About this blog: This blog is about our visit to Mana village, the last village of India. This small and picturesque village located near the India-China border is steeped with mythology. Mana is also known as the gateway to heaven as it is believed that the Pandavas started their journey towards heaven from Mana. Read further to know more about Mana village, how to reach there and what to do along with other information.
There are certain stories that we grow up with. Stories from Grimm’s fairy tales or Amar Chitra Katha were a huge part of our childhood. For that matter, tales from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana were equally engrossing and interesting. These were a part of our bedtime stories as well as staple reading as we were growing up. So what happens when you visit a place that these stories are based on? Mana village, the last village of India is one such place that is quite linked with one of our favourite childhood stories.
When we were planning for the Kedarnath Badrinath trip, I was quite sure about visiting Mana. Not only the village is steeped in mythological stories that we heard and read during our childhood, but it also had the distinction of being the last village of India. So it was definitely a must-visit place on our trip. Well, for all those who are wondering about Chitkul in Himachal Pradesh, let me tell you that Chitkul is said to be the last inhabited village on the Indo-Tibetan border.
Where is Mana village located?
Mana village is located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Mana village stands at an altitude of 3200 metres and is about 5 km from Badrinath, one of the sacred pilgrimages of India. The Indo-China border is located about 50 km from the village.
As I mentioned earlier, Chitkul in Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh is the last inhabited village from the Indo-Tibetan border. Mana in Uttarakhand, however, is officially recognized as the “last village of India”.
The mystical Saraswati River flows by the quaint village. There are a few trekking and hiking trails starting from Mana village or Mana Gaon, as it is fondly known as. Mana is steeped with mythological references and the place definitely took us back in time. Mana is surrounded by Himalayan Peaks, forests and all things beautiful.
Mahabharata, Mahaprasthana and Mana Village
Mana village is quite intimately linked with the Hindu epic Mahabharata that spoke so eloquently about the triumph of good over evil. After 18 days of the fierce battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas defeated the Kauravas and finally there was establishment of Dharma. The 5 Pandava brothers ruled with righteousness and principles.
When the bothers felt that their duty in this life had been completed, they renounced the world and went for Mahaprasthana, literally meaning the great leaving. The 5 brothers and Draupadi left their worldly belongings and started walking towards the north. “Mahaprasthana”, as mentioned in the scriptures means walking towards the North until you fall dead and proceed towards heaven.
It is believed that the Pandavas offered their prayers at Kedarnath and started their journey of Mahaprathana from the Mana village. Bheema, the strongest of the 5 Pandava brothers made a bridge of stone for Draupadi to cross the Saraswati River.
The brothers and their wife Draupadi kept walking towards the North until each of them fell dead one by one. Draupadi was the first one to fall followed by Sahadeva, Nakula, Arjuna and then Bheema. Only the eldest brother Yudhisthira reached heaven or Swarga Lok.
Like Mana, a few other places like Lakshmiban, Chakratirtha and Satopanth are linked with this journey of the Pandavas. Perhaps it is from the Swargarohini Glacier that Yudhisthira went towards heaven! We can only think about the story and relate to the places. This is what makes these places so interesting.
Apart from the Mahabharata connection, there are also a few other mythological significance of the Mana village. I will come to them later.
Mana Village, the last village of India
Just where the National Highway-58 ends past the holy shrine of Badrinath, the trail meanders to the last village of India, Mana. The gurgling Alakananda River can be seen just beside the village. The trail through Mana village is considered to be the way towards heaven.
Well, the road from Mana might have taken the Pandavas to heaven, but for now, these roads lead to the Indo-China border. Mana had been a part of the ancient trade route between India and Tibet and historically Mana village had traded in barley, buckwheat and rock salt for goats and yaks with the Tibetans. The trade had stopped after the Indo-China war of 1962.
Mana is a small village with about 550 families residing in quaint looking houses. The beauty of the village, I found, is its cobbled roads between the small houses. The villagers are quite proficient in knotting and you can see woolens, carpets and other knitted items for sale.
