The River of Love – Chandrabhaga, Himachal Pradesh
There is something about the hills that reminds one of romance. I spent part of my youth in Shimla and remember spending time with young people at the Himachal University campus in Shimla. The Himachal Pradesh University, pleasantly located at a scenic location at summerhill is spread on the spur of a hill amidst thick forest of ‘Deodar’ and ‘Rhododendron’. The campus is at one end of a long walk from the Mall Road through the ‘Rhododendron’ lined road that in springtime is a riot of color and fragrance. I have memories of young couples, obviously enamored of each other hurrying through this walk every evening from mall road so as to meet the curfew deadline at 10 P.M. of the girls hostel ’Chandrabhaga’. Indeed many a romance blossomed on the walk from scandal point on the mall to Chandrabhaga at summerhill.
I personally found the name ‘Chandrabhaga quite intriguing and it is only much later in life when I visited the Himalayan region of ‘Lahaul’ across ‘Rohtang Pass’ that I came face to face with the river of love, that possibly inspired the name ‘Chandrabhaga’ for the hostel. The picturesque ‘Lahaul Valley’, is hugely different from the Indian landscape. The area is a high altitude moonscape, comprised of craggy mountains yet very fertile in parts with cash crops of potatoes and Hops. The area is screened for most of the year from Indian Mainland through high altitude passes and has been a cradle to very highly evolved culture through its linkages with ‘Tibet’, and ‘China’. Steeped in ‘Mahayana’ and ‘Tantrik’ traditions of Buddhism and its intermingling with ‘Hinduism, this is a treasure trove for the itinerant traveler.
Nevertheless coming back to our story, in the valley of ‘Lahaul’ at a very scenic location called ‘Tandi’, you come across a sudden opening in the valley, that is the confluence of two rivers, ‘Chandra’ and ‘Bhaga’ to give rise to ‘Chandrabhaga’. Tandi today is a very pleasant stop over and watering hole for people doing Manali-Leh drive or trek and the road looks the ancient village where the tall standing houses of the ‘Thakurs’ of ‘Tandi can be seen. But that is another story. Coming back to our river, Chandrabhaga is really borne out of love. It is said that the daughter of the moon ‘Chandra’ and the son of the Sun ‘Bhaga’ fell in love and decided to take a long walk circumambulating the holy mountains of ‘Lahaul’. After many a meandering course they fell into an eternal embrace in their togetherness at ‘Tandi’ to give rise to ‘Chandrabhaga’.
Chandrabhaga as it enters the plains of India in the land of five rivers namely Punjab, is known as ‘Chenab’. These five rivers are ‘Jhelum’, ‘Chenab’, ‘Sutlej’, ‘Ravi’ and ‘Beas’ that all ultimately join Indus in their journey towards the sea. The ‘Chenab’ out of these is the one, the banks of which are said to have inspired the eternal love stories of ‘Punjab’ namely, ‘Heer-Ranjha’, ‘Sasi-Punnun’, ‘Sohni-Mahiwal’ and ‘Sahiba-Mirza’. Some people even say that the waters of Chenab have a slight reddish tinge brought about by the blood of eternal lovers. As in legend, so in realty, I understand now why ‘Chandrabhaga’ continues to inspire lovers on its banks and around its portals.