The Trans-Himalayan Holi

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 I believe “to live” is something we can do always. It’s our choice how to paint our lives on the fresh canvas of the world. As it is said ”to live is to free”, and the moments that we’d experienced when we set our soul to dance over the clouds were I believed the best and the most unforgettable moments we humans had ever experienced.

One of such incredible moment I’d witnessed was ” Sangla’s Holi” . A small Himalayan hamlet situated at an altitude of around nine thousand feet, Sangla is well known for its diverse traditional culture and tranquil landscapes. The whole valley is called Sangla valley or Baspa valley( Baspa is the river flowing through this valley which adds more sparkles to the valley). The beauty of Sangla valley is so serene that one can easily spend his day sitting back with a cup of chai (tea) and watch the tranquil landscapes and dancing clouds.

   But on the fest day like ‘Holi’ is not a sit back at all in this valley. People from the whole valley and the nearby villages gathered in Sangla to celebrate this festival of colours. The enchanting music of drums and trumpet( and also the local wine ”Phasur”) filled the souls with so much energy that the whole Sangla was seen dancing on the beats of it. This two days festival here ended with the ”dahan of Holika”(which was burnt as a symbol of victory of truth over sins), with people dressing traditionally and dancing in a huge circle around Holika.

The way these charmed kinnauri people celebrate this festival could not be seen in any other part of the country. And the most beautiful thing that amazed me here was their respect for their culture and tradition, they’ve still preserved this thousand years old tradition which can be seen purely on the festival like Holi.

 

 

 

 

Manimahesh Yatra – Bharmour (CHAMBA) Himachal Pradesh

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Month: Aug or Sep every Year

High Altitude Trekking – Religious 

Manimahesh Lake (also known as Dal Lake) is a high altitude lake (elevation 4,080 metres (13,390 ft) situated close to the Manimahesh Kailash Peak in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, in the Bharmour subdivision of Chamba district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The religious significance of this lake is next to that of the Lake Manasarovar in Tibet.

The lake is the venue of a highly revered pilgrimage trek undertaken during the month of August/September corresponding to the month of Bhadon according to Hindu calendar, on the eighth day of the New Moon period. It is known as the ‘Manimahesh Yatra’.

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Manimahesh Lake

Legend

According to the legend, the Shiva, who lived in Mount Kailash, the highest mountain of the state, gifted the Gaddis with a Chuhali topi (pointed cap), which they wear traditionally along with their other dress of chola (coat) and dora (a long black cord about 10–15 m long). The Gaddis started calling the land of this mountainous region as ‘Shiv Bhumi’ (“Land of Shiva”) and themselves as devotees of Shiva. 

The legend further states that before Shiva married Parvati at Mansarovar Lake and became the “universal parents of the universe”, Shiva created the Mount Kailash in Himachal Pradesh and made it his abode. He made Gaddis his devotees. The land where Gaddis lived extended from 15 miles (24 km) west of Bharmaur, upstream of the confluence of Budhil and Ravi rivers, up to Manimahesh. Manimahesh was also considered the abode of the three Lords of the universe namely, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Manimahesh was reckoned as the heaven (Kaliasa) of Lord Shiva. The waterfall seen at the Dhancho on the way to Manimahesh Lake, and which emanates from the lake, was considered as the heaven (Vaikunta) of Vishnu. The heaven of Bramha is cited as a mound overlooking the Bharmaur city. 

The Gaddis also believe that Shiva resides in the Mount Kailash for six months, whereafter he moves to the netherworld handing over the reigns to Lord Vishnu. The day he departs to the netherworld is observed by the Gaddis reverentially every year, which is the Janmashtami day, the eighth day of the month of Bhadon (August), the birthday of Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Shiva returned from the netherworld to Bharamaur at the end of February, before the night of his wedding and this day is observed as the Shivratri day; Gaddis observe this also as a festive day since Shiva and Parvati returned to Mount Kailash in the Gaddi land.Manimahesh_Lake

Etymology of ‘Manimahesh’ signifies a “jewel (Mani) on Lord Shiva’s (Mahesh’s) crown”. According to a local legend, the moon-rays reflected from the jewel can be seen from Manimahesh Lake on clear full moon night (which is a rare occasion). However, it has been inferred that such a phenomenon could be the result of reflection of light from the glacier that embellishes the peak in the form of a serpent around Shiva’s neck.

