My inclination towards God and trekking this time took me to Manimahesh Lake in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh.
Manimahesh Lake is located at an altitude of 4080 Meters (13,390 Feet) situated close to the Manimahesh Kailash Peak in the Pir Panjal Range of Himalayas. People believe that Lord Shiva stays at Manimahesh Kailash. Devotees from various places in the country travel to Manimahesh during Janam Ashthami every year. Normally people start travelling from Aug beginning till Sep end.
Chamba district is not connected with train hence people travel via Road from Pathankot (which is the nearest Train connected city, 120 KM away from Chamba). Even if Chamba was connected with train I would have advised anyone to travel via Road, because the journey from Pathankot to Chamba crosses through the most beautiful terrains, mountains and natural beauty of Chamba district.
The true pilgrimage to Manimahesh Kailash starts from Chamba. Few people opt to go on feet and most prefers to travel via Road till Bharmour (which is 70 KM away from Chamba). Bharmour is very old town and is known for famous temples such as Temple of Sidhs, Chaurasi Temple Complex and only temple in the world of Dharamraj- Yama. Road travel from Chamba to Bharmour is not a cakewalk at all. High Altitude roads, dangerous terrains and risk of land sliding would never let you sleep for a while. If you are not experienced driver on hills, do not try it here, it might cost you a lot. However natural beauty is no less than anywhere else. Apple orchards on roadside and mountains with green colour welcome every visitor. (My hometown is situated 35 KM away from Chamba on Chamba Bharmour Road, called Gehra). Last motor able destination of Pilgrimage is Hadsar which is 14 KM from Bharmour Town.
It takes almost a day for Pathankot – Chamba – Bharmour – Hadsar stretch via Road. Now a days Helicopter services from Chamba to Bharmour and further to Manimahesh Kailash are also available.
Lodging and Boarding is not at all a challenge, because everywhere you will get fairly cheaper accommodation and free meal (Langars).
My journey started on 1st of Sep 2010 along with my Brother in Law. We reached Bharmour by 2:30 PM and were able to start the trek from Hadsar at 3:00 PM. As we started, soon, we were surrounded by colourful crowd moving both ways (up and down). No thorough security check, not a surprise to me because our Himachal Government is too lazy in such things.
Devotion of people towards Lord Shiva many a time made me feel so small, an old lady of around 70 years climbing up with a heavy bag, physically disabled Monk climbing on One Leg, chanting “Bam Bam Bhole” and a young man carrying essential items bulky stuff on back and hardly six month old baby in hands (I don’t know where the mother was?) are some of examples for it.
The total distance from Hadsar to Manimahesh Kailash is 14 KM.
Helicopter services are also available for it.
Helicopter services are also available for it.
The relief at Sundrasi stop-over was that we had covered almost 70% of the stretch and we still had enough of energy to climb further despite bad weather and night. The distance from Sundrassi to Next stop over Gauri Kund is 3.5 KMs. The pedestrian crosses a valley called Bhainro Ghaati. Within 15 minutes we realised that this is going to be the most difficult stretch for us. Low Oxygen, Fog, Night and 75 Degree climb sucked all energy out of us. We took the longest time to cover 3.5 KM and took maximum breaks around 10 times. The only motivation was those little lights blinking on the top of the mountain like Stars. We were dying for food now. Somehow we manage to reach our destination Gauri Kund by 8:30 PM. Simple Rice and Dal tasted so delicious that we enjoyed every bit of it. Yaah, how can we skip Tea in cold weather of 10 Degree.
Now the Sacred Manimahesh Lake was 1.5 KM away and we could see the lights on the top. My Brother in Law was apprehensive about tent availability on Lake so he proposed to stay at Gauri Kund and cover balance 1.5 KM next day early morning. But I did not wish to loose the opportunity to spend a day at Sacred Manimahesh Lake. Hence we climbed. Yes it was difficult but knowing the fact that this is small and last stretch of trek we did not give up and finally we won the battle at 9:30 PM.
It was late night and foggy so we could not see Lake as well as Manimahesh Kailash. We decided to look for a Tent. While we were scouting for Tent, suddenly everyone started chanting “Om Namah Shivay” while looking towards Manimahesh Kailash. When I looked up, there was a light blinking on the top of Manimahesh Kailash. It is believed that this Mani is Jewel on the crown of Lord Shiva. I was blessed one among few hundreds who witnessed this for 7 to 8 minutes of duration. The interesting thing is that the entire Manimahesh Kailash was covered with thick fog and the only thing visible was the Mani. According to a local legend, the moon-rays reflected from the jewel can be seen from Manimahesh Lake on clear full moon night (which is a rare occasion) but in our case the sky was not at all clear, then from where it came? Moreover it is impossible to climb up to the peak of Manimahesh Kailash.
After witnessing such an unprecedented scene I was completely fresh but Mercury of less than 10 Degree forced us to continue scout for a tent to spend the night.
Next day morning we got up at 6:00 AM and when I looked outside the first thing I saw was Manimahesh Kailash with zero Fog, which is again a rare occasion. 90% of people go back without seeing Kailash because weather always remains unpredictable here. The next activity was to take a holy dip in Manimahesh Lake. Believe me this is the challenge. Freezing water and cold winds makes it really a tough task. Very few dare to take a dip into Lake Water. I managed to take dip for two minutes and after that I was unconscious for a while.
Last activity for me was to enjoy the Sunrise on Kailash. As usual I captured lots of pictures and then was the time to head back to our homes.
If you are a passionate trekker then you would know that coming down is far tougher than climbing up. The steepness of the stretch was realised while coming down. One is more prone to accidents and injuries while going north to south than south to north. By the time we ended the trekking portion my feet were completely paining. Thank fully no injuries.
The highlights of the Pilgrimage to Manimahesh Kailash for me are picturesque landscapes, Noisy & breathtaking Waterfalls, Devotion of people towards Lord Shiva, Stay at Sacred Lake in Tent and Mani Darshan.
Wikipedia as always has portrayed the history of Manimahesh Lake very beautifully, see the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manimahesh_Lake