Lesser Known Manali, a Perfect Summer Vacation
Introducton. We all know that Manali is one of the most beautiful places of India and it is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations too.
The naturally radiant weather, lofty mountain peaks and lovely greenery of the place is something that probably every traveller in India is familiar with.
Manali is visited by tourists round the year, except for the rainy season.
Tourists generally visit Manali for the following reasons:
- To unwind.
- To enjoy the natural beauty.
- To escape the oppressive summer heat.
- For honey-moon.
- For adventure Sports.
But there are a few lesser known facts which may be interested for some people. I hope some of you would care to know about it.
The Origin of the Modern Manali.
Manali started off just as a collection of three proud hills with 3 different associated villages and their sub cultures.
All the three villages of (a) Old Manali,(b) Vashistha and (c) Dhungri combined about 150 years back to become the beautiful Manila as it is known today. But with huge traffic of tourists and intense commercial activities, the original flavour of Manali is lost.
You may feel the original flavour of this hill resort, only if you cross Manalsu River (a tributary of Beas) and go to Old Manali
The Story behind the name.
Most of us know that, when Earth was inundated under the great deluge, Noha took a pair of each species of creatures in a boat (Arc) , saved them and re-populated the earth. In India the same act was done by Sage Manu.
Manu was the creator of Indian mankind. The laws of Manu are what Hindus are supposed to follow and they are well described in Manusmriti. When Manu’s boat was floating around, Lord Vishnu guided Manu to come to Manali, which remained above the flood water.
At the altitude of 6,730 ASL it is one of the highest places in this region. It is a natural divide between Kullu Valley and the mountains of Lahul and Spiti.
Thus Manu landed in Manali and started living here. Therefore, the place was called Manu Alay. Later it got distorted to Manali. Under his patronage all the species started flourishing and repopulating in India.
Rakshashas were human beings who thrived on meat including human flesh. Probably agriculture had not yet evolved in those prehistoric times. So those could be human being who practiced cannibalism.
Rakshashas have been described as, “shape-shifting, fierce-looking, enormous monstrous-looking creatures, with two fangs protruding from the top of the mouth and having sharp, claw-like fingernails. They were shown as being mean, growling beasts, and as insatiable man-eaters that could smell the scent of human flesh.
During the battle of Kurukshetra both Pandavas and Kauravas employed Rakshashas in their rank and file.
Hidimb and Hidimba.
During the exile, the Pandavas had arrived in the forest of Manali. They needed rest. Therefore, four brother, mother Kunti and wife Draupadi fell asleep. Bheem, the tough brother, remained awake to guard them.
At that time two Rakshas siblings, Hidimb and Hidimba, were very powerful in that area. Having smelt the juicy flesh of the Pandavas, Hidimb asked his sister to fetch one of them for dinner.
Hidimba was a fierce but a good hearted Rakshasi. When she came to pick up one of the Pandavas, she encountered Bheem who was on guard. But looking at the handsome Bheem, she went weak in the knees; she fell in love with him at the first sight.
She proposed to marry him. But Bheem refused to marry her. Not one to give up, she went to Mother Kunti and pleaded her case. Kunti agreed and ordered Bheem to marry her.
Bheem was obliged to comply with his mother’s order. He married Hidimba with a pre-condition that on the birth of her first child, he would go away. Hidimba agreed.
Eventually when her son was born, Bhim deserted her. She called her son Ghatotkach meaning a baled child with a head as big as a Pitcher.
She brought her son single-handedly, till he became an exceptionally skilled warrior and mastered the art of magic powers. He was very loyal to Bheem and sacrificed his life helping Pandavas in the epic battle of Kurukshetra.
At a later life, Hidimba devoted herself to spirituality and indulged into deep meditation. She gave up all attributes of a Rakshashi and became a saint.
Till date, people of Manali worship her as the guiding spirit. She is offered regular puja in Hidimba Devi temple in Manali. The rituals of her puja are strikingly different from the pujas performed in other Hindu temples.
Hidimba Devi Temple is one of the most important places of tourists interest in Manali. Near Dhungiri village this temple was constructed in Pagoda style in the year 1533. It is located in a pine forest and it is maintained very well.
Some tourists have reportedly felt a kind of presence in and around the temple.
This ancient castle is located at a height of 5900 feet ASL. This castle was constructed by Raja Sidh Singh some 500 years ago. It was constructed only with stones and wood. No cement was used. The interlocked stones are a bit flexible.
Therefore, no earthquake could destroy the structure. Beautiful wood carving can be seen on all over its walls. It has been declared a National Heritage Property.
Now HPTDC has taken it over and turned it into a heritage hotel. To visit this place an entry fee of Rs.30 is charged.
This is one of the most picturesque spots near Manali. At an altitude of 8694 feet, it is a popular ski resort in winters.
It is located between Solang village and Beas Kund.
In April we may not find snow here. But we may have a breath-taking view of majestic snow-capped peaks and glaciers from here.
Manali offers some sports facilities here like paragliding, horse riding etc. Due to its popularity, parking vehicles may pose a problem here.
Atal Tunnel (also known as Rohtang Tunnel is a highway tunnel built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway in Himachal Pradesh, India.
At a length of 9.02 km, it is the longest highway single-tube tunnel above 10,000 feet in the world when completed and is named after former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The tunnel reduces the travel time and overall distance between Manali and Keylong on the way to Leh.
This name means jewel of the ear. While roaming around, Shiva and Parvati loved the beauty of this place and stayed here for 1100 years.
During the stay Parvati accidentally lost the jewel set in her ear ring. It was stolen by the King of Serpents Sheshnag. When Parvati asked Shiva to retrieve her jewel, he ordered his companions to find the jewel. They failed to find the jewel and it made Shiva very angry.
