Glow in the forest

Boating jettySet amidst thickly forested and serene hills in Himachal Pradesh at a height of about 650 meters is a jewel revered for its history and beauty – Renuka Lake. Renuka is one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in India and Himachal’s biggest.  Close your eyes, walk up to edge of the lake, listen to the sounds of waves gently lapping up its shore, caressing the small , listen to the chirping birds around and feel the gentle breeze from hills around to understand what makes people revere nature’s creation such as this. Renuka is an extremely gentle and feminine in spirit and form. Perhaps that is why thousands of fish stay inside her without any fear of being killed by people.  

The place derives its name from the lake itself and is reverently called Renuka ji. There is an interesting story behind it that is shared later. According to Indian mythology, Renuka is the wife of Rishi Jamadagni and mother of Lord Parshuram. Renuka ji is an important Hindu pilgrim place in Himachal Pradesh where she is worshiped as a goddess and visit to her temple and the lake is considered as a tirth yatra Renuka lake is about three and half kilometers in circumference with main attractions besides the lake being various temples and Parshuram Tal. There are huge trees  of Peepal, Gular, Lasooda, Semal, etc around the lake that add to the charm of the place. There is also a wild life sanctuary along the circumference of the lake and Jamu peak that has a temple dedicated to Rishi Jamadagni. Renuka is a small place and does not have many people living there besides a forest colony and few villages nearby. The nearest town Dadhau is about three kilometers away. 

To see and doThe place is best covered on foot as most of the places are in close proximity. A car may only be required for Jamu Peak. 

Parshuram Tal Parshuram Tal dedicated to Lord Parshuram- the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu – was born at Renuka. The circular Tal though smaller as compared to Renuka is very beautiful with temples and ghats on its sides and forest in the background. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Parshuram performed a havan at the spot after killing the Kashtriya king Sahasravahu who had tormented his mother and father. The Tal is also symbolic of   Parshuram’s desire to spend eternity at the feet of his mother.  

Renukaji TempleThe most important temple of the place is a peach coloured twin domed structure approached through an arched gateway. Mata Dekh Rahi Hain! – (Goddess is watching you!) warns a sign besides the gateway. Inside, Renukaji’s idol is attired in a bright red dress with elaborate hairdo. She is flanked by her smaller idol on the left and on right by her husband’s Rishi Jamadagni idol. 

Parshuram TempleThe pink sand stoned coloured structure with a single conical dome typical to Hindu temples with an ornate wooden door most prominent in the entire complex. Inside, the temple is quite spartan except for a small stone idol in a wooden alcove.  Nearby, on a small hillock is another temple for Parshuram. The older of the two the temples has small arches on doorways and windows that are more reminiscent of a church than a temple. 

Dashavatar TempleThe temple is dedicated to ten (Dasha) incarnations (Avtaars) of Lord Vishnu. The three-domed structure houses 10 idols representing different avatars of Lord Vishnu.   Temple timings: Mornings, 6.00 am to 8.30pm. Pooja happens twice a day between 6.00 am to 6.30 am and 8.00 pm to 8.30 pm. Drums beats announce the pooja each time. 

Bathing Ghats Separate bathing ghats for men and women lie on periphery of Renuka Lake. A dip in the ghats is believed to be very beneficial and cleansing for the body and soul especially during the Kartik Ekadeshi.

Jamu PeakAbout 10 kms from Renuka is Jamu Peak with a small temple dedicated to Rishi Jamadagni who once meditated here. The peak gives a splendid view of the valley and feminine form of lake below that resembles a woman sleeping on her side.  The climb though on a paved road is quite stiff and will a take a day to go and come back on foot. Venture only if you have a liking for adventure and strong pair of legs. Otherwise, opt for the car that will take you only up to the hamlet of Jamu Kothi from where you anyway need to do steep uphill climb for an hour and a half to reach the top.  Enroot after half an hour climb is yet another Parshuram temple, built from wood and stone. The tiny temple has an eerie ambiance with very little light filtering in. On its wooden altar are figurines depicting Reunuka, Parshuram and his army.  Keep at least half a day even if you go by car for Jamu Peak. Start as early as possible and remember to carry food and water. Avoid the route during rains for the path can be quite treacherous and slippery and there is very little shelter on the way.  

Tales and legendsA big fair is held here every year on Kartik Ekadashi (10 ten days after diwali) that lasts for about a week until the full moon. To understand the significance of the festival it is necessary to know the history of the place.  According to Hindu mythology, Rishi Jamadagni with his wife Renuka meditated on the Jamu peak. Renuka once happened to visit her sister Maneka who was married to the most powerful king of the time Sahasravahu. Renuka, who was very well looked after by the couple, invited Sahasravahu to their hermitage to repay the hospitality. Jamadagni treated Sahasravahu very lavishly with help of celestial cow Kamdahenu that he had borrowed from the gods. Kamdhenu was bestowed with magical powers and could fulfill all wishes of her owner. Sahasravahu wanted the cow that Jamadagni refused to give. Sahasravahu then tried to take the cow forcibly which however managed to escape. This enraged Sahasravahu who then killed Jamadagni and his sons. Renuka managed to escape by hiding in reeds in the nearby water body called the Ram Kund. Parshuram who all this while was away meditating came to know of the incident. Through his divine power he restored his father and brothers to life, and rescued his mother from the Ram Kund. Ram Kund then acquired her figure and came to be known as Renuka. Later Parshuram killed Sahasravahu and all members of his clan to avenge the killing of his parents. 

