February 16, 2018

The Ancient Baijnath Temple


The tiny town of Baijnath gets its name from the quaint temple here. It was built in 1204 CE and is dedicated to Shiva who is revered as Vaidyanath, the healer. The temple with a nandi idol facing the inner sanctum has a porch with four carved pillars and two raised balconies. The exterior of the temple and the doorways are adorned with intricate works and carvings of various gods and goddesses. The temple is built in medieval style of  architecture known as Nagar style. Mahashivaratri is a big celebration at Baijnath temple and Ravana is revered as a great sage here. 






Location:

Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh

Navigator:

Palampur is 16 Kms away and Dharamshala is 55 Kms from Baijnath. The nearest airport is at Gaggal (38 Kms) and the closest rail head is at Chakki Bank. The buses that ply between Delhi and Dharamshala stop at kangra from where one can hire taxis to Palampur or Baijnath.

February 14, 2018

Kangra Fort- The Oldest Fort in India



Located atop a hillock on the fringes of Kanga town, Kangra fort is the largest fort in Himalayas and also beleived to be the oldest in India. There are mentions that the fort was first built a couple of millenniums ago during the times of Trigarta kingdom, however, it gained prominence during the rule of Katoch dynasty which is an offshoot of Trigarta dynasty. Trigarta dynasty has mentions in the epic, Mahabarata, and ruled areas of Punjab and Kangra. The Katoch rulers who were a Rajput clan resisted the initial attacks from Mahmud of Ghazni and Akbar, but Kangra fort was taken over by the Mughals under Shah Jahan in 1620 CE. Though it was won back in 1789 CE by Raja Sansar Chand II, the fort was taken over in mid 19th century by the British. 

A huge earthquake in 1905 CE destroyed most of the fort and what now remains are the crumbling fort walls, a few lovely entrance gates and a couple of temples with intricate works. The fort ramparts and the terrace on top offers lovely views of the surroundings. There is a museum next to the fort and also audio guides are available at the entrance to help you walk through the history of Kangra fort.

Ranjit Singh gate

The long flight of steps from Ahini gate

The Katoch crest

Amiri gate

Jahangiri gate

Fort ramparts

Andheri gate

Darshini gate

Courtyard and ruins

Peepal tree

Adityanath Jain temple

Fort ruins

Wells where gold and coins were stored

Steps leading to the higher levels

Carvings on Laxmi Narayan temple

More carvings

Leading to the next level

Views from the fort

The terrace

Location:

Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.

Navigator:

The fort is 23 Kms from Dharamshala, the nearest major town. The closest airport is at Gaggal (12 Kms) and the nearest rail head is at Chakki bank. There are taxis plying between Dharamshala and Kangra.

February 13, 2018

Dalhousie- Colonial Charm Amidst the Dauladhars


Dalhousie might not seem as encapsulating as the other popular hill stations in Himachal. However, the quaint charm of this hill station with its colonial bungalows, churches, tall deodhar trees and views of Pir Panjal range are sure to enchant you as you stroll through its alleyways. Built in mid 19th century over five hills on the edge of Dauladhar range for the colonial officers during British rule, the hill station is named after Lord Dalhousie (James Broun Ramsay), the then Governor General of India. Dalhousie still exhibits its Victorian character with a laidback flavor and is reminiscent of the colonial times. The hill station has a couple of chowks (junctions), a mall road and numerous winding roads that run all around offering magnificent views.

The hill station houses four to five prominent churches which were built during the 19th century, and St. John’s is the oldest amongst them.  Located at Gandhi chowk, St. John’s church was built in 1863 CE. The protestant church has influence of Romanesque architecture with stone walls, arched windows and 19th century stained glass paintings. St. Francis church at Subash chowk was built in 1894 CE and is located on a small hillock. Though its interiors are not quite impressive, it is one of the popular and active churches in Dalhousie.  Sacred Heart church with its nice woodwork and a lovely altar is located inside the premises of Sacred Heart’s school.  St. Patrick’s church is a large one inside Boy’s villa. St. Andrew’s church with lovely arched windows was built in early 20th century and is located in cantonment area. Access to Sacred Heart, St. Patrick’s and St. Andrew’s churches requires prior permission from the concerned authorities.






Dalhousie is a walker’s delight as the roads connecting Gandhi chowk, Subash chowk and Tagore chowk offers a pleasant walk. These roads which have quite a few colonial bungalows beside them are also a great place to enjoy nice views of the hills nearby and gorgeous sunsets. The trail that leads to Sadar bazaar is another interesting one with old stone walled structures and narrow alleys. The upper Bakrota loop walk is a well recommended long walk in Dalhousie. Ganji Pahad walk is a popular trek which takes you on a long pleasant walk to a bald hill.






A kilometer away from Gandhi chowk is Satdhara falls and further ahead is Panchpullah falls, both popular with tourists and pretty crowded most of the time. Satdhara falls is believed to have medicinal properties. The place has numerous shops and it is recommended to head out early before the crowd walks in. A 2 Km trek from here takes you to Alha reservoir which is the water source for Dalhousie and neighbouring villages. The mall road has some nice restaurants and is also an ideal place for shopping with numerous shops.  Himachal emporium and Indo Tibetan market in Gandhi chowk are the other places where one can shop a variety of things.




Kalatop Khajjiar wildlife sanctuary is a short ride away from Dalhousie via Lakkad Mandi. The stretch from Lakkad Mandi to Kalatop is a beautiful one through the tall deodhar trees. Kalatop is more of a hillock and less of a sanctuary which is frequented by visitors as a picnic spot for the views. Located at a height of more than 9000 feet, Kalatop was once frequented by the Chamba rulers for hunting. Beyond the car parking, there are a few colonial structures, view points and a nice garden amidst the deodhar trees. However, the Kalatop peak is a short trek further up on a narrow trail. This trail is mostly devoid of the crowd and has a dense forest patch sprinkled with open spaces and a temple. Kalatop is an open forest and is known for numerous avian species. There is also a trek route from here to Khajjiar which is 12 Kms long through deodhar forest. There are also accommodation options here for the visitors.





A detour on the road from Kalatop to Dalhousie leads to Dainkund air force base from where a steep climb leads to the vantage point which offers magnificent views of the Dauladhar range. A further walk of a kilometer leads to a temple dedicated to goddess Kali. The premise also offers more stunning views of the mountains.




Khajjiar is mostly spoken in the same breath as Dalhousie and this large meadow is a favourite with visitors who frequent here late in the evening for a horse ride, paragliding or zorbing. However, for most visitors and locals this meadow acts as a huge picnic ground. Engulfed by trees and a few eateries, it’s an ideal place to languorously stroll around as the sun sets. 



A short ride away from Dalhousie lies the gorgeous Chamera dam with gleaming turquoise waters spreading its tentacles amidst the Dauladhar mountain range. The road that leads down to the dam offers spectacular aerial views of terraced fields and the reservoir. Built over river Ravi, Chamera lake offers boating facilities apart from all round picturesque views. The road that runs alongside the periphery of the lake leads to the popular Bhalei mata temple.




Dalhousie may not be the run of the mill hill station with numerous places of interest, but is an ideal place for a weekend break amidst the Dauladhar range.

Navigator:

The closest airport is at Gaggal in Kangra (107 Kms) and the nearest major rail head is at Pathankot (84 Kms). There are buses connecting Pathankot and Dalhousie.

Food and Accommodation:

There are numerous restaurants and eateries at Gandhi chowk and Subash chowk. Dalhousie has a wide range of stay options from mid range to luxury hotels. I stayed at Zostel Dalhousie.

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