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Parvati Valley

Located in the state of Himachal Pradesh, the Parvati Valley is a lesser-known destination. For a long time, the valley has acted as a gateway to the remote Lahaul and Spiti region via Chanderkhani Pass. Running along the length of the eponymous Parvati River, the valley is of high anthropological importance as its culture is starkly distinct from the rest of the state, and in turn the country. This, combined with its natural beauty, has made it popular among trekkers from around the world. Its mythological significance, associated with the Hindu and Sikh faiths, is yet another reason why it sees a high influx of people.


There are lots of destinations in the region that have been boosting tourism and bringing in foreign exchange. The most famous retreat here, especially among international travellers, is the small town of Kasol. Located about 5400 feet above sea level, it is known for its party culture and laid-back lifestyle.


At an altitude of approximately 10000 feet, the village of Malana is a popular stop on the Parvati Valley or Chadnerkhani Pass treks. The locals avoid contact with outsiders, the reason for which is not completely known. One legend says that they consider themselves superior to others; hence, protect their culture. They also consider their language, Kanashi sacred and do not permit others to speak their tongue. Kanashi seems to have nothing in common with any other language. The reason for this is sometimes given as a myth, which says that it has been in use in Malana since the time a demon ruled it. The same respect is given to their deities and people other than Malanese are not allowed to enter their temples.


Two important festivals are celebrated here: Fagli and Shaun. The former, falling in February, involves the locals taking a bath and coming out wearing only leaves and demon masks. They then spread cow dung on the walls of their house, while dancing around it. An interesting ritual of this festival is a procession, which is taken out to honour the Mughal emperor, Akbar. Shaun, celebrated on August 15, is dedicated to Jamdagni Rishi, the primary deity of the village. On this day, he is worshipped and the villagers perform their traditional dance, called Nati.


Two important pilgrimage destinations in the valley are Manikaran and Khirganga. Both are known for their sulphur hot springs that are believed to have therapeutic properties.


The ancient history of the valley is closely tied to the legends in Hindu and Sikh mythologies. It is believed that Lord Shiva, who constitutes the Hindu Trinity along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, meditated in the valley for more than 3000 years. Another legend pertaining to him says that once he came here with his consort, Goddess Parvati. The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev is also said to have visited the region in 1574. Another fable is related to the two huge rocks, acting as a natural bridge across the Parvati River that many believe was built by the Pandavas.


If legends about the people of Malana being descendants of Alexander, the Great are to be believed, then the valley would have to be inhabited since at least the 4th century BC. A fact that would give credence to the legend is the democratic system of Malana, which some historians believe, resembles that of ancient Greece.


The human history of the valley would be pushed back even further if the myth that the villagers of Malana are Aryans is proven. Little is known of the valley in medieval times, except that Emperor Akbar is thought to have come here. The story goes that he fell ill and the inhabitants of Malana cured him. After Israelis came to the valley in the 20th century, they established their own settlements here.


The Parvati Valley stretches eastwards from the confluence of the Beas and Parvati Rivers in the town of Bhuntar, located at about 3580 feet. Here the vegetation is deciduous, and as the elevation increases, it starts changing. A little higher, the deciduous trees give way to pine forests, which in turn transform into grasslands at higher elevations. Beyond Jari, a ridge divides the valley into two forks. The eastern fork leads to the village of Kasol, from where deodars become more prominent. Further upstream of the Parvati River lay the sacred hot springs of Manikaran. Following the river further from Pulga, leads to the natural pools of Khirganga. Just north of Pulga lies the village of Tosh. The valley ends at Mantalai Lake, positioned at an altitude of around 13500 feet. Following the western valley fork from Jari leads to the village of Malana, which is below Chanderkhani Pass.


The weather in the Parvati Valley is governed by altitude. For instance, Bhuntar and nearby areas experience a milder version of humid subtropical climate. In places like Kasol, Malana or Manikaran that are at moderately high elevations, subtropical highland climate prevails. Here, summers are pleasant and winters can get quite cold with regular snowfall and the temperature falling to below freezing point. Further uphill, where the tree line ends and meadows dominate, the climate is classified as alpine tundra. It is characterised by cool summers and extremely cold winters with heavy snowfall. In the highest reaches of the Parvati Valley that are mostly snow-bound or glaciated, ice cap climate dominates. Here, no other season except winters is experienced and the temperature never goes above 0 degree Celsius.

How to reach

The only air transit point of Parvati Valley is the airport in Bhuntar. Flights to here are available from cities like Delhi, Chandigarh and Shimla. Joginder Nagar, about 114 km from Bhuntar, is the nearest railhead to the valley. Narrow-gauge trains are available to the valley from Pathankot, which in turn is the nearest broad-gauge railhead. To access Bhuntar by road from Delhi via Chandigarh, National Highways 1 and 21 can be followed.

Getting Around

To reach places like Kasol and Manikaran, taxis and buses can be hired from Bhuntar or the town of Kullu. Once the road ends, trekking is the only way to commute to places deeper in the valley, including Malana and Kheerganga.

Where to go


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