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India: Himachal Pradesh: Dalhousie, Dharamshala, McLeodganj
Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh, India: Old world charm
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
In western Himachal Pradesh, the hill station of Dalhousie is full of old world charm and holds lingering echoes of the Raj era. It covers an area of 14 sq.km. and is built on five hills - Kathlog, Patreyn, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun. It is named after the British governor General of the 19th century, Lord Dalhousie. The town's average height is 2036 metres and is surrounded by varied vegetation - pines, deodars, oaks and flowering rhododendron.
Dalhousie has charming colonial architecture, including some beautiful churches. Its location presents panoramic views of the plains and like a long silver line, the river Ravi twists and turns below Dalhousie. The spectacular snow-covered Pir Panjal Range of mountains in Jammu and Kashmir, Pangi Valley of Chamba and Sach Pass are also visible form this enchanting town. The English visited this place for their summer vacations. The bungalows here are all made in the English style.
Even we were in Dalhousie to spend couple of our hot summer days. Thankfully, it was much cooler here as compared to our past few days in Dharamshala. We were booked at Hotel Grand View, a heritage property. And as the name suggests, the view from our rooms was truly remarkable. The hotel is on the edge and doesn't have its own parking space. However, they have made arrangements with a ground opposite to park their guests’ cars.
The luggage is carried by porters. I was fascinated by the strength and stamina of these porters. I saw them carry 4 packed suitcases with quite ease. Guests have to walk up the ramp and steps to reach the reception area. Wheelchairs are available for those in need. All said and done, it's a great place to spend a few days. We would be spending two.
That evening we spent walking and shopping on the Mall Road. Being summer holidays and a weekend, the market was full to the brim. Dalhousie is quite popular with folks from Chandigarh, Pathankot and Jullundur.
Our plan for the next day was to spend at Khajjiar and Chamba. However, we had to turn back from Khajjiar itself due to heavy traffic jams. It's a single road and we were held up for over 2 hours.
Often called India's Switzerland, the exquisite glade of Khajjiar at 1960 metres has a circumference of about 5 kms. Along its fringes, thick forests of deodar climb the slopes, the snow-line rests above these woods. At Khajjiar there is a 12th century temple dedicated to Khajji Nag. Within the temple are life size wooden images of the five Pandav brothers.
The description holds true on regular days. During my visit, there were more people than grass! My sincere advice is to avoid the location on weekends especially during holidays. Of course, I can imagine the beauty during winter months... it would indeed resemble parts of Switzerland.
Since a visit to Chamba was cancelled, we had time to visit Dainkund on our return leg.
The road to Daikund takes away to the right side from the KalaTop toll booth. It is a 4 km. drive up to the check post barrier of an Air Force base. You have to park the car here. There is a 1/2 km. steep walk up to an observation hut. It offers spectacular view of the Dhauladhar ranges. Bypassing this hut, one needs to follow a relatively easy walk along the ridge for another 1 km to reach temple of goddess Kali. For the religious minded, this is a good stopover as there is a lot of sentiment attached to this temple by the locals. For the not-so-religious minded, the point offers even more spectacular view of Kailash Parbat of Dhaula Dhar ranges (not to be confused with Kailash Parbat of Kailash Mansarovar fame, which is in Tibet).
During my visit, the hillslope was covered with white flowers... quite like strewn pearls. I spent a couple of hours at Dainkund before returning.
With that we concluded our trip to Himachal Pradesh. The airport was 135 kms. from Dalhousie. It was a good 4 hours’ drive.
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