On 25/12/2003- We ,a group of 8 persons set off(on a 9-seater taxi) for a 7-day exciting tour of the hill- stations & the holy Pilgrimage sites(offered our hearty prayers in all the temples) of Himachal Pradesh & enjoyed the tour immensely!
About HIMACHAL PRADESH :
Himachal Pradesh is popularly called the land of Gods.The people of HP celebrate life everyday which is apparent in their ethnic diversity,the hospitable culture,their attire and dances/festivals/fares’ celebrations.People put forth a rare spectacle of gaity, charm and enthusiasm so that the travelers to this vibrant land outnumber every year. 1)Art and culture of HP : It has grown out from fusion of cultural strains,migration &religious beliefs.Several surviving works have found expression in wall murals ,books ,miniatures ,religious paintings , indigenous art forms blended with moghul style works such as –Kangra school of painting,religious Tibetan arts under patronage of monasteries in Kinnaur,Lahaul Spiti achieved a brilliance of its own. Thangka paintings-depict religious zeal from Buddha’s life.Many domestic altars portray their rare paintings! Museum of Himachal culture &Folk art is located in Manali near Hidimba temple has models created in wooden work of many temples& Forts from the valley,artefact crafts representing local deities & musical instruments carrying a green Pativa of age takes visitors on a journey back in time. 2)Pilgrimage sites,Festivals and fares :There are numerous Pilgrimage sites and temples where thousands of devotees pay their prayers owing to strong belief in their deities :Chintpurni mata,Jwalamukhi,Kangra mata(maa Brijeshwariji),Naina devi, Chamunda devi ,Shringi rishi ,Devta Narsingh and Baba Balaknathji. Main Festivals:-Kullu Dushehra ,Halda,Phagli ,Lohri/makarsankranti,Lossar,Manali winter carnival, new year celebration. 3)Tourism development/renovations in Himachal Pradesh :While traditionally HP was known as the summer destination .deptt. of Tourism &Civil aviation has made special efforts to break the seasonability factor and has diverified the tourism products to attract tourists in all seasons .Nai rahen & nai manzilen is a new initiative to to bring attention to new destinations in the Himalayan state such as:- -Developing boating in lakes-Maharana Pratap sagar dam in Kangra & Largi dam in Kullu. -House boat accomodation ,Shikara ride,camping, HP Guesthouses/hostels/home stays -water sports, adventure sports like paragliding, skiing, Trekking( as in Bir Billing Kangra).
VISITS TO THE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND PILGRIMAGE CENTRES :-
(1)PINJORE : Its a town in Panchkula distt. near Chandigarh in a valley overlooking the Shivalik hills known for Pinjore gardens,Asia’s best 17th century Moghul gardens & the HMT factory.History says the five Pandava brothers of Mahabharta epic stayed here during their exile!Its original name was Panchpura later corrupted to Pinjore. Local attractions: 1)Pinjore Gardens:-Its at 22km on the CDG-Kalka road lying at the foothills of lower Shivalik in the Moghul Garden style spread over an area of 100acres. 2)Venue for annual mango festival,3)Mini Zoo,4)Nursery& good number of picnic spots.
(2)SIMLA :Its the biggest city and capital of HP.In 1864 it was declared as the summer capital of British India ,after independence city became the capital of Punjab &later on made the capital of HP.Its the principal cultural ,commercial &educational centre of the state.It was the capital city of British Burma from 1942 to 1945. Simla is the terminus of the narrow gauge Kalka-Simla railway completed in1903.Its known for handicrafts shops,pedrestrian avenue,as well as Lakkar Bazar specializing in wooden toys/crafts. Main attractions:1)The Mall,2)The Ridge,3)Jakhu hill,4)Kali Bari,5)Annadale,6)Indian Institute of advanced studies,7)State museum,8)Summer hall,9)Sankat mochan, 10)Tara devi temple,11)Chail with the worlds highest cricket ground at 7220 ft.
