Places to see in and around Mandi, the Cultural Capital of Himachal Pradesh

  • By Venkatadri Ranganathan
  • May 11, 2023
  • A travelogue on what we saw in and around Mandi including IIT Mandi whose location is divine. We truly enjoyed.

My wife and I travelled from Chandigarh to Mandi by car. It took around five and a half hours. There is a lot of development taking place with good roads being constructed. It is estimated that post completion of the highway it would take app three hours to Mandi. Enroute we crossed the river Beas. There was not much water as it is the end of winter.    

The last time I had gone to Manali there was an old Victoria Bridge to cross the Beas. It used to get jammed and sometimes, one had to wait thirty minutes to cross the river. There is now a new bridge, the crossover was a breeze.

Old suspension bridge on Beas river.

The drive to Mandi is very picturesque. Going through mountains and valleys was so beautiful. We downed the car windows to get the cool breeze hitting our faces. The clean, fresh air gave us so much energy.

We then neared the IIT Mandi Campus at village Kamand i.e. 14 kms from Mandi town. The campus is built between mountains on a plain. As we were winding around the mountain, the south campus is seen from the top. As you travel along, the North campus is visible. IIT Mandi is one of India’s 23 IITs established as Centers of Excellence for training, research, and development in science, engineering, and technology. It is also one of the eight newer second generation of IITs.

Overview of IIT Mandi campus.Entrance to main building of IIT Mandi.Campus during the rains. River next to the campus! Anand, happinessCampus during winters. Studying here is pure joy and living on the campus must be divine. 

I was extremely impressed with the IIT Mandi campus. You step out of your room, and you see only mountains all around. The sunrise and setting are beautiful and almost divine. The North and South campuses are separated by mountains.

Close up of IIT campus.

Mandi was founded in 1526 and on the creation of Himachal Pradesh Mandi town became the district headquarters for the region that comprised of the princely states of Mandi and Suket. The former ruler’s palace is now a hotel. The local dialect is Mandyali. 

Mandi is known as the Chotta Kashi due to large number of Shiva temples. Close to Jammu is Purmandal i.e. known as Kashi. Down south is temple town of Tenkasi for those who could not visit Kashi.

See albums of Purmandal and Kasi Viswanathar Temple, Tenkasi

There are around 81 Shiva temples. I visited a few of them and share my experience in this piece.

We visited the Baba Bhootnath Temple which was built around 1530 AD by Raja Ajber Sen. The various deities in the region collect at this temple during Shivarathri.

We also visited the Baba Maha Mrityunjay temple, which is said to be the only one in Northern India and a very old temple. The Lord is in a sitting position with his third eye open. He has four arms. This form of Lord Shiva is known to be a saviour and gives long life to his devotees.

Temple external view.View of deity.

Our next halt was Tarna Devi Temple i.e. dedicated to Goddess Shyama Kali. It is estimated to be built in the 17th Century by Raja Shyama Sen. The goddess has three faces and is known to be benevolent and grants the wishes of any devotee who comes to seek her blessings.  The temple has beautiful paintings on its walls. The temple is in a scenic place and at a height so one gets a good view of the town.

Tarna Devi Mandir.

In the above three temples I observed that, at the time of our visit, the temple deity was served by ladies in the absence of the male pujari. I found this good and appreciated the cultural openness in our society.

Parashar Lake and Temple. Front view of temple. Note design.  Inside temple, note all wood and sliding roof.  Entrance of temple for Rishi darshan. Rishi Parashar. Pranams.

We visited Parashar Lake and Parashar Temple (also pronounced as Prashar). It is around 49 kms from Mandi town and at a height of 2730 mtrs (8960 ft).

Temple interiors had lots of wood work for e.g. on the ceiling.With wife Deeptha at Parashar Lake

One can reach the place by car. Both the temple and lake are around 50 steps climbing down. The temple of Rishi Parashar is in his honour as he had meditated here and was built in the 13th century by Raja Ban Sen of Mandi.

To see vlog (10 minutes) of Parashar Lake Snow Trek

The temple has beautiful wooden carvings. The temple has a murthy of Rishi Parashar. The temple is open all round the year and even in biting cold, the priest comes to open the temple and offer bhog to the Rishi.

