A Journey to The Land of Epics, Mana-The Last Indian Village
In the silence of the teeth shivering winter morning, I listen to the Alaknanda River travelling its way to Devprayag where it meets Bhagirathi and form our holy Ganga. Last evening, soon after paying prayers at the renowned and to my surprise crowd-free Badrinath Temple, I left to visit Mana as my last destination of this trip in Uttarakhand. Mana Village, famous as India’s Last Village, is three kilometres to the north of Badrinath. Beyond is the Mana Pass and border to Tibet.
I remember, one fine day a close friend advised me to experience the beautiful morning in Mana-The Last Indian Village. As promised, the view outside was breath-taking. Cowling over the holy town of Badrinath, Neelkanth, Bathing in the golden virgin rays of sun, sparkling beautifully in the clear blue skies. The view was exhilarating and mesmerising. Awe-struck by the glorious view, my body seemed to have been absorbed with new energies even after the tiring trek to the beautiful, Valley of Flowers. Every day in Mana, in the soothing arms of Himalayas, was pleasantly surprising.
The beautiful and slightly arising road curling around the Alaknanda. The unbelievably strong and rugged mountains along with the murmuring Alaknanda keep a close watch on the tourists –they are the only witness who saw the Pandavas walking this exact path on their way to heaven. It was almost the end of the tourist season thus, it was not overly crowded. Occasionally, an army truck used to cross by me.
The tiny wild flowers growing on the roadsides gave me company for quite a few days were vibrantly colourful and always cheering to keep me going. I could see the stress-free lives of the local women who happily carried firewood and fodder on their bent backs while, the horses were grazing on the green mountain slopes. The mountains, who always maintained a silence seemed to be observant and kept to watch every proceeding. The timeless mountains can tell you that not everything has changed over the centuries. The life here has always been beautiful and unhurried – the smiles never leaving the content faces.
Mana Village is just beyond your expectations and imagination. In the shadow of the holy Badrinath, Mana has enough to hold on its own. In the village, mythology is taken into reality. It is believed that Mana is the place where Mahabharata was read aloud by Maharishi Vyas to Lord Ganesha. It is like a fantasy that the place where the heroes of the biggest Indian Mythological story were on the last leg of their journey to heaven is also the birthplace of the epic Mahabharata. The direction signs lead me up the inclined concrete pathways to the famous caves-Ganesh Gufa and then to Vyas Gufa – the creator and stenographer of the epic. Here, you better not miss to enjoy a cup of refreshing tea at the popularly labelled as ‘India’s Last Tea Shop’.
After coming down back into the village square, as I enjoy a hot plate of local prepared noodles, I notice a beautiful Brahma Kamal adorning the table. I had missed seeing this flower in my trek to the Valley of Flowers which is also the state flower of Uttarakhand and is widely offered in the temples. Seeing the flower seemed almost divine while heading towards the end of this trip.
Mana held a lot of surprises. I headed to the point where water pours down from the mountains above. This was once, the origin of the legendary Saraswati River which has now vanished. Flowing with a lot of excitement, the waters bump into a rift to meet the greenish waters of Alaknanda which is situated at a few metres in the distance. I was enjoying this spectacular view and that is when I realise, the bridge on which I stand, is actually a huge rock bridging the pass. It is believed that the rock was placed by Bheem when Draupadi was unable to cross the river, thus creating a natural bridge.
In Mana, it seems we human beings straddle the time. The paths in our present take us to the times when epics were born in this ancient land of ours. In Mana, I crossed over into the world of epics.
Getting There: 540 KMs from Delhi and 3 KMs from Badrinath. The nearest railhead for Mana is Haridwar which is 325 KMs away. From here, plenty of private and government buses run towards Badrinath. It is recommended to break the journey at Rudraprayag where you can participate in the evening Arti at the meeting point of Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers. The Arti conducted by local devotees is a wonderful experience.
When to Go: In the summers, preferably May to October.
What Else to See:
- Vasudhara Waterfalls about 5 kms from Mana make for a delightful trek among the lofty peaks.
- The trip to Badrinath & Mana should be combined with the ultimate trekking destination to the World Heritage Site of Valley of Flowers
- The Sikh shrine of Shri Hemkund Sahib