Page updated on 05/07/2003
Kangra valley is one of the Himachal’s beautiful valleys. It rolls down the southern edge of magnificent Dhauladhar range in gentle slopes covered with forests of pine, orchards, green tea gardens and terraced fields. The Dhauladhars -the “White ranges” rise upto 14000 ft. providing a dramatic backdrop to the hill resort of Dharamsala. This is the principal township of Kangra covering a wide area in the form of town settlement. Lower Dharamsala (1380 mt) is a busy commercial centre, while upper Dharamsala (1700 mt) with the suburbs of Mcleodganj and Forsythganj, -retains the British flavour more or less colonial lifestyle. The charming stone church of St. John in the Wilderness, with its beautiful stained glass windows is situated here and this churchyard is the final resting place of Lord Elgin, a British Viceroy of India who was buried here in 1863, as he chose to remain in the town he loved. Up in Mcleodganj is a charming Tibetan settlement with bustling Bazars that sell carpets, handicrafts and delicious Tibetan food. A giant prayer wheel ornaments main street and in the monastery, a screne statue of the Lord Buddha presides over the gentle chanting of the monks. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama resides in Mcleodganj, which is now a major centre for Tibetan Government -in- exile and Tibetan culture. It has a School for Tibetan studies with rare manuscripts and ancient texts, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts and a handicrafts centre. Dharamsala has everything for a perfect holiday. Winter in the Kangra Valley is enchanting. The snow line remains close enough at all times and during winter months, the northern part is swaddled in a blanket of freshly fallen snow allowing the magic of Kangra to take on yet another hue. Numerous ancient temples like Jawalamukhi, Bajreshwari, Chamunda and Baijnath (Vaidyanath) lie on the plains below Dhauladhar
|Altitude||Between 1,250 and 1,982 metres.|
|Temprature||Maximum 38 degree celsius in June; minimum 0 degree C. in January.|
|Annual Rainfall||Varies between 290 and 380cm. Monsoon season is July to September.|
|Best Season||Beginning of March through to end of June: and beginning of October through to end November It rains ceaselessly in July, August and September.|
|Clothing||Woollen in winter and cotton or tropical in summer. An umbrella is essential during Dharamsala's notorious monsoon season.|
Dharamsala History:- Jawaharlal
Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, could not have known in
1960 that the location he offered to Tibetan exiles had prolific Buddhist roots
dating back 2,700 years. The Kangra Valley is rich in unexplored archaeological
sites of great importance to understanding Indian Buddhism; in 635 AD the
Chinese monk-pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang recorded fifty monasteries with around 2,000
monks in this fertile region. But, a century later, Buddhism and all its sites
were eliminated from the valley during an upsurge of Brahminical revivalism. Dharamsala's earliest
history is obscured by time and the successive invasions that swept throughall
North India. But it is known that the original tribes identified with Kangra's
hilly tracts were Dasas, a warrior people, later assimilated by
Aryans. In 1849 the British
posted a regiment in Dharamsala, but the place was not to remain a military
cantonment for long. By 1855 it was a small but flourishing hill station and the
administrative headquarters of Kangra District, which had been annexed by the
British in 1848. The two main areas at the time were McLeod Gunj, named after
Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, David McLeod, and Forsyth Gunj, named after a
divisional commissioner. Lord
Elgin, Viceroy of British India and a former Governor-General of Canada, loved
the forests of Dharamsala so much that, before dying here in 1863, he asked to
be buried in the graveyard of St. John's Church in the Wilderness. Had he lived
longer, Dharamsala might have become the summer capital of British
India. The name Sir Francis
Younghusband - leader of British India's fateful incursion to Lhasa in 1904 -
also has Dharamsala connections. In 1856 his parents, Clara Shaw and John
Younghusband, lived in a bungalow in the pine forest above St. John's Church and
later bought land in the Kangra Valley to pioneer a tea plantation. Clara's
brother, Robert Shaw, was a renowned explorer of Central Asia and an early
Kangra tea planter. Image by P r
Bali But in 1905 a severe earthquake
changed the face of Dharamsala. Many buildings collapsed and the whole
settlement, once ravaged, was never re-occupied. The local officials advised
residents to move to the safety of Lower Dharamsala which at that time comprised
little more than a jail, a police station and a cobbler's shop. The pine-clad
hillsides continued to flourish as a quiet health resort for the "sahibs" and
"memsahibs" of British India. The
visits of "sahibs" and "memsahibs" ended when India achieved independence in
1947. McLeod Gunj then quickly became a sleepy, undistinguished village until
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, fleeing persecution in his homeland, made it his
home in exile and moved the Central Tibetan Administration, in effect the
Tibetan Government-in-Exile, from Mussoorie to Dharamsala in 1960. Today, more
than 8,000 Tibetan refugees consider Dharamsala their second
Dharamsala is situated in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
It lies on a spur of the Dhauladhar range, the Pir Panjal region of the Outer
Himalayas; and commands majestic views of the mighty Dhauladhar ranges above,
and the Kangra Valley below. Dhauladhar means "white ridge" and this
breathtaking, snow-capped range rises out of the Kangra Valley to a height of
5,200 meters (17,000 feet).
