Why Dharamsala must to be in your Destination list this Summer

So the Indian Summer is approaching. It’s going to be hot, and days will be long. Fleeing from the scorching heat along with school holidays make these few months the most awaited escape time for northern Indians. Thankfully, the options are plenty. Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand furnish a wide assortment of choices for us all, irrespective of our palates and penchants. Dharamsala, lovingly labeled as the Mini Lhasa, is a small hamlet with every potential.

Whether it’s a fun family vacation, a romantic getaway or simply an escape from your corporate existence, the laid-back little town of offers a world of possibilities for every traveller. Read on, to find why Dharamsala must be in the destination list this summer. Bringing a few rare pursuits that only Dharamsala can bestow.

Tea Gardens Picnic amidst the Clouds

dharamsala tea garden
Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the cleanly manicured tea gardens dotted with silvery oaks on the way to Kunal Pathri Temple. Breathe in the delicious aroma of fresh tea and set up your little corner amidst the picturesque gardens. Pack your picnic basket in advance, you’ll regret if you don’t plan a picnic here in your itinerary.
Remember to pick up some fresh Kangra tea, Oolong and Jasmine Tea to take home with you.

Whoop it up at the Bhagsu Waterfalls

Bhagsu Waterfall McLeod-Ganj
Nestled in a valley covered in pristine forests, strewn rocks and fluttering prayer flags. The Bhagsu waterfall cascades into a plunge pool where you can, frolic in the cool mountain water, after a visit to the medieval Bhagsu Shiva Temple. Or you can simply munch on some deliciously steamed Tingmo (Tibetan bread), while your feet skim the water!

Rewind your youth in the Shiva Cafe

shiva cafe dharamsala
What works best after a long seemingly tiring trail than a place like a Cafe to unwind? Coming from the Bhagsu waterfall, settle yourself at the Shiva Cafe. Let the cafe’s laidback atmosphere and magnificent location work its magic on you. Let the cool rustic look adorned by hand made paints of Bob Marley, Shiva and Buddha take you to a different level of amusement. Have a cup of coffee, read some books, spend time with fellow strangers, visit locals. Asking for more?

 

Norbulingka Institute – be part of the Tibetan revolution

norbulingka institute dharamsala
Watch local artisans work on woodcarving, metal statue making, thangka painting and embroidery at the Institute before wandering through the lushly canopied gardens. Gape at the gilded Sakyamuni statue and the beautiful hand crafted puppet dioramas at the unique Losel Doll Museum, before picking up some traditional Tibetan chubas at the souvenir shop.
Engage yourself in live demonstration, hands-on workshops, theaters, Tibetan culture, Dalai Lama handprints. Gurgling streams run through immaculately maintained Japanese styled gardens, while birds of all different species can be seen flittering among the treetops. The architecture, built in traditional Tibetan style gives a feeling of returning to old Tibet. Truly a place to experience Tibet while in India.

Experience History at the Kangra Fort

kangra fort
Considered as one of the most beautiful forts in India, this fort was built by the Royal Rajput family of the state of Kangra in the 15th Century. Adjoining the Fort is the Maharaja Sansar Chand Katoch Museum run by the Royal Family of Kangra.Take an excursion to the fort, and experience the history and rich tradition.

Try your hands in Tibetan Cuisine at Sangyes Kitchen

sangyes kitchen mcleodganj
Learn the art of Tibetan cuisine from a friendly Tibetan chef at Llhamo’s Kitchen – Tibetan treats, focusing on momos, including chocolate momos! Sangye claims “Use only your fingertips to mix and to make, no need to mess up your entire hand”.

The place’s motto “Ask me anything about Tibet, let’s enjoy conversation” really works. Rarely any tibetan dish you could find that is not available here, or you cannot learn to cook!

The Church in the Wilderness

st johns church dharamsala
Dating back to the colonial era, St Johns Church is a beautiful gothic church set amidst verdant deodar forests threaded with the golden sun rays. The church with its greying stone walls, beautiful Belgian stained glass windows and dreamy surroundings, is the perfect place to spend some quiet leisurely moments.

