Sunni (सुन्नी) and Tattapani (तत्तापानी) are two small-towns in district Shimla and Mandi respectively in Himachal Pradesh. These two towns are located far from their district headquarters, the former is 55 kilometers from Shimla and the latter is 150 km from Shimla. Usually the border towns, International, state, or district, have high crime rate, poor administration, and extremely bad road conditions. Sunni and Tattapani are an exception as far as road condition and basic amenities are concerned. These towns remain isolated and aloof throughout the year but come January, life becomes colorful in the valley.
The Lohri-Makar Sankranti (मकर संक्रांति) festival brings joy and business into the valley. The festival lasts for a week but the valley remains crowded until the last week of January. The simplest way to reach Tattapani is from Shimla but the road condition is not great until you leave the National Highway and start moving on the State Highway-13. I have experienced that the state highways are far better than National Highways in almost every part of the state, SH-22 and SH-33 are the best among them all. The safest and easiest way to reach Tattapani and Sunni is via Shimla because you get to know the difference between a famous tourist spot and an unknown yet pristine place. State Highway-13 takes you from Shimla to Tattapani via Naldehra , Basantpur, and Mashobra. The funniest thing they have done is enclosing the Naldehra Golf Course with stone walls. Now one cannot see the lush green golf course just from his vehicle while passing by, one has to step down, look for the parking, get an entry pass to enjoy the scenic beauty of the golf course. I remember it could be seen without getting down from the vehicle.
River Sutlej separates Shimla from Mandi District in Sunni Town. In the picture above, to your left lies the Sunni Town and to the right hand side Tattapani marks the start of District Mandi. This picture is taken from a place called 18/2 (अठारह बटे दो ). A bus fell into the ditch here long ago and 18 people died in the accident. It is also believed that an evil spirit in the form of a constable appears at this place and misguides people. As told by the natives, the constable points towards the wrong direction and shakes his hands vigorously asking people to stop. Those who stop never walk again. To me it is an interesting story though I have no intentions to meet that constable or prove anyone wrong. A temple was constructed afterwards to keep the evil spirits away. In Himachal you will find temples erected at almost every accident prone area, curve, and road. [Read Himachal: A Land of Superstitions and Belief]
The bridge serves as the connecting medium between two districts. Much to my surprise I saw auto-rickshaws running between these two towns, which is a rare sight in Himachal Pradesh. The Lohri Festival brings deities and people from two districts closer. Plastic bangles, artificial jewelry, colorful sweets (Green/Pink/Yellow “Barfi” is a specialty), and “khichdi” add flavor to the life in this festival. There are hot sulphur springs and hence the name of the place, Tattapani which literally means “hot water”. These hot springs are believed to have medicinal value.Unlike Manikaran (मणीकर्ण ) although these springs are very shallow yet people from almost every part of the “world” come here to hot water bath.
Another interesting yet dangerous fact is that the Sutlej runs as deep as twenty feet just next to these shallow hot springs. The water level goes as high as forty feet in the evening and the whole bathing area is submerged in the water. Next morning when the water level goes down people start pouring in and by 4 P.M. in the evening the place resembles a riot hit region, silent and devastated. The administration informs them beforehand about the release of water from the dams upstream but it is never wise to play with a river, especially when it is called Sutlej. In the name of faith and religion people keep coming back without worrying a bit about their lives.
Once NTPC constructs the dam at Kol, distance between Tattapani and Mandi will become approximately half of what it is currently. Otherwise the state government might throw in a vague
proposal promise of creating a new district just to lure voters and make fool of the people for another five years.