Road Trip to Dharamshala for exploring the Heritage Village of Garli Paragpur, Migratory Birds of Pong Dam, Ruins of Haripur Fort & the ancient Ram Temple, Monolithic Masroor Temples and the most beautiful Cricket Stadium

Road trips are special because they bring unexpected events into your life and some of those events can be  worrisome, but become highlight of the trip. During our recent trip to Pong Dam wetlands, we had something similar. We spent 2 days around Pong Dam wetlands in Himachal Pradesh. There is kilometres of open land around the lake where you walk to see different kinds of birds. On second day morning, we reached there and we were finding an appropriate place to park the car and then walk around. This blogpost shares what happened, how our car got stuck, what all we tried and finally how we got out of that situation :).

Last winter we did a short road trip to Dharamshala and ended up exploring some of the most interesting places in this region of Himachal Pradesh. This Blogpost is quick compilation of things one can plan if doing a road-trip from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon or Chandigarh

We started from Delhi in evening and stayed with a friend in Chandigarh. Next day early morning, we started for Dharmshala (Plan was to stay around Pong Dam before heading to Dharmshala) and here is the what we did :

1. Took a break at Garli Pragpur to explore this Heritage Village full of old and huge houses owned by Soods. 

On the way from Amb to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, lies the area known as Garli- Pragpur, which is famous for its 19th and 20th fusion havelis built by the enterprising clan of timber merchants, who proudly carry the surname Sood or Sud. Though most of the descendants of these prosperous merchants have moved out to more exciting, business friendly locations, their footprint is still very much visible in the villages of Pragpur and Garli.

Related Blogpost - Garli Pragpur - A heritage village of Himachal Pradesh with beautiful havelis surrounded by snow covered Dhauladhar Himalayan Mountain ranges


2. Went to Chateau Garli for Breakfast but it was too early for their Kitchen. 

When someone mentions haveli, one tends to by default think of Rajasthan. One may also think of Gujarat and Haryana a bit, but usually one doesn't associate the term Haveli with Himachal Pradesh. However, there is a village in Himachal Pradesh that has several huge 20th century havelis in various stages of ruin.     Related Blogpost - 500 years old Mummy of Sangha Tenzin with teeth & hair at Gue Monastery

The Chateau Garli - A beautiful hotel in Heritage Village around Great Himalayan Mountain ranges of Himachal Pradesh





Haripur, a town you will probably not take much heed of as you pass through Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, has a very interesting folklore associated with it. It was only when we read about it after our trip to Kangra. did we find out about it. And though we did visit the Haripur fort and accidently spotted the famous temple of Lord Ram, it was only after reading about it on the Internet, did we realize how much more there is to this neglected town.




Ever since I saw the photographs that VJ clicked on his first visit to Pong Dam water reservoir for bird counting, I was very curious about the area. Every year, lakhs of beautiful migratory birds fly across the continents, and choose to land around these wetlands, making them their home for the next few months. Such a place has to be special.


We got our car stuck in clay slush of Pong dam and have had an adventurous time there :) 

After walking for 3-4 hours, we started walking back towards the car to have something to eat. That's when we started making attempts to take out the car.   When making these attempts, tyres had no friction as clay was stuck in tyres and tyres were simply moving. Here are few things we tried :  1. Vibha and I thought of putting some stones under the tyres on one side and then try. It didn't work. Tyre was still rotating on these stones. We also tried giving some friction by putting small stones on both sides of the tyre but not change. We also tried variations of accelerations like slow, very slow, quick and full acceleration.



