Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mussoorie : The Queen of the hill stations

The queen of hill stations is about 89 km from Haridwar and the salubrious climate and deep woods make it an ideal hill station. The name, Mussoorie, derives its name from plants of 'Mussoorie', found in abundance here. After its discovery, this place gradually developed as a center of education, business, tourism and beauty. The hill station of Mussoorie came into being around the 1830s. What began as a small settlement grew into a large station to turn into a hill station of today overlooking the sprawling Doon valley and the city of Dehradun. Mussoorie was not named after a place in England. The British were content to follow the name given by the hill-folk. Mussoorie, at a height of around 7000 ft above the sea level, straddles a ridge in the Garhwal Himalayas, developing into a major tourism destination.

Languages Spoken: Hindi, English, Garhwali
Long Distance Code: +91-135
Importance: Queen of hill stations
Area: 65 sqkm
Best Time To Visit: April To October

Mussoorie Attractions

The Mall & Camel's Back

Rickshaw rides down the Mall, and around the wooded road of Camel's Back with its timeless views of the northern ranges of the Himalayas, are a pleasure which is virtually unique to Mussoorie. Younger, and younger-at-heart, people prefer to amble down the Mall. And, in keeping with our informal atmosphere, it is fashionable to eat roasted peanuts while you amble. These are bought from barrows and little roadside vendors who keep them around little terracotta Gharries-pots filled with glowing, smoking, faggots. One of the barrows offers a bonus; it stands beneath a hoarding depicting Mussoorie's attractions so that you can get the lay of the land while you crack-crunch-relish.

Tibetan Temple

This temple is located in Happy valley area of Mussoorie. Both Company gardens and Tibetan temple can be seen in one day. They are located one kilometer from Lal Bahadur Shastri National Administrative Academy. The Tibetan temple is evidence to rich Tibetan cultural heritage. This temple is sure to attract attention of tourists.

Mussoorie Lake

This lake is located some 7-kms on the highway to Dehradun. The gateway of this lake appears to be welcoming tourists from Dehradun. One can enjoy boating at this lake. One also gets a very good view of the Dun Valley from this lake. The villages surrounding Mussoorie can also be seen from here.

Lal and Nag Tibba

Lal Tibba is the highest point in Mussoorie which is also the oldest inhabited place in Mussoorie. Nag Tibba is 55-km from Mussoorie and is very good place for trekking. Nag Tibba, as it is called, is the highest place around Mussoorie. Thick dense forests surround it.

Kempty Falls

Probably the most famous falls of the country, the Kempty falls are around 15 kms away from Mussoorie. This perennial cascade is a mountain stream which has cut and sculpted its way through great boulders and down rock faces offering a stimulating, drenching, shower when it reaches a sandy basis before rushing on. One can find this place filled with tourists and thus many regular services such as snack bars etc.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lahaul and Spiti : The Barren Splendor

The rugged and the highly located area, is nature's ever changing canvas. Known as the Land of Lamas, Lahaul and Spiti are the passes stretching straight into the cold desert of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Closed for more than six months during the year due to heavy snow, the land sheds its colours and goes for a complete turnover in spring and summers. Brown barren slopes with icy rivers and cold winds are the common feature of Lahaul and Spiti. The sole access to the this land is the Rohatang pass near Manali., which according to legend was created by Lord Shiva for the people of Lahaul and Spiti to visit the valley of Gods beyond the pass.

There are very few patches of fertile land in this area, where the people live and have formed few villages, most are tribes. These tribesmen, despite the tough weather conditions which makes them fight hard for their livelihood, retain the inner warmth and are always smiling and inviting. The place has been mentioned in the old Buddhist scriptures and was probably inhabited by the Khasa who came from central Asia and settled here. Lahaul and Spiti were ruled by the Ladakh and the Kullu rulers in turns. Eventually this rugged land came under the reigns of the ruler of Kullu; Ranjit Singh who ruled till the British came in and overtook the whole area.Mostly the people of this place are followers of Buddhism. There are beautiful and ancient monasteries and Gompas here where they follow their daily rituals and worship the lord.

