The highlight of our short weekend trip to Mcleodgunj was a visit to the Kangra fort and the Norbulingka Institute, along with some explorations in and around the hill city also known as "Little Lhasa." We were a group of eight travelers headed by the group 'Roots' that took a Volvo bus on a Friday evening, and set off on our journey to Mcleodgunj, reaching the sleepy town at around eight, the next morning. The main focus on our first day was the Kangra fort, which is located 20 kms from the town of Dharamsala. After a journey of nearly an hour, we finally reached our destination. The fort currently is owned by the Katoch dynasty (the term katoch means, skillful in sword play), and lies almost in ruins, owing to the devastating earthquake that shook Dharamsala, Kangra and Mcleodgunj in 1905.
No historical monument, however ruined it might be, is actually dead. The walls, the stones, the very earth, speak of tales from days long gone by, and Kangra fort is no different. Once inside, it swiftly takes the traveler back in time, and speaks of an era when it was inhabited, lived and loved. There is an old Kangra saying, 'Whoever holds the fort holds the hills,' and keeping this in mind there have been many attempts to take over the fort, and it entails a long story of wars, loots and betrayal. In brief, the fort was built by the Rajput family of Katoch dynasty whose ancestry can be traced back to the ancient Trigata Kingdom as depicted in the Mahabharata, hence it is the oldest fort to have survived in India. It was attacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009 AD and looted, and as sources say, he carried away "7 lakh gold coins, 28 tonne utensils made of gold and silver and 8 tonnes of diamond and pearls". In 1337, it was attacked by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and later again in 1357 by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, but it was only in 1620, when after a siege of fourteen months, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir finally conquered it and garrisoned his army to keep the hill chief's under control. In 1789, after the Mughal Empire declined, Raja Sansar Chand - II managed to recover his ancestral fort. However, in 1809, Maharaja Ranjit Singh took over the control of the fort and it remained with the Sikhs until 1846, after which the British Government took over.
The tank in Kangra fort, that falls on the right hand side before one enters the Ranjit Singh gate..it is empty now, though few years back there was a stream of flowing water running into it, forming a pool
Taking a breather at the Amiri Darwaza (second gate of the fort) from where the steep climb starts
The steep climb that leads to the Jahangiri gate, starts under the hot sun ...
Saw this 'mihrab' like arched structure while walking towards the Jahangiri gate, holding images of Durga (right), Ganesh (left), Hanuman (top) and a deer (centre)
After a long uphill trek one reaches the Darshini darwaja that has the two river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna on its two sides (here the left image is that of Ganga and the right one is of Yamuna, both defaced)
The view of the temple complex and the steps that lead to the palace further up, after one enters through the Darshani darwaja (the complex comprises of temples of Lakshmi-Narayana, Sitala and Ambika Devi)
The cells which were converted into jails within the temple complex, probably during the Islamic era (?)
View of the Kangra valley from one of the rooms within the jail
The ruined temple complex~ the Kangra fort was completely ruined in the devastating earthquake of 1905.
The Lakshmi Narayan temple complex
Defaced and broken image of a goddess (?) ..could be Kali goddess?
The ruins of the Lakshmi-Narayan temple taken from the palace
beautifully sculptured images of Lakshmi and Naryana on the temple wall
Ruins in front of the temples, neatly arranged and restored..the pillar bases are evident here..
Entry door to the Ambika Mata temple, the woodwork appears relatively new
Another major attraction of the Kangra fort is the museum, maintained by the Katoch dynasty. It is situated a short way uphill from the fort (car goes directly up to the museum doors) and is a must visit place, owing to its priceless collection of ancient artifacts and other interesting objects from the ruling dynasty's personal collection.
From the Kangra fort, we headed straight for the Norbulinga monastery, where our biggest mistake was having lunch in the monastery cafe. It was a complete disaster, as we were served stale and completely tasteless food, which none of us could eat.
The Norbulinga monastery
A bird posing for us in the Norbulinga monastery garden
Praying in the Buddhist way
The same evening saw us go up the Triund glacier trek route..we went in a car and the journey was exhilarating, over steep, narrow and unpaved roads, more suitable for walking than driving. We were expecting to see a glorious sunset scenario, instead we were met with an ethereal sight, with dark storm-clouds, lightning, thunder and rains.
The next morning we went to the Bhagsu waterfalls
The Bhagsu waterfalls, as seen from the starting point, the trekking route is seen on the left
Again the weather changed and dark clouds appeared in the horizon, causing heavy rains and a sudden drop in temperature
Bhagsu falls, as i sat and enjoyed the view from a distant cafe, while the clouds enveloped everything and heavy rains dimmed the view..
The trip though a very short one, was extremely enjoyable. It was an well-organised one by friends that own the Roots, and the two days were filled with long walks, explorations, chat sessions and much laughter. Quite looking forward to another trip with them to another part of the Himalayas, in the coming month.