Rewalsar (Tso Pema): The Pilgrimage Town of Himachal Pradesh
- June 30, 2020
- Sanvi Sinha
Himachal beholds many secret beauties inside and it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with them. Situated outside the hustle-bustle of city life, a small town called Rewalsar took away my heart. This gem is located around 24 km southwest of the Mandi district at an altitude of 4,460 feet above sea level and is known for its peaceful environment. The tranquillity of this place could be sensed everywhere due to the positive energy you feel while walking through the lanes. Rewalsar Lake also called Tso Pema set in the heart of the town is amazingly beautiful. It is a home of Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurudwara, Buddhist Monasteries, a perfect amalgamation of harmony and traditions.
To look at the whole town and the lake in the centre is bliss in Rewalsar.
Rewalsar Lake – The history
There are lot many beliefs that Buddhists eternally believe and considered the whole place to be sacred. According to one such belief, the lake was created by Great Guru Padmasambhava when the King of Zahor(Mandi) tried to burn him alive to take revenge.
Padmasambhava has come to teach Buddhism to Mandarava, daughter of King Zahor. Rumours of King’s daughter spending time with a tantric master from Swat made the king so furious that he threw his daughter in a pit full of thorns and Guru Padmasambhava in a fire ring! The smoke took seven days to clear out. When the king enquired, later on, he found a lake in that place, with an eight-year-old boy sitting on a lotus in the middle of that lake. He exclaimed with fear after experiencing that scene and begged to Guru Padmasambhava for his forgiveness. He also offered his entire kingdom including his wearable clothes of that time to Guru Padmasambhava. Mandarava also joined in studying Buddhism along with him in the caves above the Tso Pema. Those caves are now a pilgrimage space for Buddhists from all around the world.
The lake used to have floating reed islands earlier, very little of them still exist. A 12m statue of Padmasambhava is visible from far away and is situated toward the hillside.
Rewalsar is venerated to disciples of three major religions and they are Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism.
The huge statue of Guru Rinpoche is visible from all the corners of Rewalsar.
Places to Visit in Rewalsar
Rewalsar has Monasteries, Temples, and Gurudwaras and they all can be covered in one day or maximum two days depending upon your schedule and time pace. Walking down the lake is peaceful and makes you wonder about its history and the monasteries situated around. ‘Kora'(circumambulation)around the lake is very popular and you might spot devotees doing the same most of the time as well.
Nyingma tradition is known to be the oldest school of Tibetans Buddhism. It is believed that that Wangdor Rinpoche, a renowned Tibetan master of wisdom and perfection meditated in the caves of Tso Pema for 30 years.
Zigar Drupka is also a Buddhist monastery situated on the west side of the lake. It is the home of the statue of Padmasambhava which is 37.5 m in height and can also be seen from far away buses approaching Rewalsar. Drikung Kagyu is the second monastery developed and belongs to Nyingma, one of the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Also, Zangdok Palri Palace is known to be the last monastery developed.
The vibrant colours, the vibe of peace and spirituality, everything at this retreat centre is relaxing and calm.
Guru Gobind Singh Gurudwara
Settled at the top of the hill, this small Gurudwara is one of the most peaceful places to spend your time at. It is built in the honor of the tenth guru of Sikhism Guru Gobind Singh. Massive domes are visible from far away, again this place is one of the important places for everyone. And besides that, you can also spot all types of pilgrims visiting the place for prayers and other service work.
Naina Devi Temple
Located at the hilltop, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Naina Devi, a place with utter cleanliness and sheer beauty. Moreover, all the priests of this temple are women. The view of the whole place will allure you making you stay longer for some good clicks especially when the snow-capped Himalayan ranges are clear. Furthermore, devotees come here for solace and salvation.
There is a cave below this temple where Guru Padmasambhava meditated for a very long time. Reaching here is not that easy as you have to climb the steep staircases which take around 2-3 hours. Buses are an easy option and take almost an hour. Avoid going on the weekends as it is very crowded inside the temple. Also, there are seven lakes on the way to this temple and few of them are extremely serene.
Best time to visit Rewalsar
This place can be visited throughout the year. However, March to May and September to December are considered as the best timing to enjoy nature and everything around.
How to reach Rewalsar?
The best and most convenient way to reach Rewalsar is via Mandi which is at a distance of 22km. You can simply take a local bus from Mandi which costs you around INR 20.
The closest airport is situated in Bhuntar, Kullu which is around 57 km from Mandi. Bhuntar airport is well connected with Delhi and Chandigarh airports. After reaching Bhuntar, you can easily book taxis or take local buses as well to reach Mandi which takes around 2.5 hours.
The nearest railway station is situated in Joginder Nagar which is 55 km away from Mandi. Further taxis and buses could be taken to reach a particular destination.
Being one of the crowdest cities of Himachal, roads of Mandi are well connected with the neighbouring cities like Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab. Regular HRTC bus services are available easily and cheapest options available providing enchanting scenes in the journey.
Places to stay in Rewalsar
You can either find your stay in Mandi or Rewalsar, both of them have multiple choices with some limitations.
Try the authentic stay in the hostels of Nyingmapa Gompa, Drikung monastery which starts from INR 100-500 per night. They cater to many pilgrims and make you learn the basic lifestyle of people over there. There are some hotels near the bus stand and lakeside but choose wisely if you want a comfortable stay.
People mostly advise staying in Mandi for better options like Rajmahal Hotel and Vsco Resort(charges starting from INR 1000-4000 per night) but I would love to stay in one of the Gompa hostels in my next visit.
Cafes around Rewalsar
Any place is incomplete without its flavoursome foods. Rewalsar has some known small cafe’s serving the best thupkas and momos for your taste bud treat. The coffee brew at Cafe Emaho was great in front of its picturesque window so does the chocolate fruit pancake and super fresh banana cakes. The monk running the cafe is quite active and witty. I still remember ordering the second bowl of thupka at Kora community’s Cafe sharing along with a friend of mine. Yes, it deserves a visit if you are here, the owner and the helper both were kind enough to prepare everything quickly and better. Are you looking for the best momos in the area and some fried mutton noodles, then try this place called Gomush Tibetan Restaurant known for these two the most.
Mandiyali Dham-a traditional Mandi feast at any local Dhaba is a must-try if you want an authentic taste of the place at a mere cost of INR 50-100.
Eat delicious pancakes and sip freshly brewed coffee while reading your favourite books.
The best way to connect with nature is to be there and Rewalsar will not disappoint you. People often come here for meditation finding peace and enhancing their soul and inner self. Some places have that vibe which neither the picture nor the words can express and I felt the same in Rewalsar! Moreover not being a very touristy place makes it an offbeat place to explore around.
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It was raining and the sacred town of holy sites looked magical and made me promise to come back again.
Life is full of mystery and exploring them helps in discovering myself, making me excited and thrilled at the same time. Living a cliched life has never been my option and traveling teaches me much more about the unseen & unfold questions of it. Let's travel together on this journey to discover many untold stories through my lens. Happy Soul!