A legend in which Lord Shiva himself is tricked is narrated. According to this narration linked to Dhancho where pilgrims spend a night on their way to Manimahesh Lake, Lord Shiva, pleased with the devotion of one his ardent devotee Bhasmasur (an asura or demon) bestowed a boon, which gave powers to Bhasmasur under which Bhasmasur touching any one would reduce that person in to ashes. Bhasmasur wanted to try this boon on Shiva himself. He, therefore, followed Shiva to touch him and get rid of him. However, Shiva managed to escape and enter into the waterfall at Dhancho and take shelter in a cave behind the rolling waters of the fall. Bhasmasur could not get through the waterfall. Then, Lord Vishnu intervened and killed Bhasamasur. Since then the fall is considered holy.

A rare event of the first sun’s rays falling on the Mani Mahesh peak is seen in reflection in the lake like saffron tilak. This display in the lake has enhanced the legendary belief of the Gaddis on the sanctity of Manimahesh Lake at the base of the Mount Kailash, which they visit on an annual pilgrimage. This event has also contributed to the practice of taking bath in the lake on Janmashtami day or Radhashtami day, fifteen days after the birth of Lord Krishna.

Geography

The lake, of glacial origin, is in the upper reaches of the Ghoi nala which is tributary of Budhil river, a tributary of the Ravi River in Himachal Pradesh. However, the lake is the source of a tributary of the Budhil River, known as ‘Manimahesh Ganga’. The stream originates from the lake in the form of a fall at Dhancho. The mountain peak is a snow clad tribal glen of Brahamur in the Chamba district of manimahesh range. The highest peak is the Mani Mahesh Kailas, also called ‘Chamba Kailash’ overlooking the lake. The lake, considered a glacial depression, is sourced by snow-melt waters from the surrounding hill slopes. Towards the end of June with ice beginning to melt, numerous small streams break up everywhere, which together with the lush green hills and the myriad of flowers give the place a truly remarkable view. The snow field at the base of the mountain is called by the local people as Shiva’s Chaugan Shiva’s playground. According to a belief, Lord Shiva stayed here with his consort Parvati.

Bandar Ghaty (Monkey Valley)

Bandar Ghaty (Monkey Valley)

Manimahesh is approached from three routes. 

From Lahaul and Spiti through Kugti pass. 

From Kangra and Mandi take the Karwarsi pass or Jalsu pass via Tyari village, near Holi in Bharmour. 

The easiest and popular route is from Chamba via Bharmour. The most popular is the Bharmour–Hadsar- Manimahesh route which involves a 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) track from Hadsar village to the Manimahesh Lake. The highest altitude touched in this route is 4,115 metres (13,501 ft) and it takes two days with an overnight stay at Dhancho. Season to be undertaken is June to October and it has a gentle grade. The path leading to the lake is well maintained.

Half way up this track is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of open and flat meadow land to Dhancho. Tented accommodation is available here during August–September. Night halt is preferred here. Free kitchens are opened by people to feed pilgrims. But many prefer to go and pitch their tents next to the lake to feel a divine experience. En route, there is waterfall at Gauri nallah known as the Dhancho fall. From Dhancho, it is a steep climb. This track has seen lot of improvements over the years. In the past the first climb was first done by crossing Dhancho nalla. 

It was so tough that people used to crawl to get across. Since they used to crawl like a monkey in this stretch it was known as ‘Bandar Ghati’ (monkey valley). Now this track is much improved and the newly constructed path is used. However, some still prefer to take the old route as an adventure and go through the Bandar Ghati.

