Issue #4: Vashisht’s Sacred Waters


Sergey Mazurkevich

Vashisht’s Sacred Waters

As per Murphy’s law, as soon as I seriously start to prepare for the Himalayan summer trekking, I begin to have troubles with health. And now, it seems, left knee ligament is pulled. If I would spend three or four days in Vashisht (a village in the Indian Himalayas) in the hot springs – everything would heal very quickly. You think I am joking? Not at all.

Is it just the healing properties of water in them? Or in the holiness of this place? Or is it all together? I don’t know. But I know that they “work”.

A few years ago, my friend and colleague Andrei Zakharov, after just a few days of regular bathing in these sources, nullified the need for knee surgery, which Ukrainian doctors insisted on. After a couple of years, this story repeated.

I checked their healing effects on myself as well. With a long stay in Vashisht, I like to hike in the mountains. Sometimes these trips lead to light injuries. Two or three days of regular morning and evening trips to the sources and everything is back to normal.

Actually, I did not find any serious medical research on the composition of the water in these sources. In my opinion, just a personal feeling, they are hydrogen sulphide. Is that so or not? This is a question for Indian doctors, who, by the way, recommend that people from all over the country visit these sources to treat diseases such as muscle pain, arthritis and rheumatism.

The village of Vashisht itself is located at an altitude of 2000 meters (in different sources – an altitude from 1900 to 2100 meters) three kilometers from the popular Indian resort of Manali. It is famous for the fact that in its place in ancient times the sage Vashishta taught Rama everything that a prince should know. One of the two temples in the center of the village, by the way, is dedicated to the earthly incarnation of the god Vishnu Rama (he is the hero of the “Ramayana” epic most popular throughout Asia). The second is the temple of Vashisht himself. There are sacred baths with pools in which water comes from sulfur sources. These hot springs, as knowledgeable people say, were created by the gods so that Vashisht and his disciples could do ablution.

The water in the temple pools is not just hot, but almost boiling water. Even to me, a lover of high-temperature water, it was difficult to be there at first. Once we saw a case when a tall Indian boy of about sixteen lost consciousness and fell flat on the ground. But nothing terrible could happen in a sacred place. He fell so that his head was in the altar hollow of the pool and he had no injuries. The boy was picked up, seated and brought to life with cold water.

In 2018, over the temple Vashisht, which according to legend is 4000 years old, began to make a wooden superstructure. Hope it’s not going to make it look bad. Because of construction, the men’s bath moved out of the temple a little higher, but the women’s bath stayed in the temple. And so, what a thing – the water seems to be the same, but when you are in the temple pool in the midst of thousands of years of stones – the effect is quite different. This year we will check whether the opportunity to unite the sanctity of the place and the healing properties of water has been restored to men.

Not all of my companions, of course, dared to plunge into the temple pool. Personal space in it is somewhat limited, to say the least. And the ideas about the hygiene of Indians and Europeans do not always coincide. Plus plenty of gazing aborigines. But if you ignore all that, it is quite enjoyable to steam in sources!

There are several other hot springs in the Kullu valley and the neighboring valleys. Some are sacred, some are simply healing and beautiful.

In the town of Manikaran, sacred for both Sikhs and Hindus, there is a large Sikh temple with big baths on the banks of the turbulent Parvati River. The water is very, very hot. What is interesting, in this city you can stay in hotels where you will have your own bathroom with hot healing water. But before you go to Manikaran, ask if there will be a Sikh holiday on this day – holiday crowds are not the most pleasant entertainment in life, I declare it responsibly.

If you move from Manikaran to the north in the direction of the Great Himalayan range, then sooner or later (a decent part of the way you will have to walk) you will reach the village of Khirganga. This place has both great advantages and disadvantages. The latter include the almost complete lack of infrastructure. There are several seasonal eateries and, in fact, that’s it.

But there are great advantages. Very, very beautiful, uncrowded, and most importantly, a swimming pool with open-air springs with a breathtaking view of the panorama of the mountains.

But why do I always choose Vashisht? First, it is much more convenient to get there than to Manikaran and Khirgangu. Secondly, there is a good infrastructure. Thirdly, nice forest and many waterfalls, one of which, Yogini-waterfall, is famous all over India. Fourthly, not far is Old Manali with the temple of Manu, built on the spot where the Indian Noah (Manu) landed on the shore after the flood. Fifth, there are a lot of places where you can walk, walk and walk and enjoy mountain beauties. Sixthly, the views from the hotel balconies on the mountains are magnificent. Seventh, trout fish in restaurants is delicious. Eighth, there are classes for extreme people – paragliding, for example, in the neighboring Solang valley. Ninth, if you are interested in Indian religion and Tibetan Buddhism – there is a lot that can be found on this topic. Tenth, yoga classes are here at every step. And believe me, there are also eleventh, and twelfth, and thirteenth, and further and further (I just get tired of listing).

I will add that the city of Manali, which in itself is a good resort, is also a starting point for those who want to go by motorcycle, car or public transport to Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti valleys (although I prefer to go to Spiti the other way). And in winter it is also a ski resort (albeit India and alpine skiing are such a strange combination, at first glance).

I probably lived in Vashisht for at least a year in the last 10 years. Do you think I’m tired? Not at all. Miss it. And I always want to go there. In the summer, of course, or early autumn. Yes, at this time of the year it often rains there (after all, Monsoon). But you may get lucky and no rain for weeks. And when it is sunny in Vashisht, this is the best place on the planet!


Drawings by Konstantin Komardin

Translation from Russian into English: AD Consulting LLC