For anyone who plans a visit to the mystic valleys of Lahaul and Spiti, a night stay at the beautiful Chandratal is always part of the itinerary. It is a beautiful lake indeed, about a kilometer long and half a kilometer wide but there are several things about this lake that not many people are aware of.
Chandratal is the origin point and source of river Chandra, which is one of the tributaries of River Chenab. Chandra River flows for an extensive distance along the road from Batal to Gramphoo and then the Manali-Leh highway in southeastern direction before turning completely and taking a southwestern course after merging with Bhaga River at Tandi. Bhaga on the other hand originates from Suraj Taal, another small lake located at the top of Baralacha La Pass. Suraj Taal is the third highest lake in India and 21st highest in the world. The water outlet from Suraj Taal forms the Bhaga River. Together these two small rivers, Chandra and Bhaga, form the major Chandrabhaga River which later merges with River Chenab.
Chandra River originates from a glacier on south-eastern side of the Baralacha La Pass. These small streams of water flow down in the direction of Kunzum pass and form Chandratal in a broad slush plain amidst the peaks of Kunzum range. Interesting thing about this lake is that there is absolutely no visible source of water to this lake but there is a visible outlet which means that water to this lake comes from underground which is highly unusual. Its source is the glacier at Baralacha Pass but how the water travels from the glacier to the lake is a mystery in itself. With numbers of glaciers on its side, biggest being the Shingri on its left and Samundari on its right, the river outlet from the lake is fed by numerous water streams until its confluence with Bhaga River. Even after Batal, several streams flowing down from Sonapani glacier near Khoksar and Sissu glacier near the village of Sissu keep merging into the water outlet from Chandratal, and thus turning it into a river of large size with a fierce flow of water.
Chandratal, literally meaning lake of the moon, is believed to be named so due to its crescent shape. Its water source however is not the only mystifying fact about this lake, there is also a beautiful tale of two lovers who decided to meet at the Baralacha Pass and merged into each other to remain one forever.
Legend has it that Chandra was the beloved daughter of the moon and Bhaga was the only son of Suryadev, the Sun god. Both of them once ran into each other at Baralacha La and it was love at first sight however their love was not approved by their parents and they were not allowed to marry each other. Sun god wanted to entrust his son the task of bringing light to the world in the form of days while Moon god wanted to assign the job of lighting the nights in the world to his daughter Chandra. This disapproval of their parents broke the hearts of the two young lovers but they were not so easily defeated. Together they both decided to elope, meet at Baralacha Pass again where they had first met and perform their eternal marriage themselves without their parent’s approval. They both came down to the agreed spot but Chandra reached a little ahead of time than Bhaga. When she didn’t find Bhaga at Baralacha La, she wandered off in search for him towards Kunzum Pass and then started to circle back to Baralacha La again. Just when she reached Tandi, she saw Bhaga coming down from the opposite direction looking for her. They both consequently met and the celestial marriage was performed. The route that Chandra took from Baralacha La Pass to Chandra Taal is today present in form of a trek route that several trekking enthusiasts follow. Her route from Kunzum Pass back towards Baralacha La is where the river flows in present days. Chandratal is believed to be named after Chandra and Suraj Taal after Bhaga, him being the son of Sun God. And so is the legend of Chandra Taal, the beautiful lake, tiny in size but a giant in beauty.