The Undiscovered Kangra

Kangra is a region of Himachl Pradesh, India that is over 3500 yrs old and dates back to the Vedic Times finding mention in the ‘Puranas’ and the Mahabharata. The district derives its name from Kangra town that was known as Nagarkot in ancient times.

Sheltered by the Dhauladhar range of the lower Himalayas, Kangra District is a green and luxuriant paradise for tourists with interesting trekking trails, nature parks, heritage buildings, adventure activities, angling and a pleasant climate. Crafts like the exquisitely designed shawls and miniature paintings of this region are well acclaimed.

 

Kangra

KANGRA Kangra is the former capital of the princely state of Kangra. This bustling pilgrim town has the famous Brajeshwari Devi Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peeths. The over 1000 year old formidable Kangra Fort, Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum and the Masroor rock cut temples are other interesting places to experience.

Pong Dam

 

pongMaharana Pratap Sagar, also known as Pong Dam Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake was created in 1975 building the highest earthfill dam in India on the Beas River in the wetland zone of the Shivalik Hills in Kangra. Declared a bird sanctuary in 1983 and one of India’s 25 international Ramsar sites in 2002, the reservoir is additionally one of the leading fish habitats in the Himalayan states, and provides vital habitat to a host of mammals including leopards, sambar, wild pigs, barking deer and oriental small-clawed otters.

Dharamshala

DHARMSHALA Dharamsala is the headquarters of the Kangra district and a popular hill station lying on the spur of the Dhauladhar range about 17 Km north- east of Kangra town. This hill station is wooded with oak and conifer trees and snow capped mountains enfold three sides of the town while the valley stretches in front. The snowline is perhaps most easily accessible at Dharamsala than at any other hill resort . It is possible to make a day’s trek to snow-point after an early morning’s start. Upper Dharamsala area comprise of places with names which bear witness to its history like McLeod Ganj and Forsythe Ganj. Since 1960, when it became a temporary headquarter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala has risen to international fame as “The Little Lhasa in India”, McLeodganj, is 9 Km from Lower Dharamsala. Other Interesting points include, Kangra art museum, St John Church, Kunal Pathri, Kotla Fort etc. Dharamshal is also home to the famous cricket stadium where IPL matches are held.

Palampur

palampur

Palampur, also known as the ‘Tea Capital of North India’, is a not so popular hill station. It is known to a few for its scenic beauty but also for the beautiful temples and buildings built in the Colonial period. The town has derived its name from the local word pulum, meaning lots of water. There are numerous streams flowing from the mountains to the plains from Palampur. Behind this town stands high ranges of Dhauladhar mountains, whose tops remain snow-covered for most part of the year. Here, a nature lover can enjoy a quiet stroll while feasting his eyes on the natural beauty and an outdoor lover with a taste for adventure can enjoy long hikes and treks.

Pragpur

pragpur Pragpur is a small village, about 50 km from Kangra. It has been enlisted as the World Heritage Village in India. The pristine beauty and glorious historical background makes it a wonderful destination that showcases the traditional values of the local folks.

Baijnath

baijnathIt is a small town 51 km from Kangra and 16 km from Palampur. Famous for the over 800 yr old Shiv Temple of the same name. The temple is a beautiful example of early medieval north Indian Temple architecture known as Nagara style.

Bir

BIR Bir is situated in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas in the Kangra District, just 30 Km from Palampur and is a noted centre for ecotourism, spiritual studies and meditation. The greater Bir area includes Billing, the Tibetan Colony in Chowgan, Ghornala, and Sherab Ling in Bhattu. It is home to a diverse community of over a thousand Indian villagers, a Tibetan refugee settlement, and a small but growing international population . Bir is so charming that one of the joys of getting around is doing so slowly, out in the open. The many villages and fields of greater Bir are interconnected by webs of walking trails. Do yourself a favor by getting out and walking as much as you can . Paragliding is one of it’s biggest draws for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill seekers. Bir is regarded by international paragliding groups as the second best site in the world for paragliding (after Lake Como in Italy).

To discover Kangra contact Road2Travel for any information. You might want an extended trip to Himachal including Shimla and Manali. A number of Budget and Deluxe hotels are available like Hotel Kalpna by R C Hospitality at Manali. Road2himachal our Himachal division would be eager to help you out.

