These are some bits and pieces collected from the villages of Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh during my stay at Gaggal Airport, Kangra in this July. In a early morning of july around 6 AM, I reached to Kangra by a Volvo Bus from Delhi. Bus was bounded to Palampur, so I left it at Kangra Bus Stand. From there, I took a local bus to Dharamshala that dropped me outside Hotel MidWay, where I had to stay for a week. Hotel Midway is 8 kms away from Kangra and 9 kms away from Dharamshala, enroute Kangra-Chetru-Dharamshala. One side of hotel is bounded by Shivalik hills and other side by a hilly river. The entire location is beautiful and very peaceful.
Room was already booked by my company. So I just checked in and tried to be ready as soon as possible, so that I could reach airport on time. I was tired due to night long bus journey, but when I took bath with cold water, all tiredness gone and I felt refreshed. I took breakfast and was ready to go to the airport office by 9.30 AM. I walked out of the hotel to catch a local bus to the Gaggal, a nearby town. Kangra airport is in Gaggal, 16 kms away from Dharamshala and 8 kms from Kangra.
To my surprise Mr.Malkit, one of my colleagues at Ludhiana Airport was also present there in the hotel. He is a Manager(Civil) in Airports Authority and was there on the tour to Kangra Airport. He offered me a lift in a Skoda of his friend and we reached airport by 10 AM.
The whole day was passed in the office. In evening came back to the hotel and due to tiredness took an early dinner and went to the bed. From next day onwards, I started to explore the Kangra Valley. I have been there in Kangra 2-3 times earlier, but never seen this valley and its villages so beautiful. In fact, I was not aware about this beauty in previous trips although it was scattered just around the mail road. May be due to the shortage of time in those trip, but now I have plenty of time. So I explored some villages and towns of this valley one by one:
Chetru is the nearest village from the hotel, just 2 kms away. I usually left my bus at chetru in the evening and tried to walk on the road every time when I came back from the office. The village is situated on the one side of the road on a hilly terrain and other side of road is a river valley. Between the valley and the road there are lot of small step-like fields of rice, beautiful garden of Leechi and Mango all the way.
Villagers working in their fields with plough were a common site there. Sometimes I have seen Villagers with stones on their head were climbing upside from the river valley. They used these stones to build home, to tie landslide terrains etc.
The life in these villages is very tough. You have to fight against the nature to arrange your food and water always. Although government put an effort to make available the drinking water through pipelines, but still you can see people having 2-3 buckets are climbing up through hills or walking 2-3 kms for the water.
Interestingly there is also a Buddha Stupa in Chetru. It is not like a traditional dome-shaped stupa, but it is a small hill surrounded by beautiful flowers.
If you want to taste the Momos, adjacent to bus-stand a small Momo shop can provide you the best taste around.
Sarah is an another beautiful village on Dharamshala-Gaggal Road.Many small roads lead there from Kangra to Dharamshala in addition to Kangra-Gaggal-Dharamshala Main Road. Sarah is situated on the road Dharamshal-Kunal Pathri Temple-Sarah-Gaggal. I walked down 6 kms on the hilly road from Dharamshala to reach Sarah. I was intended to walk upto Kunal Pathri Temple only, but road was so beautiful and you can feel a deep silence while walking through the road.
The silence is only broken up by bikes or cars plying on the road. You can see beautiful Tea Gardens along on one side of the road. Dhauladhar Range of Himalayas, which is always covered by Snow, is clearly visible from the starting of the road from Dharamshala. Many Pine tree surrounded all over the area and seems that you are in a beautiful jungle of pines. So I enjoyed the beauty of nature till Sarah. From Sarah, I took a bus and reached to my office again.
Gaggal is a small town in Kangra, situated on Manali-Mandi-Kangra-Pathankot Highway, and 6 kms away from Kangra. Gaggal airport is very beautiful and situated in the lap of Dhauladhar Ranges. From the ATC Tower of Gaggal Airport view of Dhauladhar ranges are awesome. While you are at Gaggal Airport, you could have got an opportunity to meet His Holiness Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any opportunity.A scheduled Kingfisher flight from Delhi operates on daily basis to Gaggal. If you are in the Gaggal, don’t forget to visit the Kake Di Hatti, which offered best cold badam milk and lassi in the town. It is just adjacent to the bus stand of Gaggal Crossing.
