The floor of the temple courtyard looked inviting and I wondered why people chose to tiptoe on the planks. I hopped off them and no sooner did I start walking on the white floor, I felt my feet melting away. Lesson learned: Follow the crowd or just ask before getting yourself burnt.
All the excitement, calm, and divinity sure made me hungry. And I ended up at the langar hall that serves food to all without discrimination from eight in the morning to around ten at night. I have had the opportunity of eating at many Gurudwaras, but this experience was beyond comprehension. What keeps one company while eating here is the ceaseless chanting by devotees serving food, hushed conversations by people, and rhythmic clatter of plates being washed, but the most overpowering is the Parvati river peeking at you from behind the windows and reminding you of her constant presence as long as you are in Manikaran.
As I walked out and across the bridge, I felt my eyes watering up. My only regret was I couldn’t spend enough time in Manikaran. If I ever get to visit this place again, I promised myself to wander its nooks, sit in silence with my eyes closed and listen to the river roar or watch the world move by, listen to tales, and shop at the dainty marketplace.
Manikaran may not be a regular in the list of places to halt in Himachal; it is often considered as pilgrims’ hangout. The allure of Manikaran lies not only in its village-setting, hills and open valleys, and a long pile of things to do. But what really sets it apart from other (much-talked-about and famed) Himachal destinations is its purity of interaction between humans and humans and god, the coexistence of not only faiths but forces of nature, beliefs that run as mighty as the Parvati, and the kindness that is infectious and untainted.