Manimahesh Lake is situated near Manimahesh Kailash Peak in Bharmour division of Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh (India). This is a high altitude lake with an elevation of 13390 ft or 4080 meters in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. This lake has the greatest religious significance in Himachal Pradesh. As per the Hindu Mythology, Manimahesh Lake is residence Lord Shiva.
The Manimahesh Lake is the venue of a highly revered pilgrimage trek. It is known as “Manimahesh Yatra”. Manimahesh Yatra generally starts during Krishnashtmi day & Finishes on Radhaashtmi dates. This is 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 period. This Yatra or Jatra in Local Language has been declared as a state-level pilgrimage by the Government of Himachal Pradesh.
It is believed that Manimahesh was created by Lord Shiva after he married Goddess Parvati, who is worshipped as Mata Girija. There are many legends narrated linking Lord Shiva and his show of displeasure through acts of avalanches and blizzards that occur in the region.
According to Legend, Lord Shiva performed penance on the banks of Manimahesh Lake. Also Gaddis (Shepherd), the tribes of this region, adopted Lord Shiva as their deity. Gaddis is the people who live in Chamba Kailash Mountain, The name of this upper region of Ravi river is known as Gaddi valley.
According to legends Lord Shiva who lived in this highest mountain of the state, Mount Kailash, gifted the Gaddis with a pointed cap which they call Chuhali topi. And this topi is part of their traditional dress. They used to wear it with their other dress of a long coat known as chola and a long black cord about 10–15 m long called dora.
Gaddis called themselves the devotes of Lord Shiva and this mountain as “Shiv Bhumi”, “Land of Lord Shiva”. Legends state that Lord Shiva created the Mount Kailash in Himachal Pradesh before he married Mata Parvati at Lake Manasarovar in Tibet and became the “universal parents of the universe”. Lord Shiva made it his abode. Manimahesh was also considered the abode of the three Lords of the universe namely, Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. Manimahesh was reckoned as the heaven of Lord Shiva.
The location of Manimahesh Lake is right below Manimahesh Kailas peak and several other peaks and dangling glaciers. Even though the Manimahesh Lake is of small size with shallow depth, it is an inspiration to the devout pilgrims.
To reach here, trekking is through the glacier fields of the lake, the valley of flowers and wild medicinal herbs up to the lake. There is no sign of any grass around the Lake and The lake is surrounded by sandy boulders, small hilly mounds, and dry bushes. This is Play Ground of Lord Shiva according to legends called “Shiv Chaugan”. On a clear day, the reflection of the Kailash Mountain, the abode of Lord Shiva can be seen on the lake surface.
According to legend, 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. According to rites, the dip (called locally as naun) in the lake is taken four times, if permitted or otherwise only once.
The holy pilgrimage to the Manimahesh Lake (revered by local people as resting place of Lord Shiva) is supported by the Government of Himachal Pradesh, Manimahesh Pilgrimage Committee and several voluntary organizations. It is held every year during the Hindu month of Badon on Radhastami, the 15th day following the festival of Janmashtami, corresponding to the Gregorian month of August or September. The Yatra or Jatra, as it is called, is also popularly known as the ‘Manimahesh Yatra’.
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