From Mandi we proceeded to a lovely little village called Rewalsar. It was a most refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of Mandi. It is at an altitude of 1360 m above sea level and about 25 km from Mandi. It is sacred to all the three major religions of India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Seven mythological lakes associated with the Pandavas are located above Rewalsar. It is also associated with the legends of Lord Shiva and Lomas Rishi. There is also a famous Krishna temple in the town.
The tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govind Singh visited Rewalsar to request the kings of the hill states for their support against Aurangzeb. He stayed at Rewalsar for a month. Raja Joginder Sen of Mandi built a gurudwara (Sikh temple) at Rewalsar in 1930 to commemorate the Guru's visit. The place is particularly sacred to the Namdhari Sikhs since it has been mentioned in Sau Sakhi as a sanctuary.
Lomasha Rishi at Rewalsar
The famous Rewalsar lake (Tso Pema to Tibetans) is associated with Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rimpoche), who is recognized as the second Buddha of this age. One version of a legend has it that the king of Mandi commanded Padmasambhava to be burnt alive after rumours that the Guru had attempted to convert his daughter to Buddhism, which was not accepted then. The king also buried his daughter alive for having dared to disobey him. The pyre burned for a full week, with great clouds of black smoke arising from it, but after a week, a lake appeared at the spot where he was burnt and the princess manifested herself in the middle of the lake seated on a lotus. When the king opened the pit in which his daughter had been buried alive there was no sign of the body. Padmasambhava had totally disappeared. It is said that he went from there to Tibet to spread the dharma of Vajrayana Buddhism. Padmasambhava was a great tantric and he is said to have actually taught the Tibetans the Hinduism of the Tantras even though they did not know it and called it Buddhism.
The village is dominated by this lake. It has a maximum depth of 6.5 metres. and is rectangular in shape. In fact Rewalser is built around the lake which has a floating island. We had booked into the tourist guest house which had just been built. It had a lovely design and was made of pine wood so the whole place had the aroma of pine. My window looked straight at the huge statue of Guru, Padmasambhava. In fact the whole area round this place was dominated and permeated with the vibrations of this great tantric. Each time I looked out of the window I could see his piercing look boring into me. Of course all the interesting things to be see were around the lake so a walk round it was absolutely imperative.
Our first stop was at the temple dedicated to the great sage –Rishi Lomasha. Next came, the Shiva temple and Guru Govind Singh's gurdwara and of course Buddhist monastery founded by Guru Padmasambhava.
The Tsechu fair was held in Rewalsar in 2004 to commemorate the birthday of Padmasambhava. The fair was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama and was attended by Urgyen Trinley Dorje Karmapa along with 50,000 other Buddhist pilgrims. The fair was held after a gap of 12 years.
The two Buddhist monastries here are known as Drikung Kadyud Gompa and Tso-Pema Ogyen Heru-kai Nyingmapa Gompa.
As we walked round the lake we were followed by many Buddhists constantly twirling their prayer wheels in the left hand and endlessly repeating the mantra “Aum Mani Padme Hum” while running their fingers over the rosary held in the right hand. Most of the women wore the traditional Tibetan costumes. We went to both the beautiful monasteries encircled by huge prayer wheels. I tried turning each as I passed as the Tibetans did but had to give up the attempt very soon since my palms were getting torn.
Next morning we went to the caves of Padmasambhava where he is said to have meditated. This is quite a distance from Rewalser and we had to pass through the rural areas of Himachal. It was such a beautiful experience.
We passed through fruit orchards where the apple and apricot trees were in full bloom. Little cottages dotted the hillside, roofed with typical Himachal slate tiles. The peasant girls carrying huge loads of grass for their cattle were all extremely beautiful. In fact I thought them more beautiful than the Kashmiris since they did not have the typical hooked noses.
At last we reached the little village where we stopped the car and climbed up to the cave. Here also the whole place is looked after by Tibetans. We went into the cave set deep into the mountain and here again there was this imposing figure of the Rimpoche with his pointed beard and piercing eyes. What an amazing personality he must have been. The place was filled with many ghee lamps which gave out a pleasant smell and no smoke. We decided to sit and meditate on the ledge which had been provided. I’m not sure how long we meditated but very soon I felt a radiance emanating from him and rays of bright yellow light entering straight into my heart. The sensation was very pleasant for a while but after some time it started to become quite uncomfortable and I had to open my eyes and found him staring at me in his usual fierce fashion, which I found a bit intimidating. Perhaps he thought I had not responded correctly to his blessing. However I was grateful to him for having given it even though my acceptance was perhaps a bit reluctant..
Padmasambhava Murti in Cave
Our next halt was in another cave in which there was a huge imprint of his foot on the wall. We walked down the pleasant hill slopes shady with pine trees and got into our car. I was a bit troubled and not sure why he had blessed me with his favours but I felt I was not ready for it and would perhaps have to return at some other time either in this life or another to accept his blessings fully.
From there we climbed higher and went to the Rajarajeswari temple which was like any other Hindu temple. In a way I was happy to get back to a familiar atmosphere with the usual din and noise.
Rajarajeswari Temple Vista
The view from here was spectacular and we could see some of the Himalayan snow peaks. The temple authorities have even built a guest house here. From here we carried on to our next destination – Naggar.
Mani Stone Offerings