Lord Parshuram went back to his meditation but agreed to return once a year to meet his mother on Kartik Ekadashi. It is believed that he still visits his mother every year on the day, which is celebrated by holding a fair at Renuka.

The main attraction of the fair is the procession where idol of Parshuram is carried in a palanquin. Local deities of surrounding villages are also brought in their respective palanquins. The deities are brought together at nearby town of Dadahu. They are then carried in a religious procession to the temple of Parshuram, where they remain until the conclusion of the fair.

People from all over Himachal Pradesh especially Sirmour visit the fair. For the local Sirmouris, the fair is as important as the Kumbh Mela. A temporary bazaar is set up and cultural performances are held to entertain the visitors.

Renuka fair is a state level fair in Himachal Pradesh in which the Chief Minister and Governor also participate.

 

Amidst the lake with Jamadagni peak towering in the backgroundWet and WildFor a wholesome experience, Renuka needs to be explored by a boat and a walk around its periphery. Paddleboats can be hired outside Hotel Renuka ji to go around the lake. Boating will give you fisheye view of  the lake and the hills around and of course don’t forget to look down as  the lake teams with fish that can be fed with atta goli(flour balls) available from an old women who sits near the jetty. A trip around the lake takes forty-five minutes.  The walk around the periphery is about 3.5 kms long and enables you to experience the lake and its environs at an easy pace. There are several resting places along the lake where you can sit enjoy the lake’s view.

 On the left side of lake amidst thick forests is a zoo that is officially a wild life sanctuary! Made primarily to attract tourists for the animals kept are not really in their natural habitat. Nevertheless, it has barking deers, Himalayan bear, leopards and even Asiatic lions. The cats have interesting names. Leopards have names like Jerry and Robert while lions and lioness have names like Appu, Saurav, Dimple, Kunti, etc. Renuka is also a classified wetland of international importance under Ramsar Convention. (Wetlands are ecosystems that support a wide variety of aquatic creatures and birds). On far end of the lake is swampy area that attracts migratory birds from India, Central Asia, Siberia, etc during winter months. Birds commonly found here are coots, moorhens, herons, kingfishers, cormorants, etc. You can also go around the lake in a car if you are not the walking kind or a tourist looking for instant gratification! 

The lake from the sanctuary

Timings9 am to 12.25 pm, 2 pm to 4.45 pm. Monday closed

Entrance fees: Car Rs. 20/-Per person: Rs 5/-

Camera: Rs 10/-

Video camera: Rs.150/-

When to go: All the year around, though summers can be quite hot. Weekends can be crowded. Watch out for rains especially in winters, as they will confine you indoors. Kartik Ekadashi (Ten days after diwali) for about a week thereafter is the time when maximum rush. Check the exact dates on Himachal Pradesh Tourism website or call their local tourist office. 

How to reachJourney Time: By road: Delhi to Renuka about eight hours via NH1 until Shahbad (about 20 kms before Ambala). Then via Narayangarh – Kalamb and Nahan. Start as early as possible to avoid the traffic snarls in Haryana and reach by noon so that you have half a day to sightsee.Driving on NH1 is relatively safe as a central verge separates oncoming traffic and highway itself is quite smooth. The other smaller highway too is quit decent with few bad patches. A well-maintained Maruti 800 will see you through! For meals, stop enroute at Murthal’s dhabas about two and a half hours away for their famous parathas.  Roadways bus will work out to be most economical and will take you directly until Nahan. Local buses and taxis are available from Nahan to Renuka which is about 40 kms. away   

AccommodationHotel RenukajiHimachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (HPTDC) hotel is located right on the banks of the lake, gives a frontal view of her waters. It offers clean air-conditioned and standard rooms with running hot and cold water. Advance booking is recommended.  

Renuka Development BoardThe Renuka Welfare Board that manages the temples and the lake offers budget accommodation in the complex.Double room without attached bath Rs. 200/- per nightDouble with attached bath Rs. 400/- per nightDouble room deluxe Rs. 500/- per nightFood available only against advance request For bookings contact:Mr. M.S. Tomar, Chief Executive Officer, Renuka Development BoardDistrict Sirmour Himachal PradeshPhone no. 01702 267181 

Hotel Devicos Plaza (3 kms for Renukaji).Located at Dadhu about 3 kms for the lake, the hotel can be an option if you do not get accommodation at HP tourism. You will need to have your transport to commute between Renuka and the hotel. Executive Room: Rs.1100/nightDeluxe: Rs1500/nightSuper Deluxe: 1800/nightSuite: 2500/nightLuxury Tax: 10%Check out time: 12 noonPhone no. 01702 267231/32/33Fax; 01702 267500Email: devicos_plaza@yahoo.com 

Where to Eat:HPTDC’s Hotel Renukaji: The only but an excellent option at Renuka. The food served is fresh and serving size adequate for two to three people. Do try the Himachali fare though at times needs an advance notice. It serves only vegetarian food (Eggitarians too beware!)  

Hotel Devicos Plaza.If carnivore instincts take over and you long for kukkad and mutton then head for Hotel Devios Plaza that has an elaborate menu. Outside a kiosk sells fast food like burgers, sandwiches and pizzas.

Published in: on 6 December , 2007 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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