Life is peaceful within the lap of the Himalayas. Who would not like to own a life in the mountains? Fortunately, I was born in the village of Karsog in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. The geographical location of Karsog is picturesque with the Pir Panjal Himalayan range in view. With mountains on all sides, Karsog is the perfect weekend getaway where you need to be for a rendezvous with nature.
Karsog is rich in culture, history, and religion that is attached to it. From fertile land, apple orchards and dense deodar forests rise to touch the snow-covered peaks of Karsog. It is also known as the Beosh region, as the valley had been a territory of the Suket domain. The famous Suket Satyagraha started in this valley in 1948. Suket State was one of the small kingdoms of India. Surprisingly, Karsog holds the Guinness book record of making 995-kg “khichdi”, a traditional multi-grain dish, in five hours in a single vessel on the occasion of Makar Sankranti at Tattapani (52 km from Karsog).
This land is extremely fertile and a range of crops are grown over here, for instance, Apple, Rice, Wheat, Rajmah, or Kidney Beans. It is famous for its juicy, crispy, and delicious apples. Apple orchards are a must-visit here. It is counted as one of the mainstay crops of the valley. The winters are chilling and the summers are pleasant. The end of December or the whole of January is the peak time for snowfall in Karsog Valley making it a paradise for nature lovers.
History of Karsog
Karsog is a combination of 2 words ‘kar’ and ‘sog’ which means ‘daily mourning’. There is a known narrative about Karsog city in Mahabharata – the ancient Indian epic. In the Dwapar era, when the Pandavas were in exile, they spent some time in Karsog. It is believed that from here Pandavas crossed the Himalayas towards the north to reach Gandhamadan mountain, wherever Bhima met Hanuman.
Tradition says that this city was cursed by the existence of an Asura. When Pandavas were roaming in exile, they stayed in this village named Mamel for some time. During that time, an asura had camped in a cave near the village. To avoid the wrath of that Asura, villagers agreed to send a person to him daily for his food so that he won’t kill the entire village quickly. Sooner or later the turn of the boy of the house where the Pandavas were staying came. Seeing that the boy’s mother started crying, Pandavas asked the reason, and she said that I have to send my son to the asura as his food. Bhima visited that asura rather than that boy. There was a fierce battle between them and Bhima killed the asura and mitigated the city from its daily mourning.
Karsog is traditionally vital to the Hinduism faith as temples here were set up by Pandavas.
Temples of Karsog
Devbhoomi Himachal is where the deities reside in every particle. Karsog is a blessing for devotees. The temples here contain the history of India and the faith of the devotees. Temples built here are of Pagoda styles where they are rectangular stone and wood structures with successive roofs, placed one over another making them look like multi-story edifices. Some prominent temples of Karsog valley are- the Mamleshwar temple, Kamaksha Devi temple, Mahunag temple.
Mamleshwar temple is dedicated to Shiva and is one of the oldest temples in the town built by Pandavas. This temple has a very deep connection with the events that happened in the Mahabharata period and is more than 5000 years old. There are many signs related to Mahabali Bhima in Mamleshwar Mahadev Temple, which people come from far and wide to see, some of them are as follows.
The first one is Bhima’s ancient drum’ whose length is more than 6 ft. Domestic and foreign tourists visit the temple to see this huge ancient drum. Second is five Shivlings in this temple, which were established by the Pandavas. Now comes the third one, a wheat grain in the temple which is 5000 years old. The weight of the said wheat grain is 200 grams. The Archaeological Department has also described these items kept in the temple as very ancient.
The last one is a dhuna or the fire in this temple which is said to have been burning continuously since the Mahabharata period. Remember, Bhima had killed the asura and liberated the village from his curse. It is said that this unbroken dhuna is going on in the memory of this victory of Bhima.
The sages Parshurama and Brighu are also believed to have meditated on the spot.
It is believed that this Shaktipeeth of the Goddess belongs to the golden age of Satyuga. However, researchers believe that the temple may belong to Parashurama or Pandavas period as a temple of Satyug may not last so long. Well, this is a subject of more in-depth research, but people with faith see it differently. This temple has an Ashtadhatu Murti believed to be of the Pandava period.
During the fair, all these Murtis are placed on the chariot. The fair is organized twice a year on the occasion of Durga Ashtami. Thousands of people gather to see them. People come here from far and wide to have a darshan of Devi. It is believed that by visiting the Kamaksha temple, every wish is fulfilled. It is said that only three temples of Kamaksha Devi are in the world. First is the Kamakhya Devi Temple, the famous Shaktipeeth of Assam. The second is Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu and the third Kamaksha temple is in Karsog in Mandi district. There is a mention of Parashurama’s visit to this temple of Karsog. The wood carvings are decorative of the Kamkasha temple.
