Mana : “the Last Indian village”
Mana : Introduction
You’ve surely heard the phrase “the end of the road” innumerable times in your life, & no doubt have used it too. But if you want to see the actual end of a road & not just a trail or track, you’ve to come to a place like Mana in the Chamoli district of the state of Uttarakhand, a mere 3 km from the famous Hindu pilgrim site of Badrinath or Badri Vishal. Here at Mana, at an altitude of 3200 meter above MSL, the National Highway (NH) 58 ends.
Mana : Geography
Mana is the last Indian village at the Northern end of the NH 58 before the Mana Pass. It is close to the Hindu pilgrim site of Bardinath or Badri vishal & is about 24 Km from the Indo-China border. At an altitude of 3200 meter (10, 300 feet) above MSL, Mana is closely associated with several legends especially with the characters of the great Indian epic Mahabharata, & is a great tourist attraction as well.
Approach to Mana
Mana can be easily approached from Badrinath (only 3 km from the latter) along the motorable NH 58. However, many people take the rather easy trek to go to Mana from Badrinath. The road, though motorable, is covered with snow in the winter, & large chunks of ices & small temporary glaciers are seen even in June. The BRO (Border Road Organization) keeps constant vigil to make the road open as it is vital for National Security.
Legends of Mana
It is believed that the Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata fame arrived here as they were trying to go to the heaven at the end of their earthy lives. Actually, the trek to the Satopanth lake & Swargarohini starts from Mana. There are many spots nearby which are linked with the Pandavas, like the Bhim Pool, a natural rocky bridge over the mountain stream called Saraswati river.
There is a cave nearby called Vyas Gufa where it is believed that the great sage Vyas Deva wrote the Vedas. There is another cave called Ganesh Gufa where it is believed Lord Ganesha wrote the epic Mahabharata as dictated by Vyas Deva.
Places to see at Mana : The Head of Shesh Naga
Just beyond the limits of the hamlet of Badrinath, there is a small enclosure by the side of the road inside which is a big piece of oval-shaped rock with an eye –like knotty area. It is believed to be the head of Shesh Naga, the celestial serpent. The rock looks like, & possibly is, a fossil tree trunk.
This is a cave on top of a hill where the great sage Vyas Deva lived. It is believed that Vyas Deva wrote the Veda-s in this cave. Inside, there are idols of Vyas Deva & his son Suk Deva.
An interesting thing to see is the book-shaped huge rock called Vyas Pothi (The book of Vyas) on top of the cave. The huge square-shaped rock with transverse ridges really looks like a huge book.
Interestingly, a signboard in front of the Vyas Gufa boldly claims that “This Holy cave is 5321 years old-2013”.
Close to the Vyas Gufa is another cave called Ganesh Gufa. It is believed that Lord Ganesha wrote the Mahabharata here as the great epic was dictated to Him by Vyas Deva. Inside, there is an idol of Lord Ganesha. The front portion of this cave has been transformed into a temple. Inside, there is a big idol of Lord Ganesha.
Saraswati River & Saraswati temple
Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of Learning. It is believed that here the goddess appeared as a fast flowing mountain stream called Saraswati river, which , after rapidly flowing for about 300 meters, meets Alaknanda river at Keshav Prayag.
The origin of the river Saraswati is a small but very fast & noisy waterfall, sprinkling sprays of water when flowing down.
There is a small temple dedicated to the goddess Saraswati near the waterfall.
It is a natural rocky bridge over the river Saraswati. As per the legend, this huge rock was placed their by Bhim, the second of the Pandava brothers so that Draupadi, the common wife of the five brothers could cross the river during their trek to the heaven.
It is the confluence of the holy rivers Saraswati & Alaknanda, & is the first of the holy Prayags (confluences of holy rivers) of the great holy river Ganga. The blue water of Saraswati mixes here at Kashav Prayag with the muddy water of Alaknanda.
This is a part of the holy river Alaknanda, located about 6 km from Mana village. A moderate trek will bring you to this water fall.
The dwellers of Mana are closely associated with the culture of Badrinath. Previously, they were traders doing cross border trade with Tibet, which is closed now. The main sources of income of the villagers now are, apart from cultivation (mainly potato), weaving & tourism. They are excellent weavers, weaving carpets of different sizes which have a big demand to the tourists.
Mana has been designated as a “Tourist Village” by the Government of Uttarakhand.
Catering to the tourists’ needs are their one important source of income. Many of the tea stalls have large signboards stating that it is “the Last Tea/Coffee shop of India”.
Almost everyone who visits Badrinath visits Mana. The place with its natural beauty, mythological connection & the handicrafts made by the locals should be a must for all.