Do you know that in Himachal Pradesh, a pilgrimage place exists known to Tibetans as Tso Pema.
Locals call it Tri Sangam as the place is revered by people belonging to three religions. It is Rewalsar, a little known quaint hill station in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh.
Rewalsar is situated at an altitude of 1360 meters above sea level. It is just 25 kilo meters from Mandi, connected by motor able road. The town is part of southern Himalayan belt. It could be freezing here in winters. Summers are generally pleasant.
I heard for the first time about this place about ten yards ago from my son, Dr. Ankur Segon. He was on a short leave to India at that time along with his four year old son, Rishabh. He lives in America.
One of his friends was just back from Himachal visit and had strongly recommended Rewalsar as a must visit place. When we were planning this trip, Ankur suggested that we first visit Fagu and stay at our favourite place, Aastha Home stay for a few days and then take route through hills to our destination, Rewalsar.
We decided to travel by our own car, Hyundai I -10. Stay at Fagu was rewarding. Our grandson Rishabh was about four years old at that time. He straight away fell in love with Himachali home of Sharma’s, our hosts. Their cow and calf held special attraction for him. He would love watching Cow being milked and also to feed cow. Rishabh, along with Ankur enjoyed staying in a tree house nearby for a night.
Next leg of our journey was in parts good, bad and ugly. View was breath-taking but road was good and bad in patches. At some places, it was worst. We took the Bilaspur, Mandi route.
As we entered Rewalsar, lo and behold, view was spectacular and mesmerising. In the middle of hills was a magnificent lake with floating reeds and plenty of fish.
Rewalsar is blessed with three Hindu temples, two Buddhist monasteries and a Sikh Gurudwara. Rewalsar is a place of reverence and worship for all of them. In local language, it is called Tri-Sangam.
In Tibetan, it is known as Tso Pema.
The Hindu history of Rewalsar is found in Skanda Purana. Hindu Sage Lomas was searching for place to worship. He travelled and climbed the top of Drona mountain, and from the top of mountain he saw a lake surrounded by trees, flowers and birds.
He decided to meditate at the bank of the lake, known as Hridayeshwar in Skanda Purana. He meditated here, and Lord Shiva and Goddesses Parvati blessed sage by imparting him secrets of this place where all the Devas and Ganas are believed to have existed in the form of trees and flowers.
Situated at a distance of 10 Km from Rewalsar, a temple of Naina Mata exists on a hill top. It is believed that eye of Sati fell on the place and a temple of Naina Devi was built on this sacred place. Devotees from all corners of the State visit the temple throughout the year. The place is surrounded by pine trees and presents a panoramic view of Balk & Sarkaghat Valleys. People also love to trek to this place from Rewalsar.
On way to Naina Devi temple we come across another lake known as Kunt Bhayo named after Kunti, the mother of Pandavas. It is said that Arjun created the lake to quench the thirst of his mother.
There exist six other lakes locally known as “Sar” in this area. Most of the water in these lakes is collected during the rainy season. There is also a beautiful and famous Krishna temple in Rewalsar.
Rewalsar Lake or Tso Pema to Tibetans is associated with Padma Sambhav, also known as Guru Rinpoche, recognized as second Buddha.
One version of a legend has it that the King Arashadhar of Mandi had Padmasambhava burnt alive after rumours that the Guru had attempted to teach his daughter, Princess Manadarva the Dharma, which was not accepted then.
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 Padmasambhava manifested himself as a 16-year-old boy from within a lotus in the middle of the lake, with Manadarva on his side. The king repented and performed marriage of Padma Sambhava and Manadarva. From Rewalsar only, Padma Sambhava went to Tibet to teach Tibetan Buddhism.
On April 1, 2012, a monumental statue of Padmasambhava, 123 feet high was consecrated, blessed and inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lamba. The imposing statue sits majestically atop a hill on one side of the lake. The project, took nearly 10 years to complete, with the foundation alone taking 3 years to construct.
It was constructed almost entirely by hand by tradespeople from the immediate Rewalsar area as well as master artists from Nepal and Bhutan. Padmanabha statue is the best place for a fabulous view of Rewalsar lake and the surrounding areas.
Tsechu fair was held in Rewalsar in 2004 to commemorate the birthday of Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche. The fair was inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lama and was attended by 17th Karmapa along with 50,000 other Buddhist pilgrims. The fair was held after a gap of 12 years.
Rewalsar is a sacred place for Tibetan Buddhists and there are two Buddhist monasteries; the Drikung Kagyu Monastery and Tso-Pema Orgyen Heru-kai Nyingma Monastery. There are also sacred Buddhist caves just above Rewalsar.
More than 50 nuns live in these caves, practicing in retreat. Buddhist practitioners are drawn to the Sacred Caves, from India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and the west.
The tenth Guru of Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh visited Rewalsar to consult with kings of the Hill states seeking support against the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He stayed at Rewalsar for a month. Raja Joginder Sen of Mandi built a Gurudwara at Rewalsar in 1930 to commemorate the Guru's visit.
Rewalsar is worth visiting as a tourist spot also. It is quiet and peaceful. The place offers lip smacking tasty Tibetan food, like thupka and momos. There is also a small Tibetan market offering Tibetan artefacts. My grandson fell in love with the lake. He enjoyed feeding the fish which were in thousands in the lake. We stayed for three days in Rewalsar.
As of the 2001 India census, Rewalsar had a population of 1369. Males constitute 54% of the population and females 46%. Rewalsar has an average literacy rate of 76%, higher than the national average of 74.04%: male literacy is 78%, and female literacy is 73%.