In the past, on the trek from Dhancho, the bridge over the Mani Mahesh river was crossed to reach the left bank of the valley. After 2 kilometres (1.2 mi), the river was again crossed, over another wooden bridge, to the right bank.

Dhanchow

Dhanchow

From this point, the climb passes through many zigzag paths along flowered meadows. Birch trees are seen in the vicinity, which indicates a gain in altitude as the trek proceeds. Along this stretch of the trek route, there are a number community kitchens (eateries) at about 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) elevation. From this location, the trail to Mani Mahesh Lake could be discerned. The waterfall, flowing from the lake, is also seen at this stage. A further trek of 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) through the grassy ridges leads to the Manimahesh Lake.

Lake and its precincts

Even though the Manimahesh Lake is of small size with shallow depth, its location, directly below Manimahesh Kailas peak and several other peaks and dangling glaciers, is an “inspiration even to the least devout pilgrim.”

Trekking in the last reach is through the glacier fields of the lake. However, on the way, the walk is through the valley of flowers and wild medicinal herbs up to the lake. The lake is situated at the centre of a snowy field touching the sacred peak. The lake is surrounded by sandy boulders, small hilly mounds and prickly dry bushes, and there is no sign of any grass. It is called Shiv Chaugan (play ground of Lord Shiva). The lake appears as if it has penetrated the rugged valley. On a clear day the reflection of the abode of Shiva, the Kailash Mountain can be seen on the lake surface. All the year round, the place remains desolate, without any inhabitants, because none dares to stay here. The air is fresh but icy cold. There are almost no fauna in the lake at its precincts – no ants, snakes or any kind of wild life. A few Bird species are sighted rarely. The silence of the place is broken only when the pilgrims visit the place in large numbers, an evening before the holy dip (locally known as naun) in the lake.

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Bharmour Town View

According to legend, Lord Shiva performed penance for several hundred years here. The water cascades sprang out from his matted hair and took the form of the lake. The lake as formed appears like a saucer. It has two distinct parts. The larger part has icy cold water, called the ‘Shiv Karotri’ (the bathing place of Lord Shiva). The smaller part of the lake, which is hidden by the bushes, has lukewarm water and is called ‘Gauri Kund’, the bathing place of Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Thus, men and women bathe in different parts of the lake. According to rites, the dip (called locally as naun) in the lake is taken four times, if permitted or otherwise only once.

In the periphery of the lake, now there is a marble image of Lord Shiva, which is worshipped by pilgrims. The image is called the Chaumukha. The lake and its surroundings present an impressive view. The still, clear and unpolluted waters of the lake reflect the snow-capped peaks that overlook the valley. There is also a small temple in the shikhara style on the periphery of the lake. A brass image of Lakshmi Devi known as Mahishasuramardini is deified in the temple.

Pilgrimage

The holy pilgrimage to the Manimahesh Lake it is held every year during the Hindu month of Badon on Radha asthami, the 15th day following the festival of Janmashtami, corresponding to the Gregorian month of August or September. The Manimhesh Yatra is heralded by a procession known locally as “holy chhari” The colourful procession of the “chhari” is accompanied by singing and recitation of hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. The Chhari trek, considered a tough trek, follows a set ancient route with stops at the designated places. Narasimha_Temple,_Brahmaur,_Chamba

The holy trek starts from the Laxmi Narayan temple and the Dashnami Akhara in Chamba town, with the sacred stick (‘Chhari’) of Gur Charpathnath carried by the pilgrims with the participation of sadhus.. Pilgrims undertake the holy trek barefoot and cover a distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from the nearest road point of Hadsar to the Manimahesh Lake. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of the yatra. The trek to the lake takes about 6 days. After the procession arrives at the lake, ceremonies are held all through the night. On the following day, pilgrims take a holy dip (naun) in the lake. After taking bath in the holy waters of the lake, pilgrims circumambulate the lake three times as an act of reverence, seeking blessings of the Lord Shiva. 

