Hiking - Destination

Trek to Prashar Lake: The Jewel Bedecking Himachal

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When adventure sports are mentioned, what usually comes to the mind is gut wrenching activities, strenuous living indisposition at difficult geographical conditions and situations. Adventure sports are always the associated with the daring, young, and the high-spirited. But the Prashar Lake, with its magnificent blue waters and serene surroundings, breaks this cliché around trekking.

The entire idea that walking among the peaks is for the rugged types who enjoy roughing it out, was true of 1953 when Everest was first conquered and trekking tourism didn’t exist. Now, there are newer ways to enjoy the mountains, with treks that focus on culture as well as scenery, new accommodation with touches of even luxury, for those who want to soak it all in, with a bit of comfort. Also, different from the usual family trips to hill stations, which are mostly limited to sightseeing, trekking is high on adventure.

Such is the calling of the Prashar Lake Trek!

Prashar lake View from top
Prashar Lake: A View from the Top

Prashar lake trek makes for one of the few family treks, located in the Kullu valley of Himachal amidst the ranges of Dauladhar, Pir Panjal and Kinnaur and running alongside is the fast flowing waters of the river Beas.

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With waters running deeper than the unknown, Prashar Lake is held sacred to the sage Prashar, who is believed to have meditated here. With the same regard, is a three storied, pagoda like temple, which was built in the thirteenth century, and as legend would have it, built from a single tree. The riveting "Himachali" architecture of the temple blends perfectly with the landscape. Seemingly to a cherry on the top, the lake has a floating island in it.

Prashar Lake
A slice of paradise - Prashar

Prashar Lake: Just Like Heaven

  • Where it is Located: Himachal Pradesh
  • Duration of the Trek: 2 Days
  • Trekking Grade: Easy - Moderate
  • Max Altitude: 2574 m (8444.88 ft)
  • Trekking Distance: 15 – 18 km

Mythology that Surrounds the Lake

                               A little dash of adventure and a spoonful of exploration!

The Prashar Lake is dedicated to Maharishi Prashar, the father of Ved-Vyasa and the grandson of Maharishi Vashishtha. Sage Prashar Rishi is believed to be the narrator of first Purana, the Vishnu Purana of Hindu mythology. He meditated at the place for many years, due to which the lake is named after him.

Amongst other folklore, mythology states that this lake was formed by the Pandavas.

They were on their way post the war of the Mahabharata, along with Dev Kamurang, searching for the best place for their teacher. They say that Dev Kamurang fell in love with the isolation of the place so much that he made the decision to spend the rest of his life there. Upon his request, Bheemsen one of the Pandava brothers formed the lake by pushing his elbow and forearm on the peak of the mountain. The locals believe that this is the reason for the oval-shaped lake with an unknown depth.

Prashar Lake
Prashar Lake: the Science of the Earth (source)

As per the locals and caretakers of the Prashar Lake, the theory is that the lake itself represents the science of the earth.

While a myth, which at a single glance enhances the practicality of the fact, you can account that 79% is water and 21% is the dry area which denotes the anatomy of the earth. The floating island represents the earth, revolving around its own axis as well as moving around the lake according to the season. 

Also, the priests believe that the movement of this island to a certain place has a prediction and sign in itself which is a matter of study and research. It is further believed that when the island moves to the absolute North corner, it is a sign of bad omen. In time to come, if the floating island sinks, it will signify the end of life on the planet earth.

Location of Prashar Lake

Tucked in the serene forests of The Himalayas, is the Prashar lake, a perfect getaway from the stressful city life. It has a perimeter of about 300 meters is decorated by a floating island in it. It lies 49 km North of Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, a small village that is at a distance of 123 km from Manali.

How to Reach Prashar Lake

Prashar Lake
For a Trekker, travelling is joy (Source)

If you are traveling by road, then you could catch a bus from Delhi to Kullu-Manali. Halt at Mandi, and hire a private cab to go on. Also, additionally, buses ply regularly from Mandi to Baagi village. The last Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus stops overnight at Suda village.

Should you decide to catch a flight, the nearest airport from Prashar Lake is the Gaggal Airport, Dharamshala which is about 87 kms away. This airport is effectively connected to Delhi. Once you reach Dharamshala, you can hire a private vehicle to directly take you to the campsite near the lake.

The nearest railway station is the Kanoh Railway station, about 48 kms away from Prashar Lake. Again, one you off-board the train, the best option is a private cab/taxi to reach the campsite.

Itinerary for the Prashar Lake Trek

            For a trekker the pleasures of a journey are just as important as the destination!

