History of Manali – British, Ramayan and Mahabharat

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Situated in the northern end of the Kullu Valley, Manali is a scenic hill station whose popularity goes back to the ancient ages. This iconic mythical Himalayan hill town marks the beginning point of the ancient trade route that goes through the current union territory of Ladakh, over the Karakoram pass and right into the Yarkand and Hotan in the Tarim basin of china. Currently, it is one of the most hugely popular hill stations of India which is dotted with many quirky cafes, ancient temples, and fascinating trekking trails.

Every step of the way in Manali will feel like walking into a fairytale land because the place is the speed in several historical and mythological folklores. Anywhere you look around; you will be presented with some incredible historical event or the other. Unfolding these hidden stories and putting together the pieces of the iconic history of Manali will only make you fall in love more with this place.

Here is an interesting and encapsulating history of Manali that you not have already known:

Manali and the Story of Manu

Manali is believed to be the hometown of the Brahmin law enforcer Manu. That’s why the name of this hill station may also seem like it has been drawn from Manu’s name. Apparently, he was so struck by the raw natural untouched beauty of Manali while wandering the Himalayas on foot that he chose to stay here. Initially, it was named Manu-Alaya which meant the house of Manu. But how is Manu any more related to Manali? The story will take you back to the 7th incarnation of Manu.

Manu had come across a tiny fish that asked him to take care of it. Manu took good care of the fish till it grew and grew into a massive fish that needed to be left in water, in its natural habitat. Before going into the sea the fish warned Manu of the impending doom and deluge that the world was about to experience. The fish suggested Manu build a boat to survive the remainder of the world when it gets submerged in water. Manu then built a boat that housed many sages, philosophers, animals, flowers, and insects. He managed to save everything and everyone that was on his boat. Once the water dried up slowly, Manu decided to tie up his boat on a shore in Manali.

Manali during Ramayan and Mahabharat

The city has been repeatedly termed as the valley of gods due to its religious and spiritual significance. The iconic Hidimba Devi Temple has been associated with the Pandavas of the legendary Hindu epic Mahabharat. According to the sagas, Bhimsen killed a strong and cruel demon Hadimb and married his sister Hadimba who was a sturdy deity whereas another legend says Arjuna practiced self-discipline in a cave called ‘Arjun Gupha’ to get the powerful Pashupatastra from Indra. During the Mahabharata period, the great sage Vyas performed his tapa at a place called ‘Vyas Kund’ on Rohtang Pass. Manali and its surrounding areas are dotted with ancient holy and legendary temples and places of worship of religious importance. Not only is it the home of a variety of different gods and goddesses but it is also home to the Sapt Rishi or the most important seven sages that are one of the most important pillars of Hindu culture.

Manali during British Raj

The British territories on the hills came under the British crown after Queen Victoria’s proclamation in 1858. States like Mandi, Siba, Kangra, and others were very loyal to the British folks in the beginning and even supplied them with the necessary men and raw materials as required by them. During the 17th century, Raja Jagat Singh of Manali had brought an idol of Lord Raghunath Ji to Manali who continues to be the presiding deity of the entire region. However, all this was altered on some level due to the continuous visit and settlement by the British folks. They frequented Manali for its pleasant weather and accessibility which came with an assurance of a feeling of deep rejuvenation. Impressed by the natural beauty the Britishers started spending a lot of time there and started developing the place by building new roads, churches, houses, and more facilities that benefited not just the Britishers but also the local people of Manali. It was the British that had introduced apple farming through setting up orchards here. Some people owe it to the British for setting up this orchard which went on to attract a plethora of tourists from all over the world.

Fun facts you didn’t know about Manali

  • Did you know that Manali is not just one small village hamlet? It is actually a combination of 3 different hills that are adjacent to each other which are called Old Manali (Manu Temple); Vashishth (Vashisht Temple) and Dhungri (Hidimba Temple).
  • The months of May to October are the best months for a visit to Manali that entails adventure as well as peaceful activities ranging from trekking and hiking to paragliding and even rafting.
  • The iconic Hidimba Devi Temple which is worshipped by everyone is actually a demon. Hidimba was Bhima’s wife when he was exiled in the forest and then goes on to bear a demon son for him whose name was Ghatotkach. Did you know this wooden temple is over 400 years old?
  • It is no surprise that Manali is home to one of the most pristine qualities of apples owing to the perfect natural conditions which are created by the river Beas as well. Almost every house in Manali owns one apple tree or an orchard that defines their culture, heritage, and tradition of coexisting with nature.
  • Do you love Rohtang Pass or are curious to explore it in any way? Literally speaking, Rohtang translates into a heap of dead bodies. It is said that groups of people who were unable to cross over the pass and passed away here, the name pass is dedicated to their condition. The reason being, Rohtang is susceptible to unexpected flurries of snow storms that’s why the government of Manali regularly issues travel advisories as well.

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