Panting in that humidity we reached the bus stand in Mandi, a 3 hours journey from Manali and the town was burning with heat! First impressions are usually the last, but Mandi, the second largest district in Himachal Pradesh defied all pre conceived notions. Heat was for sure beyond tolerance, until we checked into our hotel in the middle of the market, which to our relief offered the perfect view (inside an a-c room of course!) One perk of exploring a new place with no acquaintance at all, is that you learn to travel beyond your comfort zones & this was one such trip! We were literally pushing our limits after a pleasant stay in Manali. So Mandi had three destinations to offer, and the first one to be ticked off – list, was Rewalsar Lake.

Rewalsar Lake

Having rested for a while, we picked ourselves to face the humid city outside & boarded a local bus to Rewalsar. The bus ride was a 2 hours affair, which involved dead patches of sleep, due to insane heat and some relief when the mountain ride began. It was a holy ride, almost akin to the saying that the most beautiful views come after the hardest climbs, however, we were aboard on a bus. The weather was stealthily changing its face and soon the sun was no longer overhead, we hopped off the bus at Rewalsar Lake.

Statue of Padmasambhava

If you have had bad weather trips, this one was no different , but hey! Rewalsar was a reward. We entered the gates of this lake surrounded by the chants of Buddhist monasteries enveloping on all sides & I knew I was to find my Zen here! The views are much soothing towards the evening with the lake in the centre & the monks, locals & children encircling the views in the path around the lake. We also took a full circle and it was indeed one! With the balmy breeze settling in, the distant view of the statue of Padam Sambhava seemed to have a watchful eye on the tourists. Having captured enough shots of the beautiful prayer flags adorned on one side of the lake, with old and young monks chanting the Tibetan verses, we made a move to the Emaho café, perched right in the entrance.

Drikung Kagyu Monastery

So we couched ourselves in the terrace sitting of Emaho café on the first floor, sipping the perfect lemon tea, in this quaint ambience. Lot of monks usher in this café for the close proximity to the Drikung Kagyu Monastery and I dare not forget to mention my little friend, Nyima! I love how kids unravel themselves in the best of their moods and how true they are to themselves. Taking a souvenir from Emaho cafe itself, I had to own a memoir in the memory of none, but Nyima. Rejoicing in the joy of travelling beyond my comfort & finding a friend in a little monk, was more than enough to step into the next day, destined to Parashar Lake.

The following day we woke up with the lark, hopped into a pre – paid taxi, & headed to Parashar Lake. The drive in between the green patches of happy villages and mountains on both sides was exciting, until we reached Baggi Bridge. For those who would like to Trek to Parashar lake, Baggi bridge is the starting point of the trek, but it is not every one’s cup of tea. A challenging trek awaits as the trail is full of boulders, which were an aftermath of the flood that struck this region some years back. So we continued our drive on a bumpy road ahead only to reach an altitude where all we could feel was the cold breeze and distant meadows covered in patches of white misty clouds. It was a strange whimsical moment, as we had the first glimpse of the lake.

The first glimpse – Parashar lake

The expansive stretch of meadows, amidst which was perched this temple of Sage Parashar, after whom the lake is named.  The architecture of the temple is in typical Khatkhuni style, patent of the Himachali essence; however it also upheld a sense of ancient – ness in its appearance. The grandeur of the temple is heightened all the more with the mounted green meadows, covered in thick haze of misty clouds, guarding the sanctity of this place. We encircled the temple premises gazing the distant greenery & some more green, almost akin to the landscape of Ireland. Soon, we found ourselves inside the temple, with a crowd of devotees honking each other in mumbles of prayers, just to have one glimpse of the deity. But, I deviated.

Bull guarding the sanctity of Bhootnath Temple

So, legally it is banned to offer any sacrifice to the deity in the temple, but I noticed a goat being tied by a temple priest and as soon as took my camera out, the priest warned me! “Ha! You shouldn’t do that, the deity will be angry!” For me, if that’s the rule, I just decided to quit the temple premises & quickly captured some young kids (probable harbingers of change, in our so called traditions). The one thing that puts you off is that you wish to travel afar to explore the essence of a place & the very people who are a part of the experience can be so demeaning. It was no anger, just an experience that made me feel sorry, owing to  which I climbed to the higher reaches of the lake premises.

There was a different world there, the world of nature, beauty & incomparable peace! Humans can be somewhat distracting, so I felt that I finally found my place of Zen here! There was a girl, just having a peaceful time with herself, no wonder; I wanted to be buried here – “Right next to a daffodil, with mountain dogs guarding the sanctity of my newly achieved peace!” And that was Parashar lake for me – anything but ordinary! So we quickly hopped in the car, heading back to the hustle bustle of the Mandi district!

All hail the queen at Victoria Bridge
Triloknath Temple, by the banks of River Beas

Before we caught the evening bus, destined to Dehradun we decided to explore the renowned temples of Mandi. The town of Mandi, also known as Choti Kashi, houses umpteen temples, boasting the spirit of Indian mythology. A walking tour towards the narrow lanes of Bhootnath Temple, Chintpurni Temple & the endless names on the same street will take you down a mythological journey. This temple tour walk ended after crossing the Victoria Bridge over the Beas River to finally witness Trikloknath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Living the architectural & old city charms of Mandi we soon hopped into our bus now, destined to Dehradun. We left the weather, the hustle bustle behind, but I took along my ‘Zen’ which had its origin in the Parashar Lake, the nature & in the clouds of Mandi.

Parashar Lake in Cloud

This was about Finding my Zen in a town not so welcoming, yet a place where I would welcome a life after death. Sometimes the best things in life are a gift of time!