Mana is located at an altitude of 10,200 feet. Quite obviously the winters are quite harsh here. It begins to snow at Mana during mid-November onwards and peak winters observe temperatures as low as -15 to -20 degrees. The villagers usually move to Gopeshwar and Joshimath when the weather gets too hostile.
Mana village is beautiful. It was really great to walk around the village, visit the interesting points, look at the Neelkanth peak and of course, have tea from the last tea shop of India. The Saraswati River flows by the village and the Neelkanth Peak looms at the backdrop. If you visit early in the morning, you can get a spectacular sunrise over the Neelkanth Peak near the Bheem Pul. There is something peaceful about this village. Maybe, it is because of the raw and unadulterated nature and the simple people inhabiting the village.
At Mana, you will find a few shops that say “Bharat ki Antim Chai ki Dukan” (India’s Last Tea Shop). We found a couple of shops saying the same near Bheem Pul and one more near the Vyas Gufa. Perhaps, there was one person who had opened the shop long back. Later another one opened another shop and christened it as the last tea shop in India!
What can you do at Mana Village, the last village of India?
While you can enjoy nature’s bliss at Mana village, there are a few places that you can visit. Most of these places have a deep connection to Indian mythology and it is interesting to know the story about the place as you see them. When you are at Mana Gaon, do not miss these places.
A small gate welcomes you inside the village. Mana Gaon is small and you can simply walk around. If you take the main road inside the village and walk for a few minutes, you will come across a point where the road diverges into two. There is a signpost there that will point you towards the places of interest in the village.
At first we took the road towards the left and walked towards the Bheem Pul.
This is one of our favourite places in Mana village. The Bheem Pul is actually a huge rock placed between a gorge of the gushing Saraswati River. The river flows with a mighty force here before it falls down the plain and meanders before meeting the Alakananda River at Keshav Prayag.
It is believed that Bheem, the mightiest of the Panadava brothers picked up a huge rock and placed it between the two sides of the Saraswati River forming a bridge (Pul means bridge) so that Draupadi and the other brothers can cross River Saraswati on their way towards heaven. There is also a huge footprint like mark on a rock near the Bheem Pul that is said to be the footprint of Bheema.
The water of Saraswati gushes forward near this place and you can hardly hear anything because of the sound of the waters. There is a temple dedicated to River Saraswati here. You will also see the “Last Tea Shop of India” here. You can have tea and Maggi from here.
A little away from the Bheem Pul is a trail that leads towards Vasudhara Falls. This trail also forms a part of the Satopanth Trek trail. It is perhaps “the trail” that took the Pandavas towards the realm of divinity.
After making a promise that we would come back again here for trekking towards Satopanth Taal later, we retraced our path and again reached the bifurcation. This time we took the right.
The next place we encountered was the Ganesh Gufa. It is believed that Maharishi Ved Vyas dictated the entire epic Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha who penned it down for the record. For the uninitiated, the epic Mahabharata was composed by Krishna-Dwaipayan Vyasa, also known as Ved Vyas. He, himself, was part of the epic. Traditionally, Vyas dictated the verses of the epic while Ganesh wrote them down.
Further down the road is the Vyas Gufa. This is the cave where Rishi Ved Vyas lived and meditated. He is also said to have composed the 4 Vedas in this cave. The cave is believed to be almost 5000 years old. There is one shop in front of the cave entrance that also says “Bharat ki Akhri Chai ki Dukan” (India’s last tea shop). Didn’t I tell you there are more than one? Sometimes, you might also find village ladies selling woollens, tea and other things.
These are the few interesting places at Mana village. There is also a small temple in the middle of the village that you can visit. When we went there, the temple was closed.
Trekking around Mana Village
Mana Gaon forms the base camp of a couple of treks as well. Vasudhara Falls trek is a one-day trek and if you have time, you can do this in a day. Satopanth Trek, on the other hand, requires more days.
