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Himachal Pradesh >>

Dharamsala Travel

Queen of the Hills Set against the backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhar Mountains, Dharamsala is perched on the high slopes in the upper reaches of Kangra Valley. The town is divided into two distinct and widely separated sections, Upper and Lower Dharamsala, which differ almost a thousand meters in height. Today, Dharamsala has become the synonymous to the Tibetan government in exile and the home of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama. Even if the Tibetan community dominates the town, still it has retained the colonial lifestyle and British fervor. Dharamsala over looks the plains and is surrounded by dense pine trees and Deodar forests. A nearby snowline with numerous streams and cool healthy atmosphere makes the surroundings very attractive.

Dharamsala is a busy bazaar town and has established itself as the traveler’s base camp, which come to explore the nearby mountains. The Kotwali Bazaar provides the entire colour and characteristic of a small town, which is mixed with the simple life style. The colorful temple and Gompas, which reflect the culture of Tibet, adds attraction for the visitor. The Kangra museum gives an overview of the rich past of the region and on the other hand there are institutes that have been established to preserve the Tibetan art, cultures and traditions.

Location: Himachal Pradesh
Established Between: 1852.
Places of Interest: Kangra Art Museum, St. John's Church, and McLeodganj
Best Time To Visit: Mid-May to Mid-October.

NEARBY CITIES
Dalhousie: 92-km
Mandi: 115-km
Kullu: 183-km
Shimla: 185-km
Manali: 223-km
Chandigarh: 225-km

PRIME ATTRACTION
Kangra Art Museum:

This treasure trove of the Kangra valley's arts, crafts, and rich past, displays artifacts that date back to the 5th century. The museum also includes a gallery of Kangra's famous miniature paintings and a representative collection of sculptures, pottery, and anthropological items. This treasure trove of Kangra Valley arts, crafts and rich past, displays artifacts that date back to 5th century. It includes a gallery of Kangra’s famous miniature painting and a representative collection of sculptures, pottery and anthropological items. The Kangra museum also has a good collection of elaborately embroidered costumes, woodcarvings and Jewellery of the tribal people. The Shamianas used by the local royalty, jali's, pandals and lintels are also included in the collection of coins and manuscripts. The museum also has a section dedicated to the contemporary artists, sculptures and photographers. A library is just below the museum. This art museum was inaugurated in 1990 and is located just above the Kotwali Bazar, Dharamsala.

War Memorial:
Set amidst the pine groves is a war memorial, built on the entry point of the to Dharamsala to commemorate the post independence war heroes of Himachal Pradesh. A web of narrow paths and landscaped lawns lead towards this monument.

Just over 2-kms from Gandhi Chowk is Martyr's Memorial at Panjpulla (five bridges), which commemorates Ajit Singh, a supporter of Subhash Bose and the Indian national Army during World War II.

Dal Lake:
Surrounded by high and green Deodar trees is the lake, which fills a mountain bowl. Situated 11-kms away from the town, this lake is easily approachable by road and makes an enchanting and serene picnic spot.

St. John's Church:
One of the most poignant memories of the British Raj is the church of St. John, situated in the wilderness. This charmingly dressed stone church is located just 8-km from Dharamsala on the way to McLeod Ganj. Under the shade of Doedar branches, a memorial has been made over the body of the British Viceroy, Lord Elgin who died at Dharamsala in 1863. 7-km upward from Dharamsala, between Forsyth Ganj and McLeod Ganj lies the charming St. John's Church. It was built in 1852 and is dressed in Grey stone with some fine Belgian stained glass windows donated by Lady Elgin. The church is popularly known as the church of St. John in Wilderness. Under the shade of deodar branches, a memorial has been erected over the body of the then British Victory of India, Lord English who died in Dharamsala in 1863. There is a well-tended old graveyard on the grassy slopes. In April 1998, thieves tried to steal the old bell but could only move it about 300m. All valuable items have since been sent to Kangra and Palampur for safekeeping.

