Manimahesh Lake is a high altitude lake, located at an elevation of 4,080 metres (13,390 ft)), in the Bharmour subdivision of Chamba district of HP. It has religious significance as this lake is considered next to the famous and holy Mansarovar lake in Tibet.
The lake is the venue of a highly revered pilgrimage trek undertaken during the month of August/September corresponding to the month of Bhadon according to the Hindu calendar, on the eighth day of the new moon. It is known as the ‘Manimahesh Yatra’. This pilgrimage has been declared as a state level pilgrimage by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. .
The lake is the source of a tributary of the Budhil river, known as ‘Manimahesh Ganga’. The Budhil river itself is a tributary of the Ravi river in Himachal Pradesh. Towards the end of June with ice beginning to melt, numerous small streams break up everywhere, which together with the lush green hills and the myriad of flowers give the place a truly remarkable view. The snow field at the base of the mountain is called by the local people as Shiva’s playground (Chaugan).
According to a belief, Lord Shiva stayed here with his consort Parvati. Legend has it that Lord Shiva performed penance for several hundred years here. The water cascades sprang out from his matted hair and took the form of the lake. The lake as formed appears like a saucer. It has two distinct parts. The larger part has icy cold water, called the ‘Shiv Karotri’ (the bathing place of Lord Shiva). The smaller part of the lake, which is hidden by the bushes, has lukewarm water and is called ‘Gauri Kund’, the bathing place of Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Thus, men and women bathe in different parts of the lake.
Routes to Reach Manimahesh
Manimahesh is approachable from three routes. Pilgrims from Lahoul and Spiti pass through Kugti pass. They also take a route from near the Biyadi, near Trilokinath. Pilgrims from Kangra and Mandi take the Karwarsi pass or Jalsu pass via Tyari village, near Holi in Bharmour. The easiest and popular route is from Chamba via Bharmour. The most popular is the Bhanrlour–Hadsar-Manimahesh route which involves a 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) track from Hadsar village to the Manimahesh Lake. The highest altitude touched in this route is 4,115 metres (13,501 ft) and it takes two days with an overnight stay at Dhancho..
The sacred pilgrimage called Manimahesh Yatra is held every year in the month of August and September. The locals believe that on this day Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati come to bath in the holy lake . A fair is held on this occasion on the lake and pilgrims from far and wide come to take a holy dip in the Manimahesh Lake. Pilgrims from far and wide come on this pilgrimage. The pilgrims from Lahaul-Spiti come via the Kugti pass. Some People from Kangra and Mandi come through Kawarsi or Jalsu passes. However most of the people do the yatra or the trek through Bharmour route.
How to Do the Manimahesh Yatra
Day 1 : Pathankot to Dalhousie.
For those coming from outside Himachal Pradesh, after one reaches Pathankot either by Train or Bus, one can can proceed to Dalhousie which is 80 km. There are a number of shared Taxi/HRTC buses available at Pathanakot. Night Stay at Dalhousie.
Day 2 : Dalhousie to Bharmour.
Either spend a day in the beautiful hill station of Dalhousie or start for Bharmour passing through the beautiful Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary and the popular Khajjiar which is also called mini Switzerland. Total distance covered is 120 km. Night stay at Bharmour.
Day 3 : Bharmour to Dhancho.
Next day the taxi will take you from Bharmour to Hadsar which is 14 km. From Hadsar the trek starts. The total distance from Hadsar to Manimahesh is 13 km which can be done in one a single day or like many people stay overnight at Dhancho. There are a number of waterfall on this trek but a huge waterfall at Dhancho called Dhancho waterfall is quite mesmerizing.
Day 4 : Dhancho to Manimahesh.
The trek for the Manimaesh Lake is 7 kms from Dhancho. Spend the rest of the day enjoying the parimarma, taking holy dip and enjopying the scenic beauty all around.
Day 5 : Manimahesh Lake to Bharmour.
One can reach Bharmour directly after first descending down and trekking till Hadsar and from there to Bharmour through shared Taxi.