Despite being at a height of 2730 m above sea level, it is fairly easy to get to Prashar Lake, making it a well-loved family destination.

Mandi – Baggi Village

The trip from Mandi to Baggi Village, undertaken via road, is a distance of about 26 km.  The journey to Baggi village is very serene and tranquil.

Prashar Lake
The mesmerising beauty enroute to Prashar (Source)

Baggi Village – Prashar Lake

From Baggi village the trek commences to Prashar Lake. The total trek length from Baggi village to Prashar Lake is 9 km. The trails move through a forested valley, giving you the closeness to nature. A short distance on the trail will bring you across a small stream on the right, a few minutes’ distance from which, the trek uphill becomes steep.

If it is winter, an hour of walking down this trail will bring you to snow. In that case, be careful as the trail will be slippery. Soon you will reach a Shiva trident. Carry on down the trail through a dense jungle, where you’ll briefly come across green or snow covered clearing, depending on the season. Then, you will get to level ground and continue the trek for another 40-45 minutes or so.

                                     Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way. – Dr Seuss

Around you, will be the sights of the snowcapped peaks of Dhauladhar, Pir-Panjal and Kinnaur ranges, after completing this particular stretch of the trail. A final trail towards your left will take you to the Prashar Lake, hidden behind the forest.

The beautiful pastures stretched before you with a smattering of huts are a giveaway that the lake is a few meters away. Once you are closer, you will notice the Forest Rest House. From there, you can begin following the leveled path to reach the lake.

As you approach closer and closer to the lake, you will feel the serenity and the calm, of the water washing over you while the eyes take in the mighty Dhauladhar range.

But wait… there is more!

Adding to the tranquility of the lake is the ancient three storied temple. The temple is a showcase of intricate carvings of animals and serpents that are simply spectacular in nature. The annual festival of the temple is held in June, and local people as well as from all over the world, flock to this temple during this time period. This might be challenging to the delicate ecological carrying capacity of the lake.

Prashar Lake
Baggi Village – Prashar Lake (Source)

Once beside the lake, people usually prefer to set up camp, settle down to enjoy the evening, and spend the night at Prashar Lake.

Prashar Lake – Baggi Village – Mandi

To return from Prashar Lake to Baggi Village, and later Mandi, follow the same trail that you climbed on your way up towards the lake. Do note, that during the descent, there are chances of some slippery patches; therefore, you will have to take extra care. The view however, is still something you will be unable to tear your eyes away from, even during the journey home.

Prashar Lake
You don’t have to know everything about nature, just watch and enjoy it. – Bob Ross (Source)

For most, when heading towards a destination, what usually counts for attractions and splendors along the course of the journey often tend to go unnoticed. But, such is not the case with the Prashar Lake Trek. The mystic landscapes on this route are sure to make the trip an exciting one. The thrill of scaling the distance on foot accompanied by the scenery is altogether a different experience.

Best Time to Visit

The months from December to March, you will find the entire area carpeted under thick snow, with the lake shimmering like a jewel in the midst of the white. The months of April and May, the trails will still show traces of snow patches. In case you are looking for a camping experience and not so much of a snow experience, then the months of July to August are probably the best time to undertake this trek. In the absence of the white blanket of snow, the Prashar Lake is ensconced in lush greenery and blooming flowers, with a very new and fresh look.

The temperatures drop down to -9 degrees during winter months and rises easily up to 23 degrees during summer months. So, do make sure to do your packing skills justice according to the weather and temperature. Fortunately, Prashar Lake’s weather conditions remain moderate, making it ideal for camping.

The Prashar Temple

The Prashar Temple is dedicated to Rishi Prashar. While the exact history of the Prashar Rishi Temple is unknown, but according to folklores, it took around 18 years to complete its construction.

Prashar Lake
As the Legend Goes... (Source)

As legends would have it, there is an interesting story about the lake’s formation. Thousands of years ago when Sage Parashar reached Himachal after his travel of China, Tibet and Nepal, he found this bowl shaped place luring; and sat for meditation under the shadow of a deodar tree. Upon feeling thirsty, he struck the ground with his trident, and water sprouted forming a lake. This then filled him with the desire of creating a shrine, which he had built from a single deodar tree with the help of a six year old boy who followed the hints of Brahma moving in the disguise of a spider. Filled with pride upon the temple’s unmatched elegance, and to rule out any further replication of the shrine, it is believed he brought the main mason who had built the temple to kill himself by jumping off its top into the lake.