Tatwani & Machhrial:
There are hot springs situated at Tatwani, 25-km from Dharamsala but on the way, at Machhrial, is a waterfall twice as big as the one near the Bhagsunath temple.

The Shrine of Bhagsunath:
Just 11-km from the town center of Dharamsala is the ancient temple of Bhagsunath. There are many fresh water springs close to the temple, which are considered sacred by the Hindus.

Kunal Pathri:
These are the rock temples from which the place derives its name. Kunal pathri is a 3 kms flat walk from Kotwali Bazaar.

Dharmkot:
Just 11-km away from Dharamsala, located on the crest of a hill lie this attractive picnic spot, which presents a panoramic view of the Kangra valley and Dauladhar ranges.

Norbulinka Institute:
Just four kms from Dharamsala, Norbulinka was established to preserve and teach the ancient Tibetan arts. The shady paths, wooden bridges, small streams tiny water falls make this place look like heaven. Here one can watch the wooden carvings and the tangka paintings, golsithing and embroidery being done. The nunnery close to the institute is a place where women are taught the advanced levels of Buddhist philosophy.

Chinmaya Tapovan:
Just 10-km from the town is the tranquil ashram complex set up by the great exponent of the Gita--Swami Chinmayananda. Situated on the banks of Bindu Saras, the ashram includes a 9m high image of Hanuman, a Ram temple, a meditation hall, a school and a health & recreation center.

Andretta:
Situated just 13-kms away from Palampur lays this dwelling place of artist S.Sobha Singh. It houses a gallery of some of his major works and a pottery center.

McLeodganj:
Originally home of the semi-nomadic Gaddi tribe, McLeodganj is today the residence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. This mid 19th century place was developed as a British Garrison. The place was developed as an important administrative point for the whole Kangra valley. Today the place has developed as headquarters of the exiled Tibetan Government. The impressive monastery has larger than life size images of Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avaloketeshwara. Originally home of the seminomadic Gaddi tribe, McLeod Ganj is today the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This mid 19th century place was developed as a British Garrison. The place was an important administrative point for the whole Kangra valley. Today Macleod Ganj has developed as headquarters of the exiled Tibetan Government and is situated just before the Upper Dharamsala. The impressive monastery has got larger than life size images of Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avaloketeshwara. To preserve the rich manifestation of the Tibetan culture the institute of Tibetan performing arts was established over here. In April and May a festival is organized here, which includes the traditional plays, dances and many more such events. The large Tibetan population of the region and the presence of traditional architectural designs have enhanced the area. But the most important example of the Tibetan architecture is the Tsuglagkhang or the Dalai Lama's temple. The magnificent images - a gilt statue of Shakyamuni; then facing Tibet is the Tibetan deity of compassion, Avalokitesvara and that of Padmasambhava who introduced Buddhism and tantric teachings to Tibet in 8th century. The house also has a collection of scared text called the Khagyur based on the teachings of Buddha. Also included in the temple is a collection of works on art, philosophy, literature, astrology and medicine.

The Residence of Dalai Lama:
The Dalai Lama settled in Macleod Ganj in 1960 and his residence on the south edge of town has become his permanent home in exile. His own quarters are the modest, and government offices take up most of the walled compound overhanging the valley.

Tsuglagkhang:
In front of the private enclosure of the residence of Dalai Lama, Dharamsala’s main Buddhist temple, Tsuglagkhang, shelters images Do Shayamuni, Padmasambhava and Avaloktesvara, all sitting in meditation postures and are surrounded by offerings from devotees.

Gompa Dip Tse-Chok Ling:
The small Gompa Dip Tse-Chok Ling is located on the bottom of a steep track. The main Prayer hall has an image of the Shakyamuni. The monks who lived in the Gompa have made two huge drums covered in goatskin and painted around the rim. The butter sculptures, which are made during Losar, are destroyed in the next Losar festival. This Gompa is also famous for the fine and detailed mandals.