The mountains dominate the scenery in McLeod Gunj. They form
a treacherous range
creating unpredictable weather, but passes of 2,400 meters (8,900 feet) provide
route for the herdsmen of the Ravi Valley beyond. The Kangra Valley is
a wide, fertile plain, criss-crossed by low hills. The scenery touched the heart
of a British official who wrote: "No scenery, in my opinion, presents such
sublime and delightful contrasts. Below lies the plain, a picture of rural
loveliness and repose... Turning from this scene of peaceful beauty, the stern
and majestic hills confront us... above all are wastes of snow to rest
on." Dharamsala is divided
into two very different parts. Kotwali Bazaar and areas further down the valley
(at the average height of 1,250 metres) are called Lower Dharamsala, while
McLeod Gunj (at the height of nearly 1,800 metres) and surrounding areas are
known as Upper Dharamsala. McLeod Gunj is nine kilometers by bus route and four
kilometres by taxi route up the hill from Kotwali Bazaar. While inhabitants of
Lower Dharamsala are almost all Indians, McLeod Gunj is primarily a Tibetan
area. McLeod Gunj is surrounded by pine, Himalayan oak, rhododendron and deodar
forests. The main crops grown by local Indians in the valleys below McLeod Gunj
are rice, wheat and tea. Today,
streams of Tibetan refugees from all over the world flock to McLeod Gunj to
receive blessings and teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Western and
Indian tourists and scholars come here to see the rebirth of an ancient and
fascinating civilization. The high altitude and cool weather contribute
physically to this recreation of the original Tibetan environment. Dharamsala
pulsates with the sights and sounds of old Tibet. Though certainly more modern,
life is basically Tibetan in character. Shops strung out along the narrow
streets of McLeod Gunj sell traditional Tibetan arts and handicrafts and the
aroma of Tibetan dishes lingers in the air.
The Residence of His Holiness Dalai Lama is opposite the Tsuglag Khang, or the Central Cathedral, which is about ten minutes' walk from McLeod Gunj. Time permitting, His Holiness receives visitors in public audiences. Visitors can apply for public audiences at the Branch Security Office in McLeod Gunj, near Hotel Tibet. Applications for private audiences, however, need to be made in writing to His Holiness' Secretary several months in advance. Exploring Tibetan Culture The cultural life in Dharamsala is colourful and rich in tradition. The fairs and festivals are occasions for relaxation. To the local Indian traditions, Tibetan refugees have added their own festivals such as Losar (Tibetan New Year), and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's birthday which is celebrated on July 6 with the performance of Tibetan, Nepali and Gaddi dances revealing the cultural mosaic that McLeod Gunj is. More recently, tourists and students from the west have added rock music, stage musicals and contribute other Western influences to this melting pot of peoples and cultures.
9 km up from Kotwali Bazar Dharamsala is the famous town Mcleodganj often called the ‘Little Lhasa’. This is the residence of HH the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan Government in exile has been here for almost four decades. The impressive monastery has larger than life images of the Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avalokteshwara. A large Tibetan community and the presence of traditional architectural designs drawn from Tibet have enhanced the charm of the area. A host of Tibetan handicrafts and garments are available.
