“Travel” may be a word of mere six letters yet for a person it can encompass a lifetime of memories. No feeling on this planet can probably be more beautiful than the joy one feels while travelling. It is the essence of being in a new city that can at times heal the ailing, or getting lost in neverland that can bring out the best in a man, and the delight of taking a new journey that can rejuvenate a monotonous living.
So, herein through this column, I would share my personal experiences of places that I’ve been, Sights that I wish to be enthralled by and Journeys that I pine for. And first I shall take you all to the one place I can never have enough of, one place that exalts the beauty of nature in full for, MANIKARAN.
Manikaran is not a city, a town or even a tiny village. It is called a “small town” yet it has no stable population of any sorts. It is located in the Parvati Valley between the rivers Parvati and Beas in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. As I travelled on the Chandigarh-Manali highway, right after the appearance of the humble Kullu Airport and some 30 Kilometers from Kullu, we chanced upon a crossroad.
On one side was the swanky road leading to the tourist Mecca- Kullu and Manali and on the other, a barely visible side road that seemed to go nowhere. It was then, that I found out about Manikaran, its religious significance to the Sikhs and Hindus and of course, about its Hot springs.
The “religious” part was enough to convince my parents while the prospect of “hot springs” in a valley thrilled both my sister and me. We turned then towards it and wished to cover this distance of little over 20 kilometers in a jiffy. Little did we know that it would eventually take us over two hours to cover that meager distance. Yet, it was all worth it.
On the road to Manikaran, we encountered countless Sikh youths on their Bullet bikes whizzing past us with yellow flags donning their mast. They usually passed by in groups and our driver told us they left from Chandigarh before dawn and by dusk, they’d leave for their home again. This was surely turning out to be a mystic destination. After a while we came across a petite structure that proclaimed itself as, “Everest Eatery.” Without much adieu, out came our hot and piping Aloo paranthas with melting butter falling of their surface. Our hunger satisfied, we moved on.
It was beginning to feel like an expedition into oblivion as we moved on that slender path with the uncontrolled waters of the River Beas on one side and lofty mountains on the other. And then it came.
Manikaran at first appeared contrary to a heavenly abode that was nestled between serene mountains and a raging river flowing beneath. It was an enchanting sight to behold. And we hadn’t even entered the complex yet! We came out with a darkened sky overhead for company. The main Manikaran complex contains many temples of the Hindu deities. A Gurudwara, An inn for the pilgrims wishing to stay overnight, flashy restaurants run by the small Tibetan community that lived there and of course like any other Indian tourist spot, many shops selling souvenirs at exorbitant prices.
There, standing at that spectacular setting, life seemed complete, all worldly pleasures bogus, and my presence in this muddle, ephemeral.
If asked to describe this tour in a nutshell, there can be nothing more apt than the words of Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.Robert Frost
Until next time,
Hasta la Vista.