Library of Tibetan Works & Archives:
The library of Tibetan works and archives stores almost 40 % of the original Tibetan manuscripts and is a repository of the rich Tibetan culture. The library also has a photographic archive. At Gangchen Kyishong are the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute.

Dal Lake:
The small, murky Dal Lake, connected to Dharamkot by a path down through the wooded slopes, is the scene of an animal fair and Shivate festival in September.

Bhagsu:
Bhagsu is a village on the banks of a mountain stream. A path meanders up boulder-strewn slopes from here, through a slate quarry, to the waterfall that feeds the stream. Each September pilgrims come to bathe in the waters of the tank of Bhagsu's Shiva temple.

Triund:
Triund is 17-km from Dharamsala and lies at the foot of the snow clad Dhauladhar at a height of 2,827m. It is a popular picnic and trekking spot.

Dharamkot:
Dharamkot is the starting point for the short walks to the high plateau at Triund (2,975m), or further over the high passes to the Chamba valley.

Masrur:
Fifteen richly carved monolithic rock temples sculpted in the splendid style of the Kailash temple at Ellora and dating back to the 8th century are to be found at Masrur, just 15 km south of Kangra. Images of Ram Sita and Lakhsman can be found in the sanctum of the main temple.

Kareri:
Set amidst a sylvan surrounding is a rest house, located in the cool depths of the pine grove. Surrounded by green open meadows and forests of tall oak & pine at a height of 3250m is situated the picturesque Kareri Lake, which is just 13-km from the rest house and 22- kms from Dharamsala.

Triund:
Triund is a popular picnic spot at a height of 2827 m. the area is on the foothills of Dhauladhar range and is 17-kms from Dharamsala. The snow line starts at Ilaqua, which is five kms from Triund. The breathtaking view of the mountains and the valleys makes Triund an ideal picnic spot and trekking spot.

Trilokpur:
On the way from Pathankot, 41-km from Dharamsala are the unique cave temples with a stalactite and stalagmites dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Sujanpur Tira:
This place is famous for the wall paintings and the temples. Sujanpur Tira also has fort, which is worth visiting. It is 8- km from Dharamsala and in particular the festival of Holi is a major event here and attracts many visitors to this area.

Jawalamukhi:
Dedicated to the "Goddess of Light", the temple is one of the most popular Hindu temples in northern India. In this temple there is a copper pipe through which natural gas comes out, the priest of the temple lights this and the blue flame emanating is worshipped as the manifestation of Goddess. A golden spire, a gift from the Emperor Akbar, tops the temple. The famous temple of Jwalamukhi is 30-km. from Kangra and 56-km from Dharamshala.

