26 kilometres from Bharmour in the Budhil Valley lies the Manimahesh Lake, one of the most important pilgrimage spots in Himachal Pradesh. The lake is located 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 half 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 / yatra.
He is believed to reside in Mount Kailash. A rock
formation in the shape of a ‘Shivling’ on Kailash
is considered to be the manifestation of Lord Shiva.
The local people call the snowfield at the base of the
mountain Shiva’s Chaugan. According to the popular
belief, the Lord is said to sport here with his consort
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 along with his herd of sheep. He is believed to have been turned into stone along with his sheep. Even today, 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 Shiva 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 loom over the valley.
Manimahesh is approachable from different routes. Pilgrims from Lahaul-Spiti come through the 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 up to Bharmaur, and jeeps go up to Hadsar. Beyond Hadsar, the pilgrims have to trek for 13 kilometres to reach Manimahesh.
Between Hadsar and Manimahesh is an important
halting place known as Dhanchho where pilgrims
usually spend a night. A beautiful waterfall makes
the stop worthwhile.
About one and half kilometres short of Manimahesh Lake fall two important water bodies called Gauri Kund and Shiva Krotri. As per popular belief Gauri and Shiva bathe in these two lakes respectively. The women pilgrims take holy dip in Gauri Kund and the men pilgrims in Shiva Krotri before proceeding to Manimahesh Lake.