The journey through the snow-clad mountains continues. From Manali to Dharamshala was the next thing in our itinerary. On the way, we halted for a few minutes at the Rewalsar lake. We had a very nice driver (we had hired a taxi for the entire trip from Manali; let me address him by his name: Rakesh) who covered all the places very well; he even showed us places we had never heard of or which were not part of our sojourn. Rewalsar was one such place. A peaceful location, a Buddhist monastery and a statue of Padmasambhava by the lake all made it a spot worth visiting.
Rewalsar Lake is square in shape .This lake has dense vegetation in its surrounding. It has certain legends attached to it. According to one legend, this lake was founded when king Arshadhara of Zahor punished saint Padmasambhava and his own daughter. The saint was said to be burnt alive in an isolated place. A smoke cover surrounded the place for about a week.
Being surprised by this unusual event, the king came to the place himself. He was taken aback to find a lake at the location. Realizing his mistake, the king apologized to saint Padmasambhava and married his daughter to him. Since then, Rewalsar Lake has become a religious place for Buddhists. The Hindus too hold this lake sacred based on their own beliefs.Rewalsar has three Hindu temples which are dedicated to Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and to the sage Lomas.According to another legend, it is believed that Mahayana Buddhism became a steady force in Tibet at Rewalsar due to the enormous power of Padmasambhava, often called by the name of Guru Rimpoche. People believe that Padmasambhava’s spirit exists in the small land mass of floating reed that exists over the water of Rewalsar Lake.
Statue of Padmasambhava (yet to be completed)
Love is a universal language
After having spent some time near the lake and offering our prayers at the monastery, we continued our journey towards the Land of the Dalai Llama. On the way to Dharamsala is situated Jwalaji where we had booked a suite for the night; having darshana of Jwalamukhi in the morning and then travelling to Dharamsala was the plan. Jwalaji is a very significant place.
It is one of the fifty-one Shakti Peeths in the country. It is said that when, Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva, killed herself by jumping in the sacrificial fire when her father Daksha Prajapati insulted her husband, an enraged Shiva started roaming the entire universe with the body of Sati in his arms. His movement created havoc and imbalance in the Universe. To calm down the anger of Shiva, Lord Vishnu dismembered the dead body of Sati and various parts of the body fell at 51 different places in India which later on became sacred as Shakti Peeths. It is believed that Sati’s tongue had fallen at the very place where Jwalaji Temple is now situated. The tongue of Sati is represented by Jwala (Holy Flame) that is perpetually burning. The flames come out from nine different rocks in the temple. These flames are worshipped as the Goddess in this temple. It was a very different experience for us as we usually see the idols of goddessess being worshipped everywhere.
The HPTDC hotel at Jwalaji is also worth mentioning as though by themselves all the HPTDC ones we had booked were very good, this was one step above all of them. It was extremely tidy and having met the courteous staff here, I was convinced that the minds and hearts of the Himachali people are as lofty as the snow peaks.
Having bowed down to the flame goddess, we continued our journey further. We reached Dharamshala in the evening and after checking in at the HPTDC hotel(Hotel Kunal) and refreshing ourselves (hardly need to; sweat ka naam bhi nahi le sakte wahan pe :P), Rakesh told us there was yet another place worth visiting known as Chamunda. Chamunda Devi is around 15 km from Dharamsala by road. Chronicled in the Durga Sapt-Shati, the story goes that on the orders of Shamb and Ni-Shamb, two demons tried to harass the goddess Ambika. Enraged, Ambika knitted her brows and from the folds a horrifying from of Kali emerged. After a great battle, the goddess Kali slew the two demons, Chand and Mund. Delighted by Kali’s achievement, Ambika declared that she would now be worshipped here as Chamunda a combination of the demons names.
The temple also has a lake and few nice statues adorn the temple.
Ramana banta Hanumantha
Another thing worth mentioning about HP is the ease in getting food. We found a pretty good Vaishnav Bhojanalaya in Chamunda also and our taste buds were extremely satisifed as were our pockets as they did not have to part with more :P.
The next morning, we visited MCLEODGANJ . Often called the Little Lhasa, at 1770m is the residence of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. The Tibetan Government in exile has been head quartered here for over three decades. The impressive monastery has larger than life images of the Buddha, Padmasambhava and Avalokiteshwara. The large Tibetan community and the presence of traditional architectural designs drawn from Tibet have enhanced the area.
