Manimahesh Lake, also known as Manimahesh Dal, is a separate high altitude lake situated close to the Manimahesh Kailash Peak in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, in the Bharmour subdivision of Chamba district, Himachal Pradesh, India. The lake is located at an elevation of 4,080 metres (13,390 ft) and is considered a place of great religious significance, second only to Lake Manasarovar in Tibet.
The lake is the site of a revered pilgrimage trek that takes place in August/September, during the eighth day of the New Moon period of the Hindu calendar, corresponding to the month of Bhadon. This trek, known as the “Manimahesh Yatra,” is declared a state-level pilgrimage by the Government of Himachal Pradesh.
There are two trekking routes to the lake. The route from Hadsar village is more popular and easier, with basic food and accommodation available during the pilgrimage season. The route from village Holi is more challenging, climbing higher before descending to the lake. There is no other habitation along this route, except for a small village.
Overall, Manimahesh Lake is a beautiful and culturally significant destination in the Himalayas.
Manimahesh Lake, located in Himachal Pradesh, India, is a sacred site for Hindus and is steeped in legends and mythology. According to popular belief, Lord Shiva created the lake after marrying Goddess Parvati, who is worshipped as Mata Girija. Shiva also performed penance on the banks of the lake. The Gaddis, a tribe that resides in the Gaddi Valley, consider Lord Shiva as their deity and wear traditional dress including a Chuhali topi, which they were gifted by Shiva himself. The land where Gaddis reside is called ‘Shiv Bhumi’ or “Land of Shiva,” and the region is considered the abode of the three Lords of the universe namely, Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.
The name “Manimahesh” is derived from the words “Mani,” meaning jewel, and “Mahesh,” which is another name for Shiva. It is said that on clear full moon nights, moon rays reflected from a jewel on Shiva’s crown can be seen from the lake, though it has been suggested that the phenomenon could be the result of the reflection of light from the glacier that embellishes the peak in the form of a serpent around Shiva’s neck.
There are various legends surrounding the lake, including one in which Lord Shiva himself is tricked by an asura named Bhasmasur, who had been granted a boon by Shiva. According to the legend, Bhasmasur could reduce anyone to ashes by touching them, and he tried to touch Shiva himself. However, Shiva managed to escape and took refuge behind the waterfall at Dhancho, where Lord Vishnu killed Bhasmasur.
The sanctity of Manimahesh Lake is further enhanced by the rare event of the first sun’s rays falling on the peak and reflecting in the lake like saffron tilak. This display in the lake has contributed to the belief of the Gaddis in the holiness of the lake, which they visit annually on a pilgrimage. Bathing in the lake on Janmashtami day or Radhashtami day, fifteen days after the birth of Lord Krishna, is also a common practice.
Here is a detailed itinerary for the Manimahesh Yatra, which typically takes place from August to September:
You will arrive in Bharmour, the base town for the Manimahesh Yatra. You can spend the day exploring the town and visiting the famous Chaurasi Temple Complex.
After an early breakfast, you will start your trek from Bharmour to Hadsar. This trek takes approximately 5-6 hours and is an easy walk through beautiful forests and lush green meadows. On arrival in Hadsar, you will check into a guesthouse or campsite.
After breakfast, you will continue your trek from Hadsar to Dhancho. This is a moderate trek and takes around 4-5 hours. On the way, you will see the famous waterfall where Lord Shiva is said to have taken shelter from the demon Bhasmasur. You will reach Dhancho by evening and spend the night in a campsite or guesthouse.
Today, you will trek from Dhancho to Manimahesh Lake, which is the final destination of the yatra. This trek is a steep climb and takes around 2-3 hours. On arrival at the lake, you will take a dip in the holy waters and perform puja (worship) at the temple. You will spend the night in a campsite or guesthouse near the lake.
You will spend the day at leisure at Manimahesh Lake, enjoying the beautiful scenery and soaking in the spiritual atmosphere. You can also explore the surrounding areas and take part in any religious ceremonies taking place at the temple.
After breakfast, you will trek back to Hadsar and then drive to Bharmour. On arrival in Bharmour, you can spend the rest of the day at leisure and explore the town.
You will depart from Bharmour and continue your onward journey.
The best time to visit Manimahesh Lake/Yatra is from mid-July to September, when the weather is pleasant and the region is accessible. The monsoon season in Himachal Pradesh starts in mid-June and ends in September, during which the region experiences occasional heavy rainfall that can disrupt travel plans. Therefore, it is advisable to plan the visit between mid-July and August when the monsoon is relatively mild and the weather is clear.
During the winter months (December to February), the region experiences heavy snowfall, making it difficult to access the lake. The lake remains frozen during this period, which makes it a popular destination for winter treks, but it requires specialized equipment and experience to undertake such treks.
In the spring season (March to May), the region experiences pleasant weather, but the snow begins to melt, making it difficult to access the lake. Moreover, the snowmelt causes the streams and rivers to swell, making travel dangerous.
Therefore, the best time to visit Manimahesh Lake/Yatra is from mid-July to September, during the post-monsoon season, when the weather is mild and the region is accessible.
The Manimahesh Lake/Yatra is considered to be a moderately difficult trek, suitable for experienced trekkers and pilgrims with good physical fitness. The trek involves hiking through steep and rugged terrain, crossing streams and negotiating tricky sections of the trail.
The altitude of the trek is also a challenge, with the highest point reaching over 5,000 meters above sea level. Altitude sickness can be a concern for those who are not acclimatized to high altitudes.
During the monsoon season, the trail can be slippery and muddy, making it more challenging to trek. However, the difficulty level of the trek can be reduced by hiring a local guide, who can provide support and assistance throughout the journey.
It is advisable to undertake some physical preparation and acclimatization prior to embarking on the Manimahesh Lake/Yatra. Proper gear and clothing are also essential to ensure a comfortable and safe trek.
Manimahesh Lake is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. Here are the ways to get there:
Bharmour, which is the base for the Manimahesh Yatra, is well-connected by road. You can take a bus or hire a taxi from Delhi, Chandigarh, or other nearby cities. The road journey is scenic but can be quite challenging due to the mountainous terrain.
The nearest railway station to Manimahesh Lake is the Pathankot railway station, which is approximately 180 km away. From Pathankot, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to Bharmour.
The nearest airport to Manimahesh Lake is the Gaggal airport in Kangra, which is approximately 190 km away. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to Bharmour, which is the base for the Manimahesh Yatra.
Once you reach Bharmour, you can start the trek to Manimahesh Lake. The trek is approximately 14 km long and takes around 6-7 hours to complete. You can hire a pony or a palanquin to carry your luggage or if you are unable to trek.