With a varied topography, that is suitable for a hiker or adventure seekers. The rough terrain and absence of heavy rains, makes it suitable for mountaineering. The Gushing Rivers twisting and turning etching the hard rock’s of the area provide good rafting adventure. The grandeur of these terrains and magnificence comes as a surprise at every nook and corner and is definitely awe inspiring, that can make anyone bow down to nature.Due to the prominence of Buddhism in the area one can witness flags fluttering in prayer to the almighty. These colourful flags only add beauty to the barren terrains of the magnificent mountains.

Location: The largest district in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul and Spiti is known as the barren splendour of the Himachal. Bounded by Ladakh to the north, Tibet to the east, and the Kullu valley to the south, Lahaul and Spiti is the gateway to the Leh and Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir. Although the district is one made out of two subdivisions of Lahaul and Spiti, these two areas differ highly in their altitudes. The rugged region receives a scanty rainfall and therefore is favourite spot with the trekkers during the time when the monsoon lashes throughout the country. It also has many passes for the adventure seeker to try on.

Languages Spoken: Himachali and local dialects
Long Distance Code: +91-1906
Importance: The barren gatewy to Tibet
Area: 55673 sqkm
Best Time To Visit: May To July

Lahaul and Spiti Attractions:

Rohatang pass

Situated about 51 km from Manali town at an altitude of 4,111 meters (13,400 ft.) on the highway to Keylong, is the Rohatang Pass. This is the pass which separates the picturesque and green valley of Kullu and Manali to the stark contradiction of barren brown mountains and deep valleys of stones and rocks. Rohatang is the place where the majesty of the mountains is at its height in splendour.

Rohatang in Tibetan language means a heap of dead bodies. And true to these words, Rohatang definitely would take toll of humans and property, every year due to its harsh weather. The pass becomes hazardous due to frequent avalanches. Although there is face over to the pass in summers and spring when the pass reels under beautiful flowers and birds and rare variety of butterflies.There is a beautiful lake to the left of the pass known as Doshohar Lake. The Sonapani Glacier and the Gyephang La peaks offer a splendid view. At the height of the Rohatang pass one can see a small stone enclosure and a water spring, believed to be the source of River Beas.Being the only route to enter the arid region of Lahaul and Spiti, trekkers and hikers can often be seen on the pass. It is closed in winters due to heavy snowfall and is open from April to September.


Keylong is the district head quarters of Lahaul and Spiti. Situated at an altitude of 3156 meters Keylong is the main centre on the trade route between the Rohatang and Baralacha passes above the Bhaga River. It is an oasis in this cold desert. Being the most commercialized place it also has many facilities and a regular market. The Khardong Monastery is 4 km from here contains barrel like prayer drums, paintings, ancient weapons, musical instruments and life size statue of Lord Buddha. There are three Monasteries in the radius of few kilometer; Tayul, Khardong and Shashur which are also worth a visit.


Tandi which is hardly 8 kms from Keylong is one of the most picturesque places of the valley, with abundant natural beauty and the mythological stories to go with it. It is situated on the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga Rivers which offer a splendid view.There are many stories about the name and the confluence of the Rivers in Tandi. The Pandav brothers along with their wife, Draupadi, started ascending to the heaven from this route. Draupadi slipped from this very place and died and could not reach heaven in the human form. Since then the place has been known as Tan Dehi, meaning in Human form and the word Tandi is the version of the same.

Another story about the confluence of the two rivers says that Chandra and Bhaga were the children Moon and Sun respectively, who wanted to get married. Both f them took their own route and reached Tandi and were eventually married. The confluence reminds one of this legendary love story thus enhancing its beauty.

Suraj Taal Chandra Taal

These two beautiful lakes are on the Baralacha la, are supposed to be the origins of the Bhaga and the Chandra rivers respectively. The Baralacha la means pass with cross roads on summit on the Spiti and Leh road. The Suraj Taal is the lake dedicated to Sun god from where the origins of Bhaga Rivers can be traced down. The crystal clear waters of the Lake freeze and is full of snow all around in winters. But in summers the deep icy blue waters of the lake reflect the magnificence of the mountains and the nature around. Situated in a natural amphitheatre, this lake presents the exuberance of natural beauty.

