The Mall, or main road of Manali is the hub of activity in this tourist town, lined with hotels, restaurants, shops, the bus station and many travel agencies. Though it carries the same British epithet as its counterpart in Shimla, the Mall of Manali has an entirely different character from the colonial flavour of the former.
It is more of a busy commercial street with modern concrete blocks of hotels that spills over with tourists in the peak season. Most of the hotels overlooking the foaming Beas River, however, do offer pleasant views of the valley, green terraced fields and the surrounding orchards.
To get a more authentic flavour of the area, take a half-hour walk from the Mall across the Manalsu nala to reach the village of old Manali. Also known as Manaligarh, the village has a ruined fort and a cluster of houses built in the Pahari style - with heavy stone roofs and wooden balconies projecting out of the first floor. According to popular belief it is here that Manu, the lawmaker lived around the 2nd century BC.
His treatise, the "Manusmriti" is the foundations of Hindu law and of the rigid caste system based on varna or profession. Considered one of the most orthodox Hindu texts with strict role definitions based on gender and class, the Manusmriti continues to be followed by many devout Hindus even today. In the centre of the village is the Manu Maharishi temple, a relatively new shrine dedicated to Manu. The village itself is an idyllic break from the rush of main Manali, surrounded by terraced maize fields and apple orchards. There are several guesthouses and cafes lining the path to the village.
Hadimba or Dhungiri temple in Manali is one of the most important temples in the region. This four story wooden temple is located in the middle of a forest called the Dhungiri Van Vihar a 2 km walk from the Tourist office in Manali. Maharaja Bahadur Singh built the present wooden pagoda-like temple in 1553 after forest fires burned down earlier structures. Standing on a stone platform surrounded by old deodar trees, the three-tiered temple is crowned with pennants, brass bells and a trident. Carvings of animals, plants and folk deities adorn the temple, while hunting trophies hang over its entrance.
This Gompa dominates the Tibetan area around the bottom of the Mall in Manali. The Tibetan refugees built the Gompa in the late 1960's. The Gompa is covered with brightly coloured frescoes and a mid size Buddhist statue. It also carries a list of the martyrs killed in occupation of Tibet of 1987 to 1989. Inside the brightly painted prayer hall is a statue of Shakyamuni (form of Buddha).
The monastery is maintained through donations and the sale of carpets woven by the lamas within the temple workshop. A smaller gompha near the market has a large gold-faced image of Buddha, which is best viewed from its first floor verandah. Monks can be seen printing prayer flags in the open terrace.