It might be the smallest temple I have ever been to. Set off against a clear blue sky and pristine hills, the wooden structure was one of the most beautiful juxtapositions of human construction against nature’s bounty.
We were on a trip to Manali – for the breath of fresh air that one needs when life is rushing past like a flipbook cartoon. Expecting to be greeted by a fleet of waiting taxis at the airport, we were stumped to see barely any around. The few available ones quickly disappeared as nimble footed co-passengers got ahead of us while we struggled with our suitcases filled to the brim with warm clothes (which were a blessing we realised later).
Having settled down into a cab with an endlessly yakking driver, we drove off as the car got nicely warm (and I thought such luxuries existed only outside of India!!) and the daughter, as is the norm, dozed off. Post a short break sipping on tea, that turned from steaming hot to tepid in the journey from the kitchen to our table, we returned to our warm vehicle thanking such inventions.
On the way to the hotel, our driver suggested a visit to the Royal Palace. Envisioning a grand structure, hopefully with royal guards posted at the gates, we readily agreed. A little while later, he veered off the road and stopped. Seeing nothing but some ordinary looking buildings around, we waited in the car till he told us we had reached our destination. So, off we went to a plain stone and wood building housing a few rooms filled with musty sofas, old furniture and pictures of the maharajah on the walls. In retrospect, I feel we should have been more appreciative about the eco-friendliness of the place but, at that time all we felt was disappointment.
Just then, I heard a bell tinkling. Thinking one of the royal family members was praying, I walked on, ahead of my husband and daughter, to witness the spectacle. The rooms opened out into a courtyard and there it stood – a little stone temple, with wooden friezes and an engraved Ganesha on the top. The next revelation was the priest dressed in an orange lungi, blue shirt, brown coat and the traditional Himachali cap. Oblivious to our presence, he carried on chanting and performing the aarti.
I just stood very quietly, taking in the simple beauty of the temple and its surroundings. The priest rang the temple bell and its sound reverberated all around, as if the mountains were echoing what I felt. Whenever I re-visit pictures taken that day, the beauty of that moment comes rushing back to me, making me want to drop everything and run to that isle of peace and purity.
Manali is a beautiful place in the Beas river valley nestled in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Compared to other hill stations, its ecosytem is much better preserved thanks to the state’s property purchase and zoning restrictions.
It is said that Manali was named after Manu, the first king and progenitor of mankind as per Hindu belief.
By Air: The town of Bhuntar, around 50 kms/31 miles away from Manali, has the nearest airport. Prepaid taxies can be hired from the airport.
By Rail: The closest broad gauge railheads are Chandigarh and Ambala while the closest narrow gauge railhead is at Jogindernagar
By Road: Manali is on the national highway no. 21 and many people prefer driving down from Delhi. Buses ply from Dalhousie, Dehradun, Haridwar, Ambala, Chandigarh, Shimla, Delhi, Dharamsala and Chamba.
We stayed at the Banon Resort, booked through a friend. The room was spacious and well furnished, with a partial view of mountain peaks from our balcony. We thoroughly enjoyed the Indian food served at the in-house restaurant. The room service needs to be mentioned separately – I don’t know if low occupancy at that point played a role but, we were amazed at the speed at which our orders were served in the room.
(Please note that the above comments are unbiased– I don’t engage in paid reviews)
You could visit Tripadvisor for hotel recommendations and reviews.
Part two of this series will cover our sightseeing experience in Manali