Renukaji - A date with a lake
Renukaji - A Date With a Lake. Renukaji lake- a verdant jewel hidden in the lower Himalayas is a perfect year round destination and more so during the onset of rains
Renukaji lake- a verdant jewel hidden in the lower Himalayas is a perfect year round destination and more so during the onset of rains
The surroundings were adorned in multiple shades of only one colour- from the rain drenched hills and army of trees girdling the lake to their reflection in the placid waters. The entire setting presented a green feast for the eyes as we hired a boat and paddled around, soaking in the tranquillity. The dense greenery bordering the shore formed an incredible setting and though it was peak afternoon, we hardly felt the heat.
Renukaji lake- a verdant jewel hidden in the lower Himalayas is a perfect year round destination and more so during the onset of rains. The lake having a circumference of 3214 metre holds the honour of being the biggest lake in Himachal Pradesh. It is named after Goddess Renukaji, the mother of infamous Parshuram, who is accredited with having eliminated all the Khastriyas on earth, not once or twice, but 21 times. It all began when King Sahastrabahu demanded from Maharishi Jamadagini (Parshuram’s father) his prized Kamdhenu cow. When Jamadagini refused, Shastrabahu killed him and took the cow away. Lord Parshuram’s mother Renukaji on learning of her husband’s death, jumped into the nearby lake which immediately took the shape of a lady.
Hours later, after eliminating King Sahashtrabahu in a fierce battle, Parshuram brought his father back to life using his divine powers and also prayed to his mother to emerge from the lake. Responding to his call, Renukaji said that she would henceforth permanently dwell in the lake, but promised to emerge from the waters once every year on the occasion of Kartik Ekadashi to meet her son.
Since then, on that auspicious day every year, saints from all parts of country arrive at Renukaji to witness the divine union of mother and son. The palanquin of Lord Parshuram is brought to Renukaji from the ancient temple in Jamu Koti village in a traditional procession and attended by lakhs of devotees. A vibrant fair is also held here during that time. It lasts for about a week and is a hub of colourful cultural activities.
Above the lake is the Jamu Peak where Maharishi Jamadagini is believed to have meditated. We took the bridle path of about 6 km which leads to the peak. There is a small temple on the top and it offers a panoramic view of the lake and its surroundings. As per mythological accounts, the shape of the lake resembles that of a sleeping woman, something one cannot make out at ground level. However, from the peak, with a little dose of imagination, it was easy to visualise the shape of the lake as that of a reclining woman. Unfortunately, the elevated view also highlighted that the size of the lake is shrinking due to silting and weeds, especially on the eastern side. The concerned authorities need to address the issue without further delay, or else a beautiful place like this might one day simply cease to exist.
While at the top, we spotted another lake adjacent to Renukaji - a smaller one devoted to her son, Parshuram. There are rows of beautiful temples along the banks with quaint ashrams dotting the foreground and greenery in the background. Though the lakes can be circumscribed in car, we decided to do the 3-km circuit on foot and it turned out to be a really rejuvenating experience.
The small zoo at the far end of the lake turned out to be another source of delight – the two lionesses and one aristocratic lion made for an interesting wild-life study. We were highly impressed by their mighty roars. The caretaker mentioned that the females and the male often fight with each other and are hence separated by barbed fences … so much for feline arrogance and pride! A few paces ahead in a solitary cage stood an exotic but lonely leopard with brilliant eyes. In the bear enclosure was a complete family- papa, mama and a cute Himalayan baby bear that completely endeared itself to all the visitors with its amusing antics. We were also surprised to come across a colony of bats that inhabited some of the coconut and eucalyptus trees.
The lakes also have a healthy quota of marine life. Packed with shoals of fish that swim to the shores to eat wheat dough thrown in by the visitors, I was almost attacked by a macaque while feeding the fish. The event was so abrupt and unexpected that I ended up giving away all the dough to my attacker. However, a little later, as I was sitting crestfallen by the lake, I was rewarded by close views of a friendly freshwater turtle that had approached me to investigate what I was doing in its domain.
Location: In SIrmour district of Himachal Pradesh, at a height of 672 meters above sea level.
Route (from Delhi): There are two routes, both approximately of same length. The first route is via Shahabad, Naraingarh, Kala Amb and Nahan. The second route goes via Pipli and Yamunagar.
Nearest airport and railhead: Chandigarh (95 km)
Stay: The only decent hotel here is run by Himachal Tourism and sits right on the lake front with just a road dividing its terraced gardens from the waters. There are a set of lake facing rooms (old block) and another set of lake view rooms (new block), with the later being a better choice. For details, contact: (01702) - 267339.
Food: Availability and variety is as per normal North Indian standards.
Best time of the year: During Kartik Ekadashi in November, a big fair is held here annually.