Sunday, January 27, 2013

Una-Kangra-Palampur (Himachal Pradesh)

    In spite of being born and brought up in Chandigarh, never got an opportunity to visit any place in Himachal Pradesh, so last December planned a short trip to the state of beautiful hills.

    Initially our plan was to stay at Palampur for three nights and do the day trips from there but then we included one more night at Jawalaji before going to Palampur so that we have ample time to offer prayers at the famous Shaktipeeths in Hiamchal.

    Story of Shaktipeeths - Out of total of 51 Shatipeeths in India, 5 are in Himachal Pradesh. It is believed that 51 different charred body parts of Sati (wife of Lord Shiva) fell at these locations which were later transformed into Shaktipeeths. These five are in Himachal:

    Chintpurni temple in Una district (severed feet of Goddess Sati fell here)
    Chamunda temple in Kangra temple
    Brijeshwari temple in Kangra temple (charred breast)
    Jawalaji temple in Kangra district (burning tongue)
    Naina devi temple in Bilaspur district (eyes)

    Began our journey on 28th Dec, 2012 at 12:00 pm by car and reached Chintpurni at around 4:00 p.m. On the way we had a short stop for lunch at some roadside eating joint. However, recommended eating joint is - Haveli (only negative thing about this place is that it comes too early in the journey, just after 30 km from Chandigarh).

    First stop - Chintpurni Temple
    Distance from Chandigarh -  175 km
    Travel time - 4 hrs (with one short stop on the way)
    Recommended eating joint on the way - Haveli
    Things to buy  : Aam Paapad

    At this time of the year and that particular day there wasn’t much crowd in the temple (quite unlike the case otherwise) so we could actually be in front of the deity for a while rather than being shoved from the spot instantaneously. We decided to travel to Jawalamukhi the same day and spend night there.

    Second Stop : Jawalamukhi temple
    Distance from Chintpurni - 35 Km
    Travel Time - 45 min
    Place to stay - HPTDC
    Recommended eating places - Dhabbas are good and the restaurant inside HPTDC was decent too.
    Things to buy : Aam Paapad

    By the time we reached Jawalamukhi it was 7:30 pm so we just checked in HPTDC hotel, relaxed for a while and decided to step out of the hotel for the authentic Himachali food. We ended up eating at a roadside dhabba, very close to the entrance to the temple and the food was good.

    The next day early morning after breakfast (at HPTDC restaurant itself) went to the temple. The queues were long in the temple so it took us around 2 hrs inside the premises. From there we began our road journey of the day towards Brijeshwari temple and Chamundeshwari temple. Both these temples did not have much of crowd. The view of snow capped mountains in the background was breathtaking from the Brijeshwari temple.

    Third Stop : Brijeshwari temple (Kangra district)
    Distance from Jawalamukhi temple - 40 km
    Travel time : 1 hr
    Things to buy : More Aap Papad (if you still haven't bought enough)

    Fourth Stop : Chamunda Temple (700 years old temple)
    Distance from Brijeshwari temple - 20 km
    Travel time : 35 min
    Things to buy - You can guess now :) There is one Govt. shop within the premises which has a few interesting items - straw paintings, Kangra tea of various grades, various pickles and chutneys. We bought bamboo pickle from there and it tastes really good.

    After offering our prayers at these Shaktipeeths we reached our destination - Taragarh Palace. This property belongs to the royal family of the erstwhile Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

    Fifth Stop - Palampur
    Distance from Chamunda Temple - 35 km
    Travel time : 1 hr
    Places to stay at : Taragarh Palace
    Recommended eating places - Inside Taragarh Palace

    The entrance to the property was quite unassuming but as we crossed the gates of the Palace, the verdant greenery was there to invite us. 

    First day we decided to do a day trip to Billing (2290 m)- the site for take-off of paragliding and Bir (1400 m) is the landing site. The paragliding site at Bir-Billing in Kangra district is regarded as one among the best in the world for this sport. The road distance between the two points is 14 km. Bir is surrounded by the Dhauladhar mountains. It was a bit scary initially when knowingly you just have to jump from the hill top but then it is quite comfortable ride down. The wind was extremely chilly high up in the sky so must have a jacket and gloves on when going for this sport in winters.

    For the next day a trip to McLeodganj was planned and we visited the Namgyal monastery there. The road leading to the monastery is very narrow and parking place gets too cramped so it helped that we had the taxi driver to take care of that part.

    There are many more activities which you can engage in if you do not want to step out of the property - badminton, tennis, table tennis, board games, swimming, horse riding or just relaxing in the beautifully manicured lawns.

  1. Roads are good barring a few segments throughout this road travel.
  2. Best period to visit these places would be Feb-March and Oct-Nov weather wise but the good part in Dec was that there was very less crowd so we saved a lot of time by not standing in queues.
  3. Taragarh Palace was also almost empty so we could get places like badminton courts, tennis courts just to ourselves without having to wait for our turn.
  4. Must do paragliding here. Initially the price quoted was Rs. 2,500 per person but it got settled at Rs. 2000 per person.
  5. If you missed eating at Haveli while coming out of Chandigarh, make it up by eating while on the return journey so plan accordingly.