In my previous post, I wrote about the Naggar Castle (Royal Palace) and the Jagati Patt Temple, located within. What I forgot to mention was the pleasant view from the castle’s wooden balcony and a not-as-impressive mannequin display in the basement, portraying the daily life of locals. That rounds up our experience of Naggar village, which used to be the capital of the kings of Kullu.
On day two, we visited the Hadimba Temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali. While the surroundings were beautiful and the wooden temple charming, we were completely put off by the sight of dried blood, remnants of animal sacrifice at the temple. To think about it, this primitive practice seems to be quite prevalent in the hills. What I just can’t fathom is how is it possible to please any god/goddess by taking the life of a helpless animal?
Anyhow, we moved on to a more ‘touristy’ activity for our daughter’s sake – posing for photographs next to a yak. I thought she would be pleased to ‘put a face to the picture’ in her book but, she was understandably quite terrified of the huge beast with ginormous horns – the kind you dread touching. In other corners of the clearing, women were persuading little girls and women to put on costumes worn by Himachali womenfolk, while others were peddling small eats.
Mission accomplished, we headed off to the Ilforno, a small Italian restaurant known for its wood oven pizzas. It was quite the visual treat with the garden, quaint cane lamps and cottage style ambiance. The food did take quite some time to be served, but was worth the wait – my daughter’s eyes twinkled all the way through the meal.
Day three was time to witness a natural wonder – the Vashishti sulphur springs. After crossing the urban looking parts of Manali, we finally got to see the beauty of the mountains on this drive. The river Beas flowing parallel to the road, revealing glimpses of its clear waters on a turn here and a ridge there, the huge boulders lined up as silent witnesses to its never ceasing chatter and the pine trees looming up and out of vision’s range.
The spell, however, was broken once we reached the springs. While it is no doubt awe inspiring to see the green, roiling water and feel the near scorching heat from its steam, the place was stinking. Hold on, the place didn’t just smell of sulphur, it smelt like a huge urinal! We quickly abandoned plans for a dip and instead visited the gurudwara Manikaran Sahib on the same premises.
That crossed off our list, we carried on to the Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery in Kullu. What a rewarding journey that turned out to be! It was as if we had been transported to Tibet. The monastery serves as a boarding school and university for the study of Buddhist philosophy. All around us were red robed monks – the youngest ones playing and giggling, the slightly older ones memorizing texts while averting their gaze on spotting us and even older ones chanting prayers as they walked around the vast complex.
Perched on a hillside with a spectacular view – housing huge idols of Buddha, sporting colourful frescoes, echoing holy chants – the monastery is truly a ‘not to be missed’ spot. I don’t know if we were plain lucky but, we were shown around the place, including the room where the Dalai Lama stayed during a visit, by a very amiable monk. Regretfully, even though this is my fondest memory of the Kullu-Manali trip, I don’t have any digital pictures to show for it.
The next day was reserved for the Rohtang Pass, famed for its enchanting views of the Himalayan valley. Changing into snow suits along the way, we joined a convoy of vehicles which seemed to be moving quite slowly. The reason, we discovered, was that it had snowed and since it would be dangerous to travel till the Pass, we were taken instead to Marhi.
Now, this was the first time our family saw real snow. Grinning ear to ear at the sight, we made the most of it – hurling snow balls, making the tiniest snowman ever, rolling around, sliding down slopes– you get the idea. Such things make you feel good and foolish at the same time, right? As it was, the frenzy didn’t last as we were forced to scurry back by the biting cold weather.
The only other place we visited during this trip to Manali was the Nature Park – though there aren’t any animals around (did see some really colorful birds that looked like peacocks but, nothing more), walking through the tall Deodar/Pine trees is an experience in itself.
Speaking of which, I don’t know if I will return to Kullu/Manali but, I would definitely like to re-visit the monastery experience. Leh/Ladakh calling? Hmmmm….