Stroll with Lamas in the Mcleodganj market

mcloedganj market
A truly global village, Mcleodganj’s streets bustle with an interesting fusion of people, from red-robed monks and modern hippies to globetrotting tourists. Bargain for snuggly woollens, silver trinkets, statuettes and Tibetan uniques like thangkas, meditation bowls, prayer wheels and yak cheese at the main market. Don’t miss to pick up some unusual finds at Nowrojee’s.

 

And there you go.
For the adrenaline pump geeks, we have few excitements in store!

Reach to the sky at Indrunag

paragliding in indrunag
Feel the pumping in your veins and the wind gurgling in your ears as you paraglide amidst the snow-clad peaks of Dhauladhar at Indrunag, treating your senses to a glorious bird’s eye view of Dharamshala. For those who want more, there is free rock climbing at the Dharamshala – Nayagroeon trail too.

Tranquility at Triund

Triund Trek
For the secret trekker and hiker inside you. Feel the crisp mountain air swirl around you as you trek on sun kissed forest trails towards the Triund Peak for panoramic views of the majestic Dhauladhar range and the vast valley of Kangra. Savour the piping hot tea and steaming maggi served by the tiny makeshift shops on the way.
The trek is easy enough for beginners and the views are definitely worth all the huffing and puffing.

How Holi is celebrated in different parts of India

India is a country of various colours and traditions. Every festival is celebrated in different styles in different parts of country. Holi, the most colourful festival is played differently across India, with interesting traditions varying slightly from state to state. Have a look at different ways in which People of India celebrate Holi.

Lathmar Holi in Barsana village near Mathura

lathmar holi
The women of Barsana playfully beat men from the neighbouring Nandgaon village with lathis, while the men try to protect themselves with shields. But also watch out for flying ladoos and flowers as you walk around Barsana.

Holi as Basant utsav in Purulia, West Bengal

basant utsav
The three days festival takes place in Purulia district of West Bengal. People smear Aabir (colours) on each other, drink Mahua (country liquor) and sway to the local ‘Jhumur’ tunes. The ambience of Purulia along with the hysteria makes this experience truly cherishing.

Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib

holi mohalla
Hola Mohalla is a famous Sikh festival celebrated in The Anandpur sahib which is a Sikh way of celebrating Holi, which sometimes coincides with the Sikh new year.

Holi in Jaipur

elephant festival
In Jaipur, Holi is the day for Elephant Festival on March07, involving elephant sports and noisy parades, music, folk theatre and dance performances.

Holi in Ujjain

ujjain
In Ujjain, the saints of 13 akharas play a unique style of Holi with the intention of spreading awareness about the importance of cows in India. Instead of hurling water balloons or smearing each other with colours, the tradition is to throw cow dung and cow urine during the day. In the evening, they resort to flowers and sandalwood powder on each other. It’s also quite an eco-friendly way – since cow dung has no irritant chemicals like Holi colours, according to the saints.

Holi in Haryana

haryana holi
Like the tradition of Dahi Handi, in Haryana, their Holi celebrations include forming a human pyramid and reaching for a pot of buttermilk. There’s nothing more that brings out the unity of human spirit, competitiveness and teamwork than this human feat.

Holi as Manjal Kuli in Kerela

Manjal Kuli
In Kerala, Holi is known by the name of Manjal Kuli and is celebrated in Gosripuram Thirumala Konkani Temple. The Kudumbi community (which migrated to Kerala from Goa) celebrates the festival by cutting an Areca nut tree and then transporting it to the shrine indicating goddess Durga’s victory over demons. In some shrines a mud crocodile is made to symbolize the goddess who helped them to migrate from Goa to Kerala. On the next day, the entire community plays with water & turmeric powder.

Yaoshang Holi in Manipur

Yaoshang Holi
Holi takes a completely different form in the north-eastern state of Manipur, where it is known as Yaosang. It is celebrated for five days & commences from the full moon day of Phalguna month. The major attraction of the festival is Thabal Chongba folk dance in which boys & girls form a circle to sing and dance. To celebrate the festival, every family contributes for the fund, thus creating an amazing opportunity for bonding and merry making.

बुरा ना मानों, होली है !!!

Bura na Mano, Holi Hai

The craziest celebration of all has to be the Indian festival of Holi – Bright, bold and boisterous. India will be drenched in different colors. बुरा ना मानों, होली है “Bura na Maano, Holi Hai” (Don’t mind, It’s Holi) is one phrase which is truly accepted by all the Indians and even by the travellers from abroad to enjoy the spirit of togetherness.

