Three religions consider Rewalsar to be a special place – Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs. Each has staked out their territory around the lake. In Buddhist lore, the lake was created by the great guru Padmasambhava, an Indian siddha accomplished master from the 8th century, who came to the area to teach Buddhism to Mandarava, the King of Zahor’s daughter. Local gossip began about Princess Mandarava spending a lot of time with what looked like a vagabond , and when the rumors reached the King’s ears, he had Mandarava thrown in a pit of thorns and put Guru Padmasambhava into a fire. The fire created a lot of smoke but did not die down after a few days. When the King and ministers when to check on what had happened, they found an eight year old boy sitting on a lotus in the middle of a lake. Lake in Tibetan is tso, and pema means lotus, hence the name Tso Pema.

The king, understanding at this moment that he had made a grievous error, gave his entire kingdom, even the clothes he was wearing at that moment to Padmasambhava, and begged for forgiveness and to be taught the Dharma. Mandarava, initially refusing to come out of the pit of thorns, acceded to her mother’s pleading and then joined Padmasambhava in studying and practicing Buddhism in caves in the hills above Tso Pema. At present, the caves are a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world, and many disciples of Padmasambhava live in small huts and ancillary caves around the main caves, living and practicing there for their entire lives.

In Mandi, the closest city to Rewalsar, the King’s family now runs the King’s Palace as a hotel. There is also a museum commemorating Mandarava there.