, the Jagti Patt Temple, with its triangular slab of stone, strewn with rose petals and rupee notes and the Murlidhar Temple, are worth a visit. The paintings and photographs of the late Nicholas Roerich are exhibited in the Nicholas Roerich Gallery. He was an artist, writer, Photographer, archaeologist, explorer, and mystic. Inside the museum one can see the beds, library, settees, writing tables, toiletries, and samovars of the Roerich family.

The Uruswati Himalayan Folk Museum nearby is another place to visit. While in the area, a trip to Gardhak Chuli is recommended for the spectacular view it provides of the valley on one side and the imposing, snow-clad peaks on the other.

This upper Beas region is surrounded by glaciers on three sides. The Chandekhani Pass at 12200 feet leads to the legendary Malana valley and is easily accessible from here.

Fast Fact of Manali

Altitude-2050 meters

Languages-Hindi, Pahari, Punjabi, English

How to Reach

Road-There are direct buses from Delhi, Shimla, and Mandi to Manali. All kind of buses run during the tourist season.

Shimla-260kms

Chandigarh-320kms

Delhi-575kms

Railway-The nearest railway station is at Jogindernagar. However, for people traveling from Delhi, it is more convenient to alight at Ropar, Una or Nangal and cover the remaining distance by road.