It was nearing mid April already. Obviously Shimla, Kasauli, Manali and their counterparts were beaming with tourists. Looking for an offbeat and uncrowded place in Himachal sounded impossible when Renukaji struck my mind. Here is all about our trip to this offbeat Himachali town just before Delhi’s weekend lockdown.
The place gets its name from the deity Renukaji, an incarnation of goddess Durga and the lake in her name. As the legend goes, Renukaji’s husband and four sons were killed by emperor Sahastarvahu. A grieving Renuka commited suicide by jumping into Ram Sarovar. The moment she jumped in, the pond swelled up as a lake taking the shape of her body. Thereafter her youngest son Parshuram woved to avenge his family’s death. Goddess Renuka then emerged from the lake and promised her son that she would return every year on that day to meet him. That auspicious day comes 10 days after Diwali. A huge fair is organized then in this otherwise somnolent town.
P.S- I had visited this place with my family in December 2004. Renukaji was my dad’s discovery. Twelve years and three months later I returned to this unconventional place, this time with husband.
The town is spread over a circumference of 4 km. You can cover it on foot within a day. Here are a few what to see and what to do in this quaint town of Renukaji.
Renuka lake is the largest natural lake in Himachal Pradesh. Full of fish, resident birds and a turtle (as the locals say), the crystal clear lake water is a source of life to the lush forest around. Fish as big as 25-30cm length throng the banks in large numbers. You can buy fish food from the shops there. Fishing in the lake is prohibited though.
At night, we chased fireflies, sat on the quiet lake side under the starry sky and enjoyed the solitude. It was a much needed break from the daily chaos.
The tranquil lake offers unmatched scenic beauty. To me it felt like meditation as memories from my last visit with my parents flooded my mind.
Boating cost: Rs 300 for two people and Rs 350 for more than 2 people with thirty minutes allocated to every boat.
The mini zoo in Renukaji comprises few animal enclosures surrounding the lake. The lush flora and shimmering waters of the lake make the zoo experience a bit more pleasant.
No vehicles are allowed on this 3km long pathway. The stretch is adorned by an eerie silence broken occasionally by forest rangers’ bikes plying here.
The zoo walk has ample shaded spots but lacks drinking water facility. Though a temple inside the zoo has a natural water stream and is considered safe to drink, we did not try it. I’d recommend you to carry your own water bottles.
Entry fee: None
Timings– 9 am to 12:45 pm and 2pm to 5pm. Closed on Monday.
Renuka ji temple
Dedicated to goddess Renuka, lord Parshuram and lord Shiva, Renukaji temple is the main attraction of the town. Much quieter than other temples, this one amid lush nature has its own charm. The yellow and red painted walls reminded me of Delhi’s Lakshmi Narayan Temple.
The annual festival brings a huge footfall to the temple. Right behind the temple are the temple authority accommodation and Renuka development board office.
The temple prohibits photography within its premises. No entry fee or donation.
Timing– 9 am to 1pm and 3pm to 7pm
This cute little ampitheatre holds festivals and fairs few times in a year. Since we had the whole place to ourselves and nothing much to do, we captured some priceless moments here.
There are a handful of places to stay in this offbeat Himachali town. You’d find aashrams and affordable guest houses around the lake. I had stayed in one of the guest houses in 2004 but don’t really remember which one. For visitors who usually come from Nahan or nearby hill stations, Renukaji is a short stopover. We stayed in State Tourism owned hotel The Renuka.
The spacious rooms, safe parking space, lake facing windows, gorgeous garden and good service covered up for few flaws like room maintenance. The Renuka is otherwise good value for money.
Renukaji is primarily a vegetarian place. Non vegetarians, please keep calm. Hotels and guest houses serve a variety of decent vegetarian delicacies. We enjoyed Himachali kadhi the most.
How to reach Renukaji
Merely 50km from Nahan and 100km from Dehradun, Renukaji lies nested in Sirmaur district of Himachal. Public transport buses are available but the frequency is low. Driving is the best way to reach this offbeat Himachali town. From Delhi NCR, it would take about seven hours and roughly four hours from Dehradun. There are ample food joints in the Delhi-Haryana highway. Road are good and well maintained. Henceforth your journey would be smooth.
P.S- We returned in nick of time just before Delhi’s weekend lockdown was announced. It was a narrow escape! We are safe at home and have no travel plans until the situation improves. #Stayhomestaysafe