Hindu mythology states that Manali was the hometown of the Brahmin lawgiver Manu and the town is named after him. Manali is the changed name of the word “Manu-Alaya”, which means “abode of Manu”. Legend has it, that one day, the seventh incarnation of Manu found a tiny fish, who told him to take care of him as he would do him a great service one day. The seventh Manu took care of the fish until he grew big, and the released it into the sea. Before leaving, the fish warned the seventh Manu about the world being submerged and said he would be a worthy ark during the flood. Surely enough, there was a flood that deluged the earth, during which Manu and the and the Gods were rescued and towed to the ground by Matsya, the giant fish. When the water subsided, the seventh Manu’s ark came to rest upon a hill, which was then called Manali. It is also said that after the flood, he got off his ark in Manali to recreate human life.
The town is also called as “The Valley of Gods”. There is a temple in old Manali dedicated to sage Manu. Manali and the surrounding area is said to be home to the Saptarishi, or seven sages, making it important in the Indian culture and heritage. The town became well known only recently. The British started visiting the town frequently in the 20th century, finding the climate pleasant and nature, beautiful. It is after this that Manali gained the reputation of being a tourist destination.
Apple trees and trout were introduced here by the British and the first apple orchard was set up by the British in Patlikuhl. Even today, apples, along with plum and pear are the main sources of income of the people of Manali.
The rise of militancy in Kashmir led to a tourism boost for Manali in the 1980s. However, the reputation of Manali being a tourist-friendly destination was tarnished due to the discovery of the marijuana being grown around town.
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