Covered peaks, the Beas River flowing at a frantic pace and peaceful surroundings! Well, that’s Himachal Pradesh for you. The land of Gods and Goddesses (Devbhoomi). Who wouldn’t want to visit such a wonderful place? After all, it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t get excited and enthralled by the astounding beauty of big snow-covered mountains and rivers.
In the humble abode of the Himalayas, surrounded by the monstrous peaks of Rohtang Pass and Spiti (which lie further up the road) lies the breathtakingly beautiful town of Manali. Owing to its scenic beauty and weather (which stays almost cool throughout the year) it is a year-round magnet for tourists across the country. People from different places and even overseas, flood the streets of Manali irrespective of the time of the year. It contributes a major chunk to the revenue generated by Himachal tourism.
Over the years certain hippie villages have come around Manali, bringing it into the limelight. The town is constantly jam-packed with backpackers and adventurers who visit the town for adventure sports, partying and to get a taste of snow. Over the years the hotels and motels in the main town have increased a lot, the number approximated at present is around 1000 lodgings and holiday accommodations.
The streets of Manali are filled with tourists. The fruit-laden orchards look staggeringly beautiful. The valley has picturesque hamlets and fields of wildflowers; how did they come into existence? Why Manali? What does it mean?
Coming into Existence
According to Hindu mythology, the person who’s the progenitor of humanity in a particular aeon (kalp) is designated with the name of Manu. It so happened that one day, the seventh Manu named Varvasvata was taking a bath. While doing so he found a tiny fish in his bathing water. The fish was no ordinary fish, it told Manu to look after it and in return, it would help him out in the grimmest of the hours. Manu being a humble man started looking after the fish and when it grew to its full size released it into the sea. Before leaving, the fish warned its care-taker about a forthcoming pralaya (dissolution). Almost every religion has mention of certain deluge when the entire world was flooded and covered with water finishing all life. Subsequently, the life was started by the prophets of God, in the case of Hindus, Manu.
When the day of mass destruction arrived, the Fish asked Manu to build an ark which is seaworthy and assemble the seven sages (Saptrishi) who are considered as the embodiment of the Supreme Being as Creator (Lord Brahma).
It is believed that the Fish was none other than Lord Vishnu himself, in his first avatar of a Matasya, who towed the ark carrying the sages and Varvasvata through the floods to safety. When the water subsided and floods ceased the ark came to rest at a place surrounded by lush green forests, strewn gorges and magnificent peaks covered with snow. The thick forests were filled with the sounds of wild animals and the chirping of birds. The passengers came down from the ark and thanking the avatar of Vishnu established there. It is believed that Lord Manu began life on earth from this place and for the subsequent years stayed there. The Manu’s Alaya (Manu’s abode) came to be known as Manali.
With its breathtaking beauty and peaceful existence, it’s only appropriate that human life on earth began at this legendary cradle. So ironically, we came into existence because of Manali.
Major Places to visit in Manali
Manali is a place best suited for people of all age groups and varied tastes. There are lots of places to visit in Manali like temples of Lord Manu, Bijli Mahadev, and Hidimba Devi, which are flocked with people from across the country throughout the year. Those who are more attached to nature and wildlife tend to visit the Manali Wildlife Sanctuary, Pin Valley National Park and Great Himalayan National Park for a touch of wildlife and get a glimpse of their favorite birds and animals. Trekkers and Backpackers find solace in Salang Valley and Rohtang Pass where they can enjoy various adventure sports like skiing, paragliding, mountain climbing etc. along with the perks of enjoying the marvelous scenic beauty of mountains wrapped with a blanket of snow.
On the way to Manali, the road crosses through various mesmerizing sights of Pandoh Dam and Bhrigu Lake which makes the journey even more exciting. Within the Manali Town, there is a Buddhist monastery and a Chinese market also which caters to a large number of tourists. Old Manali has always been the favorite among the visitors for the variety of old and classic restaurants and hotels.
Both Christmas and New Year are celebrated with great exuberance in Manali. With all the hotels and guesthouses putting up lights for these big occasions, the town where, it’s believed, that human life began, is decorated for the advent of the New Year.
Climate and Accommodation
Manali weather is best during the summer time. People across the country visit the place to get a break from the scorching heat of the cities. Another reason to visit Manali during this time of the year is that the Rohtang Pass is open for the public during summers only. Even while traveling to Manali in summers, it is advisable to carry light woolens as the temperature is low enough to give you cold. Heavy woolens must be carried during winters as the temperature generally drops down below the freezing point at this time of the year. With so many hotels and guesthouses present in the town, accommodation is not a problem. There are hotels which suit every price range from simple guesthouses to 5-star hotels present in the same vicinity. The option of online booking of hotels is also available for most of these hotels.
A Snow-capped Hotel in Winters
Manali is easily accessible by Road and it’s better to go by road there because of the splendid view of the river Beas and mountain gorges along the road to Manali. It is approximately 550 km away from Delhi. There are regular Volvos, A.C. buses, luxury buses. Normal roadway buses ply from all the major cities around Manali like Delhi, Chandigarh, and Shimla etc. People prefer to board the prepaid taxi for Manali as they can be further taken to Rohtang pass as well and offer more privacy and control.
People who like to travel by air have the option of taking a flight. Bhuntar is the nearest airport to Manali (50 km). Subsequently, taxis or buses can be taken to reach Manali.
A Bridge in Old Manali built by the Britishers
Many have criticized the manuscripts, many more have shown their defiance in believing the story of Manu starting life in Manali. But does it really matter? No, not at all. The only thing we can learn from this story is that, even in the grimmest of the situation, there will always be a boat to ferry you away from the chaos. It doesn’t matter if Manu graced us with Manali or someone else, what really matters is we have a place where we can go to relieve ourselves from the cobwebs or faced paced city life. A place where we can go and make memories or gain experiences which may change your life forever & you will cherish those throughout your life (as in my case). Even if life didn’t start here, it has way more life than any other place in the world. For an enthusiastic tourist who loves nature, Manali tourist places offer lots of excitement and fun which is worth tasting at least once!