Mana is a small town located at an altitude of 3200 m / 10500 ft. Mana wears the crown of being the last inhabited village of India along the India-Tibet/China border. The India-Tibet border is connected to this village through the 24 km long Mana Pass. However, no civilians are allowed to go beyond this village. If you want to go beyond this village towards the border, you need to get permission from the Indian Army.
Village of Mana
Mana, the last Indian Village
Due to its designation to be the last village on the Indian side, Govt of Uttarakhand is promoting the Mana as the tourism village. The population of this small village is around 500 and are called Bhotias who belong to the Mongol tribe. They live a very simple life and have little to do with the developments happening across the world! The small cottages they live in are decorated very gracefully. Local people here earn their living by growing vegetables (like potatoes, rajma or kidney beans), and selling them to eateries and shops at Badrinath. Mana is also famous for locally made woollen garments and materials like shawls, caps, blankets etc. Due to its elevation, the entire village is covered with snow for almost 6 months. Mana remains closed from Diwali/Deepavali (Oct end) to Akshaya Tritiya (first week of May)! The locals then shift to lower altitude places like Chamoli or Gopeshwar. When Mana opens again in May, the locals come back to keep the traditions and culture alive!
Picturesque village of Mana
Mana has quite a few tea shops that are marked as “Last Tea Shop In India”. A tea or a small hot snack will be really refreshing and acts as a good companion when you are fighting with the cold sub-zero temperature.
Mana and Mahabharata
Apart from being the last village, Mana also has a huge religious significance. According to Mahabharata, one of the peaks in this region has the pathway to heaven (called Swargarohini). It is said when Pandavas had decided to go to Swargarohini, they had passed through this village. However, due to the strenuous terrain, everyone except Yudhistira is believed to have died on the way! A couple of landmarks in the village adds to the legend. One of the landmarks is Bheem Pull (Bheem’s Bridge). River Saraswati passes through two huge stony hills and it was impossible for Draupadi to cross that river. It was then Bheem brought a huge stone from nearby and put it over the two stones to form a bridge. Pandavas later crossed the river through that bridge! At a few kilometers distance from here, a place called Lakshmi Ban, there is a small shrine dedicated to Draupadi. It is believed that this is the location where Draupadi breathed her last during their journey to Swargarohini.
Another legend says that Mana is the village where the epic Mahabharata was written. According to the beliefs, Saint Vyas dictated Mahabharata and it was Lord Ganesha who has written it. Mana has two caves which are believed to be the ones where Vyas and Ganesh sat and wrote Mahabharata. Vyas Gufa (Vyas Cave) and Ganesh Gufa (Ganesh Cave) are located closeby and today, there are temples in both of these caves that depict the same. The boards at the caves proudly display that the caves are more than 5000 years old!
Around Vyas Gufa
The mysterious River Saraswati
Mana also happens to be the only place where River Saraswati is seen on the ground. According to the beliefs, River Saraswati is an underground river which joins Ganga and Yamuna at their confluence at Prayag (now Uttar Pradesh, near Allahabad). However, the river can be seen flowing between the rocks, and joining River Alaknanda before going underground. There is an interesting legend behind River Saraswati going underground. When Saint Vyas was reciting Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha, the roaring sound of the river was so deafening that Lord Ganesha could hardly hear anything. Angry with the roaring sound, Saint Vyas cursed the river to silence it by sending it underground! If you closely observe the confluence of River Saraswati and River Alaknanda, you would be amazed to see that the water level hardly raises after the confluence! Where is all the extra water of River Saraswati gone?!
Confluence of River Alaknanda and River Saraswati
Mana also has a small rock near Bheem Pull where you can see a very small but continuous flow of ice cold water. It is believed that this water comes from Manasa Sarovar Lake (that is located almost 200 km away in Tibet/China).
Water from Manasa Sarovar Lake
Adventures at Mana
Mana is also the starting point for numerous treks in this region. While you need to get permission to go through Mana Pass towards the India-Tibet border, there are couple of other places where treks are allowed and organized by local travel agents. The most common trek is to Vasudhara Falls which is about 6 km from Mana. It takes nearly 2 hours to reach the falls from Mana. Locals believe that the trail of the water from the falls fall only on the good and sways away from the evil. If you are around the falls, you have something to test 🙂
The other famous trek that is organized after taking enough permissions from relevant departments is to Satopant Lake which is the glacier from where River Alaknanda is born! It takes 5-6 days with camping amidst the high mountains to complete the trek and come back to Mana.
Mana is located just 4 km from the town of Badrinath. Mana is open between May to October. During the rest of the year, the village remains inaccessible due to heavy snow. This coincides with the closing time of Badrinath temple too, due to the same reason. The whole 4 km journey from Badrinath to Mana is very picturesque with stunning panoramic beauty all over the place. At Mana, you can really feel the tranquility and peace, and you can easily get lost in the mesmerizing beauty of the nature!
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