The Flaming Goddess:
Jwalamukhi is 34-km from Kangra and 56 km from Dharamsala. Recognized as one of the 51 Shaktipiths of India, Jwalamukhi's Devi Temple, tended by the followers of Goraknath, is set against a cliff. The picturesque temple, built against a wooded spur, in the Indo-Sikh style, has a dome that was gilded by Mughal Emperor Akbar. An eternally burning flame that issues from a hollow rock in the sanctum is considered the manifestation of the goddess Devi. During March-April and September-October every year colourful fairs are held during the Navaratra celebrations.
THE LEGEND OF JWALAMUKHI is a famous temple of goddess Jwalamukhi, the deity of flaming mouth, built over some natural jets of combustible gas, believed to be the manifestation of the Goddess. The building is modern with a gilt dome and pinnacles, and possesses a beautiful folding door of silver plates. Under the gaze of the Dhauladhar range and set amidst the undulating hills that character sub-Himalayan Himachal Sati's tongue is believed to have fallen at Jwalamukhi and the goddess is manifest as tiny flames that burn a flawless blue through fissures in the age old rock. Raja Bhumi Chand Katoch of Kangra, a great devotee of goddess Durga, dreamt of the sacred place and the Raja set people to find out the whereabouts of the site. The site was traced and the Raja built a temple. The burning flames and the complex have come to be known as Jwalamukhi. The temple located on a small spur on the Dharamsala-Shimla road at a distance of about 20-kms from the Jwalamukhi Road Railway Station attracts lakhs of pilgrims every year. No idol is located in the temple but only the flames, which come out from the crevices of the rock, are worshipped. They are natural jets of combustible gas. There is a small platform in front of the temple and a (check usage) big mandap where a huge brass bell presented by the King of Nepal is hung. Usually milk and water are offered and the ahutis or oblations are offered to the sacred flames in the pit, situated in the center of the temple in between the floor pillars supporting the roof. The deity is- offered Bhog of Rabri or thickened milk; Misri or candy, seasonal fruits, milk and arti are done. There is a mystic Yantar or diagram of the goddess, which is covered with; shawls, ornaments and mantras are recited. The puja has different 'phases' and goes on practically the whole day. Arti is done five times in the day, Havan is performed once daily and portions of "Durga Saptasati" are recited. Maharaja Ranjit Singh paid a visit to the temple in 1815 and the dome of the temple was gold-plated by him. Just a few feet above the Jwalamukhi temple there is a six-feet deep pit with a circumference of about three-feet. At the bottom of this pit there is another small pit about one and a half feet deep with hot water bubbling all the time.

Chamunda Devi:
Not so far from the town is the famous temple with the majestic Dhaulandhars as a backdrop. It is an enchanting spot with glorious views of the mountains, the Baner Khud, Pathiar and Lahala forests.Not far from Dharamsala is the famous temple of Chamunda Devi. It is an enchanting spot with glorious views of the mountains, the Baner Khud, Pathiar and Lahla forests. 15-km from Dharamshala a tiny village of Dadh on Palampur road is the famous temple dedicated to Goddess Chamunda Devi. On reaching the temple a glorious view of Dhoula Dhar on three sides and 'Baner Khud' flowing alongside the temple. The temple has artistic carvings on its lintel, pillars and the ceiling. Behind the main temple is a small shrine of Lord Shiva in the Shikhara style. There is another platform in front of this temple where two very old people trees provide shelter to the visitors. From this platform a bird's eye view of most of the land marks in the town including Chaugan, Circuit House, most of the temples and river Ravi can be had. Archaeological Survey of India is looking after the temple. There is a Shiva 'Lingam' under the rock where the temple of Chamunda is sited. There are no legends about the Lingam. The idol is called Nandikeswar. So the sacred site is called 'Chamunda Nandikeshwar'.

THE LEGEND OF CHAMUNDA DEVI:
In Jallandar Mahatmya, Chapter VI reference is made to 'Chamunda Nandikeshwar' and people believe the reference is to these two deities 'Chamunda' and 'Nandikeshwar'. The legend associated is well known. In 'Satya Yuga' two 'Daityas' (demons), 'Shumbh' and 'Nishumbh' engaged themselves in deep meditation and were blessed by Lord Brahma with immense power. The Daityas deified 'Indra' and other Gods. The Gods were terrified of the Daityas and resorted to Jadrangal village and propitiated 'Jagadamba Devi'. The Devi was pleased and promised to rescue them from the Daityas.

She created a Devi out of her body, a beautiful person 'Kaushika'. Kaushika was given the assignment of destroying Shumbh and Nishumbh. The two Daityas heard of her beauty and wanted to bring her to them. They failed to persuade her to come to them through a 'doot' (messenger) who was scornfully sent away. Kaushika sent word through the messenger that she could only be won by a war. A dreadful war started. Kaushika Devi created 'Kalika' Shakti from her forehead and Kalika cut off the heads of 'Chund' and 'Mund', two brave and fearless commanders of the two Daityas. The destruction of the Daityas followed and the three worlds were relieved of the Daityas. Kaushika Devi blessed Kalika Shakti and asked her to be seated at Jadrangal village and be known as Chamunda. She would fulfil the desires of the needy persons. This mythological story is based on Devi Bhagwati, Markandey Puran and Durga Saptsati. There is another story about the siting of Chamunda. She was seated first on a higher mountain near a fort built by Raja Chandra Bhann of Kangra. A blind devotee of Chamunda pleaded with the Devi to shift to a lower place where he could go more easily. The Devi agreed and came down to the present lower site. The Chamunda Devi was installed in a cave. It is said the temple was built about 700 years back. The great earthquake of 1905, which had created havoc in this area, did not cause any damage to the temple. The snow line starts at Illaqa. Those who want to do a return trip in one day are advised to start very early in the morning. There is a Forest Rest House.

