Manimahesh Pilgrimage

Kaushal Kotwal
Manimahesh, the sacred abode of Lord Shiva,     is one of the holiest places of Northern India  located in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.  It is believed that this mountain possesses divine  powers, which many pilgrims experience during their visit. The holy pilgrimage to this sacred        Manimahesh peak commences in the month of August and continues upto the end of September. Thousands of pilgrims visit this place every year from Himachal Pradesh, Chenab Valley           Bhaderwah, and devotees across  the country        cover a distance of  many kilometers to have         a glimpse of this sacred peak and lake.
Manimahesh Kailash is located in Bharmour sub-division of the Chamba district in Himachal. The sacred peak is 26 KM from Bharmour. The sacred lake of Manimahesh is sprawled across 5,653 meters. There are several mythical legends about the sanctity of this peak and the lake at the base. It is believed that Lord Shiva resides with Maa Parvati in Manimahesh Kailash. A rock formation in the form of a Shivling on this mountain is considered as the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The field at the base of the mountain is called by the local people as Shiva’s Chaugan. The local people especially Gaddis who reside in the Gaddi valley, which is near the upper region of Ravi river where the mount Chamba Kailash lies, believe lord Shiva is their deity. The Gaddis called the land of this mountaineous region as Shiva Bhoomi, and themselves as devotees of Shiva. The legend says that before Shiva married Maa Parvati at the Mansarovar lake and became the universal parents, Shiva created the mount Kailash in Himachal Pradesh and made it his abode. He made Gaddis his devotees. It is worthwhile to mention here that Manimahesh Kailash is invincible as none has so far scaled it. According to a legend, a local Gaddi along with a herd of sheep tried to scale the sacred peak, and he and his sheep are believed to have been turned into stones. Also a snake attempted to climb the sacred mountain but failed and got converted into a stone. A crow also met the same fate. It is believed that devotees can only view the sacred peak if Lord Shiva wishes so.  This sacred peak  remains covered with clouds and mist.  The snow covered glacial peak at the head of its own range is the source of sacred lake of Manimahesh situated beneath it. Manimahesh Ganga river originates in a cascade from the lake and joins the Budhil river on its left bank. After the Budhil river rises from the slopes of Kugti pass and Bada Bangal pass the water shed formed by Budhil and Ravi rivers take the form of an inverted triangle with its base at Khada Mukh. Budhil itself is formed by several streams which rise from different faces of the Manimahesh Kailash peak. The streams which rise from the peak are the Bhujla derived from Bhuja meaning the arm from the left flank of the peak, which meets Budhil below Kugti village, the Dhancho nala rising from the snowy ranges of the southern flank of the peak, flows in northern direction. Another sacred stream carrying holy waters of Manimahesh lake flows to the north of the peak. The Shiva Karotar stream rises from the foot of the peak and joins them and the Gauri stream from the Gauri Kund. All these streams constitute the Dhancho nala that confluences with Budhil at Hadsar.
The peak lies along the water shed between the Chenab river on one side and Ravi and Beas on the other. Taking a dip in these sacred waters, which originate from the Manimahesh peak, is believed to relieve humans from all their sins according to the Hindu mythology. On the way to the sacred pilgrimage, there are also other heritages in Chamba. According to a legend, Bharmour was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Chamba. Chamba is the land of snowy surroundings. There is a tall temple of Manimahesh, temple of Dharamraj Ji melted in bronze, which stand facing the Manimahesh temple. There are also temples of Maa Bharmani, situated uphill few kilometers from Bharmour and temples of 84 siddhas. Lord Shiva has granted a boon to Maa Bharmani that all pilgrims intending to go on the Manimahesh pilgrimage must have a dip in the Bharmani pool.
Manimahesh is also considered the abode of three lords of the universe, Bhrahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. According to a legend, Maa Parvati and lord Shiva bathed on the Radha Ashtmi day at the Gauri Kund, and Manimahesh Kund, and the pilgrims now follow the same tradition. Manimahesh denotes-the jewel of Lord Shiva. On the day of the ritual annual dip, one can see dazzling light of the dawn coming through the top peak of Manimahesh as a huge brilliant cut diamond sparks in the sunlight provided you are fortunate to have a clear sky. It is forbidden to scale the tip of the peak. Accordingly pilgrims take the holy dip in the early hours of morning of 15th day of Janamashtmi, thereafter pilgrims offer prayers to mount Kailash and make floral offerings at the image of lord Shiva established on one side of the lake. The holy mace (chaddhi) from Himachal, Chenab valley Bhaderwah, and other places accompanied by thousands of pilgrims in the shape of a colorful procession singing and recitation of hyms in praise of Maa Parvati and lord Shiva take dips in the sacred waters of the Manimahesh lake and pray to Lord Shiva.
The religious significance of sacred Manimahesh lake is next to that of the sacred Mansarovar lake in China. The lake and the peak is the venue of highly revered pilgrimage track undertaken during the month of August to September corresponding to the month of Bhadon, according to the Hindu calendar on the 8th day of new moon period. This year the auspicious BADA Nahan as per local pilgrimage is falling on Radha Ashtami day i.e  the 8 th of Sept. Taking a holy dip in the sacred lake on this day is considered very auspicious .This pilgrimage is also known as the Manimahesh Yatra.