During recent trip to Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh, we also thought of visiting Ellora of Himachal Pradesh - Masroor Rockcut Temple. This was approximately 12 kilometers from Nagrota Suriyan and comes on the way to Dharmshala. Let's have a quick Photo Journey to Masroor Temple in Kangra Region of Himachal Pradesh, India.Here is first view of Masroor Temple we get from the neighboring road.Masrur is 32 kilometers from Kangra on Nagrota Surian link road and is famous for remarkable group of rock cut temples. They form a group of 15 monolithic rock cut temples in the Indo-Aryan style and amazingly carved. These awesomely ornamented cave temples are the only rock shrines in the northern part of India.The main shrine contains three stone images of Ram laxman and Sita but the presence of the figure of Shiva in the center of the lintel affords a strong presumption that the temple was originally dedicated to Mahadeva.Here is the what we exactly see after climbing up few stairs from the road. Masroor Temple is on left side, which is surrounded by gated boundary. After 100 steps, there is an entry gate for this temple.  Archaeological Survey of India maintains this site and a ticket of 5 Rs is applicable for each entry inside the Temple.Masroor Rock Temple being located in a sanctuary area of Pong Dam, it's away from ecological threats, but now the focus is on developing a tourism and conservation mechanism that protects it from increase in tourist inflow. In recent times Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department has been successful in making this place visible on various travel maps of India. Now people know this place and plan in their itinerary during any trip to Mcleodganj, Dharmshala, Palampur or Kangr Few days back Light shows were organized during evenings at Masroor Rockcut Temple and Himchal's Chief Minister Mr. Prem Kumar Dhumal was also preset with other important folks of the state. This shows genuine interest of State Government to conserve this place and  make it accessible for Tourists in Himachal Pradesh. State Government is regularly meeting with Archaeological Survey of India to better plan the growth of this placeBuses are frequent from Kangra/Dharmshala to Nagrota Suriyan and Masroor is just 3 kilometers away from this route. We exactly need to get down at Peer Bindli station. From here Masroor Temple is just 3 kilometers, which is a decent walk in hills. If not interested in walking, taxis are also available around the place. Few buses go till temple but need to wait. In Morning there is a bus around 9:10 am, 10:15 am and 11:30 am etc.. Since gap is of approximately 1 hour, one can easily walk till temple and reach in 30 minutes. If you walk, you will see lot of colorful birds on the way. There is a special mention about Masroor Rockcut temples on Himachal Tourism Website - Unforgettable Himachal !!! As of now, nearest place to stay is Kangra or Nagrota Suriyan. There are lot of lots available in Kangra, as it's a decent town around this place and Nagrota has a HPPWD Guest-House. State Government is trying to work with local folks to think about Home Stay Options. Himvani talks about some plans of government to promote Tourism in Masroor and Pong region - HerMasroor Temple is located on a Hill top from where marvelous view of Dhauladhar Mountain Ranges can be seen. We visited this place twice during two days and will share some sunset photographs from this place. Snow Capped hills of Dhauladhar Himalayas look amazing in Sunset colors. Mountains look pinkish as if all of them are colored for this special moment.Here is a Photograph showing reflection of few of the temples in this campus. There is a water pond in front of Masroor Rockcut Temples. During day time,  clear reflection of Masroor Monolithic temple can be seen in this water pond. Here is a another Photograph with water reflection of Masroor Rockcut Temple in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India. Local panchayat of Masoor viallge is situated on left side of this location and there is Government school on the right. As of now this School is in Temple's campus area and ASI has requested State Government to move this school to another location