The lakes, especially in the hills have always grabbed my special attention and it is always my effort and desire to include a lake in the program during my wanderings in the hills. Here unfolds another jewel in the enchanting and mysterious state of Himachal Pradesh.
Rewalsar, a small beautiful charming town surrounded by beautiful hills with an amazing lake as its centre of attraction, is a wonderful confluence of three religions Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism. Standing at a height of 1350 meter above sea level, this lake is approximately 24 kms (nearly 1 hour drive) away from Mandi and has a good connectivity by local buses. Since this is one of the very few lakes in Himachal where you do not have to walk a lot to experience the beauty of this place (it is just 2 minute walk from the road head), it proves to be a very good weekend option (from Delhi or nearby areas) for a family outing and especially for the people who get tired very easily walking in the hills. Approaching Mandi from Delhi is very easy, any bus heading towards Manali via Sunder Nagar will get you to this ancient town.
When you come to Rewalsar, you cannot be untouched by the spiritual vibrations being reflected in every activity in this sacred land, be it the chirpings of the birds, soulful chantings from the monastery or temple or Gurubani from the Gurudwara, people feeding hungry souls in the lake, pondering monkeys over the trees, Buddhist prayer flags swirling in the air, swimming ducks in the lake, meditating and contemplating holy people on bank of the lake, the green and serene water of the lake, monks running the prayer-wheels, beautiful surrounding hills, finely ornated colourful monasteries with young monks playing around, burning oil lamps, ringing bells, cows and dogs resting near the lake, swaying trees, smiling flowers etc, whatever passes through your eyes gives you a sort of positive vibrations.
This was the first time I had seen so many fishes struggling hard to grab the food offered by devotees. The unfortunate dogs and monkeys were merely the spectators.
I was initially supposed to be accompanied by my friend Rajesh on this beautiful exploration, but due to a rumour of a possible theft at his home, he had to cut short his trip and get back home as early as he could. Wishing Rajesh best of luck, I continued my adventure alone to explore some of the most interesting and beautiful places coming onto my way in this trip. The day started on a sad note but the journey did not. After bidding a bye to Rajesh, I took a mini bus to Rewalsar from Mandi. I was however missing Rajesh as I was sure that he would have loved being at this place (as I still remember the pain he went through while climbing Bijli Mahadev). Upon reaching the town, I fell in love with this lake and the place at the very first glance because of its captivating surrounding. The lake and its inhabitants (fishes and ducks) were presenting such a magical ambience that I kept sitting near the serene lake for around 2 hours just enjoying them doing their usual activities and fantasizing as if I would be a duck swimming around the lake or a bird enjoying this beautiful town from the sky.
It was so soothing sitting on this side of the lake and relishing the nature’s wonders.
Rewalsar as a sacred place to people from different religions, offers peaceful praying time for the religious and spiritual souls at the various holy shrines. A huge statue of Acharya Padamsambhav atop a hill literally dominates this place and is easily visible from most part of the lake. The master is supposed to have flown to Tibet from this holy land by virtue of his supernatural powers to spread ‘Dhamma or Dharma’ and to propagate ‘Mahayana Buddhism’ in Tibet where he is regarded as second Buddha and is known as Guru Rimpoche. It is said that when he came to this land to preach the holy word of Buddhism, the King of this place ignorantly ordered to burn him alive at the very site of Rewalsar after hearing some rumours about the master. But to his surprise, the flames of the pyre turned into a deep beautiful lake and there emerged the master unaffected sitting onto a lotus flower in the middle of the lake. Realizing the master’s powers, King apologised for his act and devoted rest of his life to the sublime teachings of ‘Dhamma’. It is still believed that the master’s spirit rests in the island of floating reeds on the lake.
Just below are the two temples orange (dedicated to Laxmi Narayan) and the blue (Lord Shiva) with mild reflection in the lake.