Advertisements

MASROOR ROCK CUT TEMPLES KANGRA

The Masroor Rock Cut Temples are a little known architectural wonder in Himachal Pradesh. Just 38 km from Kangra town on the Nagrota Surian link road, is this amazing monolithic rock cut temple complex of 15 temples, carved out of a single rock. The complex is surrounded by deodar trees and along this complex is a small pool of water giving it a surreal feel of an era gone by. These are the only rock cut temples in north India.

masroor3In the centre of the complex stands the principal and most elaborately carved shrine – the Thakurdwara. This temple is carved inside and it enshrines black stone images of Ram, Lakshman and Sita facing east. The rest of the 14 temples (7 on either side of the central temple) are carved only on the outside. The entire theme of the temple carvings revolve around the festivity and coronation of Lord Shiva who is the centre of the Hindu pantheon. Locals believe that the Pandavs built the Masroor Rock Temples during their period of exile and pray in the temples even today.

masroor2The remote location of these temples protected them from the invading army of Mahmud Ghazni and their stone construction prevented severe damage in the 1905 earthquake. But now only a few of the original shikhars stand and some of the beautifully carved panels are in the state museum at Shimla. As such one is well aware of the neglect of most ASI monuments and The Masroor Rock Cut Temples are no exception.

masroor5

masroor4Surprisingly this exceptionally beautiful monument does not form part of any popular itinerary of Himachal Tourism. Road2Himachal plans to set this right…

You can see a detailed walk through by Google at http://goo.gl/WDrTY1

11 REASONS TO VISIT MANALI IN WINTERS

The crowds throng to Manali to escape the summer heat. Visit Manali in winters and enjoy the serenity and solitude with a snow capped picture perfect landscape

1. Snow, Snow and more snow

The ideal time to see & feel fresh snow and a breathtaking landscape you see only in the movies

snow

 2.  Snowman

Build your first Snowman

snowman

3.  Stay in 4 star comfort at Budget Rates

The period of sparse crowds and upto 50% discount on Hotel rooms compared to summers

hotel

4.  Snow activities

Skiing, Sledding, Snowmobiles all at Solang Valley

activity

5.  Hot Sulphur Springs

Take dip in the Hot Sulphur Springs at Vashisht , Klath or Manikaran

manikaran

6.  Himalayan Trout

Taste fresh Himalayan Trout at the many eateries on the Mall or The Johnson Café along with your favourite drink.

trout

7.  Hadimba Temple

The historic Hadimba temple, built in 1533 and located in the middle of a deodar forest

hadimba

8. Understand the benefits of a 4 wheel drive vehicle

If you are in Manali during snowfall then only a 4 X 4 Gypsy can take you to the relocated Volvo Stand.

gypsy9. Kullu Shawls

Buy the famous Kullu Shawls directly from the factory and keep the cold away

kullu

10. See the local home heating system

The innovative home heating system used by the locals is like a Tandoor which works like a heater and is also used for cooking. The entire family sleeps around it at night.

TANDOOR

11. Adventure

Visiting Manali in Winters is an adventure in itself. The slippery roads, a white landscape, subzero temperatures, power cuts, frozen water pipes, regular warnings of heavy snowfall in the media gives one a feeling of continuous thrill.

advent

 

Himalayan Adventures – Gliding through the skies in Bir-Billing

Bir-Billing, located in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, is an adventure destination for paragliding. Bir-Billing is roughly a 2-3 hours drive from Mcleodganj – another tourist destination also famous for housing the monastery where His Holiness, The Dalai Lama resides. Bir-Billing is a well known destination among paragliders the world over and it also hosts annual pre-World Cup paragliding events with support from the Himachal Tourism Development Corporation, Government of Himachal Pradesh.

The nearest station to Bir-Billing is Patahankot, a drive of around 4-4.5 hours. In case of a bus journey, the Volvo bus from Delhi to Baijnath is the most convenient. Baijnath is a 10 km drive from Bir which is the landing point for paragliding. Billing, located a further 13 kms above Bir is the take-off point for the same. Either ways, Bir-Billing is an overnight journey from Delhi and takes roughly 12 hours to reach.

On the way to from Baijnath by road, one would be greeted by the sight of many paragliders flying in the clear skies as you come close to Bir. It is a rare sight in India. In fact it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is a lot easier to spot para-gliders floating through the skies in Bir-Billing than spotting birds.

