Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertiaDr. Alexis Carrell (Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1912 for his pioneering vascular suturing techniques)
I find this quote quite inspiring. Life indeed leaps up exuberantly for those who have the tenacity to work hard to remove the inertia of doubts, excuses, difficulties, hardships and other impediments.
In my opinion, travel is no exception to this rule. To find spectacular places and sights off the beaten tracks, one does need to work hard and overcome the inertia, mainly manifesting as “doubts” or “apprehensions”. The “geyser” of mesmerizing experiences does indeed leap forth for such travelers.
Allow us to offer a bit of a literal treatment to this quote. We did indeed “drill” into the path less taken, high atop the mighty Himalayan Mountains and found a magnanimous display of a Paradox – A Geyser, lying in a valley where freezing mountain winds rule the roost, yet, so scorching hot that one won’t be able to walk properly without proper shoes, thanks to the Plate Tectonic action right below his / her feet.
Before delving deeper into unraveling some of the enigma associated with this place, I would take this opportunity to thank Dr. Avni Sethi for kindly consenting to share her pictures pertaining to this trip. She is a Doctor cum MBA graduate from IIM Tiruchirappalli. She undertook this trip in March 2020 (pre-lockdown period). Visit her profile (Instagram: @curiouscurls03) for some breathtaking photographs of natural sights and scenes in addition to some brilliant travel pictures.
What and Why
Nestled high atop the Himalayan Mountain Ranges lies the picturesque hamlet of Manikaran which is located on the Parvati River valley.
Manikaran is located at an altitude of nearly 1,760m above sea level.
The altitude makes the weather of Manikaran quite cold all year round with the winter temperatures sometimes dropping below 00C.
Which is why describing about the Paradox of Maninakan makes it even more interesting and uncliche.
Geology – Young Fold Mountains
It is a well known fact that the Himalayan Mountain Ranges are actually Young Fold Mountains and were formed by the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate some 10-15 Million years ago.
The other prominent young fold mountain ranges (age less than 100 Million years) are:
- The Alps in Europe
- The Rocky Mountains in North America
- The Andes in South America
- The Southern Alps in Oceania
Among these mountains, the Himalayas are considered to be the youngest. There are other fold mountains as well like the Aravalis, the Western and the Eastern Ghats (India), Urals (Europe), Appalachian Mountains (North America) which are much older (aged more than 200 Million years) and are commonly known as Old Fold Mountains.
The Young Fold Mountains are jagged, tall and have rough features. And they are geologically extremely ACTIVE – one can find a series of volcanoes, hot springs , geysers dotting these young fold mountains or active Plate Tectonic Boundaries. These fold mountains usually sit very close to continental fault lines or boundaries, making them prone to earthquakes.
Thus, it’s not surprising to note that the Andes, the Rocky Mountains and the Southern Alps are a part of the intensely active Pacific Ring of Fire. The nomenclature is self explanatory.
Geology – Manikaran Geyser
The Himalayan Mountain Range, being a young fold mountain range itself, is geologically extremely active.
The Indian plate is still pushing steadily into the Eurasian Plate. There are a number of hot springs and a few geysers dotting the Himalayan Mountains.
There is no volcano in the Himalayas, yet. But given the young age of these mountains, the hyper geological activity of the Mountains and the presence of geysers, the possibility of the emergence of one or several volcanoes in future in or around the Himalayas cannot be ruled out. There have already been reports of magma-like underground liquid eruptions in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Tripura, which incidentally lie on or are very close to the Himalayas.
Now Manikaran itself contains a massive geyser in addition to some hot springs quite close by. The region contains a lot of sub-faults, fracture zones and thrust areas.
A Geyser is formed when water percolates underground, comes in contact with magma or hot rocks indirectly heated up by magma, thereby reaching super-heated temperatures way beyond the boiling point, and releasing the intense heat on the surface in the form of a jet of erupting super-heated water and steam.
The presence of active geo-tectonic zones of the Himalayas and fracture areas provide ripe opportunity for the water from nearby springs and rivers to get super-heated by magma and appear on the surface as boiling water or erupting geyser jets.
Places of Worship
A part of the Geyser is covered by two religious places standing alongside one another:
- Temple of Lord Shiva
- Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji Gurudwara
The Hindus and Sikhs pray and live close to each other in harmony in this place.
The occurrence of this Geyser has some religious beliefs associated among both the Hindus and the Sikhs.
As per Hindu beliefs, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati visited this place in ancient times and were enamoured by the beauty of this place. However, Goddess Parvati lost some of her jewels (“Mani” in Hindi – hence the name of this place) and requested Lord Shiva to help retrieve it. Lord Shiva, post several unsuccessful attempts in finding out the jewels became furious. Lord Sheshnag, the Serpent God, came to the rescue and hissed at the flowing waters, which started boiling and threw up the lost jewels of Goddess Parvati.