The Chandra Taal which is the origin of the River Chandra is also a natural lake situated at the height of 14000 feet. It is situated in a broad grassy plain which was a glacier earlier. A small little island in the middle of the lake known as the samudari tapu is supposed to be the dwelling place of a mermaid and therefore is unreachable. The Chandra Taal is favourite with the shepherds of this region as there is ample grass on which the herds can be fed on. Ducks and cranes are also found in abundance on this lake and definitely make a gorgeous sight. The icy cold water is so clean and clear that one can even see the stones underneath the water.

Kunzum Pass

What Rohatang is for Lahaul, Kunzum is to Spiti, the sole passage through which one can reach Spiti is through the Kunzum Pass which is at an altitude of 4590 meters. The panoramic view of the second longest glacier in the world, the Bara-Sigri glacier can be thrilling and spell bounding from this pass. There is a temple at the top of Kunzum pass dedicated to Goddess Durga.

Monasteries of Lahaul and Spiti

Either due to the proximity to the Tibet or due to the trade route from India to Tibet, Lahaul and Spiti has many monasteries and Gompas. The people of this place ardently follow the Buddhists religion. Few of the important monasteries are as follows.

Kye Monastery:

It is situated 12 kms. North of Kaza and serves the western population of Spiti. It is the oldest and biggest monastery of the valley and located at (4116 m) above Kye village. It houses beautiful scriptures and paintings of Buddha. It is also a training centre for Lamas some books of high aesthetic value in its possession.

Dhankar Monastery:

Dhankar is a big village and an erstwhile capital of central Spiti. A huge fort on atop the hills used to serve as a prison in the olden days. It is the living place of 100 lamas and has some Buddhist scriptures in the Bhoti Language. The principal statue in this monastery is that of the 4 complete figures of Buddha, seated back to back in Dhyan or meditating pose. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.


One of the most important monasteries in the region, the Tabo monasteries also the oldest, established in 996 A.D. It has some beautiful rock paintings comparable only to the Ajanta frescoes of Maharashtra. Tabo holds the distinction of being the largest monastic complex in Spiti and is the brainchild of the great translator and teacher, Rinchensang Po.

Guru Ghantal monastery:

Located on the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga rivers, the Guru Ghantal Monastery, is probably the oldest centre of Buddhist pilgrimage. The archaeological evidences found at this site indicate that it had been a significant Buddhist as well as Hindu pilgrimage site in the distant past.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kullu : The Valley Of Gods

One of the oldest towns in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Kullu finds a mention in the scriptures written by Xuan Zhang the Chinese traveler. Founded in the 1st century A.D. by Behangamani Pal whose forefathers had migrated to Mayapuri from Tripura, Kullu was known as Kulantha Pitha which meant the end of the habitable world.

The valley changed hands many times over the century before to finally coming under the British rule. The history of this place revolves around the landmark of the town, the Raghunath temple. According to a legend, in the mid 17th century the King of this place fell ill and at the behest of his royal holy men asked for the sacred images of Lord Ram, after which he recovered miraculously. This made him donate the whole valley under his power to the Gods, giving it a name of the Valley of Gods. The Raghunath temple dedicated to Lord Ram with the same idols still stands testimony to the story of the faithful King.

The residents or the locals of this place are rarely belonging to the actual place but come from various valleys nearby and also from Nepal and Tibet. Nonetheless they are warm and helping in nature. Apart from its natural splendour of the place the Kullu valley is most famous for its annual celebration of Dusshera festival which falls around October and people from all around come to experience the unique festivity.

Location: The beautiful Kullu valley is situated on the gushing river Beas. The valley running north to south of this river, is approximately 225 kms from the capital town of Shimla. Aptly called as the valley of Gods, it has many ancient and beautiful temples; also the rich natural beauty the Gods have bestowed upon this valley says in itself as the favoured of the Gods, which gives it its name.

Languages Spoken: Himachali, Hindi, English
Long Distance Code: +91-1902
Importance: Valley of the Gods, famous for Dushhera celebrations.
Area: 6.68
Best Time To Visit: March To November & October during the Dusshera celebrations

Kullu Attractions

Temples of Kullu

The valley of Kullu is aptly known as the valley of Gods. There are more than 350 temples in the valley dedicated to various Hindu Gods. The temples of this place carry three distinctive forms of architecture. The influence of Buddhism arrived from Tibet is seen in some of the Pagoda style temple. The typically Hindu architecture is evident in Shikhara architecture of some temples. The local architecture, known as the Pahari architecture which can sustain the natural hazards of the region is also seen in some of the temples.