Nurpur:
Named after Nurjehan the consort of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, it has an ancient fort and an exquisitely carved Krishna temple. Nurpur is also famous for its fine Pashmina shawls and textiles.

ADVENTURE SPORTS
Dharamsala is one of the most popular starting points for treks and rock climbing over the ridges of the Dhauladhar range. There are tailor-made treks in the Kangra valley around Dharamsala and adjoining places. The trekking season starts from May and goes on to October. The most frequented route from Dharamsala to the Chamba valley, over the Indradhar Pass (4350m), is arduous trek but the most novice trekkers can manage to complete it within five days. There are many easy walks of small treks around McLeodganj and Dharamsala such as Toral Pass (4575m) that start from Tang Narwana (1150m), which is 10-km from Dharamsala. A 2-km stroll takes one to Bhagsu, and then a little further a 3-km walk will bring the trekkers to Dharamkot. If one wishes to go on a longer walk then he can walk 8-km to Triund. The snow line of Ilaqa Got is just a 5-km walk. The most difficult route is towards the north, a five to six day trek across Bhimghasutri Pass (4580), covering near-vertical rocky ascents, sharp cliffs and dangerous gorges. An easier four or five day trek from Dharamsala crosses Bleni Pass (3710m) in the milder ranges of the northwest, weaving through the alpine pastures, woods and passing through few streams, before terminating at Dunali, on the Chamba road. The area is rich in small rivers and streams, which give ample opportunity for angle fishing. The 20-km stretch of the river Beas between Nadaun and the Pong Dam offers ample of opportunities in angling for Mahaseer.

SHOPPING
Dharamsala offers mainly the handicraft items, which are manufactured by the local artisans. The Kotwali Bazaar is one of the main shopping areas in the town. The main attraction of the town is Tibetan carpets. These carpets are delicately woven and are decorated with vivid colors. The Motifs on these carpets are either inspired from nature or from the monuments or carry a description of some folk story of the Tibetan cultural heritage. Over all, these carpets carry a totally different style and attraction from their counterparts in Kashmir or the Persian carpets. Further the local handicrafts are also available in the market. Tibetan Textile can be purchased from the office of Tibetan handicrafts. One can always bargain items like the traditional hat, the Chubas, the traditional wear for the Tibetan women, bags, trousers etc.

HOW TO GET THERE
Air: Dharamsala can be approached by air from Delhi and the nearest Airport is at Gaggla, just 13-km away from the town.

Rail: Pathankot is 85-km and is the nearest railhead for Dharamsala. Trains from all over the country make a stop over at Pathankot and from here it is a three-hour journey to Dharamsala.

Road: From Manali too bus services are available to this place. One can drive from Delhi via Chandigarh, Kiratpur, Bilaspur and it's an 8-hours journey. From Delhi and Shimla, luxury buses ply to Dharamsala.

CLIMATE:
Dharamsala is located in the Himalayas, the climate is very pleasant during the summers but in winters the cold is very bad. Temperature can drop below the freezing point during the winters and heavy woolen clothes are required. During the summers the weather is mild and light woolens and cottons are recommended. The best time to visit the place is during the summers when the cold has shed its biting teeth and there is plenty of Sunshine. But avoid coming here during the monsoon months, as there is a danger of landslides.

 
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