Kangra is a district in Himachal Pradesh and mainly famous for Ma Brajeshwari Temple, one of the Shaktipeeth. The Dhauladhar range adjoins the district on one side. The Beas is one of the larger rivers of this district, and contributes to the fertility of the land here. Since I have been there before, whenever I got time, I used to go in the town to see the places which I have seen five years ago. I visited the temple and the railway station. Kangra is connected through a narrow gauge line with Pathankot. During our college days we used to come by the toy train from Pathankot to Kangra. The train journey gives you an opportunity to explore the beauty of Kangra Valley and Maharana Pratap Sagar or Pong Dam Lake. The train passes through the periphery of the lake and the limitless area of Pong Valley gives you an impression of an ocean in front of you.
It is the seat of the district headquarters of the Kangra. It is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest cosisting mainly of stately Deodars. The town is divided into three parts—Upper Dharamsala called McLeod Ganj, the middle Kotwali Bazar and the lower Kaccheri area.
It is connected by the major cities of North India by bus services. I went there early in the morning and decided to see the Martyr’s Garden first. Himachal Pradesh has a reach history to serve the nation through armed forces. This garden is dedicated to the all those martyr’s who fell while defending Bharat Mata, our homeland, during aggressions by Pakistan, China and during some peace operations under United Nations.The name of Martyrs are written on the walls of the memorial.
After Martyr’s Garden I went to the Cricket Stadium of Dharamshala. It is a cricket stadium of international reputation, which serves as home ground to the Himachal Pradesh state cricket team. By virtue of its setting in nature, it is one of the most attractive cricket stadiums in India.
I went to bus stand of Dharamshala and took a bus to McLeodGaj also referred to as ‘Upper Dharamshala’. The bus passed through the dense forest of Deodar and climbed slowly on the hills in its 11 km journey.
The town of McLeod Ganj in Upper Dharamshala is known worldwide for the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that take place here every year. It is also his residence. Dharamsala houses the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in exile about two kilometers below the town of MCLeod Ganj, led by the Prime Minister, Samdhong Rinpoche.
Dharamsala is the closest one can get to Tibet while still in India. This quaint hill station is home to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of the Tibetan Buddhists. Once a British hill station, Dharamsala received an influx of Tibetan refugees after the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959. Today, Dharamsala is a popular destination for Indian and foreign tourists, particularly those seeking spiritual salvation.
In McLeodGanj, I have visited famous Tsuglagkhang Temple (the Dalai Lama’s Temple), Bhagsu Nag Temple, Bhagsu Waterfall and St. John’s Church in the Wilderness. I will describe all the temples journey in a separate post.
St. John’s Church is an Anglican church located in the forest near ForsythGanj. The neo-Gothic stone building of the Church was constructed in 1852. The site also has a memorial of the British Viceroy Lord Elgin, and an old graveyard. The church building is also noted for its Belgian stained-glass windows donated by Lady Elgin. The church building is surrounded by trees of Deodars and Pines all around.
In McLeodGanj, I went into a Tibetan Restaurant to have the taste of Momos.I ordered special Veg.Momos. After 15 mins I got two big pieces of Momos. I have never seen the Momos of such size and taste was also very bad. I could not able to eat all those and finally threw them in dustbin.
Dal Lake is also a famous religious and beautiful site, but since I have seen it before and this time doesn’t have the time, so I didn’t go there.
McLeodGanj also provide you the opportunity of trekking on snow-covered Dhauladhar Range. There are lot of shops around the town, who operate these treks on one-day basis, three-day basis and so on. Most famous one day trek is Triund trek, which is located 9 kms from McLeodGanj.
Then I again I took a bus to Dharamshala and then to Kangra and came back to my hotel.
I have heard many times that palampur is a very beautiful hill station and famous for its tea estate. So one morning, I woke up early and decided to visit Palampur.I came to Dharamshala from my hotel by a local bus and from there took another bus to Palampur. It is 30 kms away from Dharamshala. I reached there by 9 AM. The picturesque town of Palampur is a serene and almost untouched hill station. Palampur is bounded by verdant tea gardens, pine and deodar thick forests, and numerous streams and brooks dance through the scenic landscape.
Dhauladhar Range seems very near from Palampur in comparison to Dharamshala and snow-packed mountains are clearly visible. I walked through the road from the town and passed through the beautiful tea gardens. There I have seen ladies working in the tea gardens with basket on their back. I also visited Palampur Tea Factory.
There is also an institute by CSIR located 2 km from Palampur on way to Baijnath and is one of the reputed institutes of the country dealing with Himalayan Bio resource Technology and research on Tea Gardens.
During those days in Kangra Valley, I have explored lot of untouched places and then one day come back to delhi with full satisfaction.