However, before taking a final dip in the Mani Mahesh Lake, women devotees take a dip at the Gauri Khund, which is situated about a mile short of the lake while men take bath at Shiv Karotri a part of the main lake. The belief is that Parvati, Shiva’s consort bathed at the Gauri Khund, while Shiva took his bath at the Shiv Karotri. State priests of Bharmaur Brahmin family perform the worship (Pujas) in all temples within the lake precincts.

Accomodation 

Tents are available for hire at Bharmour or Chamba. Ponies are hired by some devotees for the trek. Direct trekking from Chamba is also an option undertaken by the devout, which is a nine-day trek; the route followed is Rakh (20 kilometres (12 mi)), Bharmaur, Hadsar (12 kilometres (7.5 mi)), Dhancho (7 kilometres (4.3 mi)) and Manimahesh (7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi)) with a brief halt at Bhiram Ghati. The return trip follows the same route.

Distance from Nearest Cities

• Chamba (from District Headquarters): 64 km

• Kangra: 220 km

• Dharamsala: 145 km

• Manali: 220 km

• Shimla: 350 km

• Pathankot:164.2 km

• Chandigarh: 350 km

• Delhi: 650 km

Around The Fort Nalagarh – what you should visit

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The Fort Nalagarh 

Nalagarh is the Gateway to Himachal Pradesh, a beautiful hill station founded in 1098 AD by the Chandela Rajputs who were patrons of art and architecture. Nalagarh Fort located in the foothills of the Himalayas is situated atop a hillock with a panoramic view of Shivalik Hills. The fort which has today been converted to a Heritage Resort has a Mughal influence and is built at 5 levels with beautiful well-manicured lawns.

ACTIVITY IN RESORT:  Gocarting / Badminton / Lawn Tennis / Corquet / Swimming Pool

Out Door Activities: Rock climbing / river crossing / rappelling etc on cheargable basis.

SIGH SEEING AROUND NALAGARH:

Shri Naina Devi Ji (60 Km): One of the most notable places of worship in Himachal Pradesh. Located in Distt Bilaspur, it is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths where limbs of Sati fell on Earth. This holy place witnesses the huge crowd of pilgrims and devotees round the year and especially during Shravan Ashtami and in the Navratras of Chaitra & Ashwin.

Special fair is organized during Chaitra, Shravan and Ashwin Navrati, which attracts millions of visitors from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other corners of the country.

Naina Devi Temple

Yadavindra Garden Pinjore ( 37 Km): The Mughal Gardens at Pinjore lie 22 km from Chandigarh on the Ambala-Shimla highway. Pinjore is a village. It bears links to ancient Aryan times. Ruins of Bhima Devi temple and ancient baths can be seen here. Mughal Gardens were built by Fidai Khan in 17th century A.D. Rang Mahal, Shish Mahal and Jal Mahal – are palaces built in the Gardens.

Places of Interest : Stone craft, Plants nursery and local craft available. Terrain is hilly. River Ghaggar flows in the valley.

Pinjore_Gardens_at_night

Anandpur SAHIB, PUNJAB (34 km): A holy city in Punjab whose historical significance to the Sikhs is second only to Amritsar. Two Gurus and families of four Gurus lived here for many years.  The mystical faith of Guru Nanak transformed into the fiercely spartan and nationalistic faith of Guru Gobind Singh, who also committed the Sikhs to the five Ks. In early 19th century,Maharaja Ranjit Singh further militarized the Sikh nation, creating the first modern army in the subcontinent.  Even today many Sikhs become Nihangs, an order founded by Guru Gobind Singh himself as the fighting body of the Khalsa.

