Dharamshala

I was staying in Delhi then and had still not moved back to my hometown, Kolkata. There were two months that I used to wait for every year. May & October, the time to go out for our holidays. May, the longer one & October, the short and sweet one.

This particular year it was becoming a little difficult for me to take a long off, as there were too many engagements in my consulting assignment. But then I was not the one to spend the entire summer without a holiday and missing out on the mountains. And so was planned this short trip with a day of work punched in.

Coming along? 🤔 Don’t wonder. Come let’s take off for another awesome hilly experience. We are off to Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh 🛫

Dharamshala HPCA Stadium, Himachal Pradesh, India

The planning was done in a hurry. But to our delightful surprise the Air Tickets were available at a very reasonable price. We decided to stay in Mcleod Ganj, a little higher up in the hills and for a change I wished to try out a Homestay accommodation if I could find one, instead of a hotel. My search revealed a solitary result, the rates were reasonable and most reviews talked highly. So the deal was sealed, payments made and we were all set to take off.

The landing was smooth and Kangra Airport was impressive, sporting a fresh new look. Naren, our driver for the next few days was the childhood friend of Mukesh, my driver in Delhi and his wide grin welcoming us showed he was eagerly looking forward to meet us. Pleasantries over, we were on our way.

Kangra Valley, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India
Kangra Valley

Dharamshala is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of Deodar cedar trees. Until the British era, Dharamshala and its surrounding area was ruled by the Katoch Dynasty of Kangra, a royal family that ruled the region for two millennia. The royal family still keeps a residence in Dharamsala, known as ‘Clouds End Villa’. The suburbs include McLeod Ganj, Bhagsunath, Dharamkot, Naddi, Forsyth Ganj and and Sidhbari (where the Karmapa is based). This place is also famous for its cricket stadium.

McLeod Ganj, lying in the upper reaches, is known worldwide for the presence of the Dalai Lama. On 29 April 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) established the Tibetan exile administration in the north Indian hill station of Mussoorie. In May 1960, the Central Tibetan Administration was moved to Dharamshala and is now the centre of the Tibetan exile world in India. Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who followed the 14th Dalai Lama. His presence and the Tibetan population have made Dharamshala a popular destination for Indian and foreign tourists, including students studying Tibet.

Dharamshala also has beautiful tea gardens and its tea, known as Dharamsala or Kangra tea, is very popular across India and the rest of the world. Traditionally known for Kangra green tea, Dharamshala now produces all teas including black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white teas, in addition to the popular Kashmiri Kahwa and Masala Chai.

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India

We were in for a flowery welcome at McleodGanj Homestay. A nice small place with a lots of flowers and green around. The rooms were small but neatly done up and our room was one, facing the main road. They delivered what they promised and I felt happy. The food was nothing extraordinary, but quite good. The owners were great people to talk to, especially one of the sons, Sahil who was in charge of handling guests, running the place including cooking and serving of food. The home touch is what we felt, in abundance.

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, India
Garden Cafe “The Taste of India”

We checked in and after a cup of some great coffee at the Garden Cafe, we were out for a stroll. The homestay is strategically located near the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, less than ten minutes walk from the center of McLeod Ganj and only one mile from the Dalai Lama’s Temple area.

The winding roads, Macleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India
Walk down the narrow roads..
Kalachakra Temple, Mcleodgang, India
Kalachakra Temple, Source – Wikipedia

The Kalachakra temple is located inside the Thekchen Chöling temple complex in Mcleodganj. The temple complex also houses the Namgyal monastery, the private chambers of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and the famous Tsuglag Khang temple.

The Tibet Museum, is adjacent to the Dalai Lama temple (Tsuglag Khang). Established in 1998 and inaugurated by the 14th Dalai Lama on 20 April 2000, it has a collection of Tibetan artifacts and photographs showing Tibetans’ struggle to preserve their way of life against oppressive forces. It is the official museum of the Central Tibetan Administration Department of Information and International Relations. The museum aims to spread awareness about the history of the occupation of Tibet and the exodus that Tibetan resistance against Chinese oppression ultimately led to. The museum displays over 30,000 photographs. Visitors can also watch a documentary showing the journey of Tibetan refugees into exile across the Himalayas.

Buddha at Dalai Lama's Tsuglagkhang Temple complex, Macleodgang,India
Buddha at Dalai Lama’s Tsuglagkhang Temple complex
Golden prayer wheels, Mcleod Ganj,India
Golden Prayer Wheels

Kalachakra temple is a symbol of the concept in Buddhist religion known popularly as ‘The wheel of time’. Kalachakra is a combination of two Sanskrit words Kāla (meaning: time) and Chakra (meaning: wheel). Kalachakra is a notion that Buddhist philosophies and even the Hindu religion strongly believe in. According to this notion, time is considered to be a cyclical concept whereby the timeline of the world is divided into certain ages or epochs and they repeat after one another in a circular pattern.

