A Trek to Parashar Lake

Smridhi Sharma

It has always been a human urge to explore what’s unknown. This curiosity to unravel has led to the discovery of many new places and species, but the most importantly, it gives us an idea of how tiny space we occupy in this land and the world beyond.
The travelling restrictions during the Covid – 19 lockdown period during 2020 had put everything to a halt and tourism was one amongst many sectors that was significantly affected. Luckily, as the things started returning somewhat back to normal and the people began moving out with safety precautions, the travelling business once again has stared opening up and a new term called “work from mountains” (of course only for the privileged ones whose companies allowed them to work from anywhere) arrived in the market.
Mountains tend to heal your soul, and imagine what working from such a place can offer you! Many people including me and my friends utilized their February 2021 last weekend to explore the mountains. So, we went trekking to Parashar Lake in Himachal Pradesh. The plan was to meet at Mandi since we were coming from different locations. In the beginning it looked somewhat obscure while implementing the plan, but luckily one of our friends heard about a firm that offered all the facilities right from travelling, accommodations to meals and a local guide. It’s like giving all your problems to them (and of course the money) and in return you get a wonderful and a memorable experience.
We were a total of five girls three of whom were coming from Delhi and two of us from Jammu. We all boarded the bus on Friday evening by 9.00 pm and by Saturday 7.30 in the morning we were at our base camp. It was a beautiful place called Panarsa and was the hometown of our guide. It was spring so the apricots and plum trees were covered with flowers; fields with mustard flowers and there were apple orchards as well. I was thinking of how sweet and delicious they would taste when the harvesting season would come and how blessed are the people who wake up every morning with such a view and air to breathe.
I have always observed that the hospitality and warmth of the Pahadi people make you feel like you have known them since ages, and the same we felt for the family of our local guide. They cooked for us delicious food and all the meals we had were grown in their own fields and they even raised cattle. In a few hours after having breakfast and freshening up we were off to the route from where we could start our trek. We crossed a yatra, it was of Parashar Rishi who is the Kul Devta of that region and that’s where we had to go.
There is another motorable road that directly takes you to the temple but the one we took was through the forest and it offered views that looked right out of a fairy tale. We had to cover 7.5km (total 15km) for the day; beginning was smooth, and the weather was clear. The tranquility of the place was addictive; Deodar and pine trees standing tall welcomed us with open arms and the noise of the small stream running parallel to our path seemed like a magical song. As we moved further the altitude and the weight that we carried started challenging us, the unexpected rains made the rocks slippery and since most of us didn’t carry the umbrella, we had to take small breaks under a tree till the rain stopped. Meanwhile, we could hear the yatra approaching by the traditional Pahadi melody that is played using flutes, drums and Narsingha echoing in the mountains.
The last part of the trek was challenging because it was very steep and by the time, we crossed that stretch to reach the top, clouds approached, and it started ‘hail storming’. Our face and hands turned pale but luckily, we saw a hut and to protect ourselves from the storm we went inside and found some dry wood and leaves which we burned using a lighter and felt happy to feel its warmth.
By the time storm stopped we continued walking towards the place where we had to stay for the night. It was a mud house on top of the mountain with sloppy roof made of stones from where you get to see the temple and the lake downwards. They provided us an Angeethi and served tea and Pakodas which made us feel warm and refreshed. Coincidently it was a full moon night and after having dinner (our favourite Rajma, Kadhi and Chawal) we went out to see the stars. The wind was blowing fast, and it was extremely cold. The full moon was shining bright and its reflection on the lake made the place look heavenly.
The next morning, we got up early to see the sunrise; the rays falling on snow clad Pir Panchal, Dhauladhar and Kinnaur mountain ranges made the entire stretch gleam like diamond. After having breakfast, we descended the hill to go to the Parashar temple, the lake adjoining the temple is said to have been built by one of the Pandava brothers- Bhim by striking his elbow into the ground. Till date nobody knows its depth, but the locals say that they have once seen big trees drowning in the water due to a storm and that too without leaving a trace on the surface. The temple complex is made from a single deodar tree and has a pagoda style of architecture with intricate carvings of animals and serpents.
Sage Parashar used to meditate there hence the name. There is also a floating island in the middle of the lake, but nobody is allowed to go inside. One interesting belief we came across was of the rice seeds given randomly by the priests after you make a wish. If the count is odd(3/5/7) the wish will be granted they say and it is the first thing that locals do before starting any new task be it a new business, marriage or any other important task they take approval from their deity.
After taking blessings from the temple it was time to return to the base camp and we soon realized that it was time to return to our normal routine.
Time travels slow in mountains it seems, it was just the second day of our journey, but it felt like we did so much, travelled so much, enjoyed so much. These two days will forever be engraved in our memories and will be cherished for the rest of our lives.
While returning to the base camp we saw an accident that had occurred the previous night of a car which had fallen into a deep gorge. The bodies were still inside; families were informed who must have been on the way. It was painful to see the condition of the car which no longer looked like a car but a spherical ball of metal containing human flesh.
It is strange how life works. One moment everything is going as planned and then out of the blue things turn upside down. I wondered how those people would have planned their vacations thinking of taking a break and enjoying the weekend just like we did, but how it turned out to be a nightmare for them!
I looked up and saw a big vulture spreading its wings with pride looking for its prey. Vulture symbolizes a messenger between life and death, the physical world, and the spirit world. It has an uncanny ability to locate death and feed itself from death. It teaches you to embrace and truly understand the meaning of death because death of one means life of another.
– (The author is an Information & Communication techie of Jammu at Mumbai)