gateway to bliss
Dalhousie, a part of the Chamba valley, is a favourite with those
who seek solitude and peace
Either those in the civic body had run out of ideas or the name stuck because one felt extremely cold here: no one in Dalhousie is likely to tell you how ‘Thandi Sadak’ came to be called so. We were visiting Dalhousie during the peak season and couldn’t get accommodation anywhere but at Geetanjali run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, which happened to be situated on the socalled ‘cold street’.
For one who has travelled all the way from the hot and sweltering plains of Delhi, Dalhousie’s cool breeze with a fairly good amount of sunshine is nothing less than heaven.
Built around five hills, namely Kathalagh, Potreyn, Terah (now called Moti Tibba by the locals), Bakrota and Bhangora, Dalhousie was acquired by the British, who then ruled India, from the Raja of Chamba in 1853. Thirteen years later additional land was acquired from the Raja and Dalhousie was made a part of the Kangra district of Punjab state.
It was transferred to Gurdaspur district, again in Punjab, in the August of 1861. Later, it became a part of Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh in 1966.
Being the gateway to the Chamba Valley, Dalhousie is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and lots of pine, oak and deodhar trees. Located on the western edge of the Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas, at places the peaks rise to 9,000 feet above sea level. As you move around the town you are greeted at every corner by the sight of Scottish and Victorian bungalows and churches, reminding one of the colonial era.
The Chamba hill state is a repository of ancient Hindu culture, art, temples, and handicrafts preserved under the longest running single dynasty since the middle of the sixth century. Bharmour, the ancient capital of this kingdom, is home to Gaddi and Gujjar tribes and has around 84 ancient temples from the 7th-10th century AD.
Though Dalhousie is a favourite with tourists seeking peace and solitude, you can find crowds in and around the three-level malls laid in the early 1860s. These roads and the bylanes which connect them to the busstand are abuzz with activity most of the time.
The malls around Moti Tibba and Potreyn hills are the most popular, largely due to the shops and hotels around. Gandhi chowk, Upper bazaar, Subhash chowk, Catholic Church of St. Frances, Sadar bazaar and the convent founded by an Order of Belgium nuns and their Sacred Heart School are on these two malls.
The Chakki and the Ravi rivers run parallel to each other in the Shivalik area. While the Shivalik hills around Nurpur are found to the east of Chakki, to the west of Ravi one finds
ridges and valleys which reach all the way to Jammu. On a sunny day, one can find three of the great five rivers of Punjab - Sutlej, Beas and Ravi - running across the plains into the
After enjoying the balmy days at Dalhousie, the yearning for more made us visit the exotic Khajjiar, 22 kms from Dalhousie. At an altitude of 6,450 ft, this saucer shaped green meadow, ringed by deodhar trees, has a lake in the middle complete with a floating island. Seated on the banks of the lake, one can spend hours just lazying around watching the cottony clouds above, listening to music or just reading a book.
Next day we were at the Kalatop National Forest Sanctuary, so called because of a very thick and dark forest which crowns the hilltop. The entry fee to the sanctuary is Rs 1,000. Located almost midway between Dalhousie and Khajjiar, Kalatop is a beautiful forest area. One can enjoy the environs of the sanctuary if one is on feet and armed with a camera. Pheasants and Himalayan Monal and various other birds can be frequently seen in the place. Leopards and black bears can also be sighted, but very rarely. One has to be really lucky for that.