Legs and Wheels – Mana – The last village at the Indian border

Team Udayavani, Dec 11, 2018, 1:35 PM IST

The sight of Himalayas is an unexplainable experience and being at Badrinath, only added meaning to the travel. Arriving at Badrinath and visiting the places in and around the temple brought an official end to our Char Dham Yatra. The journey, which began from Haridwar, provided us with memorable experiences that furthered our yearning to explore the  Himalayas better and deeper on every day of our trip. Apart from seeing the main temples at Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, we had also covered a lot of places, yet we realized that there were more interesting places to be explored. As we left Badrinath, our hearts were filled with mixed feelings. Lo! Just when we were thinking it’s time to return to our everyday lives, Uday, our guide informed us that our journey was not over yet!  Before we reached Haridwar, we had many more interesting places to explore and experience amongst which Mana was one.

Mana – the Village

This small hamlet is situated on the banks of the river Saraswati and is a place where Saraswati meets river Alakananda.  This the last village on the Indo-Sino border also known as Manibhadrapuri, and it is believed that a visit here alleviates poverty. It has attained importance from a mythological perspective. The parking lot is always full as this last village attracts many weekend enthusiasts from Dehradun, Delhi, and other nearby cities.

As we enter the village gate installed with a welcome board, we pass through small lanes with houses on either side. The women sitting in the veranda of their houses are busy knitting sweaters, shawls, caps, socks, gloves, etc., and selling their wares to tourists. The rates are mostly fixed, and bargaining is not entertained. A sensible tourist who understands that Mana is dependent on pilgrims/tourists for its livelihood, should not indulge in bargaining. It is also common to see people growing potato in their small backyards.

How to Reach Mana Village

The endpoint of National Highway 58 is Mana,  situated in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.  To reach this village which is about 3,200mts above the sea level blessed with beguiling surroundings, Haridwar/Dehradun is the nearest rail or flight connecting place. Joshimath, which is about 50 km from Mana and 280 km (about 10 hours drive on terrain roads) from Haridwar is the nearest place for finding a reasonable accommodation. Though public transports are available, a majority of tourists prefer their own mode of transport. People who visit Badrinath will definitely make it a point to visit Mana, as it is just 3 km from there. Tourists also club Govindghat – a religious place for Sikhs and known for adventure sports, and Valley of Flowers, which is about 20 km from Joshimath. This quaint little village Mana can welcome tourists only during the months of May to mid-November, after which the village is covered in snow.

Mythic Stories related to Mana Village

There are a handful of small villages near the border. But mythic stories attached to the village Mana makes it important. Short walks through the small lanes of the village, will take us to interesting places. At a distance of about 1.5 km from the entrance, the lane splits into two directions. Take the one on your right and traverse the gradual slopes to reach Ganesh Gufa- a cave. It is believed that Lord Ganeshji, sat here in front of Sage Vyasa to write Mahabharata. The Gufa is today converted into a small temple. Climbing further up from Ganesh Gufa we will reach the Vyasa Cave, where sage Vyasa is believed to have stayed. River Saraswati’s mysterious vanishing act has links with the stories of Mahabharata and narratives regarding the same are found here.

If you take the lane on your left, 1.5 km from the entrance of the village, it leads to more interesting places like Bheem Phool. It is believed that Pandavas took this route for their ‘Swargarohan’ – the path to reach heaven. They request river Saraswati to cooperate with them and help them to cross the river. When the river does not concede, and Draupadi finds it difficult to cross the river, Bheema builds a bridge with rocks. Now, there is a constructed bridge that enables us to cross river Saraswati and even climb down steps to see ‘ma Saraswati’ mandir. Further down from Bheem Phool we will arrive at tea shops, which carry the name “The Last Tea Shop”. It is an enthralling feeling to sit on slopes with Saraswati sprinkling her energy on to you. As we sit and sip the piping hot tea, we see people trekking further. People visit Mana to trek to other interesting places like Vasudhara Falls, Satopanth Lake Trek, Mana Pass Trek, Swargaroghini Trek (gateway to heaven), etc. The picturesque surrounding also has numerous glaciers.

When I saw many visitors walking further on the road which is believed to be taken by the Pandavas. I was a bit surprised when my enthusiast husband, who is usually eager for such experiences, stood in silence beside me. “Are you not going till that paduka mandir?” I asked him. “No, I can see it from here…that’s good”, he replied. After spending a good three hours in Mana, we were back on roads, all set to experience  ‘panch prayags’, Joshi Math and many other interesting places near Dehradun before we reached Rishikesh.

‘O’ Traveler Please Remember

Travel in the Himalayas needs meticulous planning. Trek to different peaks or interesting places demands time and stamina. To have a better experience, the traveler will benefit from reading about these places first.

Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha

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