Image

Image

Upon reaching Bir, the sight of lush green tea estates on either side of the road will greet you. In the months of April – May, the weather is quite sunny and hot during daytime. The temperatures however go down after 4 in the evening and by night it becomes considerably cool and pleasant. It is better to spend the night in Billing than in Bir as Billing is at a height of 2400 metres above the sea level and enjoys a much cooler climate. Moreover, the aerial view that Billing offers of the entire landscape down below is a sight to behold. To watch the early morning sunrise in Billing is nothing short of a magical experience. Billing not only offers beautiful sights of lush green landscape, but also boasts of a splendid aerial view and is a beginning point into the forest which leads to Barabhangal village after a 5 days trek. There is no other approach road to this village, located in a remote region in Himachal Pradesh, except through the mountains.

There are two options of going to Billing from Bir – either by trekking through the hills/walking up the road or by car through the motorable road made for vehicles. Those who are keen on burning some calories can opt for either the trek through the hills (a steeper but shorter route) or use the motorable road for walking up (longer but less stressful and tiring). If you wish to enjoy the lovely sights on the way to Billing, it is advisable to opt for the trek/walk instead of the easier option of car.

Our joy knew no bounds when we saw the campsite which was our place to shack up for the night. A line of five colourful tents greeted us as soon as we reached our destination. The tents were pitched right under the clear skies and on the steep slopes which looked down upon the lush green mountains. Each tent can comfortably occupy two persons with their bags. If you wish to take a dump or pee, there is another tent created especially for that a few yards below the slope.

Image

If you are lucky, it might even rain and make the weather quite chilly. We did get lucky. We had come with our stock of booze for the night that actually helped keep us warm for the night. The same place which was hot in the afternoon had suddenly become very chilly at night due to the rainfall. It however was a night to remember for many reasons. It was after all a night out at a campsite in the Himalayas, lovely weather, and booze to keep us warm along with food cooked in a shack by the camp manager’s team. Most importantly it was a night spent under the open skies with thousands of stars shining brightly. It seemed like every star was trying to outshine the other stars. Thankfully, we were one of the few people present there in Billing that night to admire that beautiful sight where heavens seemed to be shining upon us. It seemed like the heavens had suddenly spread out its long black blanket with hundreds and thousands of stars stuck on it. Never before had I ever seen so many stars shine so brightly all at once in the skies. Thankfully, we had our share of booze to admire the lovely night. Thankfully, we were present on top of those hills to admire that beautiful sight.

The next day was the day of reckoning for us. As we got up in the morning, we were greeted by the sight of horses grazing around the hills. There is something really special about waking up in the middle of the mountains in the Himalayan range. The sight of this gigantic range which spans thousands of kilometres across multiple countries can make one feel insignificant and small. One look at these beautiful hills and snow covered mountains makes us realise that “our world” is just so small and there is so much more to explore.

Image

The weather on that morning was just perfect and we got ready for the ride with assistance from the organizers and our fellow pilots. Our introduction to the activity was quite simple. We walked up to the take-off point in Billing which was just 5 minutes from our campsite. The kits were already there and we were told that the instructions were very simple. The organisers told us, “You have to run as fast as you can and jump off the cliff. The faster your speed while running, the better your take off will be.” Very simple instructions indeed! Run down the cliff, jump off without a parachute and then hope that the glider opens up in time! That is certainly a perfect start to the day. But thankfully our fears were unfounded. Thankfully, gravity always does its bit and thanks to Newton’s laws of motion, the take-off was scary but safe. The entire thrill ride lasts for around 20-25 minutes with the pilot, who thankfully sits right behind you, controlling everything including the manoeuvring, speed and height. Our job is to sit there, scream and feel like a bird. At certain points we were flying high above the mountains from where I was gazing down on the planes below a few minutes back. The first 10minutes of the ride were quite scary as it took a while for the whole experience to sink in. The first 10 minutes of the ride were spent worrying about the consequences of an accident if anything went wrong. There was after all no chance of survival as we were flying way up in the sky without the comfort of a parachute. Thankfully, these fears were unfounded as the kits used for paragliding are tested and approved by competent authorities. The pilots too are skilled and well trained pilots who are equally concerned and cautious about safety.