Bijli Mahadev Shrine:

This beautiful small temple build in the Pahari style is around 10 km from Kullu across the Beas River can be reached through a trek only. But after reaching the temple the reward is too good. The temple is 60 feet high and glistens vehemently in the sunlight and thus gains the name of Bijli temple, or temple f lightening; albeit the legend offers a different story altogether. It is said that long time ago Lord Shiva absorbed t he lightening that fell, which would have devastated the earth completely. The episode took place on the confluence of the Parvati and Beas Rivers and people erected a temple in honour of Lord Shiva and named it after the episode. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of the valley. Inside the shrine is the Shiva lingam adorned with flowers and garlands.

The Raghunath Temple:

The Raghunath temple is dedicated to the presiding deity of the valley, Lord Ram. It is believed that the idol is ancient and to be the one which was used by Lord Ram himself while performing the Ashwamedh Yagna. This is the temple built in Pagoda style and where the famous Dusshera celebrations take place. The temple is supposed to be built in the 17th century when the King of the place was advised to get the idols of Lord Ram from the nearby valleys. Inside one can see the idol of Lord Ram sitting on velvet cushioned silver chariot.

Vaishno Devi Temple:

It is the most recent temples that was built in the valley but attracts equal number of tourists and devotees. Dedicated to Goddess Durga, it is a small temple and the deity is enshrined in a cave. The climb to the temple is still steep but it offers a stupendous view of the mystic Kullu valley and the River Beas running along its length like a young maiden walking a ramp!

Bhuvaneshwari temple:

The Bhuvaneshwari Temple of Bhekhli is built in Pahari style is also dedicated to one of the forms of Goddess Durga. The temple walls are decorated with Kangra paintings of Durga. A magnificent stone lion gives the example of the local art. The stone lion in the courtyard is a fine example of local art. This beautiful temple is situated uphill at a distance of 10 km from main Kullu town.

Bajaura Temple:

This ancient temple, built in the 8th century is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also known as the Bishweswar temple. It is one of the most beautiful temples of the Kullu valley which is around 15kms from Kullu and is worth a visit.

Great Himalayan National Park

Situated in the Kullu valley, the Great Himalayan National Park makes a good visit. Situated in the vast area of 620 sq km, the park is full of coniferous forests, with alpine pastures and glaciers forming a beautiful background. Some of the rare species found in here are the Musk deer, Brown bear, Goral, Snow Leopard, Monal and many more. The visit to this park gives an unforgettable experience.


Naggar, 26 km from Kullu was the erstwhile capital of the place for nearly 1400 years. The Naggar castle which stands the mute testimony to its glorious past has been converted in to a hotel today. It was founded by Raja Visudhpal and continued as a headquarters of the State until the capital was transferred to Sultanpur (Kullu) by Jagat Singh. The beautiful castle here was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu around 1460 A.D. and commands an extensive view of the valley and the River Beas. There are many temples situated in the vicinity notably amongst which are the temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna.


Manikaran is a small village at the distance of around 45 km from Kullu. The place is full of hot water springs which are believed to have curative properties. Hence daily thousands of devotees take the holy dip in these hot waters. The water is so hot that Rice, Lentils and vegetables get boiled and cooked in the water. The legend goes that once Shiva and his wife Parvati were wandering through this place where her ear ring dropped. This gives the name to the place Manikaran meaning ear ring. The search of the rings was futile and Shiva got annoyed. It was Shesh Nag; the serpent, which came forward to pacify the lord by hissing and boiling the water. Thus the jewel that lay under the water came up and Lord Shiva was pacified. Since then the water is hot.

Rewalsar Lake

This square shaped lake resting on a mountain surrounded by deep vegetation is a sacred spot for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists alike. According to a legend, the great teacher Padmasambhava used his powers to take a flight from this place directly to Tibet. The waters at the Rewalsar Lake is therefore precious and people throng here to take blessings and honour the water of the lake.