He opened his third eye and started Tandava dance. It disturbed the entire universe. All Gods made an appeal to Sheshnag to pacify Shiva. Sheshnag hissed thereby giving rise to a flow of boiling water.
The water spread over the entire area resulting in the emergence of precious stones of the type Goddess Parvati had lost. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were happy at the outcome.
The Sikh legend says that when Guru Nanak Dev reached this place, his companion felt hungry. On Guru’s order he went to the village an collected some atta.
Guru Nanak Dev told him to knead the atta, make the chapaties and roast them on the hot water. But all the chapaties sunk.
Guru Nanak then told him to pray to God saying that if his chapatis float back then he would donate one chapati in His name. When he prayed all the chapatis started floating duly baked. Guru Nanak said that anyone who donates in the name of God, his drowned items float back.
Manikaran has a famous Gurudwara as well as the temples of Rama. Krishna and Vishnu. They are located next to a hot spring. It is at an altitude of 1760 m.
Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art.
The Museum is a unique and extraordinary collection of unknown and rare antiques of the state.
It demonstrates the almost extinct articles that clearly display the forgotten culture, art and handicraft of Himachal Pradesh.
The Museum displays models of temples, old houses and forts, traditional dresses, utensils, musical and ritual instruments, wood carvings and various other articles
Shopping Places in Manali
The Mall Road, Old Manali Market (Comparatively much cheaper), Tibetan Market (For Carpets) ,Bhuttico (Co-operative Shop , Reliable Place), Manu Market (Well stocked), Himachal Emporium (A State Government enterprise).
What to buy:
Tibetan and Himalayan Handicraft, Woolen Apparels, Kashmiri, Kinnauri and Kullu Shawls, Scroll paintings of Buddhist dieties on silk called Thankas and Dorjes. Prayer Wheels, Kesar, Jam. And Dry fruits. Take care to avoid buying fake kesar sold cheap in the streets. Green Apple and Lingad (Wild Asparagas) pickles may give a change of taste from our usual mango or lemon pickles. Bargaining goes on. If you win, you may get good things to buy for reasonable prices.
European Cafes in Manali for lunch.
We will get Indian dishes for breakfast and dinner in the hotel. For lunch, it could be a good idea to try out the hidden European Cafes of Manali, for a change.
Walk into the streets of Manali and you will get a distinct feeling of being in the Au De Riveria of France.
Manali was the darling of the Europeans and their favourite place to stay in as they flocked here during the summers to revel in its brilliant air and glorious greens.
Some Europeans fell so much in love with the place and apple cheeked Manali women that they married and settled down here and opened their own cafes, yoga centres, pubs and book stores. The names of the cafes are so pretty like River Music, Moon dance and Manali Rose and they are shaped like relaxed lounges, casual cafes and pretty bistros.
An amazing range of soups, pastas, pancakes, steaming momos and stews are on offer in these cafes.
In North India or probably the hole of India (apart from fancy five star restaurants) these cafes are the best place to visit if you are a fan of European style food and dessert.
Sip on exotic rosemary and thyme tea or lemongrass tea and watch life pass you by.
If you want to carry home the flavors of Manali then a stop at the exotic German Bakery should be a priority on your agenda.
Delicious tangy yet creamy Yak cheese is something that you will only find here. There is a distinct flavor and special quality of this cheese that makes it perfect as a cocktail snack or salad topping.
Manali shops sell dry fruit at unbelievably low prices so stock up on roasted cashew, almonds, raisins, walnuts and acorns. Buy some jars of dried apples while choosing from the 11 different grades on offer.
Dried figs, prunes and apricots are sold in huge decorative containers. You can also stock up on exotic varieties of Churan like green acacia nut churan and basil and thyme churan.
Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth then tuck in to the raspberry and ginger and the sensational strawberry and apricot jam that are the specialty of Manali.
It’s a little known fact that the best restaurants in Northern India source their packaged nuts and dessert fillings from Manali.
Local Snacks typical of Manali.
Khatta: Most common street food made of pumpkin, dry mango and boondi.
Sidu. Local roasted Chicken, fish or local Chha Gost goes very well with Sidu is pan-cooked bread made of fermented refined flour dough.
Babru. This is similar to Kachories. It is filled with soaked black gram.
Patandey. It is a Himachali sweet made of milk, sugar and wheat flour.
Bhey. This delectable dish is prepared by thinly slicing lotus stems, steaming it and then sauntering it with herbs, spices and gram flour. It is a nutricious food.
Aktori. It is a cake made of buckwheat. It is a festive snack here.
Tudkiey Bhat. It is made of rice, vegetables, lentil and spice. This is one of the best local foods Manali has in offer.
Mittha. It is rice preparation lavishly sprinkled with raisins and other dry fruits. Mitha should be tried for its rich flavours.
Place Distance Time to Reach from the Mall area
- Hidimba Temple 4.7 km 15 minutes
- Art & Cul Museum 180 metres 1 minute (from Hidimba Temple)
- Naggar Castle 20,2 km 34 minutes
- Solang Valley 13.1 km 26 minutes
- Manikaran 78.2 km 2.15 minutes (35 km from Bhunter)
- Atal Tunnel 30.5 km 55 minutes
- Mall Market 2,7 km 7 minutes
- Old Manali Market 4.4 km 13 minutes
- Tibetan Market 2.6 km 9 minutes
- Bhuttico Showroom 3.1 km 8 minutes
- Manu Market 2.6 km 6 minutes
- Himachal Emporium 3 km 8 minutes
I hope this write up will help the formidables to make plans for the three days we spend in Manali.