Mahunag is believed to be the incarnation of the Suryaputra Karna. Suryapurta Karna was son of god Surya (Sun) and kshatriya mother Kunti. Suryaputra Karna was considered one of the greatest warriors in Indian history. In the war of Mahabharata, Arjuna killed Karna by deceit but Arjuna was filled with guilt after killing Karna. It is said that Arjuna, with the help of his serpent friends, brought Karna’s body and performed the last rites near Tattapani on the banks of the Sutlej river. A serpent appeared from the same pyre. That snake settled at this place. People still worship this snake deity in the form of Mahunag.
Tourist Attractions of Karsog Valley
Historical Pangana fort was built sometime in 1211 AD by the ruler of the erstwhile Suket Riyasat, Vir Sen. It was the first capital of the Sen dynasty of Suket State that later shifted to present-day Sundernagar.
The Pangana fort is famous for its unique architecture and wooden carvings. Fort is a tower-like structure on a fifty feet stone platform overlooking the little village spread on either side. This seven-storeyed fort is mainly visited for the charming old-world grandeur that it exudes. Pangana fort at present is a typical Kath-Kuni architecture Kila and the top floor of the fort is a temple dedicated to the powerful deity Mata Mahamaya. No one goes inside the fort except the priests. Only the ground floor entrance is accessible which has been converted into a temple of Mata Mahamaya.
It is a famous pilgrimage center for Hindus. The month of Magha (January-February) is auspicious for a dip here. It is believed that by doing so, one can cleanse oneself of one’s sins. For hot sulfur springs, thousands of people flock to take a dip during winter, especially on Makar Sankranti. Sulfur has high medicinal value and is good for the skin. Tattapani is famous for adventure activity rafting. There is a different thrill in rafting in the sparkling blue water.
Farm Stay Experience
This is an ideal place for nature lovers. People who are in search of peace, natural beauty, and organic food. Apple picking is an interesting activity, which can be done with the whole family, or as a couple’s activity. Besides apple picking one can enjoy the local rural experience of the place including local food, other fruits, and vegetables.
Read More – Story of Himachal Apple
Culture and Tradition
The people of Karsog valley are very soft, simple, and down to earth. They make their living mainly from agriculture and apple orchards. The languages spoken in the valley are Pahari and Hindi. The dressing style here is greatly influenced by the harsh climate conditions. Women wear Indian suits with sleeveless jackets called “Sadri” & head scarf called”Dhatu”. Men wear a long Kurta over churidar pajamas that hold the ankles tight. They drape a lengthy silky overcoat over it. They cover their heads with Himachali topi. Suketi Nati is the folk dance of this place. Any festival celebration or function is incomplete without Nati. Folk songs are sung during Nati with local musical instruments.
How to reach Karsog Valley
Karsog is an untouched beauty that does not require much effort to reach. It has good road connectivity and is easily approachable by road. The summer months of April to June are mostly considered the ideal window in which you would see the best of Karsog beauty and can go for an apple picking experience. Nearby areas are transformed into a snowy wonderland during the winter months of December and February. You can visit this place during this period if you enjoy the cold climate and love snowfall.
By air – The nearest airport is in Shimla. The distance between Shimla airport and the valley is 115 KM.
By rail – Shimla railway station is the nearest railhead.
By road – The valley is about 109 KM from Shimla and you can take the SH13 from Shimla towards Naldehra. Even getting around in the valley is fairly easy. There are local buses that run through the main town and villages; however, the best option is to have your car or motorcycle.
Places to stay
Hotel Mamleshwar – The hotel has an excellent location near apple orchards. This hotel is ideal for leisure and offbeat sightseeing.
Location: The Mamleshwar, Chindi, Distt. Mandi (HP)
Distance: 14 km
Kalasan Nursery Farm – This organic farm stay is amidst the Apple Orchards. It is suitable for those looking for nature, and the surreal experience of living in an apple orchard.
Location: PO Thandapani, Sub- Teh Pangna,
District Mandi Himachal Pradesh, 175046, INDIA
Distance: 23 km
Hotel Hot Spring – This hotel offers scenic river views, a restaurant & an Ayurvedic spa with thermal pools. This hotel has the first Himalayan Geo-Thermal mineral-rich hot springs with 4 different water pools.
Location: Hotel Hot Spring, Tattapani, Shimla Hills,
Himachal Pradesh, India 175009
Distance: 53 km
This post is written by Pallavi Thakur as part of the IndiTales Internship Program