as any construction within 100 meters of this historical temple is not allowedThere is a temple in the middle of this campus which is dedicated to Ram, Seeta and Lakshman. Above Photograph shows the same temple in Masroor Monolithic structure with one of the employee on the right. Two employees at any point of time are deputed on this location, which means 24 Hrs duty throughout the year. There are approximately 8 employees to take care of this place and all are appointed by Archaeological Survey of India.These temples are mainly double storey and the roof is accessible through add sized staircases. Height of each staircase is more than usual stairs. Some of the portions on top are bound with iron rods. It seems that water is harmful for these rocks as they seem soft and some of the parts have severe cracks and colors around those cracks made us believe that temples need more care in rainy seasoHere is a photograph of students of Government school in Masroor which is located in temple area only. This Photograph is clicked from roof top of the monolithic temples. Calm and peaceful environment around this place makes it a perfect place for school and studiesHere is a Photograph clicked from surrounding hill and shows approximately whole Temple area with Water pond in front of it.  In fact, all these temples seems to be made up of a huge hill in MasrooIn India, the rock-cut style started in the reign of the Pallava king Narsingha varman I Mahamalla (630-668 A.D.) during the first half of the seventh century .   It reached its climax in the Kailasha temples at Ellora which were taken in hand during the reign of the Rashtrakuta King Dantidurga (753- 756 A.D.) and finished during that of Krishna I (758-773 A.D.). Though rock-cut caves are common in South India, yet temples cut out of freestanding rocks, known to archaeologists and art critics, are only four in number-'Rathas of Mammalapuram', 'Kailashas at Ellora', 'temple-complex at Masrur in Kangra' and the 'Dharmnatha temple at Dhamnar', 65 miles to the South-East of Jhalra Patan in Rajasthan. The Rathas and the Kailashas are built in the Dravidian style, whereas the Masrur and Dhamnar ones are in the Nagara style. Masrur beats its Nagara rival in situation, size and execution. The Masrur complex has 15 temples, the Dhamnar has only 8. At Masrur temples not separate from it surround the central shrine, buat Dhamnar the smaller ones are entirely separate from the main one. Carvings and ornamentation at Masrur are of a much superior order than at Dhamnar and the length of the latter is one- third of the former. The Dhamnar group has been built in a pit-like hollow, whereas the Masrur group is on top of a 2500 feet high hill range. One looks below, the other looks up. One depresses, the other elates. In point of situation, Masrur beats the other two also. Ellora Kailasha are built in a pit a hundred  feet. However, Kailasha at Ellora is a supreme creation, one of the wonders of the world. (Courtesy - http://123himachal.com/temple/masroor.htmA view of Masrur Monolithic Temples from a short-cut path which connects temple with Masrur village on a hill below it.Rockcut style is much more difficult than the structural one. In Structural, the artist shapes the materiahttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=1036234607292296397l as s/he likes, whereas in the former the Material determines the way the artist should move, which must be a case of Masrur temples. The limitation makes an artist creation out of a rock a most difficult task and the ability with which the remote artist of seventh and eighth centuries carried out their purpose is superhuman.  Only a few of the original shikharas stand and some of the most beautifully carved panels are now in the state museum, Shimla. The main shrine dominates the center. Although the remote location of these temples protected them from the invading army of Mahmud Ghazni and their stone construction prevented severe damage in the 1905 earthquake.  This earthquake had some severe impact in Kangra region of Himalayan StateA small room is built on the entry of Masrur Temple, probably for ticket distribution. It's not in use and tickets are available on main entry gate of this temple.

