Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mana, India’s last village where Mahabharat comes alive

Mana is a village located 3 kms from the famous Badrinath of the Himalayas. It is the last village in the Indo Tibet border.Mana is located in Chamoli district of Uttarkhand. Uttarkhand is often called as Deva bhoomi, land of divinity. Mana takes us to a different experience of divinity  and to the age of Mahabharat. 
Mana is at an altitude of 3118 mts. This village is  alive only during summer.People  move down to lower altitudes  during winter which is very common for  high altitude Himalayan villages.
This village is so tiny with small lanes that we need to park our vehicle outside the village and walk around the village to explore it. Beyond that there is no motorable road. Any day I like walking. But, by the time I reached there after walking 13 kms from Gangharia to Govinddhama I was tired and my legs were not moving. I forced them to take each step. In between, somehow I didn’t take enough pictures as I always do.
Mana is a quiet, cozy village on the bank of Saraswati-Alakananda river surrounded by beautiful Himalayan mountains. Grazing sheeps, lazy village, greenery and mighty Himalayas around was a treat to eyes. Even our mind experiences the glory of Mahabharat connected with Himalyan region.
 People  in Mana belong to Bhutia community. They  grow potatoes I heard. I saw many of them busy in weaving. They sell these garments. 
Mana - Bhutia women busy in weaving
 As I walk along the small lanes of the village, I reached a cave called Vyas gufa. 

Vyasa gufa
This is where, Vedavyasa was believed to have rearranged the Vedas in to four parts. He narrated Mahabharat to Ganesha in this very  place. It is also believed he was not contended until he wrote Srimadbhagavata here. Vyasa  is a master writer with so many master pieces to his account.

Roof of the Gufa(cave) is a flaky rock. It is worshipped as Vyas pustak( Vyas book). It looks like staking of palm leaf manuscripts.They believe this is the original manuscript turned into stones over the years. Hard to believe but nice to hear !!

Rock formation believed to be book and worshipped by locals in Mana

Next to vyas gufa is Ganesh gufa where  Lord Ganesha  penned Mahabharata as dictated by Vyasa. There is again a legend on this . Vyasa invited Ganesha to write Mahabharat as told by him. Ganesha put forward  a condition that Vyasa should narrate the story non stop. Vyasa agreed to this condition of Ganesha. And he also put forward another condition to Ganesha that he should first understand whatever told by Vyasa, before recording it. In order to have thinking time in between, Vyasa  used to tell lines difficult to comprehend. When Ganesha’s  pen broke, he broke one of his tusk and continued writing with it. Come what may Work should never stop! That shows the spirit of a writer and Ganesha’s professionalism!!
Mountains surrounding Mana

As I walk towards left side of these gufas I reached to the place where river Saraswati originates. Saraswati is an ancient river mentioned in Vedas, more than Ganga. Vedic culture flourished on Saraswati river belt. Saraswati has many significances. Saraswati is a  river as well as goddess. As a goddess she is the mother of wisdom and wife of creator Brahma of Hindu mythology. Saraswati just flows for 100mts from its origin. Then it will join together with river Alakananda. It reappears only at Prayag, confluencing with Ganga and Yamuna. Hence it is called Triveni sangam. River Saraswati’s dissparearence and its underneath flow has both physical and spiritual symbolism in Indian culture. While geographical movement has changed the course of the river, spiritually it represents Sushumna – It is the nadi which awakens inner joy beyond worldly pleasures. 
Saraswati river confluence with Alakananda

Legend says Saraswati was making too much noise with its gurgling flow and it was disturbing Vyasa to focus on Mahabharata and he cursed her to disappear from Mana. Hence she disappeared.
Saraswati originates out of a rock and glides through the rocks down to join Alakananda river after 100-150 mts . Though water is less, it makes too much of noise. 
There are two rocks forming a kind of bridge. Legend goes like this. When Pandavas were walking towards Swrgarohan, Draupadi could not cross the river.Then Bhima lifted and placed a rock  to create a bridge for Draupadi to walk. It is called as Bhima’s bridge(Bhim phul).
Bhim Phul

There is a temple next the river spring for goddess Saraswati. Next to the temple is the famous ‘ India’s last tea shop’ . This small tea shop serves different varieties of tea. I didn’t drink as I do not drink coffee or tea.