Soon thereafter, struck by a massive feeling of guilt, which he could assuage only by organizing an atonement Yajna, a ritual feast to the neighboring gods and goddesses and their patron villagers. The famous June festival is supposed to be the remnant of this very atonement ritual.

prashar lake temple avdhesh
Prashar Lake Temple: Teeming With Myths and Legends

It is also believed that the architecture belongs to the 14th century and was commissioned by Ban Sen, the king of Mandi. With the outer ground floor door, only 2 feet into 4 feet dimension; and the inner court door and deity room door all of the same size; and the wall of the ground floor square only 8 feet high, the architect appeared to have given due thought to the wooden material limitation.

Also, it can be noticed that the suitability to face cold and fierce winds that the temple has to face, was also duly noted. Most importantly the very selection of the site in the warm and protected foothill of the eastern hill of the bowl-shaped terrain indicates the architect’s wisdom. The quaint mountain range has some fitting spots for meditations and you will come across many sages wandering around the area or simply meditating. The scenic panorama of the surrounding region is what impresses tourists.

The Prashar Lake is the pride of this valley, an ideal retreat for nature lovers.

Nearby Excursions

                      Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. – John Muir

Prashar Lake
Tunga Mata Temple: Hidden in the Wilderness

Keeping Prashar Lake as your base camp, you can attempt the further 12 kms trek to Tunga Mata temple located above the Prashar Lake. The trail of this trek consists of a steep climb on the mountain ridge located behind the lake. The journey to this temple starts from the end of road at Prashar. There is a dirt road which meanders ahead and disappears into the wilderness after a few hundred meters. The temple stands atop a hill where from you can see the River Beas gradually snaking towards the planes of Mandi.

When you are heading back, you could also detour off to visit some offbeat places near the lake such as the Kamru Nag Lake & Temple, Chindi, Barot, Shikhari Devi temple and Pandoh.

Prashar Lake
The Temple of Kamru Nag: Where You Appease the Rain God

The temple of Kamru Nag is located at village Kamrah in Mandi in the midst of a thick forest. It is believed that the Lord KamruNag wanted to participate in the great battle of Mahabharata. Despite not being allowed, he did witness the battle until its end. Till date, villagers visit the lake and the temple to pray to the Rain God during summers, with the firm belief that after prayers have been offered to the Lord, the rainy season marks its presence in the valley. Every year a three-day fair is held at this place in the middle of the June.

Prashar Lake
The Shikari Devi Temple: A Hunter's Safe Haven (Source)

The Shikari Devi Temple is dedicated to Shikari Devi in the form of a stone idol. As per the ancient legends, hunters from this valley used to worship Shikari Mata as their principal deity, and never did cover the shrine with a roof. The stone idol sits in the same way until now.

What To Pack

Prashar Lake
Pack What You Need, Not What You Want

Bare Necessities

These would comprise of a good quality pair of trekking shoes as the terrain is slightly rough, and the going may be a bit tough. Sports shoes might not be able to suffice for this trip, and you could very easily hurt your feet with ill-equipped shoes.

Make sure to use a backpack of at least 20-30 liters with a supporting frame and broad, sturdy, preferably padded straps. A rain cover for the backpack is a must.

Clothes You'll Need

The trek isn’t of a lengthy duration; hence you wouldn’t need too many numbers of changes. However, it is best to determine the kind of things you would need depending on the season you are attempting the trek.

  • Trek Pants, with a spare handy in case one gets wet.
  • Full Sleeved collared t-shirts. Find t-shirts with as much coverage as possible to prevent sunburns.
  • Thermals. These are optional but advised, as temperatures might drop at night.
  • Two light warm layers such as fleece or wool. One padded jacket.  
  • Sports socks. Woollen socks for the night.
  • Light Towel

Accessories

  • Sunglasses to prevent snow blindness. If not on the trails, there’s bound to be snow closer to the lake.
  • Torch/Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Woollen scarves/Cap/Balaclava
  • Fleece or Woollen Hand Gloves. Water Proof/Wind Resistant gloves.
  • Stick or trekking pole for extra balance and support
  • Sun-cap during the day for when the sun can be quite merciless.
  • Slippers/Sandals for walking around campsite (Optional).

Personal Medical Kit

  • Avomine for motion sickness
  • Avil for allergies
  • Crocin for Fever.
  • Combiflam as a Pain killer
  • Norflox TZ & Lomofen for diarrhea
  • Diamox to prevent AMS.
  • Digene for acidity
  • Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
  • Crepe bandage
  • Gauze
  • Band aid
  • Cotton
  • ORS
  • Betadine or any antiseptic cream
  • Muscle Relaxant spray for aches & sprains

Others

In case you will be offloading your backpack, it’s good to have a smaller backpack to carry your essentials such as water, medical kit and some light snacks.

