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Introducing Rewalsar Lake

Hidden in the hills 24km southwest of Mandi, the sacred lake of Rewalsar is revered by Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. Tibetan Buddhists know the lake as Tso-Pema (Lotus Lake) and believe it was created when the king of Mandi tried to burn alive the Indian guru Padmasambhava, to prevent his daughter Mandarava running off with the long-haired Tantric master.

Today the lake is home to the ochre-red Tibetan-style Drikung Kagyu Gompa, with its academy of Buddhist studies and a large, central Sakyamuni statue. Moving clockwise around the prayer flag-strewn lake, you pass a lakeshore shrine to Padmasambhava and then the Tso-Pema Ogyen Heruka Nyingmapa Gompa, with artful murals and atmospheric afternoon and morning pujas (offerings or prayers). A short detour uphill from the lake is the towering white Zigar Drukpa Kagyud Institute, with outsized statues of tantric protectors. A five-minute climb up steps from here takes you to a dramatic 12m-high statue of Padmasambhava, which towers over the lake to offer grand views.

Continuing clockwise around the lake you pass a couple of Hindu temples dedicated to the sage Rishi Lomas (who was forced to do penance here as a dedication to Shiva) and arrive at lakeshore ghats, where hundreds of fish practically jump out of the water to get to the puffed rice being thrown in by pilgrims. One the far side of the lake is the gold-domed gurdwara (Sikh temple) built in honour of Guru Gobind Singh in the 1930s.

The other main pilgrim site is the Padmasambhava Cave, high above the lake on the ridge, where Padmasambhava allegedly meditated. Take a taxi here (₹400) or jump on one of the five daily buses to the Naina Devi Temple (₹20) and get off 1km before the temple.

Rewalsar is an easy day trip from Mandi but it's also a pleasant place to stay overnight and a much more serene choice than Mandi.