Rewalsar- A Place Where Three Faiths Coexist

The Rewalsar Lake

A place of worship in a serene surrounding is doubly blessed, and it is  very rare, if the followers of different faiths visit it for pilgrimage.  But Rewalsar in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh is such a rare place, not so rare for those who promote places and introduce them to the visitors of outer world.

 Lying in a little hollow in the hills about 25 Km from Mandi town the place is famous for a lake having a curious floating island of reeds. It is believed that the Buddhist sage Padamsambhava launched his excursion to Tibet from Rewalsar to spread the message of Lord Buddha. The Buddhist pilgrims come here every year to visit the ancient Nyingmapa monastery situated by the side of the lake.

The place is held sacred by the Hindus and the Sikhs too and a temple and a Gurudwara is also situated here.

Rewalsar is well known for the temples of the three faiths as the Buddhists, Hindu and Sikh shrines coexist here. It is a tribute to the all embracing nature of the Rajahs of Mandi state that the temples of three faiths have existed here side by side since centuries, without creating any religious strain among the local population or the pilgrims.

The cleat water of the lake it seems helps bring out the common heritage. One feels joyous while standing on the banks of the lake watching the Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs offering feed to the fish in the waters of the lake and enjoying the blessings of nature as well as their respective faiths.

Perhaps the small Hindu temple dedicated to Lo-mash Rishi is the most ancient structure at the place, but as in case of many Hindu shrines, it has not been properly maintained. There is nothing very special about the structure or the idols kept there. The number of devotees coming to the temple is not very large.

The Gurudwara at some height in the midst of trees on one side of the lake is a simple but impressive structure visible from a distance. The Gurudwara was built in memory of Guru Gobind Singh, who stayed as a guest of the King of Mandi and had stopped at Rewalsar for some time too. There is a constant stream of Sikh pilgrim visiting it in groups. For them it completes the pilgrimage triangle of Manikaran, Mandi and Rewalsar.

Rewalsar has special significance for the Namdhari sect of Sikhism, who were told by their Guru 70 years ago that this would be the only safe place during the calamity resulting in the end of this world during the times of total annihilation. They were asked to settle near the Rewalsar lake. As this small settlement could not absorb them, they settled at the nearby town of Mandi from where they keep on coming to the place now and then.

Close to the lake, the ancient Buddhist temple stands bright with yellow- red coating of good quality paint. The legend goes that, as early as in 8th century AD, a sage Padamasambhava discovered in meditation that a flourishing kingdom of Mandi in the Northern India could be devoted to the transcendental way of Buddhism. He came to this kingdom, particularly to teach Mandhrana the daughter of the king. But the king in all his ignorance burnt the sage alive at a spot near the Rewalsar lake. The king was surprised to find that the sage or the second Buddha converted the flames into a clear and deep lake where he was found sitting upon a lotus. The king realized his mistake and accepted the teachings of Padama Sambhava and Mandhrana. It is believed that whosoever visits the lake and pays homage to Padamasambhava, would move towards the realization of Buddha.

The sage was invited by the king Srongldebtzan of Tibet to preach Buddhism to the people. Among the Tibetans, Mandi was known as Zahar at that time. Later the Buddhists were persecuted by a Tibetan King Lang Darma. The monks returned to Mandi from Tibet, carrying with them their sacred books.

There is an annual festival at the Buddhist monastery when thousands of followers from within the country and abroad visit this place in the month of April. The monks line the banks of the lake with prayer flags. The lake itself with its small islands of floating reeds presents a beautiful sight. These islands are small but are said to increase in size in rainy season. These are similar to the floating fields in the Dal lake at Srinagar. The lake of Rewalsar is surrounded by green hills.

The town rather the village of Rewalsar had not grown even though it is well connected since ancient times for being situated on the Hoshairpur- Mandi- Tibet trade route. 

Rewalsar is not a clean village. There is a lot of dirt and of course the vend of country liquor adds to the filthy atmosphere. The settlement did not develop as most of the Sikh and Buddhist pilgrims stay in the accommodation provided within the respective temples. The place is yet to be developed into and attractive place for non-religious tourists.

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