After making it to Rohtang Pass in a topsy turvy ride complete with two minor landslides, we chose to keep our second day in Kullu-Manali much ‘lighter’. We were not seeking any adventure, instead were just in a mood to enjoy the lush locales. But that was not to be.  

Cooking Rice In Manikaran's Shiva Temple 

Manikaran, is a small town located in the Parvati valley by the river Parvati, about 4 km ahead of Kasol and 45 km from Kullu. The town attracts a sizeable number of tourists and pilgrims every day, since it holds much importance to both Hindus and Sikhs. The Gurdwara Sahib, Manikaran, and the Shiva Mandir are arguably two of the biggest tourist attractions of the town, both located opposite to each other offer a breath-taking view of the roaring river Parvati and the mighty mountains it cuts through. The site is also iconic for the hot water springs, where we cooked small pouches of rice. 

You get these pouches for a mere 20-30 rupees near the temple premises, once you are done with your darshan, you can just stand next to this section, underneath which lies the spring. Here you can hang the pouch on the net so that it touches the hot waters. The blazing temperature of the hot spring would cook the rice in the pouch within a matter of minutes. It is indeed a fun little activity, if you also master the art of tap dancing. No seriously, the temperature of the marble floor is so hot due to its proximity to the spring, that it often becomes a task just to stand there. Many devotees eat this mushy rice, calling it the prasad of the Devi. It is said that Goddess Parvati lost one of her bejeweled earing or ‘mani’ around this spot, she searched for it endlessly but failed, she sought help from her consort Shiva who was also unable to find the earring. Apparently, it was seized by Shesh Nag (the serpent deity) who disappeared into the earth with it. It was only when Lord Shiva performed his furious Tandava or cosmic dance, that the serpent deity surrendered the earring. It appeared on top of the water with force, and this is the origin story of the hot water springs in Manikaran, according to Hindu scriptures. This is also why this little town of Himachal is also known as ‘Manikaran’ because according to locals, jewels floating on top of the river was a common sighting until 20th century.

Image credit: Screengrabs from video uploaded by @nikhil9099

Anyhow, my visit here got the epic grand finale it deserved, now I had a ‘cool’ story to come back with. The story of me cooking rice for the first time without a stove, vessel or spoon.  

Relishing Manikaran Sahib's Langar

Soon after our visit to the Shiva temple, we headed to the Manikaran Sahib where we also sat down for the langar. Langar, for the unversed is the community kitchen of Gurudwara, where they serve meals for free of cost to all devotees and visitors. We sat on the mat with our legs crossed and waited for the meal on our steel compartment plates, the meal on offer was kadhi, chawal, roti, sabzi. We concluded our meal with a delicious halwa dripping with ghee, a part of which also spilled into other contents of the plate. But we were not complaining. We were hungry and couldn’t have asked for a meal more satiating. While dropping my plate in a container meant for used plates, I couldn’t help but overhear another legend that is popular among the Sikh community. According to Sikhs, the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak came here with his disciple Bhai Mardana. Once when Mardana was very hungry and they were out of food, Guru Nanak sent him to collect food for the langar. Many people willingly donated wheat to cook roti, there was just one problem; there was no fire to cook. Then Guru Nanak asked Mardana to lift a stone, and when he did so, he found steaming hot water spring. He was relieved, but then arose another problem, whatever he cooked would drown. Then Guru Nanak told him, that whenever he donates one chapati into the spring remembering God, his drowned chapatis would float back and there would plenty to feed him and others.  

We headed back with a full stomach and fascinating lores, what was supposed to be a laidback excursion did 'spring up' many surprises. If you aren't able to visit a Gurudwara for whatever reason, here's a litte recipe of Kadha Prashad that may cheer you up.