  • Water Bottles.
  • Necessary toiletries.
  • Plastic covers/bags for wet articles or to compartmentalize things.
  • ID Proof and Photographs

Livingit Tip
Carry snacks and dry fruits, also high energy snacks that would suffice for a couple of days.  

Snow Camping in Prashar Lake

Prashar Lake
Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Destinations

If you happen to make this trek during the winter months, the entire route won’t be accessible, as the trail gets blocked due to heavy snowfall. In order to reach Prashar Lake, first, reach Mandi from where you can then hire a vehicle to Suda village via Baggi village.

The closest that you can get to the Prashar Lake during those wintery months is Suda Village. The starting point is Thakur Hotel at Suda Village, which also provides good accommodation facilities. The hotel is open throughout winter and it sells simple Indian food. Suda Village is approximately 7.5 kms uphill during the journey from Baggi to Prashar Lake. Post this point is a trek till to the Lake. The road starts out as a desolate stone covered trail without many trees. The distance covered one way will be 7.5 kms, which makes it about 15 kms in total, back and forth, with a maximum elevation of 2655 meters.

Prashar Lake
The endless beauty of Prashar

The presence of a road, albeit closed, ensures a regardless pain-free navigation to the lake. The route is simple to follow with no steep ascents or descents. These factors combined, make this 15 kms trek an excellent beginner winter trek that is also quite child-friendly. All said and done, the trek during the winter season is a bit tricky, considering that the trail is covered in snow, everything is wet and slippery, and places of a slightly steep altitude can be challenging. About four kilometres from the hotel, a signpost suggests that the road is officially viable for a 29 seater bus.

After the signpost, the road then takes a winding path through a series of switchbacks through a wooded hill, making it the toughest section of the trek. The wooded section is home to many monkeys. This neck of the woods, not receiving much sunlight, means that the ice is slippery and the trees block any view. You break through the woods along a ridge that leads due east to Prashar lake. The 3-4 hour trek encapsulates the snow-covered peaks of Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal, and Kinnaur mountain ranges. Follow the ridge for the next two kilometres to reach the Trekkers Hut and then on to Prashar Lake.

Prashar Lake
Camping Out (Source)

Once you do reach the lake, the proposition of camping out in the surreal landscape, can give you goose bumps (apart from maybe the influences of the cold too of course!)  Camping out will be an experience to remember with all the activities of creating a bonfire, staring up at the stars and into oblivion, lying asleep, tucked up during the night, only to awake to a view of a pristine white morning. It is indeed an adventure worth approaching.

Should you decide upon an extended place, alternative accommodation options are the Forest Rest House and the Trekker’s Hut, which are approximately 300-400 meters away from the Lake. Another option is the dormitory of the Pagoda Temple, where the priests would indulge you with free bedding and stay option when approached.  

Fitness Required For The Trek

prashar Lake
Fitness Comes First!

Staying healthy during a trek is certainly more difficult than it is at home, but if you're used to walking and are a regular with workout activities, are cautious about gaining altitude then you're unlikely to have any problems. And dare we mention again, the rewards are spectacular.

The minimum age required for this trek is 9-10 yrs. While past trekking experience isn’t essential, if there is, it is only useful. The trek is classified as of an Easy-Moderate difficulty level, but it is always better to be prepared if you are trekking for the first time.

What can make the trek a bit demanding is from Baggi (at 4,439 feet) you will be gaining about (4,039 feet) to Prashar Lake. Also, do keep in mind, that Prashar Lake can get over four feet of snow in a single night which can make breaking trail difficult. The hills around Prashar ridge have a sheer drop and rocks that are often obscured by snow. Do not attempt to glissade down these slopes.

Cardiovascular Endurance

This trek requires a decent cardiovascular endurance. For a high altitude trek, you should have the combination of speed targets and distance down pat. You should be able to jog a minimum of 4.5 km in 30 minutes before commencement of the trekking expedition. In case you are of 45 years and above age, then you should be able to complete a minimum of 3 km within 29 minutes before the commencement of the trekking expedition.

If you are just starting out with a fitness routine, you can begin jogging at slow pace every day, and keep increasing your pace with each day. To phase out your distance target, initially target completing 5 km in 45 minutes. Slowly and steadily, increase this distance target to 7 km and your time target to 60-63 minutes.

Building up your Strength Levels

For simply a two day trek, the altitude gain is quite on the higher side. Even if you do not choose to go expressly in the winter months, a time even slightly before that season could see you trudge through snow in certain parts, which could take a toll on your legs. It is for this, that strengthening your legs help.

