Manimahesh Yatra

Twenty-six kilometers from Bharmour in the Budhil valley is situated the Manimahesh Lake, one of the chief pilgrimage spots in Himachal Pradesh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 13,000 feet at the foot of the Kailash peak (18,564 ft). Every year, on the eighth day of the light half of the moon in the month of Bhadon, a fair is held at this lake, which attracts thousands of pilgrims who assemble here to take a dip in the holy waters. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of this fair / jatra. He is believed to reside in Kailash. A rock formation in the shape of a Shivling on Kailash is considered to be the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The snowfield at the base of the mountain is called Shiva’s Chaugan by the local people. According to the popular belief, the Lord is said to sport here with his consort Parvati. Mount Kailash is considered as invincible. No one has so far been able to scale this peak despite the fact that much taller peaks, including Mount Everest have been conquered many times. One story goes that once a Gaddi tried to climb the mountain alongwith his herd of sheep. He is believed to have been turned stone alongwith his sheep. The series of minor peaks below the principal peak are believed to be the remains of the ill-fated shepherd and his flock.

There is yet another legend according to which a snake also attempted to climb this peak but failed and was turned into stone. It is also believed that the devotees can have a view of the Kailash peak only if the Lord is pleased. Bad weather, when the peak is hidden behind clouds, is a sign of the Lord’s displeasure. At one corner of the Manimahesh lake is a marble image of Shiva which is worshipped by the pilgrims who visit this place. After bathing in the holy waters, the pilgrims go around the circumference of the lake three times. The lake and its surroundings present a majestic view. The quiet waters of the lake carry the reflection of snow capped peaks that carry over the valley.

Manimahesh is approached from different routes. Pilgrims from Lahaul-Spiti come through Kugti pass. Some from Kangra and Mandi come via Kawarsi or Jalsu passes. The easiest route is from Chamba and runs through Bharmaur. At present buses ply upto Bharmaur and jeeps upto Hadsar. Beyond Hadsar, the pilgrims have to trek for 13 kms to reach Manimahesh. Between Hadsar and Manimahesh is an important halting place known as Dhanchho where pilgrims usually spend a night. There is a beautiful waterfall. About one and half kilometers short of Manimahesh lake fall two religiously important water bodies called Gauri Kund and Shiva Krotri where as per popular belief Gauri and Shiva bathe respectively. The women pilgrims do take holy dip in Gauri Kund and the men pilgrims in Shiva Krotri before proceeding to Manimahesh lake.