Kangra (altitude 1,250 to 1,982 meters), which was known anciently as ‘Trigarta’ is one of the most picturesque valleys in Himachal Pradesh. It is sheltered by the massive Dhauladhar range of mountains, rich in culture and history. The history of Kangra valley dates back to Vedic times, more than 3,500 years ago. It finds mention in the Puranas, the Mahabharat and in Rajtarangani. Dharamshala stands at the foot of Dhauladhar and has a magnificent view of snowy peaks, deodar and pine forests, tea gardens and beautiful hills. The snow line is perhaps more easily accessible at Dharamshala than any other hill station in India. Dharamshala now really has become international, with a number of Tibetan settlements and the residence of Noble Laureate the ‘Dalai Lama’. Since 1960, when it became the temporary headquarters of the Dalai Lama, it has come to be known as the ‘The little Lhasa in India’. Dharamshala is divided into two distinct parts: lower Dharamshala the civil and business area with Courts and Kotwali bazar and upper Dharamshala composed of places like Mcleodganj and Forsythganj. In 1905, tragedy struck Dharamshala, when an earthquake leveled it completely. After its reconstruction, Dharamshala flourished as a quite healthy resort.
Coming of Dalai Lama to Dharamshala: In 1960, the Parsi shopkeeper N.N. Nowrojee through the Prime Minister’s office invited the Dalai Lama and his entourage to take up residence in Dharamshala, specifically in ‘Upper Dharamshala’ known as Mcleodganj. A century before, the Nowrojee family had established the first trading post in that sleepy town surrounded by the Dhauladhars, the southern branch of the Himalaya. After the devastating 1905 earthquake, many families moved to Dharamshala some nine kms (and 460 meters) lower, but the Nowrojee family stayed on in Mcleodganj. A lifelong friendship developed and continued between Nowrojee and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In October 2001, N.N. Nowrojee was walking in the forest near his home when the Dalai Lama saw him from his car, and asked the driver to stop. His Holiness greeted him. The two shared laughter and a brief conversation. Nowrojee died in his sleep the very next day.
Countless Buddhist and myriad adventure-seekers are drawn to the Dalai Lama whose universal appeal extends far beyond his venerated religious stature. The Dalai Lama advocates compassion and nonviolence in a world of indifference and violence. His strong, resonant voice passionately emanates from Himachal Pradesh’s northwest corner. Dharamshala has been made accessible by air with the airports of Gaggal 13 km, Amritsar 200 km., Jammu 200 km. Nearest broad gauge railhead is Pathankot 90 km. and a narrow gauge railway line between Pathankot and Jogindernagar passes through Kangra 17 km, from Dharamshala. Road distances to major centres in the region are: Chandigarh 239 km., Delhi 514 km., Nangal 145 km., Jalandhar 166 km., Hoshiarpur 128 km., Mandi 147 km., Jawalamukhi 55 kms., Kullu 214 kms., Manali 252 kms., Chamba 192 km. and Shimla 322 km.
Dhauladhar: In summer beat the heat along the foothills of the Dhauladhar. This name itself, ‘Dhauladhar’ discloses its charm and means ‘mountain range of whiteness’. Formed of white granite, the northern flanks of these mountains hold the towns of Dharamshala, Palampur, Bir and Joginder nagar. The rural beauty and repose suddenly merging into the majestic hills, rugged here and romantic there, invites you for leisurely strolls through meandering paths amidst tall pines, to see gods reside in temples built in Pahari architecture, the sprawling tea sprawling tea gardens where ‘a bud and two leaves’ are deftly plucked.
Mcleodganj (1,770 m) the place where His Holiness the Dalai Lama resides is often called ‘Little Lhasa’ the prayer wheels, Buddhist monks, Tibetan bewellery, ornaments and crafts the whole environs is Lhasa-like. The cuisine here is so palatable and in demand that restaurants with names like Yak and Shangri-la sell Momos (meat dumplings) and Thukpa (nobles in broth) like proverbial hot-cakes. During the summers, the Kangra valley festival in Dharamshala provides you an opportunity to peep into the culture of the area while the para-gliding rally at Bir-Billing is an aero sport performed at one of the world’s best sites. If trekking is your hobby, climb up to Triund (2,827 m) and have a breathtaking view of the valley and snow clad mountains and a rest house to stay in.
Running rivulets, singing streams, bubbling brooks criss your path as you proceed to Palampur only 38 kms from Dharamshala. This can be your base for trekking, gliding, camping, strolling amidst tea gardens, visiting the art gallery of Sobha Singh at Andretta, floriculture units all under the cover of that majestic and grand Dhauladhar. Jogindernagar is about 40 kms from Palampur and is the access point for the sylvan retreat of Barot. The reservoir of the Bassi-Shanan Project on the UhI river, the trout breeding centre and the gateway to the Nargu Wildlife Sanctuary take you out of the world of the madding crowd and the sun’s beating.