Manimahesh Yatra: Trek To Lord Shiva’s Playground
It’s a surreal experience … visiting Lord Shiva’s abode. Lakhs of devotees wait impatiently for the time of the year when weather would be hospitable enough to let humble mortals make the climb, traverse up to 14,500 feet to reach Manimahesh and get a rare glimpse of the mighty Mt. Kailash.
The Manimahesh yatra, this year, is scheduled to get underway on September 5. Come monsoons and the icy abode of Lord Shiva becomes accessible to men. Located in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh and reverred by Lord Shiva’s devotees, Kailash Parbat in Chamba is reverred as most sacred and is next only to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet and Amarnath in Kashmir in its popularity. It is famed for its famous lights—‘mani’ referred to is the unexplained light around the mountain, both at night and in the day time, that has remained a mystery.
The yatra itself takes off after elaborate prayers in the Chaurasi Temple Complex in Chamba’s ancient capital, Bharmour. Lakhs of devottees climb the precarious, rocky trek, a steady climb that begins from Hadsar, barely 15 kilometers from Bharmour. The route to Manimahesh follows a roaring strream and is 13 km steep trek. After a gentle beginning near Hadsar, the stream, which carries water from the holy Manimahesh Lake, becomes thunderous as it tumbles down the rocky mountain path.
Before the devotees start the trek to Manimahesh, it is believed that permission has to be sought from Bharmani Mata in Bharmour. An ancient local diety, temple of Bharmani Mata too is situated in the grasslands several thousand feet above Bharmour. A three kilometer steep trek, winding through apple orchards, with trees loaded with fruit, flowers, takes you to Bharmani Mata. After paying respect at the temple, most people head to Hadsar to begin the climb.
A narrow, rocky path, winding with the roaring stream, stays with it and never wanders off till you reach Manimahesh. Legend has it that a shepherd had dreamt of the lake and had been given directions to it by Lord Shiva in his dream, thousands of years ago. The shepherd then followed this stream to discover the lake. He found a white marble, four faced ‘Shivling’, near the lake, where it remains in the temple even today.
Six kilometers of extremely tough climb over jagged rocks and sharp stones brings devotees to Dhanchoo. A popular legen d says that Lord Shiva, sought refuge behind this roaring stream, when he was being pursued by his devotee Bhasmasur whom he had granted a wish to destroy everything he laid his hand on. Bhasmasur attempted to lay hands on Lord Shiva himself and it was at Dhanchoo that he could shake Bhasmasur off.
Three kilometers of enchanting landscape, through Sundarasi, brings one closer to God like never before. Sundarasi, as the name suggests, is divinely beautiful and is Lord’s own garden of wild flowers and valuable herbs. Three kilometers ahead is Gauri Kund, a place where women take the holy bath and is believed to be Goddess Parvati’s kund. It is a matter of great shame and remorse that the place, reverred by lakhs of people, is in a pathetic condition and in deep neglect. The lake itself is crystal clear and transparent but is littered with waste of devotees.
Three kilometeres uphill is the beautiful, Manimahesh Lake and one bend in the mountains suddenly brings you right in front of the mighty Kailash Parbat.Its beauty leaves you stunned and awe struck, even as its shape, that bears striking resemblence to natural shivling, leaves you wonder struck. Kailash Parbat is perpetually enveloped in thick clouds and it is only few moments in a day when the huge mountain is visible in all its enormity.
Loud chants of Har Har Mahadev pierce the thin air, even as sounds of conches echo through the mountains when clouds part affording a glimpse and ‘darshan’ of Kailash Parbat, believed to be home to Lord Shiva. The mountain itself has never been scaled due to religious sentiments attached to it. Folklore has it that all those who attempted to do so never came back. Beyond a point women are not allowed and of the many kunds in the area, one that is at the exact base of Kailash Parbat is exclusively for men.
The highest peak is the Mani Mahesh Kailas, also called ‘Chamba Kailash’ with its elevation of 5656 meter, that overlooks the lake. The lake, considered a glacial depression, is sourced by snow-melt waters from the surrounding hill slopes. The snow field at the base of the mountain is called by the local people as Shiva’s Chaugan—Shiva’s playground.
Of late, insanitation has become a number one hazard to the mountain as lakhs of devotees are also carrying plastic waste to the glacier and at the base of the holy mountain. Also the construction of make shift public toilets by the public works department of HP have made a blunder by positioning the toilets in the direction of the holy mountain with its waste flowing directly into the holy stream.
By Priya Yadav from Chamba