This article appeared in April 2014 issue of ‘Smart Photography’, India’s leading photography magazine.
Dharamshala – Doorstep of Dazzling Dhauladhar
The Alps to the Aravallis, the Cairngorms to the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush to the Himalayas – I have gone around taking in the beauty of some of the most majestic mountain ranges. But the dazzling view of Dhauladhar from Dharamshala really took my breath away.
En route Dharamshala, Kiratpur Sahib onwards, we were driving in the shadows of the Dhauladhar ranges. All along, we feasted on many moods of Dhauladhar. But nothing came close to what we witnessed once we reached Dharamshala.
Actually, our booking was not in Dharamshala, but in Blossoms Village Resort in Sidhpur, a small village just short of Dharamshala. Despite the night long drive, one look at the gorgeous view and our journey’s fatigue had vanished. It was as if we could just stretch our arm and touch the glistening, snow-covered mountains.
Upon reflecting, I realised that during my other travels through the mountains and trips to the hill stations, it was always about ‘view-points’, ‘sunset-points’, or just ‘aimless-wanderings-for-the-best-view’. What set the Dharamshala experience apart is this – from most parts of this small hamlet, the view is stunning and you don’t have to go around looking for ‘view-points’.
The town is small, with a population of around 25,000. But the activities here are spread over a stretch of around 20kms. In the populated clusters, the streets are narrow and encroached by hawkers and vendors. Locals have exciting tales of peak-season to share when a short drive of about 2kms may take anything between 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Though we were glad we were there in the so-called off-season (peak winters), I am sure with thousands of tourists pouring in during the peak-season, even this slow progress through civilization would be fun, since, for the most part, the area offers vast open stretches of natural beauty.
From the Tibetan Monastery to the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (Norbulingka Institute), from the War Memorial to the spanking-new HPSCA Cricket Stadium, from the Bhagsunath Falls to Naddi viewpoint, from Tea Gardens to crowded Kotwali Bazaar, we saw it all. What stood out everywhere was the imposing backdrop provided by the Dhauladhars.
Another thing that stood out was an omnipresent Tibetan influence, thanks to the town being the supreme seat of in-exile Dalai Lama – be it the little Tibetan eateries in the crowded marketplace, the dolls with Tibetan features in the Dolls Museum in Norbulingka Institute, or Tibetan monks roaming the narrow alleyways of McLeodGunj, Bhagsunath, Dharamshala, or Naddi.
A visit to Dharamshala is highly recommended if the majesty of mountains is your call. I guarantee that you’ll come back mesmerised.