Uttarakhand’s last village near the India-China border is fast emerging as a tourist spot for Char Dham pilgrims.
Village Mana, which is located in Chamoli district and is only three kilometres from Badrinath, is drawing over 3000 pilgrims daily, according to yatra officials.
But what’s there to look for? The village has a holy cave where Maharishi Ved Vyas had composed the Mahabharata. It also has a rock bridge named Bheem Pul which was laid by Bheem, as per the legend.
Another must-visit destination is “India’s last tea shop”, where hundreds of visitors have a cup of special herbal tea with a selfie.
Chandra Singh Badwal started the shop at 3200 metres above the sea level, when he was just 10. Today, his shop, which serves a dozen varieties of tea including van tulsi (forest basil), cardamom, herbal, ginger, green and lemon tea, is a major attraction. “Hundreds of visitors come here to have tea and click pictures every day. I love to serve them,” says Badwal.
“I am from Uttarakhand, but I never knew that this place serves such magical tea,” says Manish Kumar Chaudhary, a visitor from Dehradun who got pictures clicked with Badwal and his staff.
Next to the tea shop is the cave of Maharishi Vyas and close-by is the Ganesha Gufa, where Lord Ganesha is said to have written the Mahabharat narrated by Vyas. Flowing at an arm’s length is the River Saraswati over which Bheem laid a rock bridge to help his brothers walk towards the heaven through Mana valley.
Mana, whose economy once depended on the trade with Tibet, today thrives on tourism, agriculture, woven woollens and other handicrafts items.
“I’m amazed that such an idyllic place exists amid these mountains. That every inch of Mana is replete with mythology only makes it extra special,” says Abhishek Singh, a pilgrim from Madhya Pradesh.
“Mana acts as an added attraction for Char Dham tourists. Even otherwise, it is a dynamic standalone tourist puller, which has the best of both the worlds – mythology and Himalayan splendour,” said Harak Singh Rawat, additional commissioner of Garhwal. He said efforts were on to popularise the place further.