Church on the way to Mcleodgunj
A piece of art adorning the walls of the monastery
Views from Mcleodgunj
Offering our prayers at the monastery, we bid adieu to Dharamsala and ready to be welcomed by Dalhousie. Our expectations from Dalhousie were really high having got more than expected from each of the places we had visited until now and we were not proved wrong.
On the way to Dalhousie, we passed by the Dal lake (theres one here too). Around 11 km from Dharamsala and surrounded by deodar trees this is an enchanting and serene picnic spot. On the way, Rakesh took us to another enchanting place, a small village called Naddi; which may not have found its place on the popular tourist maps but definitely carved a niche for itself in our hearts. The Dhauladhar range presents itself majestically adorned by the lustrous green flora.
Scenic beauty at Naddi
Birdie enjoying the view of the Dhauladhar
Having spent some quality time at Naddi and Su putting his photography skills to test, we proceeded towards Dalhousie.
On the way to Dalhousie
What on earth are these formations?
Reached around night with time only enough to have dinner and retire to bed.
Well, from a glimpse of snow during the journey from Kalka to Shimla, to having travelled to Fagu, which is aorund 22 kms from Shimla to touch and feel snow, to seeing snow right in front of our suite in Manali, we now were at a place where snow was with us everywhere; all around Dalhousie; right next to our suite at the Geetanjali, our hotel for the day. And it was Dalhousie which was the coldest too.
Snow, snow baby (already turned into ice)
Nice shoe stand Ur Highness
Hotels were so full in Dalhousie, that we had to book two different ones for each day we were there as both were free only on one day each. Geetanjali today; Manimahesh tomorrow. Manimahesh is a luxury hotel and a new construction for those of you who really mean to stay there. Geetanjali is neat and tidy except that its probably a building from the British period and looks like Manjulika’s house in Bhool Bhulaiya :P. We had no choice anyways on the first day and had to put up with it.
Our destination for the next day was Khajjiar. A small picturesque saucer-shaped plateau surrounded by dense pine and deodar forests, is one of the 160 places throughout the world to have been designated “Mini Switzerland”. Its a tiny tourist resort in Chamba about 24 kms from Dalhousie; at an altitude of 6,500 ft. above sea level. The moment one enters the picturesque Khajjiar, one is welcomed by a yellow Swiss sign for ‘hiking path’ which reads “Mini Switzerland”. We had to take a much longer route via Chamba to Khajjiar as the shorter one was blocked due to snow.
It was a blessing in disguise, as the River Ravi originates in the Himalayas in the Chamba district and passes hill sides with terraced fields. Sometimes the hill seems to move away and the river comes out into lovely green valleys. Its a beautiful sight to say the least.
Chamba all the way
And here comes Khajjiar! The lush green trees around with the pure white snow fallen here and there. One sight-seeing package here is people take you on horse-back and show you the places where different films have been shot – Gadar, 1942 A Love Story etc…
There is a 12th century temple dedicated to Khajji Nag dedicated to the serpent god here, from which the name of the place is supposed to be derived. Within the temple are life size wooden images of the five Pandava brothers.
While returning from Khajjiar, we were told that we could now take the shorter route to Dalhousie (i.e not via Chamba) as BRO had cleared the roads. But well, to give u a picture, this is what the roads looked like even after clearance; so u can just imagine what they would have been before. I can recollect a Scorpio getting stuck in the snow on the narrow road with hills on one side and fully deep on the other side; they had a tough time to take it out and we were all waiting behind.
Having covered the Sutlej Circuit (Shimla – Naldehra), the Beas Circuit (Kullu – Manali – Rewalsar) and the Dhauladhar Circuit (Dharamsala – Dalhousie – Khajjiar – Chamba), it was now time to return back to pavilion; the last day of the ;last month of 2007. Our return journey was Dalhousie-Pathankot-Delhi-Hyderabad. Dalhousie to Pathankot by taxi, Pathankot to Delhi by train, Delhi to Hyderabad by air. We also happened to do some shopping at Pathankot as we had some free time: Patiala suits, Sherwanis etc.. The one circuit which we had to leave uncovered was the Tribal Circuit(Kalpa – Kaza – Keylong) which is home to the Lahaul, Spiti regions and the famous Kinnaur Kailash range as this is a tour in itself and also bocz they were blocked during the time. Who knows? May be the Himalayan King wants us to bathe in his glory sometime again. Signing off on this positive note.
P.S: Thanks Su for all these beautiful snaps which have adorned the post.
A few of them were taken by me too 😉
Thanks Sony DSC-H1 and Nikon D-40 for having been functional throughout the trip 😛