A walk in the wilderness;Pong lake

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                                ”there is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

                                 there is a rapture on the lonely shore,

                             there is a society where none intrudes,

                                by the deep Sea, and music in its roar”;

 

 

Located in the foothills of Dauladhar, in the vast plains of beautiful Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh, Pong Bird Sanctuary is a homage to approx more than 400 bird species. Every year during winters thousands(or lacs) of birds fly a long distance to migrate into the beautiful land and calm waters of Pong lake.Pong lake, officially known as Maharana Partap Sagari is actually a reservoir of a Dam built on the Himalayan river Beas.

Some four or five decades ago after the completion of Pong Dam, the locals there had observed some different bird species which were not common to them and soon after some inspections the govt. of India then, declared this site as a Bird sanctuary in 1983, which is now a . for Birdwatchers. The famous bird species founded here are bar-headed geese, Anser indicus, northern lapwing, ruddy shelduck, northern pintail, common teal, spot-billed duck, Eurasian coot, red-necked grebe, black-headed gulls, plovers, black stork, terns, water-fowl and egrets.

 

Not only the birdwatchers but also peace seekers, artists and wilderness lovers are attracted to this tranquil beauty of Pong lake. Pong lake also holds some mystical places in it.One of them is Bathu Temple, located in the middle of Pong lake, this temple is submerged under water for most of the year, like birds this temple can also be seen only during winters.The only way to reach this temple is by boat. This temple got its name from the stone it is made of, locally known as ”Bathu”. What mystical about this temple is, it does not contain any sculpture in it and nobody has any idea to whom this temple belongs to and who built it, there’s no information or any hint is available regarding this temple, though the rumours to be said that this temple is built by Pandavas but there’s no any possible information regarding this. Partially submerged in water, this mystical place is a must visit place if someone wants to spend some alone time or looking for some tranquillity.

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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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