High tea at Mana village

Great Escape


 Tourists at India’s last tea shop at Mana. Photo by author

Mana, a tiny village near Badrinath, is located just few meters inside the Indo-Tibet border in the Himalayas. This village, referred to as the last village of India on the Indo-Tibet border, has been designated as a ‘tourism village’ by the Uttarakhand government.

With 10,248 ft above sea, Mana village holds a lot of mythological relevance and we can actually see traces of the Mahabharata scattered across this small village. Veda Vyas Guha where Veda Vyasa resided and composed the whole Mahabharata and Ganesha Guha where Lord Ganesh wrote the Mahabharata as dictated by Veda Vyasa, are some of the attractions here.

Another interesting must-see is Bhim pul, a huge rock formed as a bridge across river Saraswati. Legend has it that when Pandavas were crossing this river on their ‘swargarohana’, Draupadi was panic-stricken. Bhim then lifted a huge rock and placed it over the river to form a natural bridge, thereby making it easy for her to cross the river.

Inhabitants of Mana village are the last generation of Bhotia community of Mongolian tribes. During October to March, because of the extreme winter conditions, they reside at Chamouli, 100 km away from Badrinath. When Badrinath temple opens on ‘Akshaya Tritiya’, devotees start to visit. For Bhotias this is the time to come to Mana village.

In Mana, the houses are small with a kitchen garden in the backyard, where the locals grow their own vegetables like spinach, cauliflower and potato, and sell these to small hotels in Badrinath.

Guest houses are another source of income for Mana’s residents. These houses usually consist of two rooms. They charge Rs 500 to 1,000 per day, while many youths work as tourist guides.

After climbing about a thousand odd steps — the air becomes more rarified and it is difficult to breath — we reached the top of the hill at Mana. There a board announcing ‘India’s last tea shop’, stands distinctly with a neat crowd of tourists mingling about. Chand, the owner of hotel, welcomes you with smile and a cup of tea.

“Take this tulsi tea. In the Himalayas tulsi is available in plenty,” he says. While drinking the tea, you can have a view of border road on the one side and Himalayas on the other side. From here, there is no other way to go!

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