The bedazzlement: Mandi and Prashar Lake

Prashar Lake, Mandi Himachal PradeshHere is the first part of my trip report of the Mandi – Kullu – Manikaran – Kasol – Manali trip. The journey began on the night of  Friday the 28th when I got a call from my cousins asking me to pack my bags to Kullu for the Kullu Dusherra the next morning. It was at a short notice but they were too convincing in their arguments or I think it was the fact I really didn’t care where we were going as long as I was being taken away from the heat and dust of the Indian plains…

There was a problem though. We couldn’t decide just as to how we all were to cover up the distance on the trip. We had only one bike available and there were 5 guys (including me and my 2 cousins) who were to be the explorers on this trip. The bike belonged to my cousin Arijit and he was hell bent on making the trip on his bike. He was  averse to the idea of making the trip on any other mode of transportation.

In the end it was decided that Arijit and my other cousin Ashit would be leaving for Kullu from Chandigarh on Saturday morning while I would have to meet up with the other two members of the trip (Manik & Rajan) in Shimla and take a bus to Kullu on Saturday night. I started off from Chandigarh in the morning at 8 am but it took me over 6 hours to reach Shimla thanks to the usual traffic pile ups in Kalka & Pinjore. I reached Shimla at 3 o’clock in the afternoon  and was informed by Manik that  the only bus tickets available were of a 7 pm bus. We had to purchase them as we had no other option but decided to to stop over at Mandi instead of Kullu as we would have reached Kullu a 2 in the night and it would have been difficult to look for a hotel at that time. Arijit and Ashit had already reached Mandi and were told to book hotel rooms.

At 6:55 pm Manik ,Rajan and I met at the bus stand. Rajan had our tickets but according to him the bus that we were supposed to travel in had not parked at the Bus Terminus. A mistake he made that most people commonly do is that he didn’t get the bus number written on the ticket by the guy at the reservation counter.There  was only one bus at the counter and it had  a Rampur – Keylong signboard on it. Due to my vast experiences of traveling in HRTC buses I knew that you can’t expect streamlined way of operations. So I went over and enquired with the conductor of the bus about our tickets and my gut feeling was right! It was the bus that were supposed to be on.

We didn’t have much time once the tickets were confirmed by the conductor as the driver had turned on the engine. The bus was jam packed & we had to make the three people sitting on our seats to get up. Luckily for them they were only traveling a short distance of 28 kms to Darlaghat  so it wasn’t too bad for them. But there were a lot of folks around who didn’t quite fancy the ride and kept others busy  with their vomiting all over the bus. Me & Manik fell victims to this act of blasphemy as our jackets got spoilt while we were getting  off the bus at Darlaghat where the bus had made its mandatory dinner stop.

Had to buy a polythene for Rs. 10 to keep our jackets. A few other people had boarded the bus at  Darlaghat & Manik offered his seat to a girl acting the perfect gentleman (which he really isn’t). The girl got off at Bilaspur and thanked Manik. It made Manik’s day or should i say night . All five of us had been to Kullu before and had passed Mandi on the way but never had really spent much time in Mandi town itself. We weren’t aware of the landmarks of the place and Arijit & Ashit  were asking us to get off at the first bridge crossing to Mandi.

Old Mandi town bridge Old Mandi Bridge

Mandi has 3  inter-connecting bridges which connect the town to the national highway situated over the river Beas. The town is at a height of 800 m  above sea level and is  comparatively quite hot  than the hill stations. Even after telling the conductor that we needed to get off at the first bridge the guy stopped the bus at the third bridge which is adjacent to the town bus stand and so we had to walk all the way to out hotel Hotel Monalsu. It was situated at the other end of the town from where we got off and it was long walk. Finally we reached the hotel. Arijit & Ashit had rented 2 rooms for Rs. 500/ for a night and considering the quality of the room it was a good bargain.

After a night’s sleep we’re up again. For breakfast we decide to check out the Mandi market rather than make use of the hotel’s menu (it was quite expensive actually.) The Hotel Monalsu is located at the edge of the town and we had to walk a good 1-2 km to get to the main market  where we had paranthas with curd and some tea. The paranthas were prepared by  an elderly woman and served by her husband and were delicious. Their hospitality was heart warming and there was a mutual respect that grew between us over the course of business with them. They were pleased to see tourists behaving respectfully rather than just throwing money around. They asked us about our plans and suggested we visit “Prashar Lake” before heading to Kullu. They also gave  us  heads up  on the amount it would cost us to hire a cab. We contacted the hotel people and got us a cab for Rs. 1200/. They initially demanded Rs. 1500/ but we bargained a bit. Prashar Lake is at a distance of 42 km from Mandi town.