Literature And Lectures
The Tibetan community in Dharamsala publishes a number of magazines and journals in several languages. The Library publishes The Tibet Journal, a scholarly and international journal on Tibetan culture. The monthly Sheja and weekly Tibetan Freedom in the Tibetan language are published by the Department of Information and International Relations. This department also publishes Tibetan Bulletin, a bi-monthly magazine in English, Tibbat Desh, a bi-monthly in Hindi, and Tibet Bulletin, a bi-monthly in Chinese. Tibetan Youth Congress brings out Rangzen in both Tibetan and English. The Institute of Buddhist Dialectics publishes Lhaksam Tsekpa to interpret the broad issues of western political thought and ideas. The Department of Religion and Culture publishes Cho-Yang, a glossy magazine on culture and Buddhism. Amnye Machen Institute publishes yearly Cairn and Lungta in English.Tibetan Review, an independent monthly journal in English, is published from Delhi and is read by Tibetans all over the world. This publication represents an attempt by the Tibetan community in exile both to interpret the contemporary world for themselves and to carry the issue of Tibet to the world at large.
Tibetan Handcraft Center
This carpet-weaving centre is a non-profit venture established to promote the traditional Tibetan craft of carpet-making and to generate employment in the Tibetan community. The Handicraft Centre is near the McLeod Gunj Post Office. It has a showroom in the town's main street.
Namgyal Monastery was founded by the Third Dalai Lama in the late sixteenth century to assist him in carrying out his religious activities. Since then, the monastery has exclusively served the Dalai Lamas. In Tibet, the 175 Namgyal monks and their monastery were located in the Potala Palace, performing spiritual duties and religious ceremonies for both the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government. A distinctive feature of this monastery is its diversity of practice: prayers and rituals of all the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism are performed by Namgyal monks.
The monastery is now situated next to the Central Cathedral.
Tsuglag Khang (Central Cathedral)
Though a plain and utilitarian substitute for its far more splendid name sake in Lhasa, also known as the Jokhang, the Tsuglag Khang is nevertheless fascinating and peaceful. Situated opposite the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsuglag Khang is known to the local Indians as the Main Temple. It houses three main images: that of the Sakyamuni Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion, of whom the Dalai Lama is the current emanation. The principal image is that of Sakyamuni Buddha, measuring three metres high and made of gilded bronze. To its right are the images of Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara which are both facing Tibet.
Founded in 1972 by the late
Lama Thubten Yeshi, the spiritual director of the Foundation for the
Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, Tushita is situated just above McLeod
Gunj in a very quite and peaceful wood, a characteristic which makes it an ideal
place for meditation and spiritual retreats. The centre is residential and open
throughout the year for both individual and group retreats. Tushita provides
frequent courses on various aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. A schedule of upcoming
courses is always available. In the late 1980s, a young Spanish boy, born in
Barcelona, was recognized as the reincarnation of Lama Thubten
Calender of annual religious ceremonies at Namgyal Monastery
Tibetans follow a lunar
calendar which changes from year to year. The year begins in February or early
March, depending on the calculations of the Astrology Department of TMAI. To
identify the dates of the following events, consult the annual calendar
published by the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute. The first Tibetan month
generally begins in February.
|First Tibetan Month: New year Celebration and Great Prayer Festival. Ritual Cake Offerings.|
|Second Tibetan Month: Ground ritual, Creation of Mandala, and Cohesive Rites and worship of Vajrakilya for ten days. (Also, Tibetan Folk Opera Festival performed at TIPA).|
|Third Tibetan Month: Propitiation ceremony for three days starting on the eighth day of the month. Ground Ritual, Ground Ritual Dance for four days. Creation of Coloured Sand Mandala, followed by seven days of Cohesive Rites and worship of Sri kalachakra.|
|Fourth Tibetan Month: Ground Ritual of Sri Guhyasamaja for four days, followed by five days of Cohesive Rites and Worship, Buddha Purnima (Tib: Saka Dawa) on the full moon celebrating the Birth, Enlightenment and Death of Sakyamuni Buddha.|
|Fifth Tibetan Month: One Hundred Thousand Ritual Cake Offering to Maha Guru (Padmasambava) for five days. Incense Burning Ceremony, Invocation of Dharma Protectors on the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (July 6).|
|Sixth Tibetan Month: Ground Ritual of Sri Cakrasambava for four days, followed by five days of Creation of Coloured Sand Mandala and Cohesive Rites and Worship, and Burnt Offerings.|
|Seventh Tibetan Month: Training of Ritual Dance, Drawing proportions of Mandala, Chanting and the art of making Ritual Cakes during the summer retreat.|
|Eighth Tibetan Month: Ritual Cake Offerings and Cohesive Rights, Ragridol of Palden Lhamo for seven days.|
|Ninth Tibetan Month: Ground Ritual of Bairava for three days, followed by five days of Creation of Mandala, Cohesive Rites and Worship, and Consecration Ceremony of Gelek Charbeb concluded by a Brunt Offering.|
|Tenth Tibetan Month: Ritual Cake Offering and Cohesive Rites of Palden Lhamo for seven days.|
|Eleventh Tibetan Month: Training in Ritual Dance; on the twenty ninth day, Ground Ritual Dance, Goddess Dance and others.|
|Twelfth Tibetan Month: The Great Annual Ceremony of Atonement at the conclusion of the year for seven days and chanting of Invocation Prayers of the Protectors and Oracles of Tibet.|
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was first established in Mussoorie on April 29, 1959, soon after His Holiness the Dalai Lama reached India. Then in May 1960 it was moved to Dharamsala, and is now located half way between Kotwali Bazaar and McLeod Gunj, in an area named Gangchen Kyishong. Gangchen Kyishong is a Tibetan phrase meaning "happy valley of snow".
