Well, it wasn’t my honeymoon at Kullu-Manali !
The Saurkundi Pass trekking expedition was indeed a lifetime experience. I had a little more than a couple days to spare before undertaking my journey back to New Delhi. There wasn’t a concrete plan in mind. But there were a lot of places yet to be travelled to. Unaware when I will be coming here the next time, I wanted to make full use of this opportunity.
However I will be frank here- I am drawn to the most important part. Eataholic that I am, my stomach pleaded for some amazing food after the descent. Like zombies, my friends and I ate everything we got on the way- every hotel that was open welcomed us. The usual chicken delicacies, the unusual trout fish fries to local dishes like MoMo, Thupka and Siddhu– everything was tried and tested by us.
Food list- checked. Let’s roam around a bit.
Bad weather cancels a biking expedition to Spithi Valley and Rohtang Valley. Alternative: Solang Valley. Bus services to the Valley are a little too pathetic. So we hitchhiked all the way to our destination on the back of a goods pickup truck. It was quite an experience to feel that small “G” every time the speeding vehicle took a turn on the treacherous road.
Solang valley is a side valley almost 14km northwest of Manali. Specifically famous for its adventure activities like paragliding, parachuting, zorbing (during summer), skiing and skating (during winter), there are other fun attractions for all ages too in this place like horse-riding across the valley, going uphill in all terrain quad-bikes and gambling for items like Frooty, biscuits, Lays etc. But the best part- a birds-eye view of the entire valley while paragliding. It makes you want to own an airplane and keep flying between the majestic snowcapped mountains all your life.
Back to Manali again. This city is filled with restaurants and resorts for tourists. We stayed here and watched first day first show of “yeh jaawani hai deewani” at The Piccadily. I really don’t have much words to stay other than it was just another hindi movie but there was such a cliché involved- in Manali we watching a movie, most parts which were shot in Manali. There was some more time to kill.
We thought why not go the “Roja” way? We left to Hadimba Devi Temple. The sanctuary built in 1553 is over a huge rock cutting out of the ground, which was worshiped as an image of the deity. The most surprising feature of the temple or what believers could call the most reassuring feature of the temple is the fact that inside the temple the imprint of the feet of the Goddess carved on a block of stone are worshipped.
A monastery too is present in Manali. The paintings inside depict events from Lord Buddha’s life. The Kalchakra i.e. the wheel of life painted on the wall of the monastery shows the circle of life. In the vicinity of the monastery there is the ‘manne’. The Buddhists believe that rotating it gives you salvation. After having gone about these two places, there wasn’t much to go around Manali if you are not interested in shopping.
Well, there was in and around Kullu to be covered too. Present on the banks of river Beas, there is a core of an intricate web of numerous valleys each more beautiful than the other. Rightly called as the Silver valley, Kullu is indeed the nature’s abode of treasures. Every tree in the splendid forests, every flower that blooms large in the corner, every apple, strawberry and cherry of the far-stretching orchards- the riches can hardly be measured. People are very gentle and lead a very simple life. There are a significant number of distinct Pahadi dialects here among the people, some of them totally different from each other.
There are plenty of shrines too for the devotees here. The Bijli-Mahadev temple is a ‘Kash’ style temple, located 14km from Kullu and can be approached by a short trek of 3 km from the road. It’s said this place got its name after the great miracle that occurs occasionally. The ‘Shiva-Lingam’ is struck by lightning and it breaks into pieces, then the priest of the temple collects all the pieces and joins them together with the help of butter acting as an adhesive. It’s one of the most beautiful temples in the area located in a meadow with lush green forests all around it atop a hill. Another shrine, Mata Vaishno MahaDevi Tirth is located just 5 km from Kullu on Kullu-Manali National Highway No. 21.
The next morning we set off to Naggar Castle almost 25km from Kullu. The Castle was converted into a rest house a hundred year back and now is run as a heritage hotel. This medieval Castle was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu around 1460 A.D. Well, for me it did come as a shock to know that this castle was sold to the British in return for a gun that the Raja adored. However, now this wood mansion overlooks the Kullu Valley and apart from the remarkable view and splendid location this has an essence of authentic western Himalayan architecture with whole stones and long wooden beams.
In the upper courtyard of the castle there is a small Jagatipatt Temple- a small square structure which contains “Jagtipatt” a slab of stone measuring 5’x8’x6″ which is said to have been brought from a place near Vashisht by honey bee.
In the upper part of the village, there is a pagoda shaped wooden temple called the Tripura Sundri Temple.
At the foot of small bazaar below the Castle is the Gauri Shankar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva carving of which exemplary. For art enthusiasts, Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery is present about 2km uphill from the castle. It was the residence of Prof. Late Nicholas Roerich when he came to India in 1929 and houses numbers of rare paintings and other specimen of art.
Another beautiful place, Manikaran is located in the Parvati Valley along the banks of river Parvati, 40 km northeast of Bhuntar in the Kullu District. This small town is famous for its beautiful landscape, natural hot-water springs, gurudwaras and temples of Lord Krishna, Vishnu, Rama and shiva. The water of the spring is considered extremely auspicious and also supposed to have curative powers. The water is so hot that rice for the “langar” is cooked by putting it into a linen-bag and dipping it into the boiling water.
There are many legends that exist here. According to one, when Lord Shiva and his better half goddess Parvati were walking in the valley, Parvati dropped one of her earrings. The jewel was seized by Shesha-Nag, the serpent deity, who then disappeared into the earth with it. Shesha-Nag only surrendered the jewel when Shiva performed the cosmic dance, the “Tandava” and shot the jewel up through the water. The name Manikaran is derived from this legend.
Kasol rightly called as the New Zealand of India is a hub for backpackers, who are attracted to the scenic valley, untouched hills, low population, and great climate throughout the year.
Well, we couldn’t go in here but there are a couple of words that I would like to share about the place-Malana. This solitary village north-east of Kullu Valley shadowed by Chandrakhani and Deotibba peaks in the Malana Nala, is isolated from the rest of the world. Close to 10000ft above sea level, unaffected by modern civilization, Malana has its own lifestyle, customs and social structure. The village administration is democratic and is considered the oldest republic of the world.
The residents of Malana have a high regard for their culture, customs and religious beliefs and consider all non-Malani to be inferior and thus untouchable. Visitors must be careful to stick to the prescribed paths and not to touch any of the walls, houses or people there. If this occurs, visitors are expected to pay a fine, that will cover the sacrificial slaughter of a lamb in order purify the object that has been made impure. The visitors are also made to sign a letter of consent stating that anything that happens in the village of Malana shall be sorted by the village administration and no other jurisdiction can intervene in the process.
Above all, there is pleasure to be taken in every step of the enchanted Kullu valley and in every gurgle to be heard in the mountain streams. Every stop is different from the other. The cattle tied at the far end, houses made of mostly stone and wood, mother making their daughter’s hair while the kid scribbles on the slate with a piece of chalk, women collecting grass with big baskets on their backs and men with a cap on their head and a shawl on their shoulders herding horses and sheep is indeed an escape far from the bustling traffic/crowd of the cites. Oh dear yeah, it’s not just in the movies but the flocks of sheep do block traffic on the roads.
image courtesy: Google image search.