The cab arrived at 12 noon sharp and we were off. The initial part of the  ride saw us going uphill and the temperature variation was obvious. It was a bit cold up but then we made another descent  to a  village named Kataula  which also is the starting point for the Forest Sanctuary. A little up from Kataula is a bifurcation for Kullu & Prashar. Kullu is just 43 km and Prashar is 25 km, which would suit those with time constraints as it would save them the return journey of 17 km back to Mandi and then the Mandi-Kullu journey (nearly 54 km). Even though we were told the road to Prashar was an all seasonal road we found out that last 10-15 km there was no road. All that there was stones and mud and it can be quite uncomfortable to drive or ride on it, though work was on to restore the last stretch  but still it was quite an experience. Luckily for us the cab driver was good in his trade and we made it to Prashar without any car troubles.I would strongly suggest not to drive yourself to Prashar if you are not comfortable with driving in the hills. Once we reached there we forgot about the whole ride and were just mesmerized by the place.

Prashar Lake is at a height of 2730 m or roughly 9000 feet. The sage Prashar is believed to have meditated at the bank of this lake and the lake houses three-tiered Pagoda style temple dedicated to the sage. Prashar Lake is also a symbol of natural beauty which is overlooked by snow-draped peaks of the Rohtang, Lahaul & Spiti valley and is situated on the highest point of Mandi district. It is said Bansen, the king of Mandi got this temple built in the 13th century. Though according to the folklore it was a small child who built this temple all alone and it took 18 years and is built from a single Deodar tree!.

The lake is fenced from all sides so as to protect it from being polluted and there’s only one entry gate for from which only the priest of the temple & a selected few are allowed.

While we were there, a religious ceremony was taking place for which all the people of surrounding villages had gathered. They had a feast organized as well for everyone but we chose not to be the uninvited guests and looked for our own food. There wasn’t much on offer as far as food items were concerned and we settled for some tea & pakoras . It was getting dark and we decided to head back but not before taking the  alternative route down. We started walking down on the slopes towards some mud  and wood houses which belonged to the nomadic Gujjars. They had their buffalos and sheep grazing on the slopes and at one point we ended up right in between them, even though we had been avoiding this situation. But the animals didn’t even bother to acknowledge our presence amongst them  and were relaxed, thinking it was all down to the  tranquility of the place.

One major point to note is that up at Prashar the mobile connectivity is very poor. Finally we all did manage to get into cab and started our descent back. Just 6 km from Mandi Town we had a flat tyre. It was pitch dark and we had to use our mobile phones in helping to change the tyre. Finally we did make it to Mandi. As we had checked out form Hotel Monalsu before leaving for Prashar we asked the driver to drop us at the center of the town  referred to as Gandhi Chowk. We then got us a room for Rs. 400 in Hotel Shiva. The room wasn’t as  good as in Hotel Monalsu but there was definitely more activity in this part of the town. At night  I bumped into an old acquaintance  who offered to buy me a few drinks and took me to Raj Mahal hotel. The hotel had a good restaurant and bar but was a bit expensive. The rest of the gang with me weren’t too keen on the idea so they instead had their dinner and went to the hotel while I went with my acquaintance and after a few drinks returned back only to find that the only place left for me to sleep was right in the middle and that just quite simply was the worst part about the whole day.

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7 Responses to The bedazzlement: Mandi and Prashar Lake

  1. Being a Delhi guy, I always prefer to visit Himachal. But it's been 5 years I haven't visited HP. Ur post intuited me to visit it again. Really a lovely post. Since I also like traveling, I can understand how helpful this posts are for traveler. Gr8 job bro. Travel in India is booming with the rising of the OTAs, the online air or bus booking is really easy now. Looking more from you. All d best

    Ayush June 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm Reply
  2. Its an amazing post. I liked it. Keep sharing these kind of things.

    john December 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm Reply
  3. Testing the new Facebook commenting system. Pls ignore

    Nityin Shimla October 29, 2009 at 10:49 pm Reply
  4. Indeed it is a great priviledge and a pleasure for me to read what you wrote about “The Prashar Lake,” where the Revered Sage Prashar meditated and supposedly contributed to the spiritual richness of the Hindus. We have the direct blessings of being from the lineage of “The Patriach Saint” of us Prashar’s scattered around the world. My family (in Punjab) did not know about the existence of Prashar Lake. It was me who discovered it on the web many years ago. As I visit India this coming December, I will be making a trip with my brother and nephew to visit this holy place. It will be a great pleasure to visit the Pagoda of “Our Beloved Patriarch.”

    I am delighted to read your article and also to know that you really enjoyed the trip. Thank you my good friend for putting this up on the web along with all the photos. Great work indeed. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors….. So long friend…..

    Gary (Girjanand) Prashar October 24, 2009 at 11:03 am Reply
  5. Lovely recount. Your post & photos makes me visit this place.

    Nisha October 20, 2009 at 11:19 pm Reply
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