Christmas Eve – Shimla to Garli
After a six hour drive, we arrived in Garli (a small village) & went for a long walk to make sure our legs still worked.
Founded about three centuries ago and situated in the Kangra Valley, Garli-Pragpur, to give it its full name, was declared India’s first national heritage village in 1988 to promote it as a tourist destination and also to conserve the local architecture. Most buildings have brick walls and a sloping roof of slate, supported over wooden timbers. When Shimla became the British Summer retreat most of the wealthy upped sticks & went there instead.
We stopped to watch some handmade biscuits coming out of the oven. Could not resist trying a few!
We drove to Dada Siba which has an old temple with beautiful Kangra murals on the inner walls. We were lucky that the temple was opened just for us, so we could see the rare paintings.
We then visited Pragpur – a small sleepy village. There is an ornamental village water tank, temple and small local shops. The Judge’s Court in the heart of the township has been restored, but most of the heritage buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair.
Kangra Forte: Built on a high ridge at the confluence of two rivers. Virtually impregnable, it was eventually destroyed by an earthquake in 1905.
Local train Kangra to Palampur
The train was a little late – but when it did come it was a very scenic journey that wound through rural countryside, packed full of locals.
Another hour or so in the car brought us to Dharamshala.
Spread along the spur of the Dhauladhar mountain range, the town is made up of two very distinct areas, Lower Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj. The latter is named after the former Governor of Punjab, David McLeod, who, in the 1850s, established the town as a British garrison, alongside the semi-nomadic Gaddi people. McLeod Ganj became an administrative centre for the Kangra valley region, but around 50 years later, after a major earthquake, moved lower down the valley.
We visited the Norbulingka Institute where hundreds of Tibetan people who now live in India learn handicrafts and skills. The Institute is a calm and peaceful place with an amazing Golden Buddha in the temple.
We then had the most amazing journey to the top of a mountain to where we were staying – along an unmade road & then half a mile walk through pine forests.
Great views in the morning – breakfast with a dramatic backdrop of the Himalayas’ snow clad Dhauladhar range.
Later on, after a walk around Naddi – a small village – we visited the Church of St John in the Wilderness damaged and lost it’s bell tower in an earthquake in 1905 but still has some good stained glass windows.
The church is also the last resting place of James Bruce, Earl of Elgin (son of the infamous marble snatcher) who was Viceroy and Governor General of India.
In the Tsuglagkhang Complex we visited The Tibet Museum – which presented the Chinese occupation of Tibet and its results as a factual but harrowing memorial. Depressing.
We then saw the Dalai Lama’s residence (although he was out of town) opposite the Namgyal monastery, and the Kalachakra temple. We explored the surrounding markets & were amused by the excitement of other tourists when it snowed a little.