As per Sikh beliefs, Guru Nanak Dev ji, the First Guru of Sikh religion, visited this place alongwith his disciple Bhai Mardana, for the welfare of the local people. Bhai Mardana managed to get some pulses and flour for starting the langar (Sikh Community kitchens which still hold the tradition of feeding the poor and needy), but was unable to light up a fire to cook the food. Guru Nanak Dev ji advised his disciple to remove a stone block from where he was sitting. Upon removing the stone, boiling water appeared from beneath, enabling the disciple to cook food and serve the needy.
The Temple and Gurudwara complex are situated in a picturesque river valley and one may be able to see the snow capped Mountains nearby.
There are some features which make this place unique:
- The water from the geyser is believed to have healing properties. Many people take a bath in an artificial reservoir fed by hot water of the geyser which is cooled by cold water from nearby springs
- It is quite common to see people cooking rice or pulses in the boiling water of the geyser
- To prevent eruption of the scalding hot water, the Temple has been built using thick stone slabs and Iron Manhole Covers which are securely bolted.
- Despite these arrangements, the stone slabs get so hot that sometimes people dry their clothes on those slabs.
Isn’t it a perfect amalgamation of the Paradoxes? You feel the chill of the winds flow in this place and you may see Icy mountains nearby. But beneath your feet you have the Plate Tectonics in motion, churning out boiling water from the depths of the Earth, which you should not dare to touch.
The Government of India plans to explore the prospects of Renewable Power Generation from Geothermal Energy in Manikaran. Several surveys have already been done and are still undergoing to explore the feasibility. It may be noted that Geothermal Energy is a great form of zero emission renewable energy which can provide uninterrupted power without suffering from the erratic nature of some other renewable power sources like Solar Power.
By now, you must have got the idea how hot the magma heated geyser can be. Hence a few safety precautions might help you enjoy a great trip to this place, safely.
- Geyser waters may be superheated, i.e., above 1000C. Hence it is absolutely NOT recommended to try to touch those waters, unless it has been cooled down in the artificial reservoirs meant for people to take a bath. And stay away from the steam as well because of this very reason.
- The stones in the temple may be too hot to touch. Don’t go on touching the stones unless marked safe to do so.
- Obey the safety instructions which might be in force as provided by the Local Administration.
Manikaran is located in the Himachal Pradesh State of India. Almost the entire state of Himachal Pradesh lies on the mighty Himalayas.
Kasol (about 10 km), Kullu (about 43 km), Manali (about 55 km) are major tourist hubs which offer good accommodation options for tourists.
People who wish to visit Manikaran usually stay in one of the above mentioned places and take a taxi or a bus to reach Manikaran.
Chandigarh International Airport: about 274 km
Chandigarh Airport offers direct connections to several major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata. It has international connections to UAE (Dubai and Sharjah) only as of now.
Amritsar International Airport: about 400 km
Amritsar Airport is a Major airport in India. It offers connections to several countries like UK, UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia
New Delhi International Airport: about 520 km
New Delhi International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in India and features among the top ranking Airports of Asia. It offers direct connections to a plethora of countries.
Manikaran is also served by Kullu Airport (about 43 km), but that’s quite small and flights may not be that frequent from the nearest hubs of Chandigarh and New Delhi.
There are, however, a lot of Government owned and Private owned luxury buses available from Chandigarh, Amritsar or New Delhi to Manali and Kullu. One may also decide to hire taxis from any of the above mentioned places to reach Manali or Kullu or even Manikaran, but taxis might be expensive.
When (to visit)
Preferably during the Summer Months (March to May) or during Autumn (September to November)
The roads may get closed during the Winters due to heavy snowfall. And it’s also not advisable to travel during the monsoons due to the risk of landslides on account of heavy rainfall.
I visited this place 20 years back during May 2000. As mentioned previously in this post, Dr. Avni visited this place during March 2020 pre-lockdown period.
.. Until Next Time ..
India is not just Taj Mahal, Goa or Mumbai.
It has a lot more to offer. Over-tourism, or tourism concentrated to a very few places, overcrowds them and leaves the others unexplored, the latter having so much to offer themselves.
If one has to experience the Best of Adventure Sports, Mountaineering, Trekking and get lost in the breathtaking vistas of the Ice clad Mountains, he / she should consider India as one of the options.
In addition to observing the Plate Tectonics at work in Manikaran (and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands), one can enjoy many of the aforementioned activities in the Himalayan State of Himachal Pradesh. Plus, India has a rich cultural and culinary heritage as well. Tasting the local food in Himachal Pradesh is recommended.
The Himalayan Mountain Range is extremely long. One can get variations of local cultures and food in several states of India like Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal and the entire North Eastern India which have a part of the Himalayas in their territories. Many of these places are quite unexplored even today.
Come, explore, be mesmerized in Incredible India..
© Abirbhav Mukherjee and Dr. Avni Sethi. All the pictures posted in this article belong to Dr. Avni (Instagram: @curiouscurls03) and have been taken with her permission.