The next 15 minutes were spent admiring the beauty of the landscape from a bird’s eye view. The whole experiences was simply mind numbing as we flew high over the mountain tops and tried spotting some of the prominent landmarks below. The goosebumps gave way to renewed excitement as we quikcly flew over the forests covering the mountains and the open plains right below these mountains. The landing spot for the activity too is a well maintained site. The landing can be a bit tricky if not done as per the instructions of the pilot. However if you pay heed to his advice a comfortable and smooth landing is easy to achieve. Our joy knew no bounds as we landed one at a time within a span of 10 minutes. We were literally jumping like mad-hatters and pounced on each other in a super-hyper and excited phase as we completed our rides. The entire experience was truly memorable and the flight towards the skies was surreal.

The Himalayas have always had a magical pull on me and this time it was no different. It was a new destination, a new adventure and a different experience altogether. Highly recommended for those who yearn for a high-flying experience.

courtsey : http://pranav84blog.wordpress.com/

for you bir billing experience contact Road2travel

LAKE PRASHER – MANDI

Surrounded amidst the towering Dhaladhar ranges of Kulu valley is a small blue watered lake called Prashar. The lake known to locals is a well kept secret in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, about 3 hrs drive from Manali. Prashar Lake is about 100 km from Manali and 48 km from Mandi and is at a height of about 2700m from sea level. The last 20 km of the road to the Lake is very bad and dangerous and this is one of the reasons that most tourists who flock to Manali do not have a visit to this beautiful location in their itinerary. The other reason is the total apathy of the Himachal Tourism Department.

If you start the Journey from Mandi, the road takes you through Runjh, Katidhi village and then village Kamand. Kamand is very beautiful place along the bank of river Uhal. After Kamand you will reach Village Kataula, the largest village in this valley. After a few kilometers we follow the link road to Shagli village . Prashar lake is still 23 Km from this point and now the road conditions deteriorate. Last tea stop is village Baggi after that the drive becomes more difficult. The road runs along the lush green pine forest and despite the lousy road you feel good. From Baggi you will reach Prashar in 1.5 to 2 hrs.

From Manali it is a pleasant 55 km drive on NH 21 to Bajaura. The road runs alongside the beautiful river Beas and after bypassing Kullu town reaches Bhunter. About 3 km beyond Bhunter is the right turn from Bajaura on to the State Highway. After 26 kilometer drive on a small, lonely, beautiful road, you reach the ‘Y’ junction, where straight road continues for Mandi (25 km) and left road leads to Prashar Lake (23 km).

Once you reach Lake Prashar the heart stopping and bumpy road is forgotten, you feel like a winner and the panoramic view of the himalayas and the lake give you a heavenly feeling. It is here that the sage Prashar is said to have meditated.  On the lake’s edge is a three storied Pagoda-like temple dedicated to the sage. Capped with a roof of slate tiles, the temple has a wealth of wood carvings. An old temple, it is said to have been built by Raja Ban Sen of Mandi in the 14th century. An entire panorama of snowy mountain ranges is visible from this location. If some one want to stay here one can book the guest houses of HPPWD or HP Forest Dept.

The young and adventurous could also trek to Prashar Lake. The trek follows a beautiful trail that goes through a series of reserved forest cover, small rivulets and scenic pasture-lands. One can enjoy the local mountain village culture as the trail goes through the muddy tarred path of the local villages here. The trail is quiet enjoyable and gives a breathtaking 180 degree view of Dhauladhar, Pir Pinjal and Kinnaur mountain ranges. This makes for a perfect weekend trek with its proximity and good road connectivity with cities like Delhi, Chandigarh.

The temperature here range from -9 deg C to 23 degrees C and in winters there is heavy snowfall and the last few km of the road is closed. The best time to visit is April to July and Sept to Nov.

For your visit to Manali and Lake Parasher contact Road2Travel

Jogini Falls : Manali

Walk  upward along The Beas River approx 4 km from Manali, and you come across the village Bhang. You could drive to Bhang or take a leisurely walk before the short, off road hike, to Jogini Falls. Since we were in a hurry, we drove to Bhang.  The entrance to the village is a narrow lane of cobbled stones, which you can easily miss.  As you enter the path, the village homes with their small and large Apple Orchids pass by. We went in the Apple season, September, therefore the trees were laden with ready to pluck red, mouthwatering Apples. As we move up , the  cobbled stone path turns to a dirt track steadily climbing up.

jogi01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dirt path narrows down to an uneven strip where you have walk in a single file, over rocks, and slippery loose stone. The small rivulet from the Falls , flows by, sometimes along our path and at other times disappearing behind the rocks and the foliage.

