Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs pay obeisance at gompas, temples and a gurdwara, all lying along the 735 m shoreline of a small ancient natural jewel-like lake of Rewalsar, floating at a height of 1,360m.
On a slope above the lake lies a gurdwara built in 1930 by His Highness Raja Sir Joginder Sen Bahadur, ruler of Mandi, to commemorate a month’s stay of Guru Gobind Singh, granting 94 bighas of cultivated land for it.
It is said Raja Sidh Sen of Mandi invited the Guru, who came here from Anandpur Sahib, and became his disciple. The Guru blessed Mandi, vowing to protect it cryptically, "Mandi ko jab lootenge, aasmani gole chhootenge!" (If Mandi is ever plundered, sky will be set ablaze).
The Guru wanted to unite quarrelling hill rulers to form a confederation that could challenge Mughals. A plaque reads "Sri Guru Gobind Singh the tenth Sikh Guru held a meeting in 1738 with all the Bhai-Dhar-Rajas (rulers of hill states) to save Hindus and Hindu religion from the cruelty of Aurangzeb."
On the lakeshore also lies the ancient temple of Rishi Lomushri (Lomas), the only temple of this sage in India. According to Pandit Sharda Dutt, Rishi Lomushri (son of Pulastya) was the grandson of Brahma, Lord of Creation, born from a 1000-petalled lotus.
The Sakanda Puran mentions that when Rishi Lomushri meditated for 80,000 years, Lord Vishnu shed tears of joy from where sprang the Hridayleshwar lake, the ancient name of Rewalsar. Another legend has it that waters of the Ganga and Yamuna were enjoined by divine power, creating the Rewalsar lake which enabled Lomushri to take bath.
Blessing Lomushri, Shiva bestowed upon him the gift of seven mythological lakes, situated atop the hill. At present, only one Kunt Bhyog, lying at 1,750 mt. above the sea level, exists. At a stone’s throw from Rishi Lomushri’s mandir, lie stone temples of Shiva and Krishna. A Mahabharata myth recounts the escape of Pandavas from burning wax palace to this place.
Also linked with the nag cult, the lake water is said to flow underground from Rewalsar to Nagahala (serpents path), 10 km from Mandi. Buddhists believe that mansions of nags lie under the lake, an outlet for serpents.
Sacred to Buddhists, their great teacher and tantrik, Padmasambhava, the Lotus Born, known to Tibetans as Guru Rimpoche, the Previous Master meditated for several years in Rewalsar’s caves, one being in Sar ki Dhar hill.
According to a Buddhist legend, Zahor’s king tried to burn Padmasambhava alive, but the latter transformed flames into Tsopadma (Rewalsar) lake, wherein Padmasambhava was found seated in a huge lotus. Subsequently, he established dharma in Zahor. Invited by Tibetan king Trisong Deutsen, Padmasambhava through his power took flight to Tibet in 747 AD, converting entire Tibet to Mahayana Buddhism, becoming patriarch of Nyingmapa lineage. Rewalsar has three Buddhist (one Bhutanese and two Tibetan) monasteries on the lake shore. The oldest, which has been rebuilt, belongs to the Nyingmapa order. Rewalsar is sacred to Bhutanese whose state religion is Buddhism’s new doctrine.
According to historians, over the centuries Rishi Lomushri’ legend may have got intertwined with that of Padmasambhava, the former fading into obscurity.
All faiths revere lake’s seven tiny islands of floating reeds, clinging to its banks, moved by breeze, some believe by prayer, doing the lake’s parikarma to protect it.
Elaborate Buddhist rituals are performed as Padmasambhava’s spirit rests here. Tiny prayer flags flutter from a pole fixed on an island, changed after special prayers. A beda also floats on Parashar lake, 40 km from Mandi.
Pilgrims take a dip in deep clear lake, feeding large fish swarming in it. Notices ban fishing, also littering especially throwing of polythene. Boating facilities exist. Baisakhi and Chhesu are local fairs.
Nearly 24 km from Mandi, an HPTDC Tourist Inn, exists apart from a few small hotels. Winter requires heavy woolens, temperature hovering around freezing point though summers are mild.