In the first post on Offbeat Places Around Dharamshala, I noticed that the list was getting bigger and hence decided to break it into two parts.
Here’s part 2 of Offbeat Places around Dharamsala
War Memorial in Kangra
The war memorial in Kangra is located around 7 kms from Dharamshala and it is locally known as Shaheed Smarak. It is set amidst a lovely pine forest at the entrance of Kangra town. The War Memorial was built in the memory of soldiers who perished in the wars of 1947, 1962, 1965 and 1971.
Once you enter after taking the ticket, the monument is in lovely greenery and is facilitated by pathways that make for a pleasant walk. The complex also has an exhibit of prototypes of weapons used in the Indian Defence Services.
Inside are also three huge blocks of black marble inscribed with names of the mytyrs; while one of the marble faces is painted with a mural which symbolises the spirit of national freedom.
Library of Tibetan Works & Archives
The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is a very important place and was founded in 1970 by HH Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The library is a treasure of important Tibetan Buddhist manuscripts and archives related to Tibet’s history, politics, culture and art that were carried from Tibet after the 1959 escape. There is also a museum inside the library with artefacts that includes a three-dimensional carved wooden mandala of Avalokiteshvara.
The library is said to have over 80,000 manuscripts, many original Tibetan books, more than 600 thangkas and statues and other valuable items of Buddhist heritage.
The Library of Tibetan Works & Archives aims to work as a complete cultural resource for Tibet and is a must visit attraction for people interested in Tibetan history.
Museum of Kangra Art
The Kangra Art Museum is a fascinating museum displaying art from Kangra Valley. Located near the bus station in Kangra, the museum has a collection of miniature paintings, depicting Kangra valley’s glorious artistic past. There are also other crafts, sculptures, pottery and other important objects including temple carvings, fabrics and embroidery, weapons, and palanquins belonging to royalty.
Some of the items displayed in the museum go back to 5th century. A section in the museum is also dedicated to showcasing contemporary art and photography.
Museum of Kangra Art is open from 10am to 5pm everyday, except Monday.
Aganjar Mahadev Temple & hike to nearby village of Lunta
Some of the best memories of the mountains lie in small walks. The Aganjar Mahadev Temple is a short walk from Dharamshala, and has a fantastic location surrounded by forests, and a gurgling stream that flows right next to it.
It is a highly revered spot and is regarded as very ancient by the locals. It is a Shiva temple and has other old temples too in the same compound.
A 2 minute walk from the temple, brings one to a spot from where a narrow path climbs up. The path goes to the pristine village of Lunta, with its old Himachali houses. The walk is an uphill one but the view from Lunta is beautiful and offers a glimpse into authentic Himachali life.
Maharaja Sansar Chand Museum
This is a privately owned museum situated on a hillock near Kangra fort which showcases the life of Raja Sansar Chand, who was a renowned patron of Kangra Miniature painting. It has a priceless collection of objects from the royal era of Kangra.
Photography is prohibited inside the museum even though an entry fee is charged. Audio guides are available too. Among the treasures on display are a vintage car, silver & crystal utensils, unique coins, and a silver bed, plus many many more things.
There are also peacock-feather fans, luxurious palanquins and also a chart of the history of Kangra which suggests that the Katoch family fought against the Pandavas. The most priceless collection of the museum is perhaps the miniature paintings of the Kangra School of Art.
Church of St. John in the wilderness
This tranquil Church is accessed by a ten minutes walk from McLeodganj. It was built amidst deodhar forests, in 1852. St. John’s Church is built in neo-Gothic architectural style and is known for its Belgian stained-glass windows and stands tall in spite of a severe earthquake in 1905 that proved devastating for the entire region.
It is commonly known as Church of St. John in the Wilderness and is one of the oldest churches in entire North India. The building itself is dedicated to Lord Elgin, the British Viceroy, who died in 1863 in Dharamshala. He is buried in the adjoining graveyard.
It is an attraction for people who like quiet solitude in the midst of nature while gazing at fabulous stone architecture.
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) was founded in 1959 and is responsible for preserving and promoting Tibet’s unique performing arts. The institute is set in tranquil settings, near Bhagsu. TIPA has approx. 200 people that live on the campus including artists, instructors, craftsmen, etc.
After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, HH The Dalai Lama felt it was important to safeguard the traditional performing arts of Tibet so that they are not lost forever and thus the TIPA was born. The institute also has a research section that is in charge of documenting the literature, and also the audio-visual components of Tibetan Operatic culture, dance and music.
The institute’s best showcase performance is during the Opera Festival, which is a 9-day long celebration of Traditional Tibetan Opera (also called Lhamo).
4-5 Devi Darshan
The area near Dharamshala is also popular for religious tourism of the 4 devi darshan.
Jawalaji temple : It is one of the 51 Shaktipeeths, and marks the spot where the tongue of Shiva’s first wife, Parvati (Or Sati), fell after her body was consumed by flames.
Brajeshwari Devi temple : It marks the place where Sati’s breasts fell after her body was consumed by flames. The temple was rebuilt in 1920 after it was destroyed in 1905 in an earthquake. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati or Brajeshwari.
Chamunda Devi : Chamunda Devi Mandir is believed to be the abode of ‘Shiva and Shakti’ and is located on the banks of a river.
Chintpurni Devi : It is believed that the feet of Sati fell in this place where the temple has been built.
The Rock Cut Temples of Masrur
The spectacular temples of Masrur are located around 40 kms away from Dharamshala. The rock cut temples of Masrur were constructed in the 9th-10th Century AD from a huge single rock. There is a small lake in front of the temples which reflects the temples itself.
Masrur is the only place in the Himalayas with rock-cut Hindu temples and are said to be similar to those at Ellora in Maharashtra. The complex has fifteen temples devoted to Shiva, Sita, Ram and Lakshmi that bear eroded carvings on ruined statues. Stairs have been cut into the rocky mounds and wind up to a flat roof above the main temple. Views from the top are quite nice.
The temples have been badly damaged in the 1905 earthquake and are currently maintained by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).