The best way to do that? Squats!

Start out by doing 3 sets of squats, each set comprising of 8 squats. Your target should be 3 sets of squats with 20 in each set by the end of 3 weeks. Again, make sure to phase in the target over the days.

Flexibility

Prashar lake
Your body can do anything, it’s your brain you have to convince

Another little detail that could help you undertake this trek pleasantly is flexibility. Before you reach the slope, it is important to have your muscles relaxed.

Why? Carrying a backpack, no matter what the weight, will add to the strain after some time.

To get into shape before the trek, it’s advisable to do some light stretching to get your muscles geared up to face the non-regular face of walking. In stretching, you need to include exercises that work on your lower back muscles and shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors.

Breathing Exercises

Gaining altitude, rapidly as in this particular trek gives an invitation to high altitude breathing issues. As you tend to ascend to higher altitudes, the atmospheric pressure tends to decrease, the air becomes thinner and less oxygen is available. It is also colder, drier and the ultraviolet rays from the sun are stronger.

After arriving at high altitude, you will probably notice that your breathing is faster and/or deeper, and you may feel short of breath. This is the body’s first and most effective response to higher elevation. In addition, your heart is likely to beat faster. To keep all of this under control, practice taking deep breaths and holding it. Inhale deeply and strongly and hold it. Swimming and Yoga exercises are the best as they help in both, your breathing as well as your cardio.

While physical endurance and tolerance is a big deal for a trek, what one mustn’t forget to give due importance to is mental strength. What one often forgets to realize is that what shortcomings one has physically can be overcome with strong mental thinking.

Health Precautions

While all of the above-mentioned exercises are good to prep you for the big show, there are also a few tips and tricks that you can follow at the time of the trek for ease and comfort during the journey:

  • Keep your hydration levels high by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Eat regularly but do not overstuff yourself. Maintain a steady and a light diet during trekking. Do not indulge in any cut fruits or food sold out in the open.
  • Food items such as chocolate bars or chewing gum are great at avoiding tiredness. Also, carry high energy light weight food such as energy bars and dry fruits, to keep up the energy levels.
  • While you may have heard that brandy or rum will keep you warm, consumption of alcohol on a trek is a complete no-no. Quite adverse to this common belief, the fact is that alcohol keeps your body temperature low that can results in Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and Hypothermia. It is advisable to give away the drinking habit at least 72 hrs before the trek.
  • If you are suffering from any kind of ailment, make it noticeable to your trek leader as they will provide you excellent guidance and ailment related precautions while trekking at higher altitude.
  • Intake of garlic to increase oxygen capacity.
  • Lemon ginger water is good to fight nausea and mountain sickness.
  • Remember to always undertake the ascent at a gradual pace.
Prashar Lake
Little By Little, One Travels Far!

Whether you take into account the hilltop lake or the trail amidst the dense forest, this trek is one which exemplifies the magic of the Himalayas. An experience that one can only gain from, an experience that needs to be seen and felt. Its level of ease acts as a good boost to even first-time trekkers.

Summing Up

Landforms in India can challenge the best trekkers, but if you are on a family trip, don’t let that deter you, there are trek routes for that as well. Since time immemorial now, the Himalayas have been a great attraction, beckoning to travelers and adventure lovers alike. Camping and trekking in the mountains not only creates the spirit of adventure but also welcomes the opportunity to build a bond with nature. While crossing off locations on your bucket list, you are also adding to your knowledge about the environment, flora, and fauna etc.

Trekking whilst with family is also instrumental in developing the mind and the body and more so over in building one’s personality… a good parenting choice, one could say. Once kids overcome the initial shock of the idea that a walk can last for a couple of days, and not just hours, trekking can be a brilliant family trip option.

Prashar Lake
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. –Beverly Sills

With the increase in ease to explore the remote mountains of Himachal Pradesh, it has become a popular choice among first-time trekkers, beginners and families. There are many who come seeking seclusion, some for the religious significance, some for the sightseeing, and some to gain knowledge and relax in the natural environment and meditate.

While initially, Everest used to steal the highlight in most of the headlines, but the Himalayas are vast, and the possibilities are endless. The Prashar Lake, in itself, is a journey that deeply engages a traveler with the surroundings and the environment. While stunning views are what prompt many to undertake the trek, let’s not forget the incredible diversity that the culture brings about as well. For those who want to combine great walking whilst gaining insight into how people live in extraordinary regions, shadowing the various religious significances and adjusting to varied climatic conditions, the trek to Prashar Lake is worth the visit.

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