Tourism in Mandi

Fast Facts

Population 26, 858
Altitude 800 meters
Best time to go during summer season
Languages Himachali, Hindi, local Dialect

The people of Mandi proudly boast that while Kashi (Benaras) has only 80 temples, Mandi has 81! And it is no idle boast. J.C. French supported their assertion when he described the town as a miniature Benaras with innumerable temples, old houses, long flights of steps, the streets steep and winding and the market place with an aura of medieval picturesque ness. In 1919 one tourist actually counted 49 places of worship in Mandi. Built of rough stone in a shikara (houseboat) style they could be seen all over the town on the right and left of the river Beas.

The town's antiquity is established by the Triloknath temple which was built around 1520 A.D. Mandi seems to have derived its name from the Sanskrit word 'Mandoika' meaning an open hall or shed. It was also well known to the Tibetans who called it Zahor.

History

It was at Rewalsar that the Buddhist monk Padma Sambhava preached the message of the enlightened one and made a substantial contribution towards the spread of Buddhism in the region, carrying it as far as Tibet. During winter Buddhist from Tibet come down in large numbers on pilgrimage to the holy Rewalsar. They approach the lake crawling on their hands and feet as a mark of humility and penance. This has now become a part of the ritual of paying obeisance to the sacred lake.

Once when the tenth guru of the Sikhs was on a visit to Mandi, the king of Mandi invited him to stay at the royal palace. The guru accepted the invitation to stay in Mandi but not with the king. He put up outside the town in a secluded place, which had once been the hermitage of a rishi (Indian sage). The guru was touched by the king's devotion and prophesized that Mandi would ever remain safe and if any enemy tries to harm it, bolts from heaven would crush the invader. A gurudwara at Rewalsar was built in memory of the historic visit of the guru. There is a small village called Bagij about 35 km from Mandi and 600 feet above sea level. A steep trek uphill of about 3500 feet from here brings you to Parashar Lake. An ancient temple built in pagoda style stands here. A trek to this place can be tricky in the wrong season as the place is quite desolate. However one can get awarded with a beautiful sight of the temple, the snow covered lake, Dhauladhar and the Pin Parbati ranges towering majestically over them.

Tourists Attractions

On a high ground is situated the temple of Shyama Kali also known as Tarna Devi, one of the goddesses of Hindu mythology. It is dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva. According to Hindu philosophy a woman has two sides to her nature, one extremely tender and the other highly ferocious. In this temple the divine consort of Lord Shiva is depicted as Kali or Shakti (power) full of fury. The legend goes that once the goddess started dancing and the dance began slowly. Gradually the tempo increased and reached a peak of frenzy. In her ecstasy, her movements, which were delicate and graceful at the start, became wild and terrifying like the tremors of an earthquake. The earth shook and vibrated under the impact of her movements. Panic stricken, people ran to Shiva for help. He obliged them by lying down in her path. Kali stepped on Shiva's prostrate figure but as soon as she realized who it was, she stopped in her tracks. The idol depicts her in the Rudra Roop or the fearsome form with a garland of human skulls and protruding tongue.

Mandi district comprises of two princely states of Mandi and Suket. The district takes its name from the principal town Mandi in keeping with the general pattern of the hill states. Situated on the left bank of the river Beas, Mandi town is almost in the center of Himachal Pradesh in the foothills of the Shivalik ranges. At one time the former state of Mandi had an imposing array of forts, 360 in all. However, time has taken its toll and now only about 10 are left.

Sati pillars called barselas in the local dialect are erected on the left bank of the Suketi Bridge. These six to seven feet high stone pillar are erected in the memory of the deceased rulers of Mandi. When one died it was required by custom to put up such a pillar to perpetuate his memory. His likeness was chiseled on the pillar with his name, date of death along with the names of his wives, concubines and slave girls who perished on his funeral pyre to provide him company in distant world.

The most conspicuous monument is the palace of the Raja of Mandi, which stands in the southern part of the town and presents a number of tall white buildings, with roofs like those of the Chinese pagoda.

About 25 km from Mandi town and 6000 feet above sea level, on the crest of Sikandhar Dhar is the Rewalsar Lake, a place of Pilgrimage. The lake is dotted with seven huge masses of reeds, which give the appearance of small floating islands when the breeze is strong. There are three shrines by the lake, a Buddhist monastery, a temple and a gurudwara (Sikh temple).

Fairs & Festivals

With a rich legacy of venerated temples, it is natural that religious festivals like Janmastami and Shivratri are celebrated at Mandir with much fervor. Janmastami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, is observed as a state function with perfect decorum. The main ceremony takes place in the temple of Madho Raj. The idol of the child Krishna is placed in a small cradle covered with gold brocade and suspended from the rafters by silken cords. The Raja himself, who arrives in procession followed by his nobles and officials, decks up the idol with flowers, anoints it, placing his offering of fruits and sweets at the altar to the accompaniment of devotional music provided by (shankh) Conch shells, temple bells and massive drums called nagaras.

By far the most important religious festival is Mahashivratri when the village deities are carried to Mandi to the temple of Baba Bhootnath. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. From far-flung villages these deities are brought in richly decorated palanquins swaying on the shoulders of the devotees to the singing of devotional songs and blowing of conch shells. The devotees believe that at the time of drought, water drawn from the Beas and poured on the idol of Baba Bhootnath, brings rain by the time the poured water drains back in to the Beas. The Shivratri fair lasts for about eight days and is inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. The palanquins with the deities are assembled in the main ground of Mandi. The people in their multicolored robes and skullcaps present a glorious sight against the backdrop of the Dhaulagiri hills. So much color and gaiety can only be witnessed either at Mandi or at Kullu during Dussehra in October.

How To Reach

By Air - Bhuntar Airport of Himachal Pradesh is the nearest, 63 km (flight from Delhi via Chandigarh).

By Rail - Nearest station is Kiratpur 125 km away.

By Road - Approachable by road via Chandigarh (200 km), Pathankot (205 km), Shimla (165 km), Kullu (71 km), Delhi (465 km) and Manali (107 km). Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation runs deluxe buses form Mandi to Manali, Kullu, Chandigarh, Shimla and Delhi.

Best time to visit

Filled with greenery of aromatic tea plantations, pine trees and deodar trees, Mandi is also known for its rich cultural heritage. Its temples are worth-visiting too. The place experiences a weather that is quite similar to the other part of North India- cold winters and hot summers (March-June). Though the days are hot not the morning and nights are cool due to its high-altitude, making the place worth-visiting. If you wish to have a peaceful holiday, away from crowd, you can plan a holiday here. Avoid the rains as they create a problem in sightseeing. July to mid-September is the rainy season, when one may also gain good off-season discounts. You can make your plans accordingly. The winters from October to February bring chilly weather in Mandi, making the place perfect for snow and winter-lovers.

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