The sacred Mani Mahesh Kailash is one of the five Kailash Peaks of Lord Shiva. The peak is also known as Chamba Kailash. Kailash peak stands towering high over a sacred lake known as Mani Mahesh lake, which is believed to be as sacred as Kailash Mansarovar lake in Tibet. As per legend, the abode of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati lies in Bharmour sub-division of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. The sacred Mani Mahesh peak is 26Kms from Bharmour in Budhil valley. Mani Mahesh lake is at the base of Kailash peak at 5,653 meters from the sea level. Both the lake and peak are held in deep veneration by people of Himachal, Jammu & Kashmir, including devotees of Chenab valley Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, and adjoining places particularly the Gaddi tribes of the region, as abode of Lord Shiva.
There are several mythical legends narrated about the sanctity of this sacred place. Popular legend is that Lord Shiva created Mani Mahesh Kailash after he married Goddess Parvati. According to a myth, Shiva and Parvati are believed to reside in Mani Mahesh Kailash. A rock formation in the form of a Shiv Ling on this sacred mountain is considered as the manifestation of Shiva. It is believed that a jewel (mani) in the crown of Mahesh (Shiva) can be rarely seen emiting sacred light at the peak of the sacred mountain right above serpentine glacier. Hence the name “Mani-Mahesh.” It is said that when the lord is pleased, the devotees are blessed to experience this holy light.
Legend also mentions that Shiva performed penance on the banks of Manimahesh Lake. The water cascades sprang out of his matted hair and took the form of a lake. The lake appeared like a saucer. It had two distinct parts the larger part has ice cold water called Shiv Karotri. The smaller part of the lake, which is hidden by the bushes, has luke warm water and is called Gauri Kund–the bathing place of Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Taking a bath in these sacred waters is considered to be holy. Men and Women pilgrims bath in different parts of the lake. In the same vein, it is mentioned that Gaddis, the tribes of this region, adopted Lord Shiva as their deity. Gaddis are the people who reside in the Gaddi Valley which is the name of the upper regions of Ravi River where the Mount Chamba Kailash lies.
Manimahesh was also considered the abode of the three Lords of the universe namely, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Manimahesh was reckoned as the heaven (Kaliasa) of Lord Shiva. The waterfall seen at the Dhancho on the way to Manimahesh Lake, and which emanates from the lake, was considered as the heaven (Vaikunta) of Vishnu. The heaven of Bramha is cited as a mound overlooking the Bharmaur city. The Gaddis also believe that Shiva resides in the Mount Kailash for six months, whereafter he moves to the netherworld handing over the reigns to Lord Vishnu. The day he departs to the netherworld is observed by the Gaddis reverentially every year, which is the Janmashtami day, the eighth day of the month of Bhadon (August), the birthday of Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Shiva returned from the netherworld to Bharamaur at the end of February, before the night of his wedding and this day is observed as the Shiv-ratri day; Gaddis observe this also as a festive day since Shiva and Parvati returned to Mount Kailash in the Gaddi land.
The sacred peak lies along the watershed between the Chenab river on one side, and Ravi and Beas on the other. Taking a dip in these sacred waters, which originate from Mani Mahesh peak are believed to relieve the humans from all the sins, according to the Hindi mythology. There are also heritages in Chamba, for example Bharmaur. According to a legend, it was the capital of acient kingdom of Chamba. Chamba is the land of snow and abode of lord Shiva. The main temple of Mani Mahesh has a Shiv ling in the premises; the other temples are of Dharam Raj ji, Narshim Dev ji, Lord Gane- sha, and Nandi ji. Situated a few kilometers up on the hill from Bharmaur,there is a famous temple of Goddess Bharmani, the presiding deity of the place.
According to legend, when lord Shiva with 84 sidhas, while on his way to Mani Mahesh, visited Bharmaur and stopped by in the vatika of Goddess of Bharmani devi, the presiding deity saw the smoke of fires lit by sidhas. She got angry for the trespass, and came down to this place and ordered sidhas to leave that place. Lord Shiva importuned in all his humility for allowing them to spend a night there. Goddess Bharmani condescended to their wishes. Lord Shiva granted a boon to Bhar- mani devi that all persons intended to go on a pilgrimage to Mani Mahesh must take a dip in Bharmani pool. The 84 sid- has transformed themselves into 84 lingas, because they wished to settle there.
The holy pilgrimage to this sacred Mani Mahesh peak com- menses in the beginning of August and continues till September end. The pilgrims from Himachal Pradesh, Chenab valley Bhaderwah, and many states of the country visit this holy place. The sacred Charri of lord Shiva along with Sadhus cover several kilometers to Mani Mahesh lake. The colorful procession of the charri is accompanied by singing and recitation of hymns in praise of lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, making the atmosphere spiritual all around. The devotees, after taking dip in the holy waters of Mani Mahesh lake and Gauri Kund, return to their homes with miraculaous experiences of the spiritual powers of lord Shiva, pledging to visit this place every year.
Written by Kaushal Kotwal