In the Buddhist tradition, there are important rituals associated with Kalachakra. At the temple, monks perform Kalachakra empowerment procedures that they believe would enhance the spirituality of the environment and further the cause of peace and harmony among human beings. Apart from being the site for Buddhist rites and rituals, the Kalachakra temple is also a regular venue for public meetings and discourses conducted by his holiness the Dalai Lama.

Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is one of the most beloved and inspirational figures of the last century. As the political and spiritual leader of the Chinese province of Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s tireless and decades-long work as a seeker of peace and campaigner for Tibetan independence has elevated him into one of the world’s great moral leaders, with countless supporters and admirers around the world.

Born in 1935 to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet, the boy born Lhamo Thondup was anointed the 14th Dalai Lama at age 2, following Tibetan Buddhist traditions. He began his religious education at age 6, and at age 16 assumed full power as the political leader of Tibet. The young Dalai Lama’s activism for a free and democratic Tibet sparked a Chinese military occupation of the province in 1959, which forced the leader’s government and supporters into exile in India, where he has lived ever since. And the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of this selfless man is one of his quotes, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.

Market

As we walked back, it was difficult not to stop at the local market with the roadside Tibetan stalls selling keepsakes, casual clothes including fancy jackets and of course the mouth watering freshly steamed momos and other delicacies like soup, noodles, fried wanton and more. After the feast and a few souvenir purchases it was a refreshing walk back to our nest for the night.

The next morning was work 😐. We set out early as the session was at 12 Noon. A talk on “The prospect of Retail Sector in India” for the class IX – XII students of Government Senior Secondary School, Jwalamukhi. We reached there well before time after a two hour drive and were greeted in a typical Himachal style with garlands, snacks, tea, sweets, numerous cold drink options and more more and more. I was itching to start the session but they were in no hurry. And finally it did start, just about in time. It was such an enriching experience truly. Cute little kids focussed on their future.

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Lunch was offered and about to be ordered when I convinced the school authorities that we were too full. Actually the reason was that we wished to have our lunch in a local eatery to get a feel of the traditional Himachal food. We chose one which looked the most decorated and clean. And we loved the simple vegetarian food. Our next destination, Jwalamukhi Temple.

Jawalamukhi Temple, Himachal Pradesh, India

Jawalamukhi Temple, Himachal Pradesh, India

Jwalamukhi is a famous temple of Goddess Jwalamukhi, the deity of flaming face. 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 mountain range this temple has it’s own brilliance.

No idol is located in the temple and the deity is worshipped in the form of flames which come out from the crevices of the rocks. There is a small platform in front of the temple and a big mandap where a huge brass bell presented by the King of Nepal is hung. Usually milk and water are offered as obligations to the sacred flames in the pit, situated in the centre 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 and milk. There is a mystic Yantra 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. Aarti is performed five times in the day, havan is performed once daily and portions of Durga Saptasati are recited. It is also one of the most renowned temples of Goddess Durga and is identified as one among the 51 Shakti Peethas. Shakti Peethas are shrines of Devi, the primordial Mother Goddess.It is believed that Sati Devi’s tongue fell here.

We were now heading back towards Mcleod Ganj while we enjoyed the beauty of the entire stretch of Kangra and the fresh cool air. The evening was spent relaxing on the terrace of our homestay, with plants all around. The owners maintain a nursery and organic vegetables are also grown and used in preparing the vegetarian dishes for guests.

Mcleodgang Homestay, Mcleodgang, Himachal Pradesh, India

The next day was action packed and so we got up very early to check out the sunrise and go for a short walk before freshening up and having our breakfast. Naren had arrived and so we quickly got into the car and headed towards Dharamshala. Let me take you now on this wonderful journey with us. A journey that should stay with you for a long long time.

Dal Lake, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Dal Lake

Dal Lake in Dharamsala is located on Dal Lake-McLeod Ganj Road. Known for its altitude, it is surrounded by canopies of deodar trees that add to the charm of this small lake. There is a small spring and a sacred Shiva temple here that is quite popular among the local people for its mythological importance. Above Dal lake is Naddi village, from where one can see the wider view of Dhauladhar range and the beautiful sunset. There are many cafes there to relax and enjoy the sunset.

