When the picture of Kangra comes to our mind ,there comes the stories of Kings and Maharaja’s ,the rich cultural heritage and of coursethe Kangra art. But that’s not all. Kangra, being one of the populous districts of Himachal, has an epic history and picturesque destinations .From its ancient temples to its art, there is a lot about it that is yet to be explored about Kangra.
Kangra is situated on the southern escarpment of the Himalayas. The entire area of the district is traversed by the varying altitude of the Shivaliks, Dhauladhar and the Himalayas from north-west to south-east. The altitude varies from 500 metres above mean sea level (amsl) to around 5000 meters alms. The present Kangra district came into existence on the 1st September, 1972 consequent upon the re-organization of districts by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. It was the largest district of the composite Punjab in terms of area till it was transferred to Himachal Pradesh on the 1st November, 1966 and had six tehsils namely Nurpur, Kangra, Palampur, Dehragopipur, Hamirpur and Una.
Talking about the weather of Kangra district, you can experience the intensity of every weather here, be it monsoons, summers or winters. You can experience the warm rays of sun throughout winters which makes the shuddering winters much bearable, during summers feel the cool and wholesome breeze giving relief to your fatigued body from heat and if you want to witness how the real monsoon looks like, visit Kangra in the month of June ,as the the Kangra region receives the second highest rainfall in the country per annum. But if you ask a kangri about the best season to visit the district, then it would be between March -June
History of Kangra-
The beauty of Kanomgra lies in its history. Kangra was not the original name of the town. Later the Fort was built in the old Kangra region; the area became to be known as Nagarkot.
In Bharamand Puran there is a mention of Rajanaka Bhumi Chand. The Katoch Dynasty, which had ruled over Kangra since time immemorial is said to have originated from him. He was said to be the first recognized ruler of the region. After the rule of Mughals over Kangra, Maharaja Bhim Chand regained the control of Kangra. Under him, Kangra not only flourished as a powerful state but also as a centre of art and culture. However, he was too much ambitious and this brought him in conflict with Gorkhas of Nepal.
The unseen Kangra-
The Kangra Fort-
A visit to Kangra is partial without visiting Kangra Fort. It is located 20 km from Dharamsala, on the outskirts of the town of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. The big walls of the Fort reminds of the great kings of the history who must have resided in it once .It’s the largest fort in the Himalayas and, according to the Archaeological Survey of India, it is 8th largest in the country – covering an area of 463 acres.
The fort is also India’s oldest dated fort, said to be built around 3,500 years ago by Maharaja Susharma Chandra, a descendant of the Katoch family. The Kangra fort is said to have 21 treasure wells – each well is 4 meters deep and about 2 and a half meters in circumference-the Sultan of Ghazni looted eight wells, the British in the 1890s found five more wells. Local beliefs are that the fort still hides within its wall eight more treasure wells. The fort is spread over a large area on both sides via a 4-km-long outer circuit. The entire Fort is guarded by high rampant parts and massive walls of black stones. The highest point is occupied by the palace courtyard, below which there is a large courtyard containing the stone carved temples of Laxmi Narayan, Ambika Devi and the Jain Temple (a point of pilgrimage for the Jains as it holds the original idol of Mahavir). The fort has a total of 11 gates and 23 bastions.
Heritage Village, Pragpur
The beauty of Kangra valley is not only limited to its Forts and scenic views. There are many places around Kangra as well. Heritage village is one such unexplored destinations of Himachal. Pragpur , a quaint little village was named as India’s first Heritage village by the state Government in 1997 . Its winding cobbled lane, mud-plastered walls and slate-roofed houses, this place has houses in extremely varied architectural styles — Kangra, Rajput, British, Portuguese and even Italian. With its equitable climate, easy access, safe passage and rich flora and fauna, Pragpur and its surroundings offers an ideal location for spending a few days at a this place which is like a home away from home.
Bir Billing- Baijnath-
If you are a vivacious soul than the Kangra Valley has something enormous in store for you. Known as the “Paragliding capital” of India Bir is a village in Baijnath region.While Billing is the takeoff site for paragliding and Bir for landing, collectively it is known “Bir Biilling’ . Bir is also home to Tibetan refugee settlement with several Buddhist monasteries and a large stupa. You can enthrall yourself while paragliding or visit Sherab Ling Monastery, a spiritual corner and of course do not forget to enjoy the tea from Bir Tea factory as they manufactures their own tea.
Rock Cut Temple is a popular archaeological site which is around 32 km from Kangra on Nagrota-Surian Link Road. According to the local myths, the Pandavas spent a long period of time here in this temple premise during their exile. Another story tells about the existence of an incomplete staircase which is found inside the temple. It is said that the staircase was constructed by the Pandavas to reach heaven. They took an oath to finish the construction work by the same day morning. The Temple is also known as Himalayan Pyramids and wonder of the world for being likely contender for the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dadasiba, District Kangra–
Dadasiba is a small village which lies 21 km from Dehra in Kangra district. The location of his palace on the top of a hill and the Radha-Krishna temple whose rare architecture and art marvel is something to observe. The true worth of the temple lies in its paintings. The sanctum has barely an inch of space that has been not adorned with frescos. Various styles can be venerated– Mughal, Sikh and of course, Pahari paintings find expression in assorted sections.
Kangra tea estate–
Due to the geographical elements, the areas of Dharamshala and palampur produce abundance of both black and green tea. The kangra tea remains evocative of core values of simplicity, naturalness, purity, love, and sustainability. Like the savor of the tea, the tea plantation on both sides of the roads at Dharamshala tea estate is a beautiful consign to give you a fantasy ,like typical bollywood movies.
Kangra art and delicacies
When it comes to Kangra, how can we forget to mention about Kangra art and paintings. The subjects seen in Kangra painting exhibit the taste and the traits of the life style of the society of the old Kangra. The focal theme of Kangra paintings is Shringar. The Kangra paintings feature flowering plants and creepers, leafless trees, rivulets and brooks. You can visit Kangra Art Museum at Dharamshala to witness the ancient Kangra paintings, cultural past, crafts, arts and other ancient artifacts including miniature paintings, temple carvings, fabrics and embroidery, weapons, and palanquins belonging to local royalty.
Delicacies of Kangra-
Well, your visit to Kangra is incomplete without eating Kangri Dham .The typical menu for dham starts with rice, moong dal and rajma (red kidney beans) or chole (chikpea),which is cooked in yogurt, prepared in unique style by adding approximately 20 spices called as madrah served it pattal (a plate made with tree leaves). Dishes in a Kangri dham are devoid of artificial colors and are a perfect blend of oils and spices essential for the body. Technique and order of serving dishes are based on vedic traditions in which it is mentioned that sweet rice helps in digestion.
So, pack your bags and plan your next visit to the Kangra because it’s not just mountains and midway to Dharamshala ,it’s much more .
Happy Travelling !!!