(3)KUFRI :Its a small hill station in Simla distt.located at 22km on the NH-22 at an elevation of 2720mts.Kufri is derived from the word kufr meaning ‘lake’ in local language.It was once a part of Kingdom of Nepal until the area was ceded to the British Raj as a part of the Sugauli treaty and it was discovered by the British in 1819. Places of interest :1)Himalayan Wild life Zoo with rare antelopes,felines and birds including the Himalayan Monal-the state bird of HP until 2007.2)Popular skii track. 3)Kufri fun campus,an amusement park for various rides,pools,worlds largest Go cart track-Kufri to Mahasu peak -the highest peak in kufri. 4)Indira tourist park, 5) Chini bungalow-provides the panoramic view of the beautiful locations around.
(4)MATA MANSA DEVI Temple is devoted to Godess Mansa devi,a form of shakti,in the Panchkula distt. of Haryana spread over 100acres at Shivalik foothills.Its is one of the prominent shakti temples involving 7 Goddesses namely Mansa devi,Nainadevi ,Jawaladevi ,Chintpurni,Ma Brajeshwari,Chamundadevi &Jayantidevi.Thousands of devotees visit the shrine especially during navratra mela.
(5)Mata NAINADEVI :Its situated on the NH-21,located on a hilltop base of which has samadhi of bhagat Jatt Jena Mosh.There are concrete steps leading to thetemple as well as a cable car facility.The hill of Nainadevi overlooks the Govindsagar lake created by the Bhakra nangal Dam which is a concrete gravity dam on the Sutlez river in Bilaspur distt. HP. The dam forms the Govindsagar reservoir.As the legend goes,Goddess Sati burnt herself alive in yagna,which distressed Lord Shiva who picked her corpse on his shoulders and started the Tandava dance.Lord Vishnu unleashed his Chakra and cut Sati’s body into 51 pieces .Nainadevi temple is the place where her eyes fell.The temple is also known as Mahishapeeth because of killing of demon Mahisasur by the Goddess.
(6)Mata CHINTAPURNI :Its a major pilgrimage centre & one of the Shaktipeeths in India & is located in Una distt. of HP.Its one of the 7 major &51 total shaktipeeths. Chinnamasta is interpreted as the severed head as well as the foreheaded one.As Vishnuji severed the burning body of maa into 51 pieces,it is believed that her head fell here and is known as the most important of the 51 Shaktipeeths.Hindu genealogy registers of pilgrimage and marriage records are maintained here by the pandits.In the centre of the temple is the Garbha Grih.The image of mata Chintpurni is installed here in the form of a pindi(a round stone) for her darshana.Delhi-Chintpurni is 420km and Kangra is 55km from Chintpurni.
(7)MATA BRIJESHWARI DEVI & KANGRA FORT :Its a hindu temple also known as Kangra devi mandir dedicated to Goddess Brijeshwari(shaktipeeth)-a form of Durga located in the town of Kangra.Legend says that after Goddess Sati sacrificed herself in honour of Shivain her fathers yagna,Lord Vishnu severed the body of Sati into 51parts by his chakra.Theleft breast of Sati mata fell heremaking it a shaktipeeth.In 1905 the temple was destroyed by a powerful earthquake which was subsequently rebuilt by the Govt. The temple is locatedat 11km away from Kangra rly.station. Kangra Fort :Its located 20 km from town of Dharamshala on the outskirts of Kangra built by royal rajput(Katoch dynasty)of Kangra state which traces its origin to Trigarta kingdom mentioned in Mahabharta epic.Its the largest fort in Himalayas and probably oldest dated fort in India.Its locatedon a mountain near Chamunda devi temple 16km from Nagarkot. Kangra was ruled by Harichand Katoch.Raja Sansar succeeded in recovering the ancient of his ancesters in 1789.Places of interest in Kangra fort:-1)Laxmi narain temple,2)Statue of Rishabnath inside Ambika mata mandir in Kangra fort.3)Jain temple.
(8)CHAMUNDA DEVI TEMPLE :Its among the 51 shaktipeeths in Kangra distt. 15km fromDharamshala.There are 9 devis -Vaishno devi,Chamunda devi,Ma Brijashwari, Ma Chintpurni,maa Jawalamukhi, maa Mansa devi, maa Kalika devi,maa Naina devi &Shakambhari devi.Its peoples belief that all your dreams of pilgrims are fulfilled here.Chamunda devi is devoted to Maa Kali who is the devi of power who killed demons-chund mund it came to be known as Chamunda devi. Its located near Banker river and it is also a very good picnic spot.As per legend, Chamunda devi killed Mahisasur and came to be known as Mahisasur Mardini.
