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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Manikaran - heaven on earth

On our last day at Manali, we decided to go all the way to Manikaran and then drive back from Manikaran to Chandigarh airport to catch a 7 PM last flight out to Mumbai.

Left Manali at 6AM and drove in rain through mountain sides where there were many rocks that had fallen on the roads (we did not read the news.. and had no idea that the entire area was taking heavy rains. Leh which was 100 or kilometers away had a cloudburst and many people died that week) and finally reached Manikaran at 8 AM.

Our expert driver told us "if you want to see Chandigarh airport by 6:30 this evening in this weather, you have to be back here by 9:15. That is assuming you get 30 minutes for one break!"

We took him very seriously and went past the bridge, the Gurudwara, the cave, the shiva temple, the durga temple, the ram temple including me taking a dip in the hot springs at the Ram temple!

What an entrance to a temple!

Here is a video where the little one is bugging me about a dog. She has a biscuit in her hand and it is eye level with the dog! Of course she couldn't shake him off!

Another 4000 year plus old temple with the same construct as the Vashisht temple in Manali..

There is a place here where a board says "Shiva and Parvathi are said to have meditated here for 13,000 years".

The bell at the temple entrance echoes through when you ring it.

For a minute you can totally believe why anyone would chose that as a location to stay put for 13k years. The steep green and brown cliffs on one side, the raging river on the other side, the hot springs on yet another side make you feel the power of nature and the ephemeral nature of man.

We did manage to race back to Chandigarh and it was one glorious drive past the airport, the Beas (Byas) Parvathi rivers confluence (sangam)

all the way around the Bilaspur lake, Sundar Nagar and along the Sutlej river into Punjab. We even drove past a new IIT near Chandigarh!

Here is a beautiful but noisy video..

We made it just 45 minutes before our flight, but it was enough for us to get into the plane and be on our way to Mumbai.

One amazing thing at Manikaran is that both the Gurudwara and the Temple have a Langar where they provide free food for anyone who walks in. They do this by throwing in sacks of rice and lentils and potatoes into the hot spring (which is pretty much boiling over) and out comes cooked rice, dal and aalo! Mother nature's kitchen. Should ask the food network to cover this. Truly amazing.

They also take some water and put a tea bag in it and drink instant Chai! Apparently there is a place which is a 2 day hike from Manikaran called Kheer Ganga where the water is hot and foamy that it looks like Milk. There you make Chai Latte!

Our driver told me, "only way is to hike, but the place is beautiful. You should take more time and go with a trained guide. The two day hike is worth it" and I was thinking "let me see. cannot get that kind of time off now with the little kids. by the time they are old enough to join me on a hike like that, I will be too old to hike!"

In any case, if there is a next time, we will try to see KheerGanga.

Happy enough that we got to see Manikaran. It is truly heaven on earth and the ride along the river is truly worth it, rain or rocks!


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