jogi02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 100m after the village ends one comes across a cluster of small rooms surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. A lot of large pipes entering and leaving these small rooms. On talking to the villagers, we were told that a private company was setting up a micro hydel project for generation of electricity using the flow of the Jogini falls. But the Villagers objected and the work has stopped since then.

jogi03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jogi04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After about a 500 mts, mildly treacherous climb, we reach the Jogini Falls.

joginifalls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a great sight. The roar of falling water and quietness of the mountains. you can see the pieces of the pipeline which was being laid for the micro hydel project.

lookingdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can take a rocky path from Jogini falls to Vashisht temple and hot springs or walk back through Bhang Village to the Main road.

vashisht

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we returned back through the village , we realized that non of the houses, big or small, in the village have fresh water. The entire village fulfills their daily water requirement from the public piped water of the Jogini falls.

A short exciting hike, a great place for a picnic, a great view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malana: Athens of The Himalayas

Malana is considered to be one of the first democracies in the world. A remote, primitive little village, in the Himalayas. Malana was isolated from the outside civilization for thousands of years, was never invaded or ruled by an external administration. The people here have been living in harmony with nature, with their own language, their own world, their own democracy. Malana is a 4 km hike from Jari Village, which lies on the road from Kullu to Manikaran. About 2 hrs drive from Manali.

According to tradition, the residents of Malana are the descendant of Aryans, and they acquired their independence during the Mughal reign when the Emperor Akbar walked to the village in order to cure an ailment that he was afflicted with; after having been successfully cured he put out an edict stating that all the inhabitants of the valley would never be required to pay tax. An alternative tradition suggests that Malana was founded by remnants of Alexander the Great’s Army. Their ancestral roots may be debatable but their democratic setup with participatory court procedure has similarity to that of ancient Greece.

This People’s Republic has been governed by a village council with an upper house and a lower house like the bicameral assemblies of our parliament. The council members are chosen by the village folk through a process of unanimous selection – not an election. Their court has been resolving all their internal disputes. The social structure of Malana in fact rests on villagers’ unshaken faith in their powerful deity, Jamlu Devta. The entire administration of the village is controlled by him through the village council. His decision is ultimate in any dispute and any outside authority is never required. It is although a real fact that Malanis through this council perform a political system of direct democracy very similar to that of ancient Greece. Thus Malana has been named the Athens of Himalayas.

Malanis admire their culture, customs and religious beliefs. They generally do not like to change though some traces of modernization are visible. People in Malana consider all non-Malani to be inferior and consequently untouchable. Visitors to Malana village must pay particular attention to stick to the prescribed paths and not to touch any of the walls, houses or people there. If this does occur, visitors are expected to pay a sum, that will cover the sacrificial slaughter of a lamb in order purify the object that has been made impure. Malani people may touch impure people or houses as long as they follow the prescribed purification ritual before they enter their house or before they eat. Malanis may never accept food cooked by a non-Malani person, unless they are out of the valley (in which case their Devta can’t see them). The interaction with the outside world is slowly changing these traditions.

Kanashi, the language of Malana, does not resemble any of the dialects spoken in its neighborhood but seems to be a mixture of Sanskrit and several Tibetan dialects.  This sort of amalgamation makes it difficult for an alien to understand it.  Language is also considered to be one of the secrets of the village and outsiders are not allowed to use it for communication.

Another claim to fame of Malana is the very good quality cannabis plant that grows in abundance there. For ages the use of cannabis has been an integral part of their lives, from medicine to footwear. But in the past they had never traded it; neither did they know the value of it. Their only trade with the outside world had been sheep wool. In the seventies came some white men. They taught the villagers how to rub the cream – the cleaner and more potent hashish suitable for an international market. Those foreigners drew them into business. Malana cream became an international brand. Hashish production grew like a home industry for each household, without being aware that processing of cannabis is a crime. Although the state administration, occasionally cracks down on this illicit trade, but the small town of Kasol, nearby, is home to a large number of international backpackers.

Some fanciful stories about this village called “a little greece,” as also its drug mafia with its do’s and don’ts, are often published in newspapers and magazines. However, what distinguishes this village in the interior of  Himalayas is its architecture, language, worship rituals and autonomous administrative system.  The unique geographical location of Malana has enabled it to preserve its biodiversity and it is an ecological haven.