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Land of Manu’s saga

Manali continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country today; and the story of Manu is central to this heavenly place, named after him. Shalini Rai writes.

india Updated: May 15, 2012 17:18 IST
Shalini Rai

Manali continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country today; and the story of Manu is central to this heavenly place, named after him. Legend has it when a great deluge threatened to wipe out humankind, Manu built a seaworthy ark and recreated life at the spot which we know today as Manali or Manu-alaya (abode of Manu).

Yet, aeons ago, when providing asylum for the human race in the sylvan surroundings of Manali, even Manu could not have envisaged how the hill town would one day be regarded as a 21st century refuge by three diverse communities — Tibetans, Israelis and Kashmiris.

Today, as they deal with expulsion, strife and violence, these migrants find solace (even if for a few short months) in a place originally conceived to offer safety and succour.

While the Tibetan community has established a monastery on the outskirts of Manali, the Israelis have set up a Chabad House in Old Manali, frequented by tourists for reasons. The Kashmiris, mostly selling shawls, occupy 70% of all shops on Mall Road.

Although there have been minor spats between the migrant communities and the locals over business issues, the Himalayan idyll has been largely peaceful.

Tamar Cohen, an Israeli tourist just out of serving a compulsory stint in the military, says the relative anonymity and the absolute peace that she finds in the mountains, “offers me an unparalleled chance to get in touch with what I really want from life and what I can give back to others.”

A part of the reason for this is the region’s all-pervading tranquility and its positive, spiritually-elevated vibrations. As historian James Truslow Adams put it, “The freedom now desired by many is not freedom to do and dare but freedom from care and worry.” That was perhaps the reason what made the exiled Tibetans, the beleaguered Israelis and the embattled Kashmiris throng Manali for a share of the manna from heaven, now found in the new heaven on earth.