Himachal Trip — Dhungari Temple

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It was a cold and unpleasant night in the hotel, and it had snowed heavily throughout the night, but we somehow survived it; Maybe because all of us were completely knackered from the previous days. In the middle of the night, I remember fighting for the blanket, pulling and tugging to get it over my body and keep myself warm. But, eventually, I lost the battle and decided to brave through the chilly night.

As we were on a budget, we decided to check out of the current hotel, and find a cheaper place to stay at. Usually, every hotel you visit usually has a few snacks kept in the room for the guests; We had candy in our room, and for some reason, Rohit thought it was a good idea to eat them. He didn’t eat one or two, he ate the entire stash, and we were charged an additional 250 Rs. for it. The worst part of it all was that those candies were expired, and to quote Rohit “They tasted weird”. (Sigh!). Pratyaksh, Aman and I had nothing but sheer disappointment in our eyes.

The view outside our Hotel in the morning

We found a place in Old Manali called Young Monk. From our current hotel, this was around 4 km away. Right when we were about to leave, it started to snow again. We were sceptical about going in the storm, as there are chances of us getting wet, and the grounds had become dangerously slippery at certain points, so we decided to wait it out at the hotel. Suddenly, out of the blue, a localite comes towards us and persuades us to go out in this weather; He tells us that this is the best weather to explore and walk around. Later did we realize this was the best advice we ever got. After talking to us, he immediately took off and disappeared, never to be seen again.

Pumped with energy and fully motivated, we then started walking towards our new hotel. Walking in thick, dense snow was an effort. Our entire leg, up to the ankle, was buried deep inside the snow. On the way, 6 huge Himalayan Gaddi dogs came charging towards us, and there was no way we could have outrun these ferocious-looking dogs. I immediately halted and looked at the others thinking “I just need to run faster than my friends”. (Everyman for himself). But instead of attacking us, these dogs just wanted to accompany us on our journey. They even helped us navigate around the snow and take the routes that were safer. It was like having 6 bodyguards with us— taking care of us and keeping us safe.

The Himalayan Gaddi Dog accompanying us

On the way, we saw these gargantuan mountains. Half of the mountains were covered with snow, while the remaining part had these long, towering deodar/cedar trees. They looked heavenly and majestic. It looked like a stairway to heaven — the mountains gradually became one with the thick, dense clouds. We stood there for at least 30 mins, admiring the beauty in front of us. We felt fortunate to have been there.

The Gargantuan Mountains (on the way to Old Manali)

After an hour of walking, we had finally reached the Young Monk hostel. If anyone wants to stay in Manali, I would highly recommend this place. The rooms are nice and cosy. They have an enclosed rooftop, where you can sit and socialise with the other guests. The owners are extremely helpful and welcoming too. They gave us information on what places to visit, the best time to visit them and the shortest routes to take.

The best part was the view from our hostel room. There are these mini beds put outside the rooms for the guests to sit. Every morning, we used to get out of bed and go out and sit on these mini beds outside and just absorb the amazing environment around us. They also had a dog called Luna; Luna was the most energetic and fun-loving dog we met. Whenever you go to the rooftop area, she would always want to come up and cuddle with you or lay on your lap.

The view outside our room (Young Monk Hotel)
Rooftop area view (Young Monk Hotel)

It was getting dark, so we quickly freshened up and decided to go to the famous Hidimba Devi Temple, locally known as Dhungari Temple. From our hostel, it took us around 45 mins to walk to the temple. People in Manali worship Hidimba Devi as a deity. It is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimbi Devi and is surrounded by a cedar forest called Dhungiri Van Vihar. One of the localities told us that the small natural cave built around the temple is believed to be the footprints of Goddess Hidimba. The sanctum sanctorum do no have images or idols, but only the footprints on a stone. Also, the king who commissioned this temple was so awestruck by its beauty that he ordered the artist’s right hand to be cut. This was done in order to avoid him being able to repeat his masterpiece.

Hidimba Devi Temple

We explored the forest surrounding the temple for a while and then decided to leave, as we were famished. We started looking for a place to eat, and there were plenty of options — from high-end restaurants serving continental food to small shops selling samosas, kachoris and chaat, it was all there. While we were walking, we found a small shop which was serving Maggi. The shop was pretty small, and there was no electricity there due to the extreme weather conditions. The shop owner was one of the most humble people we had ever met. He went over and started making space for us four to sit down. As it was getting cold, he lit a fire inside to keep us warm. He had saved up cardboard to keep himself warm during the cold nights, but without any hesitation, he used up those carboards to keep us warm. It was a special moment, to be sitting in the cold, next to a fire keeping you warm, and at the same time, eating spicy, hot Maggi.

The place where we ate Maggi

After having the Maggi, we walked back to our hostel and decided to rest for a while. The owners of the hostel suggested that we visit the Manali Market at night, so after resting for a while, and a quick change of clothes, we were off to the market. As it was dark, and the ice on the ground was incredibly slippery, we took a cab to the market. The owners of the hostel knew the cab driver, so we were able to get the cab ride for a low price.

The four of us got into the cab and shut the door. The cab driver turned the radio on, and on comes a familiar beat. “GUCCI GANG! GUCCI GANG!” on high bass speakers. The intro of Gucci Gang started to play, and all of us looked at each other and started laughing. But, the song that played was not Gucci Gang, it was remixed version called Pahari Gang! Pahari Gang! (Mountain Gang). We sat and vibed the entire car journey to our newfound favourite song.

The market was filled with people, hustling and bustling. You could hear the sounds of people bargaining for items; Food vendors shouting in a rhythmic tone to attract customers and make them aware “GARAM GARAM KHANA LELO” (Hot food here); Kids running around and playing the fresh snow; It was quite a sight. There was a huge Christmas tree in the middle of the market, covered with just the right amount of snow, which got us all in the Christmas spirit. The only thing missing was Santa. The remaining of the night, we roamed around the entire market, experiencing the local culture and enriching our taste buds with the local food. It was the perfect end to an amazing day.

Manali Market at Night

Click Here to Read Part 4 of the Series

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Someone who always wanted to write on a variety of topics. Want to share my thoughts and experiences with everyone.

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Siddhanth P. Rao

Siddhanth P. Rao

Someone who always wanted to write on a variety of topics. Want to share my thoughts and experiences with everyone.

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