Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, is a beautiful hill station nestled on the foot hills of majestic Dhauladhar ranges and a must to visit for those who love hills, its flora and its natural beauty and distinct culture.
Recently Dharamshala was in news when in January 2017 Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sh. Virbhadra Singh declared it as second capital of the state. Dharamshala is also selected as one of the Smart cities selected under Prime minister’s smart city mission.
The original inhabitants of the area were Gaddis, a tribal community of roaming sheep herders. In March 1850, the area was annexed by the British rulers after second Anglo-Sikh war. Lord Elgin the British Viceroy of India (1862-63) liked the area so much that at one point he suggested to make it Summer Capital of India. He died at Dharamshala on 20th November 1863 and lies buried at St John in wilderness – a church at Forsyth Ganj just below McLeod Ganj in Dharamshala. His summer residence “Mortimer House” later became the official residence of Dalai Lama. The original tea house built by Lord Elgin and catered by a local grocery store “Nowrojee and sons” continues to prosper to this day and is a popular hangout for visitor to McLeod Ganj.
Kangra valley earthquake of 1905 badly hit many areas including Dharamshala. Britishers then shifted to Shimla to make it their Summer Capital.
In 1959 Dharamshala became a major resettlement area for Tibetan refugees displaced from Tibet after its occupation by China. Many Tibetan refugees took shelter here and later settled down in the town. They built many religious, educational and cultural institutions in and around McLeod Ganj for preservation of their culture. For this the town is also known as “little Lhasa” after the erstwhile Tibetan capital city.
The above historical background bestows on this town its unique identity of a placed marked with Buddhist and colonial influences. This combined with its breath taking natural beauty of snowclad Dhauladhars and majestic deodar cedar jungles on the lower slopes makes it an unforgettable holiday destination.
Dharamshala consists of lower and upper Dharamshala. Lower at 1250 metres is the main town. Upper Dharamshala is McLeod Ganj about 10 Kms. from the lower town is mainly the Tibetan settlement.
Dharamshala and its surroundings is famous for loving and kind nature of its people, its verdant coniferous forest, paragliding options, site seeing, trekking and mountaineering and cultural events of locals and Tibetans.
Dharamsala has largest Buddha temple outside Tibet. A new year festival called Losar festival is celebrated by Tibetans ushering in New year.
Triund hill is a famous tourist attraction, popularly known as Jewel of Dharamshala, it is a one-day trek from the town and nine kilometres from McLeod Ganj.
Tibetan sites are a must visit for tourists. Tsuglag Khang is the famous Dalai Lama temple. It has statues of Shakyamuni and Padmasambhava (Guru Rin Poche), Namgyal Monastery and Tibetan institute of performing arts are the other important places to visit. Seventeenth Karmapa Ogyen Trinlay Dorje lives near Dharamshala in Gyuto Monastery in Sidhbari.
For spiritually inclined Vipassana centre and Thushita meditation centre in Dharamkot offer popular meditation courses.
Bhagsunath Temple and Bhagsu falls are popular places in the town. Bhagsunath Temple was built by Gurkhas when they settled here during British rule. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Bhagsu water falls with about 20 metres fall, is 2 Km. from McLeod gang. There is a cafeteria next to the falls and the area serves as a picnic spot for tourists.
Dal lake is a small lake 3 Kms, from McLeod Ganj next to Tibetan children’s village, A Gaddi fair is held here annually. There is a small spring and an old temple near the lake.
St. John in wilderness is an Anglican Church located is forest near Forsyth Ganj. The neo-Gothic stone building with stained glasses was constructed in 1852 by the British, there is an old Graveyard with a memorial to British Viceroy Lord Elgin.