The departments which make up the CTA work towards the Tibetan people's struggle for independence and survival. They function according to the Charter of Tibetans in Exile which is, in effect, a constitution based on modern democratic principles.
TWA is an organization of
Tibetan women working for the political freedom and social upliftment of Tibetan
women. Through branch organizations in each Tibetan settlement in exile, TWA
assists groups and individual women on a day-to-day basis, and launches projects
to address specific needs such as education and welfare, taking care of the
elderly and children. They are involved with the rehabilitation and education of
nuns escaping from Tibet. In the recent years, the association has undertaken a
campaign to raise the political awareness of Tibetan women in order to encourage
them to participate fully in the political process of the exile community. TWA's
office is located above Delek Clinic on Bhagsunag Road.
Tibetan Women's Association Central Executive Committee
Bhagsunath Road, P.O Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala-176219 Kangra (H.P) India
Tel: 91-1892-221527, 221198, Fax: 91-1892-221528
Main Attractions : Artifacts from the 5th
Exhibits: Collection of Sculptures, Pottery & Anthropological Items
Significance : Inscriptions on the Medieval History of Chamba
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.
TIMING: The museum remains open Monday to Saturday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. and entry is free.
One can buy Tibetan rugs and handicraft products from the shop of the Tibetan Handicraft Centre and TCV Handicraft Centre in McLeod Gunj. Orders for Tibetan wood and metal craft products can be made at the Tibetan Art Gallery, located in the Hotel Tibet building complex. Besides, there are various tiny shops offering Tibetan trinkets and imitations of Tibetan antiques.
The very many restaurants and cafe dotting McLeod Gunj is indicative of the fact that the place has really become a tourist spot. One can virtually get any type of food or their imitations. The restaurants offer dishes starting from the universal Tibetan dishes like thukpa (noodle soup) and momo (steamed meat dumplings) to sizzlers, sukiyaki, pancakes, pizzas and spaghetti. For people with a sweet tooth, one can get different types of pastries, pies and doughnuts, For health freaks, there are muesli fruit curds, lassis and different types of shakes. Different eateries have their own specialties and so if you intend to be in Dharamsala for some time, it may be interesting to find out a restaurant which specializes in cuisine to your taste.
|Travel Agent||Address||Phone No||e mail|
|Bedi Travel||The Mall Mcleodganj||0091-1892-21400,21235,firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Ways Tours & Travel||Temple Road Mcleodganj||0091-1892-21910,21988,21355
|Mickey's Tour & Travel||Kotwali Bazar Dharamsalaemail@example.com|
The branch office of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) in McLeod Gunj sells books on His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan political affairs. The Charitable Trust Bookshop carries books on all aspects of Tibetan life, especially on culture and religion. Bookworm, en route to Hotel Bhagsu, and Little Lhasa Book Shop, at Surya Shopping Complex, have a wide variety of western novels as well as books on Tibet, India and Central Asia.
Trekking Tour Opreators :
Eagle Height Trekkers &
Travellers (Ph.221097), on the Mall road, can organise porters and guides, as
well as arrange treks in the Kullu and Chamba valleys, Lahaul and Spiti and
Ladakh.The agency is ten year old and has gained a
good reputation as a private organisers of Trekking. http://trekking.123himachal.com/
This centre is about 15 minutes walk north of McLeod on the Dharamkot road. Here you can get advice on treks and mountaineering in the Chamba and Kangra valleys, and it's also possible to hire gear including sleeping bags, foam mattresses, rucksacks and tents. It's not possible to hire specialised mountaineering equipment; For this, the closest place is the Mountaineering Institute & Allied Sports in Manali, and equipments are subject to availability.