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Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib

Takhat (a seat of authority, one of five in Sikhism) Kesgarh Sahib is the centerpiece of Anandpur Sahib. The Khalsa was revealed here by their tenth and last guru, Guru Gobind Singh, who selected the five beloved ones and administered baptism of Khanda, instituting the Khalsa panth on Baisakhi, 30 Mar 1699. A special congregation was held that was attended by thousands. Kesgarh Sahib fort was built here in 1699, replaced long since by this Gurdwara (a room in its inner sanctum holds twelve important military relics of Guru Gobind Singh).

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Durga Puja Experiences in Kolkata

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Durga_Puja_Pandal_-_Ballygunge_Sarbojanin_Durgotsab_-_Deshapriya_Park_-_Kolkata_2014-10-02_9092The festival of Durga Puja has a cult of its own in Kolkata. It draws all kinds of crowd from far and wide. The City of Joy turns into a joy-filled heaven when the season for ‘pujo’ sets in. The beauty of the festival lies not only in the arrival of the Goddess along with her divine retinue and her ceremonial worships, but also the paraphernalia that has got attached to the festival over the decades. And, hands down, Kolkata is one of the best places to experience puja in its all festive spins. So with this in mind, we picked the top Durga Puja experiences or things to do in Kolkata during Durga Puja that every Bong knows and a non-Bengali in the city can look forward to. After all, why should Bengalis have all the fun?

Experience the Mahalaya

Mahalaya indicates the onset of auspicious Devi Paksha, which sets the stage for the oncoming 5-day of festivities. Get up before day break to witness the priests and devotees invoking the Goddess with Vedic incantations and rites at different pooja pandals. Lazy bones or those who are unable to make it to the wonderful scene can tune into the radio or FM to be a part of it.

Watch the Ashtami Pushpanjali

maxresdefault-1The most auspicious day for Durga Puja is the day of Ashtami. Almost every Bengali looks forward to make a flower offering to the Goddess on the morning of the eighth day of puja. For non-Bengalis, this is a not-to-be-missed experience.

Kumari Puja or worshipping the virgin is an important ritual during the festival. A girl aged between 5 to 8 years is chosen for a very elaborate worship on the Ashtami day before the idol of Durga. It was the great saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa who performed the first Kumari Puja by worshipping his divine spouse Sharda Devi at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple. This soon spread among many devotees of the saint and that’s how it all started. The Belur Math in Kolkata performs unparalleled Kumari Puja in the entire city.

Witness two different pujas

Durga Puja is celebrated in two different ways in Kolkata. First is meant for the society that features lofty pandals and bedecked community halls, glittering lights and a diverse crowd. Second, the barir (home) puja is way homey that aims to bring together people and re-connect to their root. Such pujas are a sure-shot way to experience the real Bengali culture. Such pujas happen in old residential societies of North Kolkata or the upscale dwellings of South Kolkata. Some of the families have been celebrating the puja since long back, and they have interesting stories to tell about how the trend of special family puja started.

Be a part of carnival

Beauty contests for young ladies, dance competitions, fancy dress competitions for kids, drum-beating challenges for men and women are events that take place in nearly every puja organised by different housing societies. All are welcome to show their skill and prowess and take home a gift. People attend the fest dressed in the best of traditional finery; watching their spirited interactions is also an interesting sight.

Sandhya Aarti

As the sun sets, a mystical air and festive fervour fills up the ether because it is time for the sandhya aarti and the devotees are all geared up to pay homage to the World Mother with all pomp and gaiety. At every pandal, the appointed priest waves numerous lit-up butter lamps before the Goddess, while the gathered devotees perform dhunuchi naach at the irresistible beats of dhaak. The zest and worship goes on till the following dawn.

Dig into the festive fare

Deluxe Room Puja OFFER The Astor, Kolkata Kolkata is a foodie’s hogging ground on any given day, which turns even more vibrant during the pujo. Many households even lock up their kitchens during the five-day-long festivities, and get their daily fill from local restaurants, kiosks in pandals and other street food vendors. Taste a bit of everything―all things are good.

