An escape to Dharamsala & Mcleodganj
This Kangra Valley left me spellbound with its beauty and clouds which were always there to say hello.
When travellers talk of heading up to Dharamsala (to see the Dalai Lama…), this is where they mean. Around 4km north of Dharamsala town – or 10km via the looping bus route – McLeodganj is the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the site of the Tibetan exile community’s main temple.
But I didn’t go there to meet him. I wanted to meet my favourite writer Ruskin Bond. All my childhood I have read his short stories and this small hill station has always been somewhere in my mind.
But if you are going to Mcleodganj how can you miss Dharamsala.
Dharamshala is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of stately Deodar cedar trees.
Dharamshala is 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 has made Dharamshala a popular destination for Indian and foreign tourists, including students studying Tibet.
Cricket ground: So when I reached Dharamsala my first visit was Cricket ground. Don’t be surprised, this cricket ground is the fourth -highest stadium in the world, located at an altitude of 1,457m. Amid a picturesque canopy of Deodar woods and green meadows, Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association’s ground stands tall with the snow-capped Dhauladhar range providing a formidable backdrop.
Dal Lake: Legend has it that a king who went to bathe in the sacred Manimahesh Lake below the Kailash Mountain lost his gold ring. The ring later re-surfaced in the Dal Lake. This water body was considered the poor man’s Manimahesh for those who couldn’t afford to go to Kailash for salvation by bathing in it. What remains today, is no more than a pond, but nonetheless, the lake is sacred to locals. A beautiful walk from the town, the lake is inundated with goldfish, and is worth a visit.
From Dharamsala, Mcleodganj is not very far. You can trek and go there. So I left my car at the hotel and headed for trekking.
The village of McLeodGanj, lying in the upper reaches, is known worldwide for the presence of the Dalai Lama. McLeod is home to a large Tibetan population, including many monks and nuns.
Named after Donald McLeod, Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, McLeod began life in the 1850s as a civilian settlement outside the British garrison of Dharamsala.
Namgyalma Stupa: Situated at the heart of Mcleod Ganj, Namgyalma Stupa is an old Buddhist structure that was built to honour the Tibetan soldiers, who died during the freedom struggle of Tibet. The structure resembles the one built during the 3rd century by King Ashoka, and the stupa portrays an image of Sakyamuni Buddha. Built in a hybrid Indo-Tibetan style, the Buddhist Stupa is surrounded by prayer wheels which devotees turn round while reciting mantras as they move around the shrine.
St. John church: Just eight kilometres and about a ten-minute downhill walk from McLeod Ganj, lies the charming church of St. John. Draped by branches of Deodar trees, this ancient Anglican church dedicated to Saint John has been constructed in the Neo-Gothic architectural style and features beautiful Belgian stained-glass windows. The Church is a great tourist attraction drawing in hundreds of devotees every year.
Bhagsu waterfall: Located one km from McLeodganj is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Bhagsu Nag, the snake god, and to Lord Shiva. A freshwater spring, in which pilgrims to take a holy dip flows through the temple. A beautiful waterfall, well worth visiting, is located about a 20-minute walk from the temple.
I was thrilled after seeing the beauty of this small city but have to return as work was calling me. But my bad luck I was unable to meet my favourite writer. Visit this place in summers or winter, its beauty will always leave you speechless.