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Spiritual Side of Manali

Manali is a hill station which is nestled between the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. It has a reputation as a honeymoon destination.  Surrounded by high peaks and snow capped mountains with turbulent Beas river  following you from all the sides, its quite an amusement when most of the attractions in the place are temples.  Apart from Rohtang Pass and Solang Valley, all the popular sight seeing places is  either a temple or a monastery.  When I checked the list of places to visit in this hill station, I was half expecting some cliff points or echo points like they have in all other hill stations, but to my surprise I ended up on a religious trip 😀


One of my most memorable moments of Manali is undoubtedly my visit to Manikaran. The place is famous for two things – Gurudwara and hot water springs. Strong currents of beas river is seen when you walk on the bridge that leads to the gurudwara.  I tied a scarf on my head and walked inside the gurudwara. The taste of kada prasad (wheat halwa) still lingers on  my tongue.  How I wish there was a second helping 🙁  We then went for the langar served within the premises.  An interesting thing I noticed that they don’t use gas or stove to cook. They cook food in the naturally hot boiling water coming from the spring. I also saw several tourists making tea from the hot spring water :o. Manikaran also has a Hindu Temple.  According to the legend, when Lord Shiva and Parvati were walking, she dropped one of her earrings (chintamani).  The Mani was later possessed by Shesh Nag. Shiva ordered his disciples to search for the Mani. On seeing the efforts in vain, Shiva got angry and decided to open his third eye. Shesh Nag, in order to please Shiva hissed and started sending lots of Manis through flowing hot water. Shiva asked Parvati to pick her own ring and cursed others to turn into stone.  When we visited the Shiva temple, the pundit was yawning and gave us a bored look.  There is an angry sculpture of Lord Shiva performing cosmic tandav dance above the hot water pond indicating the guy lost his cool in search of his wife’s earring :D. The Sikh version of Manikaran is that when Guru Nanak visited Manikaran, they didn’t have any means to cook the food.  When he asked his disciple to lift a stone, hot spring appeared. As there was no fire, the disciple started putting chappatis in the hot water spring but all the chappatis sank. As per instructions from Guru Nanak, they prayed to god and promised that if the chappatis float back, they would donate one chappati in his name. The next moment, all the chappatis floated back duly baked.  The existence of temple and gurudwara in one premise indicate that it is an important pilgrimage center for more than one religion.

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A beautiful temple dedicated to Hidimba, a demon. The temple is famous for its weird stories and scenic beauty. Detailed blog on the history of Hadimba temple is mentioned in my previous blog – Hadimba Temple

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The temple is named after sage Vashisht, one of the seven sages of Hinduism.  According to the legend, the sage was saddened when all his children were killed by Vishwamitra. He tried to commit suicide but the river didn’t allow him.  River Beas, then known as Vipasha which also meant freedom from bondage, took the sage to the village where he began his new life.  The temple is believed to be more than 4000 years old.  It is also famous for hot water springs believed to have medicinal value.  The springs are said to cure skin diseases. According to the legend, Lakshman, younger brother of Rama visited this sage. During one of his visits, he shot an arrow into the ground and hot water gushed out.  The temple is decorated with beautiful wood carvings and it almost looks like a residential house with a black stone image of the Rishi wearing dhoti living inside the house. I find it very fascinating that there are always legend tales to support nature’s gift to mankind.  It is difficult to believe what came first like chicken or egg ? In this case the legend or hot water springs!

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Colorful architecture and Tibetan flags flowing with the wind led me to this Tibetan monastery.  The temple has a huge golden rotating wheel with mantras inscribed on it.  Monks chat Om Mani Padme Hum rotating the wheel in one direction.  On the outside of the monastery, several rotating wheels were fixated on the wheel symbolizing kaalchakra. Mantras were inscribed on each of them.  Buddhists believe that rotating the wheel while chanting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum gives you salvation. The monastery is surrounded by small shops selling handicrafts and feng shui arts and crafts made by local Tibetan population.

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Situated in the midst of Old Manali, this temple is dedicated to Sage Manu, the writer of Manusmriti. Manusmriti, translated as Laws of Manu is the most studied ancient legal text of Hinduism.  In Hindu Tradition, Manu is regarded as the first of Brahman’s son and the progenitor of human race.  The rulers in ancient times who patronized Vedic faith, followed the script and practiced this. It was considered as a foundation of Hindu Law and Legal System in ancient India.  The city Manali is named after Sage Manu. It was earlier called Manu-Alaya, means Abode of Manu. Legend states that sage Manu stepped off his ark to recreate human race after great flood deluged the world.  Similar concept of Noah and his ark in Christianity.

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On my way back home, my cab driver suggested that we should stop at Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery which is near Kullu.  This monastery was inaugurated by Dalai Lama. The entrance to this monastery is quite majestic overlooking the lush green hills. The interiors were grand.

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Copyright ©2009, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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