Be there at Maddox Square

The young crowd of Kolkata hits the Maddox Square in Ballygunge to experience merrymaking at its best when the puja vibes are in the air. Hundreds of youngsters from across the city assemble at this venue to witness band performances, TV shows broadcasting live and other events. Something or the other keeps happening here all the time. And if you are a local, you are sure to bump into a friend or an acquaintance.

Be a part of Sindoor-Khela

DSC_0831On the last day of Durga Puja, the married women indulge in a hearty sindoor-khela (playing with the vermillion) by smearing red vermillion on the pretty face of Holy Mother first, and then, besmearing each others’ faces with the sacred powder as a mark of goodwill, auspiciousness and luck. Ladies, please take note.

Behold the immersion rites

The Goddess is bid adieu with as much fervour as her homecoming. Watching uncountable idols of the Goddess being immersed in the Hooghly River, which passes through West Kolkata, is a sight worth remembering and capturing in your camera. Make sure you do not skip this event!

what you should do at The Chalets Naldehra

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Surrounding Chalets Naldehra

While staying at The Chalets Naldehra, there are many picturesque destinations for sightseeing or day excursions – or for a taste of soft or hard adventure. With Naldehra as the base, all areas around can be covered. Many places are accessible by vehicle, while for some, hikes or walks are suggested. The popular places around are Shimla, Mashobra, Tattapani, Kufri, Chail, Fagu and Narkanda.

1. The Carignano Trek (Beginners’ family trek):

A circular trek takes you around the hillock of Carignano. This is our most popular trek, starting from Mashobra, just 11 km from The Chalets Naldehra and ending at the Fruit Research Centre.

2. The Mashobra Valley Trek:

This is one of the more popular treks. Starting from the town of Mashobra, it descends down to Sipur through thick deodar forest, and at Sipur you can see a 400-year-old temple. You can return back or carry on to Mulkoti for a longer trek, which is more challenging and takes about three hours. A total distance of eight kilometers will be covered.

3. The Century Old Trek:

An 11 kilometers trek for duration of three hours from Mashobra to Dak Bunglow. The trek finishes at an altitude of 2350m. This is a strenuous trek.

4. The Neckline Trek:

This is a three hours moderate trek through eight kilometers from Mashobra and ending at Kotidhar. The last lap is strenuous.

A GEM CALLED GARLI – The Chateau Garli

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Located in the heart of Kangra valley, this charming little village is waiting to be discovered

Karen Faye D’Souza 

October 30, 2017

garlivillageviewNot far from the Dhauladhar range in the Kangra valley, lies a hamlet that is a treasure trove of heritage buildings. Garli is a delightful destination for anyone looking to getaway from Delhi over a long weekend or simply to explore Himachal Pradesh’s countryside. The former bastion of the Sud clan, prosperous timber merchants who built grand homes here in the early 20th century, Garli and near by Pragpur have been designated heritage zones by the Ministry of Tourism, HP.

Garli was a pioneering village in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s founding fathers built educational institutions for boys and girls, a women’s hospital, a veterinary hospital as well as infrastructure for sanitation and waterworks.

A walk around Garli is like stepping back in time. Armed with a handy map that details the sights of interest, wander down cool alleys and lanes flanked by thick foliage to discover decrepit two-storied mansions. Even in their state of disrepair it is obvious that they must have been glorious in their day. The Suds travelled extensively during the British Raj, which exposed them to various cultures. From Portuguese and Italian to Islamic and Rajasthani, these heritage homes showcase an amalgamation of architectural styles that will capture anyone with an appreciation for history and art. If houses could speak, these structures would have fascinating tales to tell. Apart from the gabled roofs with slate shingles, which are common to all, the builders of these homes tried to outdo each other. Keep an eye out for unique features like two sentries standing guard on either end of the roof in one house to rose and jharokha windows in others. One structure has elegant brick jaali work. Sadly, most are abandoned, locked up or have caretakers living in them – their owners having moved away for better jobs. Fortunately, this is slowly changing. The descendants of those who built these homes are returning to their ancestors’ village and discovering the potential it holds.