(9)MATA JAWALAMUKHI is a famous shaktipeetha -the deity with a flaming face in kangra distt.Hindu genealogy registers are kept at Jawalimukhi.Raja Bhumi Chand Katoch of Kangra ,a great devotee of Goddess Durga, dreamt of the sacred place and Raja set people to find about the site where a temple was built.Its one of the mahashaktipeetham of the 51 shaktipeethas. Maa Sati’s tongue is believed to have fallen here and Goddess is manifested as tiny flames that burn a flawless blue through fissures in the age old rock.Its built on the Dharamshala-Simla road at 20km from Jwalamukhi railway stn.Havan is performed daily and portions of Durgasaptasati are recited.Maharaja Ranjit Singh visited the temple in 1815 and the Dome of temple was gold plated by him.
(10) DHARAMSHALA :-Its the distt. headquarter of Kangra distt (at 18 kms).The Kangra distt.was part of British Province of Punjab and was the H/Q initially but was moved to Dharamshala in 1855.Main places of interest:-1)Kotwali bazar /Jama masjid/main market.2)Lower Dharamshala,3)Upper Dharamshala /McLeodganj /Dharamkot. 4)HP Cricket Association Stadium,5)Trekking grounds,6)Kangra tea gardens-kangra green tea/black tea/white tea/kashmiri kahwa/masala chai. (11)McLEODGANJ :-Its a suburb of Dharamshala in Kangra distt.Its known as Little Lhasa or Dhasa because of large population of Tibetans.It was named after Sir Friell McLEOD,a Lt. Gen.of Punjab,the sufix Ganj is a common persian word used for neighbourhood. Its an important tourist and pilgrimage centre.In March 1959, Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India.The Indian Govt.offered him refuge in Dharamshala where he set up the Govt. of Tibet in exile in 1960 and it became its official residence and home to several Buddhist monasteries & thousands of Tibetan refugees.Places of interest:1)Namgyal Monastery also called as Namgyal Monastary Instt. of Buddhist studies or Namgyal Tantrik College.2)Dalai Lama Temple,3)Library of Tibettan works & Archieves, 4)Dal Lake, 5)Bhagsunath, 6)Bhagsu falls.
(12)BABA BALAKNATH :-is a Hindu deity worshipped in NI states of HP ,Punjab and haryana.His shrine is known as Deodh Sidh 45 km from Hamirpur on Bilaspur border and situated in the village Chakmol on hilltop in a natural cave where the idol of Baba Balaknath is placed.Chaitra mela is celebrated every year from 14/3 to 13/3 as he is believed to be reincarnation of Lord Kartikeya son of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati devi born in sath -yuga to annihilate demon Tarkashu. He is dear to Goddess Ganga came on the earthly abode as son of Pandit Vishnu and Laxmi in Kathiawad Gujarat. Sidh Baba balaknath is also known as Pannahari or Dudhadhari baba and is known as most gracious God in Hinduism. BBN is known as the most merciful God incarnated in Kaliyuga .He is follower of Shiva (shaivism).
(13) KULLU:- is a muncipal council town that serves as the headquarters of the Kullu .Its located on the banks of Beas riverin Kullu valley about 10km north of airport at Bhuntar Elev.1279mts.Its a broad open valley formed by Beas river between Manali &Largi known for temples and hills covered with Pine/deodar forest and apple orchards.Kullu valley is sandwitched between the Pir Panjal,lower Himalayan &Great Himalayanrange.Its known as the valley of Gods or Devbhoomi due to many pilgrimage sites, Buddhists & Sikhs alike known for open valley meadows & scenic himalayan range.Famous for kullu shawls made of many natural fibres including Pashmina ,sheepwool & angora.Festival of kullu Dussehra,a celebration of Lord Ramas victory over the evil king Ravana in the month of Oct or Nov.(as per hindu calendar)Local attractions:-1)Great Himalayan National park,2)Raghunath temple, 3)Shringi Rishi temple 60km from Kullu in Banjar valley,4)Mahadevi Teerth temple,5)Bijli mahadev temple, 6)Devta Narsingh temple,7)Raison, 8)Shoja, 9)Naggar was capital of kullu for 1400 yrs Famous for a)Gallery houses of paintings, b)old shrines,c)Pagoda shali temple, Festivals & other activities:-a)Kullu Dussehra b),Kullu Holi ,c)Fishing and adventures. (14)MANNIKARAN :-Its located in the Parvati valley on river Parvati north east of Bhuntar in Kullu distt.Its at 1760mts elevation and about 45 km from Kullu.The small town attracts Pilgrms visiting Manali &Kullu to visit hot springs and pilgrim centres of Hindus and Sikhs.An experimental Geothemal energy plant is set up here.Hindus believe that Manu createdhuman life in Mannikaran after the flood.It has temples of deities Rama,Krishna,Vishnu and Shivji. Also there is Mannikaran Gurudwara with beautiful landscapes all around making it an important Pilgrimage centre.