Vasudhara Falls is perhaps one of the most scenic places near Mana village. The waterfall is located about 5 km from Mana and a round trip will take about 5-6 hours. The waterfall is about 400 feet high and can be reached only by trekking. The trekking trail, however, is not an easy one. Parts of the trail are rough full of loose stones and gravel. There is also a river crossing to reach the Vasudhara Falls.
If you plan to do the Vasudhara Falls trek, we would recommend you to start early in the morning and return by afternoon.
Satopanth Tal and Swargarohini Glacier Trek
Mana village is the base camp for the Satopanth Tal trek. Satopanth Tal is a pristine glacial lake located at an altitude of 15,100 feet. This lake is triangular in shape and it is believed that the holy trinity of Hinduism – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva meditated at the three sides of the lake. So, this is quite a religious place for the locals.
The Pandavas on their Mahaprasthan had crossed the Satopanth Tal on their way towards Swargarohini Glacier. The lake is surrounded by Mount Chaukhamba, Mount Neelkantha, Mount Swargarohini and Mount Balakun. You will require 6-7 days for completing the Satopanth Tal Trek.
Mana Pass and Deo Tal
Mana Pass is the last point between India and China border and is visited by many adventure enthusiasts. The Pass is located at an altitude of 5545 m and Deo Tal is at an altitude of 5471 m. Deo Tal is the source of the Saraswati River. Both Mana Pass and Deo Tal are visited by a motorcycle enthusiast.
To visit Mana Pass and Deo Tal, Inner Line Permits are required. You can get them from SDM Joshimath. You will also require a NOC Certificate from ITBP and Army for accessing Deo Tal and Mana Pass.
How to reach Mana village?
Mana village is located about 5 km from Badrinath Temple. The village is accessible only by roads. If you have rented a car for your Char Dham trip or Badrinath trip, then you can ask your driver to take you to Mana village. He will charge you an extra for visiting Mana.
How to reach Badrinath?
The nearest Railway head is Haridwar, almost 320 km from Badrinath. There are only a few buses from Haridwar to Badrinath. You can also hire a car to visit Badrinath.
You will get more buses from Haridwar to Joshimath, from where you can get another bus to Badrinath. From Joshimath and Badrinath, shared cabs are available to Mana. However, this year, no shared cabs were available to Mana from either of the places because of the recent pandemic situation.
The nearest airport is at Dehradun, about 340 km from Badrinath. You can hire a car from Dehradun to Badrinath. You can also look for buses to Haridwar or Joshimath and then continue your journey towards Mana.
Where to stay at Mana Village?
Of late, a few homestays have come up at Mana village. When we went there, all the homestays at Mana were closed. We had stayed at Badrinath and visited Mana in the morning.
Badrinath has a number of hotels and guest houses where you can stay. There is a GMVN Guest House at Badrinath that can be booked online.
You can also stay at Joshimath. Many hotels are available there.
What is the Best Time to visit Mana Village?
The best time to visit Mana village is between May to June and mid-September to October. Winters will be too cold and Mana will perhaps remain inaccessible. I would suggest avoiding the monsoon months of July and August. There are chances of landslides and weather at mountains is quite unpredictable during the rainy season.
How is the mobile network at Mana?
Mobile network is very intermittent at Mana village. We did not get the Vodafone network there. Jio had intermittent signals.
Help the local community at Mana
Usually, tourists visiting Badrinath go for an extended trip to Mana village. But Mana is much more than just an extended trip or the last village of India. The village has a cottage industry for woollen handloom products. Buy some handlooms from the locals to support their endeavour. The villagers also sell tea and spices grown locally.
Have you visited the last village of India, Mana in Uttarakhand? Let us know your thoughts in comments below.
If you liked this post and found it useful, please share the post with your family, friends and neighbours.
Pin it for a later read!
This post first appeared on Tale Of 2 Backpackers - We Travel. We Live. We Lov, please read the originial post: here