When we were there, we saw a man seeking answers to his problems from the priest. The priest would take out nine grains of rice and throw them on the floor and looking at them, he would read out the messages. This process went on for over fifteen minutes. We then enquired from the man who was asking the questions. He said that the Rishi answers questions of devotees and gives guidance on actions to be taken to get over problems.

There is a small kitchen where the prasad is made for the Rishi. It was tasty and full of ghee. In the north it is called Suji ka Halwa, in Maharashtra it is Sheera and in the South it is Kesari. The hot sheera in the rather cool climate was  comforting.

There is a lake on the border of the temple. As per belief this lake was created by Rishi Parashar. There is a round floating body which is a plant. This floating body moves around the lake during the year. The temple is surrounded by high mountains and the lake gets water from the near by mountains. There is a fence surrounding the lake to prevent visitors from entering the lake.

For pilgrims, temple authorities have kept a drum of water that contains water taken from the lake. I had the holy water. It was pure, clean and comforting such that that I drank over a litre of water.

View from top of the hill. We loved it.  View from top of hill.

From the top of the hill, one could see mountains all around. There were snow clad mountains too.  On the road, there are small shops selling Maggi, biscuits and hot tea. After a long drive up the mountain, the Maggi and hot tea were very fulfilling.  

On our return from Mandi to Chandigarh, we took a short detour to Rewalsar. Rewalsar is very famous for having temples of Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Rewalsar is around 25 km from Mandi town. It also has a beautiful lake.

Rewalsar Lake

There is a Buddhist monastery. It was supposed to be built in the 8th century by Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche. He is supposed to be second Buddha and venerated by all Buddhists. Devotees from many countries visit this monastery. We met who had some from Bhutan. They said that visiting Rewalsar is combined with visit to Dharamshala (Mcleodganj). They visit the former to pay respects to HH Dalai Lama.

On April 1, 2012, a monumental statue (37.5 m or 123 ft) of Padmasambhava was consecrated, blessed and inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lama.

Board tells you about the inauguration by current Dalai Lama. Entrance to temple. Close up of Buddha. Example of paintings on temple walls. Inside temple.

We got down from the monastery and came down close to the lake. The lake is clean and was still as there was no wind at that time. There are places for visitors to sit and enjoy the serene atmosphere.

Rishi Lomash

At the border of the lake, there are two old temples. One is the temple of Lomash Rishi who was son of Pulastya Risi and grandson of Lord Brahma. Lomash Rishi meditated for centuries and was blessed by both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Near the Lomash temple, there is a place where the Pandavas had come post the burning of the wax palace.

There is a very old Shiva temple a few metres away from the temple of Lomash Rishi. We took the blessings of both Lomash Rishi and Lord Shiva. 

On the other opposite side of the lake, there is a Gurudwara which was built in 1930 by Raja Joginder Sen of Mandi. This was built to commemorate the visit of Guru Govind Singhji, who stayed here for ten days and worked with the various nearby hill rulers to build a common strategy against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. We went into the Gurdwara to pay our respects. As it happens in all Gurdwaras, there was soothing Gurbani being chanted. We sat there for a few minutes and did our prostrations.

In this area, there are lots of small shops selling shawls, trinkets, jade stone (not original), woollen dresses etc. We spoke to a few of them and they explained that this is a regular routine for selling their wares. Many of the shops had people from the Northeast manning the shops as a large number of pilgrims come from northeast buy a few things before they leave Rewalsar.

We drove back to Chandigarh and caught a flight to Mumbai.

As we reflected about the trip, what stood out is the beautiful serene atmosphere, clean and unpolluted air, traditional cultures, great old temples retaining their charm and devotion. 

We resolved to make a couple of more trips to Mandi. Next time, we will also visit Kamru Nag Lake, Panchvakra Temple and Shikhari Devi Temple.   

Author is a Senior Business Professional. All pictures by author. 

Also read

1. Shivratri in Mandi

2. Holi in Mandi

3. Trilokinath Temple, Mandi

4. Album Rewalsar Lake

5. Album Kullu Dussehra

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