Related Blogpost - Ellora of Himachal Pradesh maintained by Archaeological Survey of India - Masroor Rockcut Temple || A Monolithic Temple in Kangra Region of Himalayan State, India 


7. We reached Dharmshala, late in the evening  and met few friends. Next morning we went to Indrunag temple as it was close to our camps

Related Blogpost - Indrunag Temple in Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh - A mountain peak with spectacular views of Mcleodganj, Dharmpur and snow covered Dhauladhar Himalayan Ranges


8. We visited Mcleodganj and the beautiful St. John Church. We skipped Dharmpur, Naddi and Bhagsunag waterfalls this time. 

This is a fresh photograph from recent visit to Mcleodganj. I know that old photograph of St. John Church was more interesting than this one, because that one was shot in appropriate season. Anyways, I also liked the church in new look after maintenance. Cleanness around the place is one of the main concern, although some of the local NGOs have active eye on it. There is a very active NGO called 'Mountain Cleaners', who have been keeping such place clean and beautiful. More photographs of St. John Church can be seen at - http://phototravelings.blogspot.com/2012/05/another-visit-to-st-john-church-in.html

Related Blogpost - Beautiful Church in Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh || St. John Church near Dharmshala Town 


9. Visited the beautiful cricket stadium of Dharmshala, surrounded by Snow covered Dhauladhar peaks. 

Tour de Dharmshala Stadium - A Quick PHOTO JOURNEY inside the beautiful stadium at Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh : Posted by VJ SHARMA on www.travellingcamera.com : Last project with HPCA provided a good opportunity to explore interiors of Dharmshala Stadium !!! During the break time of T20 Mahasangram finals, I entered into the stadium to see all the VIP lounges, Team Dressing rooms and other special seatings on top floor !!! Check out the quick Photo Journey inside Dharmshala Stadium !!!Dharamshala Cricket Stadium is aonly cricket stadium of international reputation in Himachal Pradesh !!! It serves as the home ground to the Himachal Pradesh state cricket team and also for the IPL team Kings XI Punjab to a limited extent... By virtue of its natural backdrop (3/5th of the stadium is surrounded by snow covered hills...) it is one of the most attractive cricket stadiums in India.In addition to Ranji matches, some international matches are also planned to be held here.. Dharmshala Stadium is going to host threeIPL macthes in 2011 !!! In 2010, a match between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Superkings held here in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama graced the match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Stadium in Dharamshala. The snow covered mountains can be easily viewed throughout the year.. On entering inside the stadium, there is a huge sitting area with lots of photographs of international cricketers from various parts of the world. And this included cricketers from oldest world cups as well !!! I am not sure how this space is utilized during international matches but on that day tea, snacks and lunch was served in this area...Chairs and Tables are well arranged to serve lunch after closing ceremony of Jaypee T20 Cricket Mahasangram !!! This is same hall on ground floor... Parallel to this hall, there are few VIP lounges which were closed on that day ! Seating arrangement inside looked like modern massage chairs :)Extended part of ground floor hall with all the walls decoraed with Photographs of various cricketers in action !!!Although Dharmshala is naturally very rich place and its completely green, flowers and green plants are used inside for decorating the stadium !!! Dharmshala Stadium looked very well maintained and minute things were taken care while designing it.. I am not an expert but I was super impressed with the quality of work saw there...This was something unexpected :) Dharmshala Stadium has different portions and interiors were completely different in all of those sections.. Some parts were were very sober with all modern fittings and furniture, while other parts looked very royal with all the classic fittings in furniture, walls and roofs...Now I started moving up for first floor of the Stadium and preferred to go through stairs instead of lift ! Whole stair areas are decorated with photographs again but sizes were small which looked perfect in these narrow walls !!! Shiny marble fittings on these stairs were giving a feel of five star hotel.. And yes, waling nside the VIP lounges was really like some five star property !!!Here is a view of back side of Dharmshala Stadium. I am not sure if these appartments are for stadium staff or something else.. and the green grounds on left are used for practice.. A wonderful model of Dharmshala Stadium is installed inside the main building of this campus !!!Conference/Meeting hall of Dharmshala Stadium !!! few software folks from Delhi were waiting for Mr. Anurag Thakur to come and launch website of Himachal Pradesh Cricket association. Launch of this website happened just after final match !!!Another photographs of same area where most of the cricket conferences or meetings take place !!! Note a large projector on the front wall with a Photograph of Dharmshala Stadium on it !!!All the walls and pillars in this room were covered  with leather crafts which looked very nice and gel with overall color combination used for flooring and furniture used in this Conference Hall of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium !!!Nextto the Conference Hall, there is a VIP lounge with lot of grouped chairs with marble top tables...  This whole area looked like some royal casino of Las Vegas.. I wanted to capture it better but match was about to start after a short drinks break.. So after few clicks I had to rush to other areas if any !!!Here is another photograph of VIP Lounge on first floor of Dharmshala Stadium !!!There was an adjacent hall which was decent and looked not that lavishing... But it was also closed area with decent air-conditioning... I am not sure who uses these halls/rooms during matches but after looking at India-Pakistan Semi-finals, it seemed that area shown in above photograph must be used by our leaders like Chief-Minister/Prime-Minister oe some other important people in our democracy system !!!A nice mirror was lying in the common hall which was connected to VIP Lounge, Conference/meeting Hall,  and other parts which were closed at that point of timeWith this, my quick tour of 10 minutes completed and moved back tothe ground to capture electrifying actions of finalist teams of Jaypee T20 cricket Mahasangram !!!After looking at wonderful interiors of Dharmshala Stadium, I had a question that why international matches are not played in this stadium.. Last year only one IPL match help here... During the closing ceremony of T20 Mahasangram, Mr. anurag Thakur cleared by doubt. because of hospitality services in Dharmshala, international matches can't be played here. Dharmshala has not enough good standard hotels and keeping this in mind HPCA (Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association) has started constructing a Five Star Hotel there !!

Related Blogpost - World's Highest Altitude Cricket Stadium in Dharmshala - Unimaginable location surrounded by snow covered Himalayan peaks & stunning tea-estates of Himachal Pradesh


10. Walked around the tea estates of Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh. 


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