Let’s take you all to the Indian village named after Manibhadra Dev, a devotee of Lord Shiva. The Mana village thrives as India’s glory in the spiritual field is full of enigmatic yet buoyant nature. The ‘Tourism Village’ as the Uttarakhand State is surrounded by one of the most spectacular waterfalls, lakes, mountain peaks, and trekking sites. The stillness in the aim, calming views, and positive vibe radiating around the Mana Gaon makes the idea of visiting the village simply impossible to resist. The only destination in India where one can relish the tea with “Bharat ki Antim Chai ki Dukaan”.
Geography of Mana Village
Geographically, Mana village got the title of ‘The Last Village of India’ as it is just 24 kilometres from the Indo-China border, or more specifically, is present on the Tibetan border. The small village flourishes in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. An elevation of 3,219 meters above sea level makes Mana village one of the highest villages in the country. River Sarasvati as its mother and Himalayas acting as the guardians, the town is known for its charming geographical features.
History Of Mana Village
The history of Mana village is widely shared and narrated as a ‘mystic past’. The epic of Mahabharata mentions the town as a checkpoint on Pandavas’ way to the Swargarohini staircase leading to heaven. The journey to Mahaprathana began with the Mana village. It is said that Bheema, the second eldest Pandava, built the Bhim Shila rock bridge in the town to cross the river Sarasvati. The pul (bridge) stands on a single rock piece, and hence the elders believe in the legend that the footprint near the rock bridge belongs to Bheema.
Moreover, Saint Veda Vyasa composed the epic tale of Mahabharata in Mana village itself, and Lord Ganesha also penned down Veda Vyasa’s composition in a cave in this village. Today, the caves are known as Vyasa Gufa and Ganesha Gufa, respectively. Additionally, Natives assert that Maharishi Ved Vyasa composed Vedas and Puranas in the Mana village.
A small shrine established inside the Vyasa cave dates back to 5000 years ago. Historians suggest that the origin of the habitats in the village can be traced back to the Mongolian tribes. Bhotias, the predominant habitat of the town, share Tibetan heritage.
Historically, the Mana village also played an essential role as a trade route between India and Tibet. India traded barley, buckwheat, and rock salt, via the Mana pass with Tibet, in exchange for Tibetan goats and yaks. However, China fostered the trade later, after the war of 1962.
Myths Abiding in the Mana Village
Legends acknowledge the village as the ‘Curse-free village’, bestowed with the blessings of the creator, Lord Shiva. Myths also prevail around the assertion that anyone who sets foot on the land would become rich overnight. The supporting tale narrates Manik Shah’s incident. He was a merchant who the robbers killed on his way to this village. Lord Shiva left impressed by his reverence after seeing him chant Shiva’s name even after chopping his head. Thus, the ultimate lord of humanity, lord Shiva, extended his life by putting a Varaha’s head on his body and gave him a ‘variant that whoever comes to the holy village of Mana, would become rich.
The Satopanth Tal in this small village serves a connection with the myth that the three mighty gods of humanity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, meditated at the three ends of the beautiful glacial lake. During their exile, the Pandavas stayed near the Vasundhra waterfall, which is about 400 feet above sea level.
Furthermore, the tribe solely trusts Puchher, the priest. People regard him as the messenger of God who persists in treating any and every disease. Many scholars compare Pucher of Bhotias with the concept of Shamans in the Buddhist community who possessed healing techniques.
Socio-Cultural Lifestyle of the Mana Village
Currently, about 550 families reside in Mana village. The main population comprises sub-tribes categorized under the parent tribe of Bhotias. The tribe contains about 13 subsets, out of which six are recognizable. These trans-nomadic people follow a lifestyle better classified as a mixture of Indian and Tibetan ways of life.
Owing to the harsh winters, the people temporarily migrate to Gopeshwar and Joshimath from November to April. This feature depicts the trans-migrant nature of the tribe. The habitants believe in the traditional way of living. Most houses have their cultivating lands in front of their homes where they grow and cultivate potato, spinach, radish, etc. The unique feature associated with the place is the stone slab roofs.
Women of the Bhotias tribe are known for weaving, while men engage in trading and cattle rearing. The traditional dresses of women include honja (classic style blouse), Chua (ankle-length dress), and pangdin (apron, mainly worn by married women). At the same time, men wear bakhu and chhuba. The dressing style resembles the Tibetan traditional dresses.
The presence of a plethora of herbs and plants adds to the immemorial medicinal values and skills of the tribe. Ethno-medicines play a vital role in the region. Traditional- spiritual techniques prove to be a dominant force to treat most diseases.
The cultural ethnicity, as well as cultural variation, are evident in Mana village. The tribe here doesn’t label themselves as Hindu, nor do they blindly follow the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. The cultural practices here strike a perfect balance between both cultures. The people worship all Hindu Gods, but their way of life depicts Buddhist principles as well.
The religious significance of Mana Village
Due to its mystical and spiritual nature, one cannot overlook the religious significance of the Mana village. The town is about three kilometres away from the famous pilgrimage of Badrinath Dham. The peak from where visitors can see numerous Brahmakamals, the Neelkanth peak, is also present near the village. At the height of about 6,597 meters, this peak got the title: ‘Queen of Gharwal’. The abiding place of Lord Agni, the Tapt Kund, which can treat skin diseases, is also near this small village. The trek to Charanpaduka leads one to Lord Vishnu’s footprints. Overall, the Gods bestowed the town and, in doubt, is a place to seek genuine spiritualism and connection with God.
The presence near the Badrinath pilgrimage makes the village a resorting place to calm their minds on their Char Dham Yatra. The minor routes in the town do not allow entry of any vehicle; hence, people have to park their cars outside the village, and walk their way inside. The high altitude doesn’t allow stable mobile connectivity, adding to the simple life in the town. Many tourists visit the village for its heavenly beauty, simple life, and great trekking activities.