IMG_20170813_152405_HDRFaçade of Naurang Yatri Niwas

One such person is Yatish Sud, the owner of Chateau Garli, a heritage property now being run as a hotel. Restoring the mansion built by his great grandfather in 1921 was a joint effort undertaken by Yatish, and his children Amish and Tarini. They retained the essence of the original structure, only adding modern amenities to suit travellers of today. They also built a new wing that overlooks the swimming pool. Prepare to be dazzled by the striking red, blue, green and yellow windowpanes in this building, which create a dramatic effect once the sun sets and the lights come on indoors. It reminded me of a grand cathedral with stained-glass windows.

The old house is a treasure trove of items from a bygone era. A gramophone and large wooden radio in the living room brought back memories of my grandfather’s home. Don’t forget to look up as you explore the interiors or you’ll miss the beautiful blue and red Belgian chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A large copper platter, known as Chamba thal, adorns one wall. It depicts the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu and was used during religious and cultural ceremonies. A cabinet in a corner contains a set of ivory handled knives engraved with Yatish’s great grandfather’s initials. Notice the door handles in the dining room – they’re shaped like peacocks. Pop into the reception to see the organ and a telephone that looks more like an old accounting machine. Out in the verandah sit a huge hammam that was used to heat water and a food smoker cum heater made from solid Burma teak, along with various other knick-knacks from the past.

If you truly want to experience Himachali cuisine then request the kitchen at Chateau Garli to prepare a dham for you. Dishes with flavours ranging from spicy and sweet to sour and tangy unite on a thali ensuring that you will enjoy every bite. This is also the place to binge on fresh fish. If you’ve been consuming frozen or a day-old fish for years, you’ll be able to tell the difference right away.

PKP_1973-1024x681Puneet K. Paliwal

The sentry on the rooftop of Bishnu Niwas makes this heritage building stand out from the others

Further down the road from Chateau Garli, lies Naurang Yatri Niwas. This striking brick edifice was built in 1922 to serve as a sarai (inn) for travellers. As with several buildings in Garli it fell into neglect after a couple of decades. Thankfully Atul, the grandson of the original owner,  and his wife Ira decided to restore it a few years ago. It recently opened its doors to visitors. A wide corridor at the entrance leads onto a sunny central courtyard, around which lie the rooms and common areas. They have taken great pains to ensure everything is spick and span. The rooms are simple yet tastefully furnished and the lounge and dining rooms are comfortable and inviting. The Rang outdoor café adjoining the inn, also run by them, is the perfect place to spend an evening under the stars.

Ira has also been instrumental in reviving the tradition of patchwork in Garli. She’s taught a group of local women the art and together they create bedcovers, table runners and cushion covers, etc., with patchwork. These items are sold in the local crafts shop on the premises of Naurang Yatri Niwas, as well as in exhibitions in Delhi.

maxresdefault-1The Masroor rock-cut temple

A visit to Garli would be incomplete without a day trip to the Kangra Fort and Masroor rock-cut temple. The former is the most magnificent fort I have ever seen. Built atop a hill with a sweeping view of the valley, it’s no wonder that this fort was a much sought after conquest by invaders and other northern kingdoms within the subcontinent. Built around 1500 BCE (when the Bronze Age Civilisation was at it’s peak) by one of the Katoch kings, it is one of India’s oldest forts. Opt for an audio guide during your tour of the fort. Produced by Narrowcasters and narrated by Roshan Seth, whom you may recall was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film Gandhi, it brings the history of the fort and its inhabitants to life as you walk along the ramparts and explore the ruins. While a good portion of the fort was destroyed in 1905 during an earthquake, luckily one intricately carved wall of the Laxmi Narayan temple within the complex escaped destruction. Remember to wear a cap or hat especially in summer as the sun gets very sharp by mid morning.