Kangra fort, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Kangra Fort

Kangra Fort, located on the outskirts of Kangra town, is a fort built by the Rajput family of Kangra as part of the Katoch Dynasty. The builders of this fort trace their history back to the Mahabharata making this fort the oldest recorded fort in India.

It’s also the largest fort in the Himalayas. The fort is well known for its importance in medieval Indian history as it was a much sought after fort by the Mughals and succeeded in resisting a lot of Mughal sieges. The outer wall of the fort has a circumference of 4 kms and the inner chambers have a lot of artifacts from various periods, most notably the Mughal and British occupied India eras. There are temples and royal chambers inside that make for a very fun and eventful trip.

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Norbulingka Institute Complex
Norbulingka Institute is a unique Institute dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan Arts and Culture. It is a self-sustaining community focusing on ensuring that the integrity of Tibetan artistic traditions is maintained for generations to come which took root in Tibet. The studios produce museum-quality artwork using methods that have been practiced and passed down for many centuries. More as we move around inside and observe. Sometimes, silence is golden.

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
The Losel Doll Museum

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Seat of Happiness Temple. Known for its 1,173 murals of Buddha, frescoes of all the Dalai Lamas and drawings chronicling the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. In the main hall stands the 4 mt high gilded copper Buddha Sakyamuni statue, made by institute’s master statue-maker, the late Chenmo Pemba Dorje.

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Norbulinka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Artisans at work. Art objects made are sold at the Norbulingka Shop

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

As you come out of the main complex, the Norbulingka Gardens is a pretty place to spend some time relaxing. There is a cafe with some great eating options.

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Norbulingka Institute Gardens
Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Garden Cafe

Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

After spending some real quality time it was time to move towards some more peace destinations.

Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Dalai Lama Temple Complex
Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Dalai Lama Temple

Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Our next stop was the HPCA Cricket Stadium. What better way to indulge in such a sport than to watch it in a stadium that is located at an altitude of 1457 meters amidst scenic mountains and high altitude.

HPCA Cricket Stadium, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
HPCA Cricket Stadium

St. John in the Wilderness Church – An Anglican church located in the forest near Forsyth Ganj. The neo-Gothic stone building was constructed in 1852. The site also has an old graveyard and a memorial to the British Viceroy Lord Elgin. The church is also noted for its Belgian stained-glass windows, donated by Lady Elgin.

St. John in the Wilderness Church, Dharamshala
St. John in the Wilderness Church

Bhagsu Falls, a waterfall about 20 meters tall, is about two kilometers from McLeod Ganj. There is a cafeteria next to the falls and the area serves as a picnic spot for tourists. The Shiva Cafe can be reached by crossing these falls and climbing further. Nearby is Bhagsunath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, also an attraction for tourists and Hindu pilgrims.

Bhagsu waterfalls, Mcleod Ganj, Himachal, India
Bhagsu Waterfalls
Bhagsunath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mcleod Ganj, Himachal. India
Bhagsunath Temple

Bhagsunath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mcleod Ganj, Himachal. India

Bhagsunath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mcleod Ganj, Himachal. India

Bhagsunath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Mcleod Ganj, Himachal. India

Our last stop for the day was Naddi village to get a close up view of the Dhauladhar Mountain range. And what a pretty sight it was.

Dhauladhar Range, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Dhauladhar Range, Dharamshala, Himachal, India

Dhauladhar Range, Dharamshala, Himachal, India
Dhauladhar peaks

Dharamshala, Himachal, India

As we moved back, our happiness could be seen on our faces. The trip was short, very sweet and thoroughly enjoyable. And the end of another journey towards endless learning.

Dharamshala. A rich mix of history, religion, culture & nature.

Come to Dharamshala. Experience Himachal. Experience India Beautiful 🇮🇳

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47 Comments

  1. Guy says:

    I remember spending so many weekends flying a paraglider between Bir and Mcleodganj and back over the mountains to Manali when the conditions were good. Such lovely people, places and experiences in the foothills of the himalaya.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      When are you coming back man. Just the two of us spending some great time together 😊

  2. In posts like these I always notice how cool the markets look! They don’t have things like this with outside markets and so much personability. I love the history you were able to capture! Great pictures!

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thank you. So happy you enjoyed 😊

  3. Snehal says:

    We are soon planning our next trip to Himachal Pradesh. I will like to visit all the places mentioned here. 😍 Especially the dal lake and bhagsu waterfalls. 😊

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Best wishes Snehal. Enjoy the trip. Have fun.

