Mansar Lake

mansarSome 62 kilometers (38.52 miles) from Jammu and at an altitude of 666 meters (2185 feet) above sea level, Mansar Lake lies in a bowl in the hills. Created by tectonic activity, this is fairly large as far as naturally-formed hill lakes go and has a circumference of over three kilometers. It is the largest fresh-water lake in the Jammu area and is fed by rain-water and ground water springs. The surrounding slopes are covered with a variety of sub-tropical and semi-Alpine vegetation. An easy drive from Jammu, this is one of the must do excursions.

There is a parking lot near the lake and a concrete pathway circles the waters; the pathway is closed for vehicular traffic. Limited boating facilities are also available at the lake.

Apart from its attractions as a place of tourist interest, Mansar has substantial religious importance too. On the eastern bank of the lake is a shrine dedicated to Sheshnag, Lord of the Serpents who is considered as the king of the nether regions. The shrine exists as a large boulder on which several iron chains have been placed. Blessings of Sheshnag are sought by circumambulating the lake three times. Others consider the lake to be an auspicious place to do the mundan ceremonies of their sons when the head is shaven clean. There are two other old temples in the vicinity these are dedicated to Umapati Mahadeva and Narasimha and to Devi Durga.

Mansar lake is home to a variety of avian and aquatic life. There are some resident birds like ducks while its waters act as a stopover for some migratory species too. A wildlife park adjoins the lake and has nilgai, spotted-deer, and some water-birds like cranes.

A food and crafts festival is organized around the lake in April (around the festival of Baisakhi) by the state tourism department. The scrub forests near Mansar are also used by the migratory Gujjar Bakerwal people of the state for grazing their flocks. A link road to the strategic town of Udhampur passes through Mansar.