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Manali Beyond Mountains - A Glimpse of Manali's Fascinating History

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

People gather from all around (especially during summers) to enjoy the pristine beauty, wilderness, mountains, snow, relaxed lifestyle, adventure sports and local cuisine in Manali. Nestled in the Himalayan mountains of India, Manali is a well-known hill-station and a popular tourist destination for Indians and foreigners alike. But did you know, along with breath-taking geography, this magical place in Himachal Pradesh also offers a fascinating history? Here are the amazing origin stories of 6 historically significant pilgrim places near Manali:

1) Manu Temple:

Manu Temple - Old Manali

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu appeared to Manu, in his first avatar (Matsya) and instructed him to build a huge boat to save every species of animal from the Great Flood. Manu followed the instructions and sailed for 7 days while Matsya and the seven sages (Saptarishis) escorted the boat to safety, landing the boat in present day Manali - Himachal Pradesh. That's why Manali is considered to be Manu’s place (Manu ka Sthaan) where he meditated and is believed to have started the human (Manushya) race from. This 16th-century Manu temple is a must visit pilgrim place for anyone visiting Manali.

2) Hidimba Devi Temple:

Hidimba Devi Temple - Old Manali

Amidst the tall Cedar and Deodar trees of Manali sits this 14th-century Hidimba temple which is dedicated to the goddess Hidimbi. According to Mahabharata, Hidimbi (Born into a Rakshasa family) had vowed to marry the one who would defeat her brave and fearless brother Hidimb. When the Pandavas visited Manali, Bhima defeated Hidimb which led to Hidimbi marrying Bhima. She mothered the great warrior Ghatotkacha, father of Barbarika, both of whom played a pivotal role in the Mahabharata war.

3) Vashishta Hot Springs:

Vashishta Hot Springs - Manali

According to the scriptures, Sage Vashishta owned Kamadhenu, a divine cow that could grant wishes. Vishwamitra (a.k.a King Kaushika) wanted it and attacked sage Vashishta's ashram. As a divine cow, Kamadhenu created an army that defeated Vishwamitra's forces which humbled him. Seeing Vishwamitra's humility, Sage Vashishta gifted him the divine cow. While this story teaches about forgiveness, humility, and devotion, the Vashishta temple located 3 km from Manali across the River Beas offers refreshing atmosphere and holy baths for the pilgrims.

4) Bijli Mahadev Temple / Trek:

Bijli Mahadev Trek - Naggar, Kullu district

Bijli means lightening. This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Kullu Valley has an electrifying story behind it. Locals claim that once every 12 years lightning strikes upon the Shivling inside this temple shattering it to pieces, which are then glued back together using ghee (clarified butter) by the local pandits. Every year the locals organize a walking march through the valley with the idols of Lord Shiva and Parvati. The temple offers an unbelievable panoramic view of the entire district. You can even see the airport from up there.

5) Manikaran Temple / Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara:

Manikaran Temple / Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara

Located in Parvati Valley, Manikaran is said to be the place where Goddess Parvati lost her precious stone (Mani) and Lord Shiva summoned Sheshanaga to find it. When Sheshanaga hissed, a spring of boiling water caused the stone (Mani) to resurface. That’s why there exist natural hot springs right next to a gushing Parvati river. Today Manikaran Temple and Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara are holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Sikhs alike.

6) Kheerganga Trek / Hot Springs:

 Kheerganga Trek / Hot Springs

According to Hindu belief, when Narada asked Lord Shiva and Parvati who their favorite kid was, Ganesha and Kartikeya had a race around the world. While Kartikeya relied on his speed and circumnavigated the Earth (material world), Ganesha won by using his intelligence by walking around his parents (his world). Following the defeat Kartikeya left home and meditated in the mountains. When Parvati found him and asked him to return home, Kartikeya refused by replaying the debt of his mother’s milk with a stream of Kheer (milk pudding) as steaming milky hot water erupted from the land. Today Kheerganga is a popular trekking spot for soul searchers.

Do you know any other place with a fascinating story? Comment below 👇

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