  4. Ben Butler says:

    Thanks for sharing another great place with us. I’m always eager to see where we’ll be off to next.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thanks Ben. Soon taking you to one of the seven wonders of the world 😊

  5. Emily Fata says:

    Dharamshala looks like such a stunning area! The vibrant colours are absolutely captivating. I would love to visit here one day, to see it all myself.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      You are welcome for some real good fun in India 🇮🇳

  6. Felicia says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your beautiful stories of travel. I love taking a walk through your words and pictures.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thank you Felicia. And your kind words mean a lot to me 😊

  7. Tiffany La Forge-Grau says:

    There’s always so much history to the places you travel to. That truly is one of my favorite parts of your posts.

  8. travelwisesr says:

    Thank you Tiffany. India is actually very rich in history. Hope to keep bringing you more such places.

  9. artch33 says:

    The valley looks wonderful and I like how amazing the waterfalls is.

  10. Those gardens are beautiful; wish I had something like that in my own yard!

  11. Great pictures! It sounds like you had a great time over there and the environment seems very spiritual.

  12. emman damian says:

    Bhagsu waterfalls look so amazing! I wish I can visit it soon. All your travels are so cool!

  13. This may be my favorite post of yours yet. Dharamshala is beautiful. Norbulingka Institute looks fascinating as well. The woodcarving was unbelievable. And The Dali Lama complex was stunning. I’d love to see thsi one day.

  14. I wish I was able to visit as many places as you do! So many things in this world that I’d love to see!

  15. These photos are great. I adore the artistry in Buddhist temples.

  16. Porsha Carr says:

    Your post are so full of adventure and awesome photos I feel like I’m right there with ya!

  17. I just knew about Dharamshala for two things Dalai Lama and cricket. Today I learnt so much more from your post and am now yearning to go to this wonderful place. Lovely clicks and very informative.

  18. Despite Pain says:

    Your posts are never just about the scenery, but you give some background information and history too. I admire the Dalai Lama and have to say I would love to see that temple. Lovely post and photos, as always.

  19. Jennifer McCormick says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey. As someone who has never visited India I got a glimpse into the varied sites to be seen; from temples, mountains to bustling shopping.

  20. aword84 says:

    I loved how you posted the details of the dolls from the Museum, the market stands, and the artisans at work. It gave the places you describe more reality and humanity at the same time.. Like if we were traveling with you in a sense.

  21. fourcolu says:

    as someone who studied in simla this is an amazing piece of content and very valuable you really made me relive my school days in hp thanks for an amazing engaging content

  22. What an amazing journey! I really enjoyed this post and can’t wait for the next one!

  23. Your post is full of interesting facts about the region and is complemented by the amazing photographs. Thanks for sharing.

  24. It all looks so lovely! Those artisans are just amazing, and the flowers in the McleodGanj Homestay…it’s hard to imagine being unhappy in such a gorgeous locale.

  25. WOW ! amazing, i need to visit that place! thanks for takings us every week in a new and beautifull indian paradise

  26. Ashley says:

    Wow, very informative post! Definitely need to add this to my bucket list.

  27. Kippi says:

    Breath taking views. Love the mountains, history, flowers, chai and the artisans. Thank you for sharing your amazing trip. Happy Spring, Kippi

  28. I’m holding to my dreams that some day I will visit India.

  29. You have a way of breathing life into your posts that make one feel like you live or have visited the place in the past. Dharamshala will be a beautiful place to visit.

  30. So wonderful to experience this history! What a dream you’re fulfilling with your travels.

  31. I’ve never heard of this place before, but learned so much about it. I would love to see this someday.

  32. Lyosha Varezhkina says:

    the place looks very interesting! I do hope to visit Delhi one day too, looks ideal to me

  33. A cricket match against this backdrop of hills and mountains? Yes please!

  34. Beautiful location and photos as always, I can totally relate to the feeling of having to work while traveling and now I’m working to save money to travel. Hopefully I get to see all these amazing places like you

  35. Wow this looks beautiful!

  36. Kiwi says:

    You always go to such dreamy locations. I wish I could be packed in you luggage and go with you.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      That’s the cutest comment I have ever got. Thanks Kiwi. Come to India & we would explore some new places togetther 😊

  37. Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”. Love this quote! Dal Lake looks absolutely gorgeous. Such a peaceful place to enjoy an afternoon. Thank you for taking your readers on another wonderful journey with you.

    1. travelwisesr says:

      Thank you so much Erica. Feel happy when I am able to share happiness through my blog posts 😊

  38. I always hope that each thread will have a new post from you! The colors from these photos are amazing and as always, I feel like I’m right there!

  39. ryan says:

    Yeah! Dharamshala is best places to visit ever in our life. Huge natural places are there. Thanks for sharing this information with us!

Comments are closed.