Glimpses of Himachal

I like traveling-it is fun, brings varied experiences, make you richer. This summer it was with family. The main agenda was visit Shimla, Kullu and Mananli-famous spots in northern state of Himachal Pradesh in India.

We landed in Delhi on a hot afternoon(but yes, we unfortunately landed not on terminal T3, which as they say is modern airport terminal). We had plan to be in Delhi for 3-4 days before we proceeded further north. We were to put up with one of the relatives who works in Rashtrapati Bhavan and lives in Presidential Estates. The fun began as we boarded cab as cab driver made a pit stop by a place where seemingly they were serving cold water. But it turned out that some gentleman was serving cold, refreshing Rooh Afja drink on the occasion of Ganga Dashahara. We visited Delhi’s famous Akshardham temple, experience Delhi Metro-both modern marvels in their own way. Next day was a city tour and later visited Rashtrapati Bhavan and the museum.

Our next stop was Chandigarh. We got to experience the planned city of Chandigarh was established way back in 1950s. During our flying visit there, visited Rock Garden created by Nek Chand from waste material, Pinjore Mughal Garden which also has ancient temple called Bhimdev Temple which has Khajuraho style architecture, Rose Garden, Sukhna lake(built by city’s architect Le Corbusier). We bid adieu to this city of fountains and huge traffic islands to reach Shimla late evening.

First glimpses of Shimla were impressive-city on the seven hills…but the sad story is that there is hardly any green hill left to see due to buildings all over. It rained next day in Shimla, cooling it down further for us to enjoy our outing to The Mall Road(for which you need to use two elevators to land on the hill where The Mall Road is located which is an experience by itself). I also managed to steal time to make a quick visit to IIAS building which is a heritage building and Shimla railway station to get glimpse of again heritage railway Shimla Kalka Mountain Railway. BTW, Himachal Pradesh has 2 of 5 heritage railways in India. The other being Kangra Valley Railway. We also visited Indira house where famous Shimla agreement was signed and specialty zoo housing Himalyan animals.

After couple of day halt at Shimla, we proceeded to Manali. Rivers Sutlaj and Beas accompany during the most of the journey. You can also spot Pandoh dam as well, Sutlej and Beas link project. After crossing Shivaliks, you enter into Aut tunnel which almost 3 km long to reach into Himalayan ranges, and you start getting glimpses of snow covered mountains as you enter into Manali.

We left to Rohtang Pass in the wee hours from Manali next day. It was damn cold, raining. We collected our winter gear(overcoats called Dingri, gum boots, gloves) on the way. This pass is located on Manali-Leh road, and is at the altitude of ~14K feet. As road snakes through the ascend, you start slowly sinking into snow around you, and it is snow all over. This is high point of this trip. The weather is unpredictable, can change any minute. Lots of white fresh snow to play with, along with few snow sports activities. In the evening, a surprise was in store for us. We got a chance to experience folk songs and dances of Himachal. With 3 instrument players in middle, 4 men and 4 women around, beautifully dressed in traditional attire sang local Pahari language songs and danced to it, and later made us also shake legs with them.

Following day, we made a trip to Solang Valley which is famous as winter sports center when it is snowing. In the summers, it gives breathtaking views of surrounding areas. One can enjoy a gondola ride to the top. On the way back, we visited Hadimba Mata temple which 15th century Hindu temple but built in Buddhist monastery architecture style, and is now under Archaeological Survey of India, and a hot water spring site, which is dotted with Tibetan Buddhists monks and many westerner followers as well giving that area different mystical shade.

On the way back to Delhi, we traveled via Bilaspur area where we go breath-taking views of backwaters of Bhakra Nangal dam which was built way back in 1950s-one of the first dams in India which brought in Green Revolution in India. It was also interesting to understand Bilaspur’s history as well-as a princely state in pre-Independence days. The original Bilaspur submerged completely because of dam project. As we traveled back leaving snow-capped mountains behind, through Shivaliks, we entered into hot terrain as we approached Delhi. Our minds were filled with the thoughts of onset of monsoon which is expected anytime, bringing much needed relief to the mainland of India which has been getting baked for 3-4 months.

Latest update: Today(June 13) came to know about Nek Chand’s death. As mentioned above he was creator of Rock Garden in Chandigarh. His life is also again very inspiring-need special blog post for that.

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