Kangra is the most populous district of Himachal Pradesh, India. Kangra is also a town and Dharamshala is the administrative headquarters of this beautiful district. The district is also known for many attractive tourist destinations and places of interests like Dharamsala, Kangra, Palampur, Baijnath, Jawalamukhi and Masrur.
Brief History of Kangra
Kangra was known by the names of Kiraj, Trigarta and Bhimagar (on the name of Bhima, the younger brother of King Yudhishthira). It was ruled by the Katoch Rajput kings for centuries until it was captured by the Mughals under Emperor Shahjehan in 1622. The fort was re-captured by the Katoch kings after the death of Jehangir. Then in 1810, Kangra was captured by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire. Kangra then became a part of British India in 1846, after the conclusion of the first Anglo-Sikh war and remained so till until India’s independence.
Languages Spoken in Kangra
The majority of the people in District Kangra are Hindus. There are also people from other minority religions like Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. Many Tibetans and others who profess Buddhism are also settled here. Therefore, there are diverse languages spoken in Kangra District like Kangri, Punjabi, Dogri and Nepalese. A large of number of Tibetans are settled particularly in Dharamsala, the seat of his Holiness Dalai Lama and they speak Tibetan.
How to reach Kangra, Himachal Pradesh
Kangra is very well connected with the rest of the country. There are regular buses from Kangra to major cities of the nearby states including Delhi.
The nearest airport is Gaggal airport which is 8 km from Kangra. Though there are no regular flights from other major parts of the country, there are regular flights from Delhi. The other airport is in Bhuntar in District Kullu which is 82 km from Kangra. The other nearby airports are at Chandigarh (220 km) and Jammu (190 km) approx.
The nearest broad gauge railway line is at Pathankot, on Delhi, Jammu, Udhampur line, at a distance of 80 km approx from Kangra. However, Kangra is also connected with a medium gauge railway line. The Kangra Valley Railway runs from Pathankot, passing through Kangra and thereon to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh. There are two beautiful tunnels on this line, one of which is 250 ft (76 m) and the other 1,000 ft (300 m) in length. For detailed railway time table between Pathankot to Jogindernagar passing through some beautiful places like Jawalaji, Kangra, Nagrota, Palampur and Baijnath, please click on the link below. You can even hire a special train for yourself, your family and friends. An exclusive train for approx Rs. 20000/-. Don’t believe me, check the link below for details.
The climate of Kangra district is mostly pleasant throughout the year around. However in certain area situated in plains like Nurpur, Indora, Fatehpur the temperatures may touch 40 Degrees Celcious during the summer months of May and June. Like the rest of the country the Monsoon sets in the first week of July till end of September.
Places of Interest in Kangra District Himachal Pradesh
There are a number of places of interest in the Kangra District. As it lies in the foothills of Dhauladhar hills, it is also hotspot for trekking enthusiasts as there are a number of trails leading to the mountains and lakes in the District.
The Namgyal Monastery is located in Mcloed Ganj, Dharamsala. It is the personal monastery and the home of the Tibetan Spiritual Leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The original Namgyal Monastery was built in the 16th century in Tibet. Following the Tibetan uprising of 1959, the Namgyal Monastery was relocated to Dharamsala from Lhasa. It presently houses 200 Tibetan monks who help in preserving the Namgyal Monastery’s ancient rituals, traditions. You can donate and support (namgyal.org/support-namgyal-monastery) the Namgyal Monastery.
The Brajeshwari temple, also called Vajreshwari temple is located 11 km from Kangra. The Kangra Fort is situated very nearby. It is believed that this ancient temple was built during the period of Mahabharatas. It is believed that in ancient times this temple was very prosperous but invaders looted this temple many times in the past. The temple had been destroyed in an earthquake in 1905 and was reconstructed in 1920. The main attractions of the temple are during the Navratra celebrations in Sep and October months.
Masrur Rock Cut Temple
Masrur or Masroor rock cut temple is a temple complex, dedicated to Lord Shiva, located 32 kms from Kangra. Masrur Rock Cut Temple is famous with both tourists and pilgrims. While tourists are drawn here for the unique and beautiful architecture of the temple, the devotees come here to offer their prayers as there are idols of Ram, Sita and Shiva here. There is also a small lake in front of the temple that enhances the beauty of the place.
St John’s Church, Dharamsala
St John’s Church, known as the St John in the Wilderness Church is located near Dharamsala amidst deodar forest in Forsyth Ganj. The architecture of the church is built in neo-gothic style with Belgian stained glass windows that was donated by Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Elgin. Lord Elgin who was the Governor General and Viceroy of India during British Raj died at Dharamsala in 1863 and was buried here in the church courtyard.
Bhagsunath Temple and Waterfall
Bhagsunath is a village in Dharamsala, famous for a waterfall and an ancient temple. The Bhagsunath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Some half a km from the temple is located the stunning waterfall that draws host of tourists here. The place is an ideal picnic spot as well as for some hiking activity. Many devotees also come to the temple and offer their prayers.
Jwalaji, dedicated to the Goddess of Light (Jwala Devi) is located about 30 kms from Kangra and 60 km from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The temple is four cornered with a central
Dome with a pit in the centre where the main flame burns endlessly. The flames continue to burn in natural caves. During the months of March, April, September and October, colourful fairs are held here. There are other shrines also located in this area.
Kangra Fort is located about 20 km from Dharamsala. It stands on a steep rock dominating the surrounding valley. It is built on the confluence of two rivers Banganga and Majhi. Kangra Fort is considered one of the largest forts in the Himalayan region India and one of the oldest forts in India. It is said to be built by the Katoch dynasty centuries and find mention in the Mahabharathas as Trigartha kingdom. There were many attempts to capture the fort over the centuries until the Mughals under Emperor Shahjehan were successful in capturing the fort in 1622. The fort was re-captured by the Katoch kings after the death of Jehangir. Then in 1810, Kangra fell into the hands of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and became part of the Sikh Empire. Kangra then became a part of British India in 1846, after the conclusion of the first Anglo-Sikh war and remained so till until India’s independence.
Regarding the structure of the Kangra, a long and narrow passage leads up to the top of the fort through the main gate. There are a number of gates (darwaza) like Ahani, Amiri Darwaza, Jehangiri Darwaza, Darsani Darwaza. There are temples of Laxmi Narayan and Jain Temple inside the fort. Near the Kangra fort is the museum called Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch Museum.