Located on the upper ranges of the Kangra Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh is Dharamshala, at an altitude of 1,475 m above sea level. The city is wrapped by a thick cover of deodar cedar trees and is one of the major holds of the Tibetan refugees and is the abode of the 14th Dalai Lama. It is fondly called Little Lhasa due to its large number of Tibetan refugees and because it is the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in exile.
The place is also the second capital of Himachal Pradesh, making it the third state in the country to have two capitals. Due to its beautiful surroundings and the presence of the Dalai Lama, the town has been a major tourist draw amongst Indian as well as foreign visitors. Take a look at some of the places to visit when here.
1. Tsuglagkhang Complex
Considered as one of the most sacred places for the Tibetans, the complex is the official residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Apart from being the home of His Holiness, the complex also houses the Tibet Museum along with the Namgyal Gompa and the Tsuglagkhang Temple.
The temple houses three deities namely Sakyamuni Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara; the idol of Sakyamuni is three metres high and is made of bronze; the idol of Padmasambhava is said to face Tibet; Avalokitesvara is known as the Buddha of Compassion. The Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of Avalokitesvara in the present day.
PC: Adam Jones
2. Namgyal Monastery
The Namgyal Monastery was established by the third Dalai Lama in the year 1575; originally in Tibet, the monastery was relocated to Dharamshala after China captured Tibet in 1959. It is often known as Dalai Lama's Temple and is the personal monastery of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. The monastery at present is home to about 200 odd Tibetan monks who aid in the preservation of the ancient rituals, artistic skills and the traditions of the monastery.
3. McLeod Ganj
McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamshala and is known as Little Lhasa as it is home to the Tibetan Government in exile. The place is named after Sir Donald Friell Mcleod who was a Lieutenant Governor of Punjab during the British rule; the town attracts a large of visitors as it is the base camp for many treks to the Himalayan ranges. The place is well known for thangkas, Tibetan handicrafts, carpets, singing bowls, etc.
PC: Kiran Jonnalagadda
About 35 km away from Dharamshala is Masrur, which is known for its rock-cut temple complex, which dates to back to the time between the 6th to the 8th centuries, according to historians. The temple complex is located on a rocky ridge over which one would find an arrangement of monolithic temples which suffered significant damage in an earthquake which hit the area in the year 1905.
The temples have resemblances to the temples at Mahabalipuram, Ellora and Dhamnar. The central temple here is known as Thakurdwara, where one can find idols of Ram along with his consort Sita Devi and his brother Lakshmana.
As per legends, it said that the Pandavas stayed here during their exile period and built this temple. During their stay here, their identity was exposed and they had to shift from the place, which is said to be the reason why the complex remains unfinished.
5. Gyuto Monastery
The Gyuto Monastery is the home of Karmapa who is the head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is well known for its studies on the Buddhist philosophy, tantric rituals and tantric meditation. The structure was built in the memory of the soldiers who laid down their lives during the Tibet Freedom War in the year 1951.
The monastery complex is peaceful in its ambiance and attractive in its architecture and décor, which is built in place where the Dhauladhar ranges form a beautiful background to the structure, which attracts quite a large number of visitors.
PC: Offical Site
6. Kangra Fort
The Kangra Fort is the largest fortification to be built in the Himalayan ranges and probably the oldest dated fort in the country. The fort was built by the royal Rajput family of the Katoch dynasty, which traces its origins to the ancient kingdom of Trigarta, which is mentioned in the epic of Mahabharata. The structure stands tall on a steep rock, dominating a surrounding valley which is built at the confluence point of the rivers of Banganga and Majhi.
PC: John Hill
7. Dal Lake
Not to be confused with the Dal Lake in Kashmir, this lake is located in the hamlet of Tota Rani near Dharamshala. The lake is a mid-altitude one which is about 1,775 m above sea level in a picturesque location, which is topped with a calm and serene environment. The lake is home to a large variety of fish; on its banks one can find a small shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, which adds to the religious importance of the place.