It is hard to describe in words the feelings of awe the Masroor rock cut temple evoked in me the first time I saw it. Dated to the 6th– 8th centuries, this series of temples were carved out of huge rocks in the classical Indian architectural style featuring shikharas (towers). Exquisite carvings on the towers and lintels depict gods and goddesses. A large pool in front of the complex reflects the temples, reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Unfortunately several parts of the complex were destroyed in the earthquake of 1905.

Karen Faye D’Souza

The remaining wall of the Laxmi Narayan temple and the ruins of the central courtyard in the Kangra Fort

Back in Garli, don’t miss out on a night safari. A reserve forest near by is home to several animals including leopard and wild boar. Even if you don’t see anything, driving around in forested hills in the dead of night, never knowing what might appear around the next bend will set your pulse racing. If you’re lucky you might just spot smaller animals in the village. I saw a civet cat walking along a wall one evening! Another thrilling activity is a Beas safari. If the riverbed is dry then your tour guide may just take you for a bumpy drive on it, else picnic on the banks and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

I would have happily spent a few more days in Garli, enjoying the clean air and quite village life. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. I promised myself that I’d return in the near future.

The Information

Getting there

IndigoSpice JetJet Airways and Vistara fly to Chandigarh, which is 3.5 to 4 hours away from Garli by road. Alternately take the Kalka Shatabdi till Chandigarh and then carry on by road.

Getting around

Prior booking is recommended. Rakesh can be contacted at +91 9816363598.

What to see & do

Garli is home to several heritage buildings. Start early in the morning as it can get very hot later in the day. If you’re feeling peckish, check out the local bakery, which offers fresh buns around 7.30am.

The Kangra Fort is 47km away and can easily be covered in a day trip.

The spectacular Masroor rock cut temple complex lies 57km from Garli.

For more information, please see:

www.garli.inwww.chateaugarli.com

The tales of Kaleshwar Mahadev

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Located in the breathtaking Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh, Kaleshwar Mahadev Mandir is a popular pilgrimage lying on the banks of river Beas.The beautiful sound of Beas flowing down the hills gives an extreme relaxation for peace seekers.One can practice meditation beside her calm waters or can simply enjoy and relax in the lap of nature. It is believed that this temple is one of the oldest temple located in the ranges of the Himalayas. A Huge fair is celebrated in the month of Sharavan or Saawan and also at the time of Shivratri, one can experience a variant culture and Himalayan rituals performed by the pilgrims in order to pay respect to their deity Lord Shiva.

According to myths this temple is constructed by Pandvas some 400 years ago, it is said by the locals that Lord Shiva himself worshipped here, a magnificent Shivalingam is placed on the bank of Beas river and it is believed by the locals and priests that the water in the Beas River keeps growing till it reaches the Shivalingam and once the water touches the Jalahri of the Shiva Lingam, water starts subsiding.

At around 7 km from the Kaleshwar Mandir Himachal, the tourists can find buses and taxis from Sabda for travelling. The Kaleshwar Temple Himachal is one of the ancient temples that have supreme powers to change your fate. The Kalinath Temple is another attraction that lies beside the Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple. To visit all the beautiful sites around the Pragpur Garli Heritage Zone, The Chateau Garli makes the best stay option with unmatched amenities and services.

Where to stay?

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The Chateau Garli offers the best stay option near Kaleshwar Temple providing modern amenities at your fingertips, located only 15minutes drive from the Kaleshwar Temple this heritage resort is providing you with the best stay in this UNESCO heritage village.

How to reach?

By AIR- the nearest airport to Kaleshwar Temple is Kangra Airport, Gaggal, from their one can hire a taxi or can travel through local buses which you can get easily from Kangra Bus Stand

ByRail- the nearest railway station is Amb, Una.From there one can from their one can hire a taxi or can travel by local buses.

By Road- Kaleshwar Temple is well connected by the road, it is around 45 km away from Kangra city and only 8kms away from Pragpur.