Mansar and Surinsar (pronounced सरुईंसर in Hindi) Lakes are situated about 34 km from each other, but are joined by a common legend going back to the time of Mahabharat. According to the legend, Babar Vahan, son of Arjun from Ulupi killed him in a battle which they had over the capture of a Ashwamedha Yagya horse. When his mother told him the true identity of the man he had killed, he went to Sheshnag ( serpent god) to get his mani . Babar then made a surang (tunnel) by his arrows to reach Sheshnag’s abode and got the mani after defeating him in battle. After securing mani, came out of Manisar, now known as Mansar. The lake formed by his first arrow is called Surinsar.
Mansar lake is about 58 km from Jammu city and Surinsar about 24 km. Both are very picturesque spots and situated in between forested Aravali hills. Both are considered sacred and there are temples on the banks of both rivers which are held in great esteem by locals. Snakes are a common theme in both places and any sightsing of a snake is considered auspicious. Mansar has been haphazardly developed as some kind of tourist spot with a tourist lodge, few eating joints and random construction. While Surinsar hasn’t received much attention. Both lakes have a few paddle boats and wooden viewing platforms. According to locals as well as visitors, both places need better roads, better waste management and more promotion. They both would have done just fine without any construction, but people in tourist department think otherwise and have constructed a concrete walkway around Surinsar lake which gets damaged every year.
That being said, both have some common as well as unique charms. Mansar is comparatively easy to reach and more famous due to it’s popularity. There are many people who are working different trades like operating camel rides, food joints and selling wheat flour balls which the tourists use to feed the fish, turtles and ducks. It’s a popular picnic spot with a small park constructed on banks and attracts a number of students as well as office workers from Jammu. Surinsar on the other hand, hasn’t seen any such thing and is still a lake around which people live their lives in a small village. There are a few eating joints, but they hardly seem to be catering specially to tourists. What makes Surinsar more interesting is the presence of a small island in middle which is covered with trees and is home for countless birds and bats. During dusk and dawn, one can see them flying in and out for hours. According to old people, these lakes only had a few small fishes and the big ones and turtles by added by authorities 25-30 years back. Fishing or harming them in any way is prohibited anyway and no one either does it or allows someone else to do it.
One other attraction that not even the locals know about is a small salt water spring about 30-40 minutes drive from the lake. In old times, people used to believe that drinking water from this spring was good for health and specially beneficial for women who wanted to conceive. As Surinsar hasn’t been “developed” as much as Mansar, it still retains some of it’s charms and mystic attraction. During my two visits there separated by a gap of 7-8 years, I have seen a small snake hunting fishes and a python resting on riverbank. On 2nd occasion, a local pointed it out as Naag Devta (Snake God).