Happy Holi

The best part of this festival is that the entire community celebrates it together. Visitors are equally welcome and treated the same way as their friends and family. There exists a sense of comfort level with strangers and all it takes for one to enjoy this festival of colours is to understand the essence of Holi and appreciate the bonhomie and jubilant manner in which it is celebrated.

The Legend

All over India, Holi is celebrated during the Phalgun month (which roughly corresponds to March) of Hindu calendar. Holi has its origins in a tale from Hindu mythology, in which the demon king Hiranyakashipu gets his comeuppance. According to legend, Hiranyakashipu made a deal with Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, to become immortal as thanks for being a devoted servant. As you might expect, immortality went to Hiranyakashipu’s head and he started causing a lot of trouble, telling everyone which gods they should worship and whatnot. His son, Prahlada, was not amused and opposed his father, which only annoyed Hiranyakashipu further. After failing to kill his son in a number of horrible ways, Hiranyakashipu set Prahlada on a pyre with his sister Holika, a demon who was supposedly immune to fire. Prahlada prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe, and once the fire was lit, he survived while his sister burned. (The bonfires set the night before the big paint-throwing parties are symbolic of Prahlada’s triumph over evil.)

Happy Holi

You will be curious to know that finally, from where this paint comes in. So traditionally, in Hindu Dharma, devotees of Krishna will rub red dye on their temple’s Krishna icons and then apply it to their family and friends. The red is symbolic of Krishna’s significance as the god of passion. Over time, the ritual has expanded into the crazy mess we see today.

Delicacies on Holi

How can anyone imagine a Holi bash without some sugar syrup dripping Gujiyas.

Happy Holi
Native to Rajasthan, gujiyas are sweet dumplings made of maida or flour and filled with a delightful khoya and dry fruits mixture. Deep fried in ghee and dipped in a sugary syrup. Gujiyas can also be baked, if you are calorie conscious. Just brush them with some oil before putting them in the oven.

Happy Holi
Phirnis and Holi go hand in hand. The smell of the kasoras dipped in water. Ah! Bliss.

Happy Holi
Bhaang is a popular intoxicating drink prepared during the festival of Holi. Originally made with cannabis leaves but this recipe makes use of whole spices, poppy seeds, water melon seeds and rose petals. The varients with Bhaand are Bhaang ke Pakore, Bhanng ki Chutney, Thandai and Thandai icecream.

Holi is one festival where everyone is hungry after every few minutes. So stack up the plates with Shakkar pare and Namak paare and let the guests munch!

Best places to celebrate Holi in India

Holi in Goa

If like many you’ve come to India to escape the maddening crowds and lie sprawled on a desert island style beach for your trip then fear not, you can still be a part of the Holi celebrations from your sun lounger. The festival is known as Shigmo here and is celebrated with bands, parades and nigh time musical fare.

Holi in Delhi

Being the capital city Delhi spares no expense when it comes to its national festival. On the eve of Holi Holika are lit in important parts of the city, huge bonfires that can be seen from miles away. The parties don’t stop here, with festivals and parades and of course the obligatory water and coloured chalk throwing taking place throughout the day of Holi.

Holi in Utter Pradesh

The northern states take Holi very seriously, especially Mathura in Utter Pradesh because this is said to be where Lord Krishna grew up. The celebrations of paint splattering can last up to 16 days here, so make sure you take plenty of spare clothes! If you’re looking for origins then Gujarat is the place to see where it all began, expect games and shows all day and night here.

Holi in Rajathstan

The Bhil tribes of Rajastan in North West India tend to take a traditional style of celebration of the Holi festival. The night before a large bonfire is lit and prayers said to the goddess of Holi. Youngsters in these tribes are allowed to form companionships which may lead to marriage, so it’s a popular time for all. Pushkar is another place in Rajasthan where Holi is celebrated in a style.

Holi is a great time to visit India, the country is at its most vibrant and exciting, people are amorous and your clothes get a new lease of life with the abundance of colour thrown about. There are many places to experience different ways of celebrating the festival, and many traditions, so choose wisely depending on your tastes.

Stay tuned… next one will take you to the places where Holi is celebrated in different ways.