Kullu and Manali towns can be located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Kullu is derived from Kulanthpitha, which accurately means the end of the habitable world. Himachal Pradesh means an icy territory. The river Beas runs through Kullu Valley. The average height at which Kullu is situated is 4469 feet, while Manali can be found to the north of Kullu at an altitude of 6398 feet. These hill stations fall in the Himalayan ranges.
Devotion ranks high in the town of Kullu. An idol of Lord Raghunathji had been moved from Ayodhya and established here in the 17th century by King Jagat Singh. He positioned the idol on his throne as atonement and ever since then it came to be known as the presiding deity of the valley. Valley of Gods is the title by which Kullu Valley is known. Dussehra is celebrated over a period of seven days here to commemorate Lord Ram’s triumph over the evil king Ravana. Dussehra could fall in the month of October or November.
Manali was only a tiny town that was used as a trade route to Ladakh in the past. The trip to Ladakh began in Manali and continued with Karakoram Pass and Yarkand proceeding to Khotan in the Tarim Basin. Manali is deemed the home of the seven sages or Saptarishis as we call them in Hindi. Manali derives its name from Lord Manu, the Brahmin lawgiver. Manali means the abode of Manu. Manu is said to have alighted his ark in Manali so he could restore human life following a massive flood that had inundated the world. A temple dedicated to him called the Manu Maharishi is located in old Manali village. The Hindu scriptures believe Manu to be the first man in nature, and this temple to be the only one dedicated to him.
From the chronicles known, initially the valley was sparingly populated by the itinerant hunters called rakshas. Subsequently the shepherds arrived from the Kangra valley and took up agriculture over here. Kullu Valley has an exclusive caste called the naur and nar, which are believed to be the earliest inhabitants on this expanse. Later history acquaints us with the fact that the British brought in apples and trout to Manali. Even today most of the inhabitants survive on income from apples, plum and pear.
There are several ways to get into Kullu and Manali. If you are approaching Kullu and Manali by road, there are several inter state and Himachal tourism buses and taxis to bring you in. From Delhi it takes approximately 18 hours to cover the distance of 550 kilometers. Buses can also be availed from Ambala, Dharamsala, Leh and Shimla. To get in by train, you have several choices. You could get off at Ambala cantonment, which is at a distance of 200 kilometers while Chandigarh is at a distance of 250 kilometers. From Ambala you need to take a bus that will take you 10 hours to arrive at Manali. Traveling by air is the best and most comfortable option as there is an airport at a town 10 kilometers from Kullu. It takes two hours to drive in. Several airlines offer services to Manali.
As far as shopping is concerned, there’s the usual assortment of knick knacks that one can get hold of. Souvenirs such name plates, key chains and other little things which could be etched with words of your choice. Sweaters, blankets and shawls in wool are good buys.