(15)MANALI :-Its a high altitude(2050mts)Himalayan resort town in NW Himachal Pradesh which is a backpacking centre and a beautiful honeymoondestination.Set on the Beas river its a gateway for skiing in Solang valley& trekking in Parvati valley.A jumping off point for paragliders,rafters & moutaineering in Pir Panjal mountains,home to 4000mts high Rohtang pass.Its located in Kullu/beas river valley 544kms from Delhi.Its the beginning of the trade route to Ladakh,popular tourist destination and serves as the Gateway to Lahaul Spiti as well as Leh.Cosmopolitan place where Tibetan,Ladakhi,Kashmir,Kullari and Lahauli people reside.Local occupation is Tourism,farming,Horticulture,handloom industry.Apart from hindi and English spoken here,local language is Kullu language.
History of Manali :Its named after the sanatan Hindu law giver Manu. Manu is derivative of Manu-Alaya which means ‘the abode of Manu’.Legend has it sage Manu stepped off his ark in Manali to create human life after a great flood had deluged the world.Old Manali village has an ancient temple dedicated to sage Manu. HIDIMBA DEVI TEMPLE :Locally known as Dhungari temple .Its an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimba devi wife of Bhima,a figure in Indian epic Mahabharta.The temple is surrounded by cedar forest called Dhungari van vihar at the foot of the Himalayas.The sanctuary is built over a rock jutting out of the ground which was worshipped as an image of Deity.The structure was built in 1553 by Maharaja Bahadur Singh.
(16)ROHTANG PASS :-Its a mountain pass at an elevation of 3980 mts on the eastern Pir Panjal range of Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu valley with Lahaul spiti valleys of HP.Its open from May to Nov because after that it is difficult to cross because of unpredictable snowstorms &blizzards.This is an ancient trade route between the people on either side of the Pir Panjal and may the oldest &the most frequented pass of the region. The highway is very busy (owing to tourists & millitary/ goods vehicles)and there are frequent traffic jams due to rough terrain compounded by ice and snow! ROHTANG TUNNEL(Atal Bihari tunnel) :-Its a highway tunnel being built under Rohtang Pass in Eastern Panjal range of Himalayas on Leh-Manali highway.At 8.8km length the tunnel will be the longest tunnel in India which is expected to reduce the distance between Manali &Keylong by 46kms. The tunnel is at an elevation of 3100mts whilre Rohtang pass is at 3978 mts. Its scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.Its part of 479 km Leh-Manali highway.The work of excavation is very tough due adverse climatic conditions.Once the tunnel is thrown open it will provide all-weather connectivity to border areas of HP & Laddakh which otherwise remain cut off for 6 months in winters.
TRAVEL-RECOMMENDATIONS: Although whole of HP is very beautiful destination but some other attractions are :-1) KINNAUR(Recong Peo,Kalpa,Sangla &Saharan) ,2) LAHAULSPITI(KEYLONG/KAZA), 3)DALHOUSIE, 4)KHAJJIAR , 5)CHAMBA, 6)MANI MAHESH, 7)SOLANG VALLEY.
NOTE :-MY DEAR READERS ARE REQUESTED TO KINDLY INFORM ME ON THIS SITE FOR REQUIRED CORRECTIONS(IF ANY) ALTHOUGH I HAVE REFERRED WIKKIPAEDIA FOR MUCH NEEDED DETAILS IN THE WRITEUP. HAPPY READING!