Trekking is one of the biggest stress-busters and breaks the monotony of city life. And when the trek is layered with some added adventure and mysticism, it’s icing on the cake
“In case, you face any kind of difficulty, just give me a call. I will send the help right away,” said Dev Bhaiya, as we bade goodbye to him and started walking uphill. Dev Bhaiya operates a small shack, which offers Maggi, bread-omelette and an extra sweetened tea prepared with goat milk. His shop is at a place called Bagi, 50 odd km from Mandi town. Bagi is a little known village in Mandi district, but in the Himalayan trekking circuit, it is famous as the starting point of Parashar Lake trek.
After reaching Mandi, early in the morning, we had boarded a Himachal state transport bus to Bagi. The shaky two and half hour journey in the rickety bus was compensated by the view of lush green valley. After having our breakfast at Dev bhaiya’s shack, we started our trek to Parashar Lake, which is at a distance of 8 km from Bagi and situated at a height of 2730 m. An average trekker takes around 4 hours to reach the lake. The trail is pretty simple and meanders through the Parashar forest and meadows. A trek in March makes the trail more beautiful, as one can see the bright red rhododendron trees in their prime. There were some patches of snow from the last snowfall of the season.
By the time, we reached the top, the sun was shining bright, yet there was a chill in the air. One can see the PWD guest house from a distance, perched atop the hill. A 5-minute walk on a paved road brings one closer to the Parashar Lake. An unexplained mysticism surrounds the lake, which is oval in shape, with a circular floating island. The 3 storey wooden temple adjacent to the lake, is built in Pagoda style and evokes an enigmatic charm. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple houses the statue of Parashar rishi, one of the Maharishis of Vedic times and also the father of Ved Vyas.
We wanted to understand more about the different stories associated with the lake and the temple, but the pujari didn’t seem willing to share the details. We sat on a platform, near the temple to soak ourselves in the beauty of the lake. In a matter of few seconds, the weather decided to change its mood. The sun started playing hide and seek with the clouds and the wind dropped couple of degrees from its account. We caught hold of Jeevan bhaiya, who is the caretaker of the temple and the accompanying dharmshaala, to shed some light on the story of the lake.
It is believed that Parashar Rishi came to this place and was enamoured by its enchanting beauty. He decided to meditate here. When he felt thirsty, he struck the ground with his elbow, which created an oval depression. The whole depression was filled with water, except the piece of ground he was sitting on. This piece is the floating island of Parashar Lake. Locals also believe that the depth of the lake is unknown and it reaches till patal-lok. The temple is believed to be built from the deodar tree under which Parashar rishi used to meditate. The temple in its recent form dates back to 14th century, when Raja Bansen of Mandi renovated it.
After having a hearty conversation with Jeevan bhaiya, we decided to explore the nearby ridges. On walking for around 10 minutes uphill, we reached a place which provided a unique panoramic view of the whole Dhauladhar range. On the north-west side, one can easily see the perennially snow-capped peaks of Dharmshala, Mcleodganj. In clear weather, one can see the undulating contours of Kangra valley. Towards the north, the majestic Manali peaks make their presence felt. One can catch a glimpse of Shrikhand Mahadev as well, which is considered as one of the most difficult Hindu pilgrimages. The weather was changing very soon and the chilly wind has now started piercing our skin. It was getting difficult to keep the hands out of our pockets. Shivering, we watched the sun hiding behind the curvy hills and started getting down.
Back at the temple complex, Jeevan bhaiya showed us our room. The temple management charges the tourists only for the blankets and that too, a meagre 20 rs per blanket. We were warned that the temperature might drop down to zero in the night, hence each one of us took 3 blankets to be on safer side. We had our dinner, rajma-chawal at one of the shacks, which closes by 7-7:30 pm. By 9 pm, all traces of human activity had ceased and we also decided to slide ourselves inside the blankets.
Of flat tyres
After a deep sleep of 10 hours, we dragged ourselves out of the blankets and lazily spent time walking up and down the hills. We were told that the bus from Parashar leaves at 1:30 pm and we will safely reach Mandi by 5 pm. We decided to drop the idea of trekking downhill and take the bus instead. As luck would have it, the bus had broken down somewhere and trekking down was the only option left. We hurriedly hiked our way down and it took us 1.5 hours to get down to Bagi. Upon reaching Bagi, we met Dev bhaiya again and asked for the way to Mandi. He told us that the last bus to Mandi will come at 4:30 pm. This was a risky option, as Bagi to Mandi would easily take 2 hours and our bus from Mandi to Delhi was scheduled to leave at 6:30 pm. When you are travelling in the mountains, such surprises are aplenty. We had started panicking when Dev bhaiya saw a pick-up vehicle at some distance. Upon appraising the driver of our condition, he agreed to drop us at Kandi, from where a bus leaves for Mandi at 4 pm. We stood at the back of the vehicle, with our bodies swivelling violently on those serpentine roads. Luckily, at Kandi, we got on the bus towards Mandi. But this was not the end of surprise for us. This bus had a flat tyre, some 15 km before Mandi. By the time it could be fixed, the clock had struck 6. As the bus raced down the mountains, we could experience our nervous heartbeats.
At exactly 6:30 pm, we’re at Mandi bus stand and saw our bus to Delhi slowly making its way out of the exit gate. We ran to get inside right in time and heaved a sigh of relief. This was a perfect ending to two days of pure adventure and awe.
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