Manali gets its name from Manu, the first man on earth, the progenitor of humankind as per our Puranas. Before we proceed with Manali let us rewind a little and catch up with the story of Manu which goes like this:
One day when Manu rishi was giving ablutions he found a small fish in his palm which pleaded to be saved from bigger fishes, Manu moved it into an earthen pot but the fish outgrew it only to be shifted to a big pit, a lake, a river and then finally on releasing the fish into the ocean it warned him against an impending catastrophic flood that would submerge the whole world in water. It also informed him of the exact date and time of the deluge and instructed him to build an arc and collect all seeds and species of different forms of life to begin a new world along with the saptarishis.
On the day of the deluge Lord Vishnu in his gigantic Matsya form tied the mast of the arc to his horns and escorted Manu and the Saptarishis to safety in the Northern Himalayas who then descended in the land that is today called Manali(Manu Alaya__the abode of Manu).
There are many other arc/flood stories which are a spill-over of the Matsyaavatara katha written in our Veda-puranas.
The Bhagavadgita says that each Manvantara = 71 Mahayugas(306,720,000 years) and each Mahayuga = 4,320,000years, each Mahayuga is in turn divided into 4 yugas namely
Satya Yuga or Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga,Dwapara Yuga, Kali Yuga
Lifecycle of earth comes to an end after every Manvantara washing away all evils only to start a new one afresh. Apparently one day of Bramha, the creator of this cosmos is 4.32billion years as per the Hindu time calculation and each day of Bramha consists of 14periods or manvantaras. So every Manvantara will have a Manu or a progenitor to lead the human race, the manvantara is named after that particular Manu.
We are currently in the Kali Yuga of the 28th Mahayuga in the 7th Manvantara which is called Vaivasvata Manu.
Brahma creates at the beginning of his morning and merges everything into the absolute before he sleeps.
Essentially our Tsunamis, volcanoes, nuclear wars, ice ages maybe a bed time story for Bramha.
The word “Man” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Manushya” and Manu is symbolically the first man on earth, the word “manuscript” is also derived from “Manusmrithi”, the book of laws written by Manu for mankind.
Okay now! before I scare you off with this mythological overdoze let me quickly take you into the splendor of this dazzling hill Manali.
Manali is a photographer’s delight, a traveler’s frenzy, honeymooners’ paradise and an adventure lovers’ den bustling with hiking and biking freaks.
The drive to Manali is breath taking with the Vyas river snaking picturesquely amidst the curving Ghandarva mountains,
I don’t know why many states in India goof up the “Va” sound and corrupt it with “ba” sound, the Vyas river is referred as Byas river which the British further corrupted as Beas river. Whatever the sound the Beas/Vyas River beguiles you with its breath taking vistas.
Although this is a highly seismic prone area the authorities have built tunnels, one such interesting tunnel that runs for 2.75kms is the Aut tunnel in Mandi district.
We reached Kullu around 4.30 and spent some time in the weaving factory which happens to be the only shopping place that most drivers will take you to.
Shimla to Manali is 260kms which took us 9 long hours we had started at 9am and reached only around 6 in the evening of course with a couple of breaks for lunch and shopping at Kullu
The drive was really scenic, serene and safe, thank god Himachal Pradesh is plastic free, there is an unbelievable driving coordination amongst drivers who readily give way and wait patiently without much honking or overtaking, you don’t get to see this etiquette anywhere else in India, also one cannot play music while driving which was a big respite for us from our driver who was a Honey Singh devotee.
We reached our Hotel “Holiday Resorts and cottages” by evening, it was already dark and the temperature was freezing below zero degrees.
Our room was right in front of a snow capped mountain and the paths leading to the cottage were picketed with walls of frozen snow forcing us to cover every inch with layers of woolens that we looked like bloated bean bags in the dinner room.
Our cottage had 4 rooms with a common living and dining area that we monopolized occupying 3rooms, the ambience was perfect for a ghost story but we were tired and felt like frozen peas getting thawed before a frail heater whose effect was almost non-existent in the biting cold night.
In the morning the temperature was still ice cold and we shivered at the thought of coming in contact with water but the morning view from our window was very romantic, our eyes met and after a long intense stare he whispered ‘you are the one to brush and bathe first’.
The weather had remained depressingly stoic the past week because of heavy snowing leaving many tourists still stranded in Rohtang and the army was still clearing and rescuing folks out of it. Rohtang was closed so we had to settle for Solang valley.
But today luckily for us the sun seemed to smile and there was a sudden warmth in the air, everything around gleamed merrily with the bright sun rays and we were relieved that the weather would not play a spoilsport. The barren apple trees that had appeared like testimonials to a murder mystery now looked enchanting like in an artist’s easel.
We headed for the Solong valley which was 13kms from Manali, en route we hired snow boots and boiler suits to gear up for some snow time. This whole set costs you Rs.250 but if you are equipped with good jackets and woollens you really don’t need one but we hired it just for the heck of it to look a little different for pictures. These shops are usually tied up with the drivers and your driver might insist that you have to essentially hire here but there are shops right at solang valley with all snow gears so you don’t really have to worry about it.
Solang valley is at an altitude of 8500ft with lots of sporting activities like parachuting, paragliding, skiing, biking and zorbing.
The valley bustles with commercial activities with a pool of vendors waiting to make brisk business, it is flooded with chaiwalas, vendors renting out Himachali traditional dresses for couples to pose in the backdrop of snow clad mountains, a rabbit-wala whose rabbit you can pose with for 20bucks,
woollen sellers, the yak guys and the maggi wallahs,
the sports rides all this and much more in the midst of the glacier bowl but the vast stretch swallows all this din and stands serenely surrounded by splendid cedar trees accommodating them all.
We climbed up to a higher point to get a good view of the snow peaks and some space just for us only to be followed by a costume renting lady,
the sun was grinning and we were kind of sweating in those boiler suits but the feet was freezing as it the farthest part of body where blood circulation is minimal and also the quality of the boots were really poor.
We played for almost 4 hours here and then descended back for lunch with a heavy heart after a brief stint at biking as we really longed to spend more time but we had not realized that we were already sunburnt in this freezing month of December shunning all our fears of traveling in the dead of the winter that we had dreaded initially.
We had lunch at the mall road and did some shopping. Although Manali is supposedly expensive for shopping we ended up shopping, on returning to the hotel it dawned upon me that I had to do what I am best at……Exchange!
(Yes the next day I had to go back to Mall road because shopping feels incomplete and unjustified if I didn’t go for exchange) After that we headed back to the hotel and that was the end of day 1 at Manali.
I have already hit 1400words now so will come back with another post on our Day 2 at Manali.