Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Chamba and Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh are breathtakingly beautiful

Chamba, Himachal Pradesh
Chamba is a quaint little beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India.

We stopped by Chamba because Dalhousie happened to be so misty that we could barely see anything there:( We were expecting bad weather in August....but this was disappointing!  The misty weather is beautiful but when combined with rains...you pretty much can't do any sightseeing!

However, Chamba was such a lovely surprise! When we reached Chamba…the sun was shining brightly... what a marked contrast from Dalhousie! I wish we had more time scheduled for Chamba….we only had a few hours.

Our first stop was a 10th century Lakshmi Narayan temple: The architecture of this temple is very different from other ancient temples. The wooden entrance is quite unique. The temple walls have some beautiful carvings.

Bhuri Singh museum: We wanted to get to know about Chamba's history, culture, and heritage.This museum has a lot of paintings, sculptures, artefacts, coins....they have a very good collection. However, there wasn’t any literature that we could refer to. They did not have any pamphlets or books …so it was bit difficult to navigate.

By the time we completed our tour of the museum the weather started to get bad… and we had to rush. We knew that we would be up against unpredictable weather…however now that we were here, we were going to make the most of it, and see as much as possible. On the positive side...because of monsoons the hills were beautiful, magical, and dreamlike!

We had heard of Khajjiar (which is known as the Switzerland of India) and since it was about an hour away from Chamba, we wanted to fit that in as well.

And Khajjiar did not disappoint, it was beautiful…you come upon this area that is so completely different…the wide expanse of the green meadows really hits you…you are transformed to another world!

Our journey back to Pathankot was quite an adventurous one…it started raining heavily and it was getting dark….and we were still in the hills…we had a four hour journey to Pathankot through hilly and winding roads. It was a ride I will never forget…we reached Pathankot at almost 9 pm.

The next day we heard of flash floods in various places, and of a landslide on the Chamba-Pathankot road, all roads were blocked! We got away just in time!

View of Chamba
View of Chamba

Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Chamba
Lakshmi Narayan temple

Carvings on the walls of the temple

Bhuri Singh Museum art work
Miniature painting
Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh
Khajjiar, the Switzerland of India

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Palampur in Himachal Pradesh is a beautiful hill station with interesting things to see

Palampur in Himachal Pradesh may not be one of the most popular tourist destinations but this quaint hill station has quite a few interesting things to see.If you are in Dharamshala and have a day to spare, Palampur would be a great one day getaway. Palampur is well connected by Air, railways, and roads. The closest airport is in Dharamshala (which is well connected from Delhi), Amritsar airport is the next best
option. Palampur is well connected to all the major cities in Himachal Pradesh by train. Traveling by road is a good option as well…there are several state run buses that ply from all the major cities in Himachal Pradesh to Palampur. Hiring a car is also an option.

Some of the places that you may consider visiting in Palampur:

Andretta village, known as the artist's village, is around 13 km from Palampur town and is known for theatre, art, and pottery. This village came into being around the 1920s when Norah Richards who was a dramatist shifted from Lahore to Palampur. She started a drama school and played a major role in modern Punjabi theatre by staging a lot of plays with Punjabi themes. Her house is beautiful and was built using mud, bamboo, and slate and is still in good condition. Andretta was also home to artists like Sobha Singh and B.C Sanyal.  Sobha Singh's house has been partly converted into a museum and you can see some of his beautiful works displayed. Mansimran and his wife Mary Singh started the Andretta Pottery and Craft Society in 1983.

Tea Estates: Well know for various tea gardens, Palampur happens to be the tea capital of North India. Bundla tea etsate is about 200 years old and one of the most renowned tea estates of Palampur.

Baijnath temple: Is an ancient functional Shiva temple dating back to 1204 AD, it is around 17 km from Palampur. The architecture is beautiful and there are interesting sculptures on the walls of the temple. We could not get very get pictures because there was some festival going on and the temple was covered with bulbs.

Neugal Cafe: If you want to enjoy the view and take a coffee or snack break, Neugal cafe is just the place. It is in Palampur, you will require to pay a nominal entrance fee.

We managed to sight some birds but as such could not see many birds because we went to Palampur during monsoons. It is best to avoid Himachal Pradesh during July and August because of monsoons and landslides. But I must add that monsoons add a magic to the hills...the hills are so green and breathtakingly beautiful during monsoons.
Norah Richard's house in Andretta village

Artist Sobha Singh's house

Pottery studio Andretta

Tea estate in Palampur

Baijnath Temple Palampur
Work on the walls on the temple

Neugal cafe
View from Neugal cafe


Himalayan Bulbul

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Petra, the spectacular and extraordinary ancient city, is a must visit

Two km walk to Petra City
Petra - 'a rose-red city half as old as time'. (from John William Burgon's sonnet)

Petra (from Greek word Petros - Stone), known to its inhabitants as Raqmu, is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world (decided through 100 million votes in 2007).

Whether on any list or not, it stands out as a stupendous creation of a desert tribe called the Nabateans who lived there over two thousand years ago. It is located in the rocky deserts of southern Jordan. The Nabateans were trading nomads and established Petra as a trade hub.

A two km walk through the Siq, takes you to the city. The Siq is a natural sandstone gorge. You see a number of rock-cut structures as you move ahead like the Dijnn blocks that are the oldest structures in Petra. The Obelix Tomb and the Triclinium is also an interesting building. This memorable walk suddenly brings you to the Treasury or the Al-Khazana, seen first through a gap in the Siq. This is actually a masoleum but there was a belief that bandits kept their loot hidden in the urn at the top of this monument and hence the name treasury or khazana.

This grand place has so many more wonders to see - water harvesting system, the Royal Tombs, the Theatre, The Great Temple, the Monastery.... not a place to be missed.

These beautiful pictures are courtesy Soma.

Rocks of Petra from a distance

The Siq
Dijnn blocks

Obelisk-tomb and the Triclinium

Glimpse of the Treasury through the Siq
Al Khazana-the Treasury

Lower portion of the Treasury
Stone urn in the treasury building

Columns of Great Temple
Figure on rock

Open theatre
Paved-road, Petra

Royal tombs
Water trench for supply of water to city

Petra city, Jordon