This ancient temple is 2 kms from Mcleodganj.. Close to this temple is a beautiful waterfall.Near the Dal Lake is the shrine of Bhagsunath an easy walk from the Mecleod ganj. Famous for its ancient temple and a pretty waterfall not far away. The rock temple dedicated to local Goddess is just 3 km from Kotwali Bazaar.
This village, twenty minutes' walk further up the hill from McLeod Gunj, is a favourite picnic spot with a panoramic view of the Kangra Valley. It is possible to rent houses from local Indians if you are planning a longish stay.
An ashram complex has been established by late Swami Chinmayananda, a noted exponent of the Gita, at a distance of approximately 10 km from Dharamsala on the banks of the rivulet Bindu Saras. The complex includes a 9 m high image of Lord Hanuman, a magnificent Rama temple, a meditation hall, a school, and a health and recreation centre.
About three kilometers from McLeod Gunj and next to the Tibetan Children's Village, this small lake is brownish in colour and not nearly as impressive as the name and reputation suggest. However, there are many interesting walks around the lake.
Church Of St. John In TheWilderness
Fifteen minutes' walk from McLeod Gunj, the Anglican church lies in the forest near Forsyth Gunj. This neo-Gothic stone church was built in 1852 and has some fine Belgian stained-glass windows. It miraculously survived the 1905 earthquake - only the spire collapsed. A memorial to Lord Elgin stands in the churchyard. The British Viceroy died in Dharamsala and is buried here. Visiting hours for the church and cemetery are 10 am to 5 pm each day.
Kangra town is 18 km from Dharamsala. This was the first seat of Raja Sansar Chand II (1775-1823) .One of the ancient capital of powerful hill state-fort of Nagarkot(3km) stands as a mute witness to the ravages of conquerors from Mahmood of Ghazni to the Emperor Jehangir, and the disastrous earthquake of 1905. The place is now called "Purana Kangra".2 km from the bus stand is the temple dedicated to the goddess Barjeshwari Devi. more information click here
Another 20 km from Kangra is the famous Chamunda Nandikeshwar dham. This place also has a beautiful bathing ghat and a small temple across the bridge joining the ghat. There are ample arrangements to stay in the temple sarai and the rest house at Dadh. Up in the Dhauladhar hills, a trek of about 16 km, is the place where Bhagwati Chamunda, according to the Puranas, Vanquished the demons Chand and Munda.
Rock cut Temple
|Masrur (800mt)-Masrur is 36 km from Dharamsala on Nagrota Surian link road and is famous for remarkable group of rock cut temples. They form a group of 15 monolithic rock cut temples in the Indo Aryan style and are richly carved. The main shrine contains three stone images of Ram laxman and Sita but the presence of the figure of Shiva in the centre of the lintel affors a strong presumption that the temple was originally dedicated to Mahadeva.|
Trilokpur is located half
way between Dharamsala and Pathankot. This place finds mention in the biography
of Yogi Milarepa as a site where the great Mahasiddha Tilopa meditated. Tilopa
was the teacher of Naropa, who in turn, was the teacher of Marpa, the founder of
the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Today there is a small Karma Kagyu nunnery
above the road.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES:
Himachal Pradesh Tourist Information Counter - Kotwali Bazaar, Dharamsala- 176215, Himachal Pradesh (India). Tel- +(91)-01892)-224928; Fax: +(91)-01892)-224212
Himachal Pradesh Tourist Information Counter - The Mall, Shimla- 171001, Himachal Pradesh (India). Tel. - +(91)-0177-2252561 / 2258302; Fax: +(91)-0177-2252557
Himachal Pradesh Tourist Information Counter - The Mall, Manali - 175131 Himachal Pradesh ( India) . Tel. - +(91)-01902-253531; Fax - +(91)-01902-252325
Department of Tourism & Civil Aviation - Daizy Bank Estate, Shimla- 171001 Himachal Pradesh ( India). Tel. - +(91)-0177-2211443; Fax - +(91)-0177-2203346
Himachal Tourism Office - Chandralok Building, 36, Janpath, New Delhi - 110 001 India Tel. - +(91)-11-23325320 / 23324674; Fax. - +(91)-11-2731072