India's last tea shop at Mana

Beyond this  Saraswathi point, there are much more interesting places. There is a small temple shrine just after crossing the river. It is believed to be the place where Draupadi passed away. She is the first one to  shed her body. After that there are many places indicating  Pandavas leaving their body. Only Yudhistira continued with a dog following him to heaven. This Swargaroahn or ascent to heaven symolises journey of life from peak to peak. There is a mountain called Swargarohini. It is believed that this  is where Pandavas started ascending to reach swarga or heaven.
There are many trekking trails like Swargarohini, Satopant and Vasundhara falls after this point. It is   adventurous as well as a spiritual journey. I didn’t go beyond Mana. But have plans to do one or two trekking.
Next to Saraswati river inside a cave I saw a Hindu sanyasi  (baba) smearing ash all over his body. He was sitting quietly doing some ritual in front of a small fire. I watched him for a while. He was oblivious to people walking around. I was tempted to take his picture but was afraid to do so. When somebody was trying to take picture he annoyingly gestured not to take his picture. When I checked with locals about him, they said  ‘ Often Baba changes his external appearance  and he lives around this place  throughout the year’.( Hard to believe for a rational mind)
Himalayan region has many layers of history embedded in it. Being a lover of mythology, and Indian epics I get goose bumps when I hear such stories. I love my India!! I love the mighty Himalayas!!
How to reach ?
Nearest airport is Dehradun, 315 kms away. Road is the only means. It is 297 kms from Rishikesh by road.  Nearest railway station is Haridwara and Rishikesh.
I traveled by taxi. Road is very scary during monsoon especially stretch between Joshimath and Badrinath. I visited during monsoon and  I felt as if I have reborn after reaching back to Joshimath. A valley on one side  and unpredictable land slide on the other side will make this journey on road as unforgettable one. Throughout the journey I was holding my breath and waiting to see me alive.
Where to stay ?
As Badrinath is just 3 kms away there are plenty of hotels for all budgets. I didn’t stay here. I visited and returned on the same day.

I love to go to Himalayas again and again. How about you ?
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  1. wow..nice blog girija..alli hogi bandashte anubhava aithu

  2. Super sthala purana...beautiful...kharchillade mana ge hogi Banda hagaythu :)

    1. Thanks Uma. Glad it gave you the experience of Mana :-)

    2. I love my India and just pray for all who have visited this place .They are blessed Souls

  3. Wonderful narration.... you just took us to Mana with the photographs n your narrations. Thanks :)

    1. Thanks Karanth. I am glad you read it and liked it. :-)

  4. What a lovely place with fabulous scenery.

  5. Giri this one hasccertainly gone in my bucket list. Thanks for sharing. Completely absorbed in your narration. Vidhya and Shashi

  6. Wow!! amazing trails you have discovered.. please keep writing.. would love to visit all these places.
    - Deepanvita.

  7. namaste Girija. Mahadev and myself (Jyothi Mahadev) had been to Badrinath with 2 sets of elderly parents (all 4 at 70+) and returned the same day. I feel the Mountains are beckoning again. Want to visit Mana, Saraswati river, and walk around those parts where our sages walked. Your narration made me more thirsty. Thanks.

    1. Namaste Jyothi Mahadev. I completely agree. Mountains beckon again and again after first visit.Thanks for reading

  8. WOW!!!
    nanu badrinath nodideeni.but Mana ge hogokke aagalilla due to heavy snow fall.
    ee article nodida mele nanu tumbha miss maadide anstha ide.

  9. Girija your travelogues are complete in all sense, one can tour virtually through your words and pics. All I can say is alas we can travel together !!!