Archaic followers of this blog probably remember the first time I explored Sainj Valley back in the spring of 2017. During that time a big tower temple was visible from Shangarh, on a distant slope, and we were told that it was the famous temple of Manu Rishi at Shanshar. We were also told that getting there was difficult and there is hardly any tourist going there and outsiders may not even be welcome in the conservative temple premises. However, from what I have seen over the years, such fear mongering stories are generally NOT true and everybody loves to see tourists in their village, especially in Himachal.
So, this time, Shanshar was one of my clearly pre-decided goals for the summer. However, even I still had no clear idea about the place. Nevertheless, Shubham also joined in as he had missed it too on previous trips. Sainj Valley has become expensive of late due to tourism boom. In order to save money we checked into the government facility i.e. the Ropa Tourist Complex a few KMs ahead of Sainj (don’t confuse it with Sai Ropa Tourist Complex in Tirthan).
We’d started from Kullu in the morning and we checked into our room in Ropa and finished our lunch too by 2 pm. We hoped to get a bus going toward Shanshar which was practically the farthest point in that direction. However, we were told that there’s no surity of the bus and also, there’s a Mela (fair) taking place at the temple.
Anyway, we waited in front of the FRH (which is thankfully located on the road). After a while we got one car who gave us lift (Hitchhike 1), but only till a point around 3 kms ahead, just after Neuli. After this point the road suddenly starts gaining altitude. So, we walked for a few minutes but it was getting more and more tiresome and a light drizzle started too.
That’s when another vehicle arrived (Hitchhike 2). It was sort of a pick-up van and he allowed us to climb up the pickup area on the backside. The driver seemed to be in a hurry as he drove at a brakeneck speed. He seemed to increase his speed when he saw other vehicles. We just managed to cling on the car for survival but I still managed to shoot some videos and enjoyed views of the Shanshar Valley. We also realised that the road has been renovated just a few days ago. So, it was pretty smooth, with the fragrance of fresh tar threatening to work as an aphrodisiac.
Eventually, a bunch of local school kids also joined us and we reached the temple too. As expected, it was a nice tower temple, something that we had seen any times on social media. It is located on the edge of a cliff, with the lower villages of the valley visible from the edge. It was a gloomy day so could not see the distant mountains but the sun kept reappearing through the clouds, making the temple glitter ominously every few minutes.
Details about the temple are sketchy. However, as we have seen at various occassions, Himachal has many shrines dedication not only various gods but also revered sages such as Parashar Rishi, Pundrik Rishi etc. In fact, there are multiple Manu Temples in Kullu region and this one of them. As per one version I heard, a local person was imprisoned by the king of Bushahr. He prayed to Manu Rishi for help and once rescued, he built this temple.
So, as mentioned earlier, it was the day of Shanu Mela. So, most of the locals and gathered there for festivities and rituals. Makeshift stalls had come up in front of the temple overnight. There were several shops preparing sweets and snacks on the ground and all the locals, especially kids were happily devouring them (So did we).
There were four deities under a gazebo in front of the temple. I’m sure various rituals were going to be conducted here later on. We asked the locals and they told me that these were four different deities from four different village temples who had arrived for the Mela. They were Manu Rishi of Shanshar (the resident deity here), Mata Shatrupa Sahinshar Kothi Gaon Mahel Patni, Kashu Narain of Banaugi and Jagthamb Rishi of Bagi Shadi Village.
Coming to the temple, it’s the usual pagoda style architecture with a lot of wooden sculptures on the walls and ceilings. We also entered inside, which was already full of local kids, and took a round of the sanctum sanctorum. While the temple seems to have been renovated of late, we could see some scattered stone sculptures in front of the temple which probably date back to mediaeval times. It’ll be better for you to just see these pictures rather than reading my tedious description.
We waited for the festivities to begin but it was getting late because some of the performers had not arrived. We also had to return before it’s dark and there was no possibility of finding regular transport. This possibility bothered us and so we decided to check the village beyond the temple before it’s too late. We had learnt about about tower called Raghunath Kot in Talyara village, just a KM ahead of this spot.
We walked a bit, took another lift (Hitchhike 3) and finally reached another village with a nice but smaller tower. However, were told that Talyara is further, we could see it from a distance but decided to give up for the day.
We returned to the Manu Temple and learnt that the festivities still had not started. Catching some local dance and rituals would have been nice but we couldn’t risk it any further. We started walking backwards and after around 15 minutes got a lift (Hitchhike 4) who left us a few KMs ahead. Almost immediately, we found another car (Hitchhike 5) that dropped us at Neuli, from where we walked to the tourist complex.
Shanshar Travel Guide
Where is Shanshar Valley Located?
Shanshar Valley is the area beyond the more familiar areas of Sainj Valley including Sainj town and Shangarh. Practically Shashar area starts once you cross Neuli, which is around 4-5 KMs from Sainj town. It is around 14 KMs from Sainj to Shanshar Manu Rishi Temple.
Do note that Shanshar is not just one place but is an entire valley with several villages. The Manu Rishi Temple shown above is the most famous point here but you can go further and find more tower temples.
How to Reach Shanshar?
There are a couple of buses going to Shanshar via Sainj but they are limited in number and so they may not be available when you need them. We ended up hitchiking.
Road conditions to Shanshar?
Roads have been recently developed here and so, as of now Sainj to Shanshar road is pretty smooth.
Where to stay in Shanshar?
Tourism has just started here, so stay options are limited. We came accross one lady who said she has a homestay, but there was no board. We heard of another homestay in Bagi Shadi Village but it was further and had no motorable road as of now (but likely to be connected soon). We just made a day trip from Ropa.
For more details… Read the Sainj Valley Travel Guide
Video of Shanshar
Here is a small footage