This place was also visited by tenth Sikh Guru Shri Gobind Singhji who resided here for a month in its pristine and peaceful atmosphere, hence this place is held sacred in Sikhism. A gurudwara has been built to commemorate the guru’s stay at this place by Mandi’s King Joginder Sen (The town of Joginder Nagar near Mandi is named after this King). There are three temples near the lake dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishu and sage Lomas. The nearby area is also supposed to have been the shelter of the Pandavas (the heroes of the epic Mahabharata) for some time who visited this place after escaping from burning wax palace built by Kauravas for their stay. A lot of devotees can be seen nearby the temple feeding small flour balls to the innumerable hungry fishes in the lake. As soon as I entered into the lake premises, this activity attracted my attention and I rushed eagerly to witness it from close by. After spending a peaceful and soul lifting time near the lake, now it was time to explore the surroundings. I first decided to explore the lake from different angles taking a circumambulation of the entire lake. Moving onto the left side of the lake towards the gurudwara, once often gets to see the meditating monks and an array of colourful Buddhist prayer flags amongst the bushes and flowers spreading the teachings of Lord Buddha in the atmosphere. As you move further, you pass through the market where you spot people chatting and sitting lazily, selling some eatables. You also have some staying options available in the market area.
Passing through some monasteries and temples, now I wanted to make my way uphill towards the statue of Guru Padamshambav. On the way, I came across some other monasteries where I moved the prayer wheels, observed the monks passing their leisurely time and enjoyed the intricately decorated monasteries. I climbed up near the statue where Guru Padamsambhav is depicted meditatively sitting on a lotus flower and blessing the entire town. The height of this place actually makes it a wonderful view point to witness the enchanting views of the lake and the valley. The green lake surrounded by green hills looks like a pond from this point. I have always been amazed and hypnotized by the mystical and enticing Buddhist art on the monasteries with colourful wall paintings ‘thangkas’, beautifully carved dragon images, lit up oil lamps, illustrated mythological stories, the images and statues of meditating Buddha, the soulful chanting with the use of their traditional musical instruments, this whole ambience is sure to transport you into a spiritual world and you get to experience a state of utmost peace and tranquillity within.
After exploring this wonderful town, as I was planning my journey back to my friend Bali’s place where I was invited to attend a small family function, I heard some kids talking about a zoo. Upon enquiring, I discovered that it was near the lake. Since I am very fond of wildlife too, I was happy to know about this, though I generally prefer to see wild creatures out of the cage in their natural habitat. Since this zoo is set in a natural wild atmosphere amongst dense forest, it does give you a different feeling seeing the animals in the forest however caged. It is a very small zoo and I was a bit sad to see a caged bear that was looking very unhappy, firstly perhaps because he was alone and secondly because the space was too limited for him to roam freely. On the other side, there were some herds of deers comparatively looking happier and had comparatively a wider area. This day had almost everything that I usually look for in my wanderings. The time did not further permit me to visit the gurudwara this time as I had to reach Bali’s place by local buses. While waiting for the bus at the station, I chanced upon some food.
Since there was no direct bus available to Bali’s place, I had to take several buses (Rewalsar – Jahu – Bhota – Hamirpur – Sujanpur Tira) to reach there. When I reached Sujanpur Tira, it was dark and I had unfortunately missed the last bus to his village Gander, so I hired a taxi from the station. As usual something unusual took place this time as well and the taxi driver stopped to buy some stuff just a kilometer ahead. A gentleman approached me and started enquiring about me. To my pleasant surprise, he was Bali’s brother-in-law who was going to his home from the market area and Bali had informed him about me. We paid some money to the taxi driver and drove into brother-in-law’s car and reached home safely. I was dearly welcomed by the family members and had a nice dinner. It was really nice to see Bali and family after a long time. In the evening, we received a message from Rajesh saying that everything was fine at his home and it was just by a gust of wind that the door of his balcony got opened and the neighbours took it as the entry of a thief into his home. It was funny for all of us and relieving too. While discussing with Bali’s father I got to know that there were actually seven more little known lakes almost of the same size of Rewalsar just above the town with some caves where Pandavas spent some of their time into the escapade. It was a wonderful discovery for me and I intend to explore these lesser known lakes very shortly. Overall, it was another wonderful and adventurous day for me.