Why everybody’s favourite Manali is teetering on the brink

Apart from the snow-capped Himalayas, Manali is a unique combination of Indian art, history, culture, spirituality, and an astonishing natural environment. Due to the influx of tourists, Manali is losing it all | All photos by Kapil Kajal

Eighty-five-year-old Gayaso Devi, who has lived in Manali all her life, recalls a legend from the Hindu mythology about the mountain town.

“When Earth’s destruction was happening 5000 years ago and the entire earth was contained in water during the great floods, Lord Vishnu incarnated as a Matsya (fish). Matsya saved the world from a great flood. Manu, referred to as the first man of the universe, caught a little fish that grew to a giant size. When the flood approached, Manu saved himself by tying his boat to the horn on the fish’s head.”

“The fish protected his boat and took the boat to peaks of the Himalayas in Manali. This place was named Manali because Manu lived here,” she says.

Locals revere the historical Manu temple in Old Manali in the belief that Manu meditated here and recreated human life here.

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