Nearby Places of Interest

There are several historic, cultural and spiritual sites near Dharamsala. Key historical sites include the Kangra fort and the Masroor temple. The Kangra Fort, located 20 kms from Dharamsala, was built by the royal Rajput family of Kangra (the Katoch dynasty), which traces its origins to the ancient Trigarta Kingdom, mentioned in the Mahabharata epic. It is the largest fort in the Himalayas and probably the oldest dated fort in India. Masroor Temple (also known as the 'Ajanta Ellora of Himachal Pradesh') is the only rock-cut temple in north India, and is believed to be built by the Pandavas during their exile period.

Dharamsala is also surrounded by important hindu temples such as Brajeshwari Devi temple (Kangra temple), Chamunda Devi temple, Jwalamukhi temple, Chintpurni temple, Bhagsunag Temple (in McLeod Ganj), Mahakal and Shiva temple (in Baijnath).

Brajeshwari Devi temple is a hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Brajeshwari, located in the town Nagarkot, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. This temple, once renowned for its great wealth, has been plundered relentlessly over the ages. The first of the plunderers was Mahmud of Ghazni, who looted it in 1009. A mosque was built on the ruins and a garrison was left behind. Thirty five years later, the local king regained its possession and the temple was restored and filled with gold, silver and diamonds only to be ransacked again in 1360 by Firoz Tughlaq. Later Emperor Akbar visited the shrine with his Dewan, Todar Mal and restored it to its former grandeur. In 1905, the temple was razed to the ground by an earthquake and was again restored the same year.

Chamunda Devi temple in Dharamshala is a famous temple of Goddess Shakti (goddess of power).Believed to be more than 700 years old, the temple depicts scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and also has an artificial lake in which devotees take a holy dip. The temple also has a handicraft center containing items of the wood carvings, wooden toys, black pottery, tea, cap, honey and a number of other things.

Jwalamukhi temple: Located in Jwalamukhi town (70 kms from Dharamsala) it is one of the most renowned temples of Goddess Durga and attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. The temple is unique in that it does not have any idol and the deity is worshipped in the form of flames (natural jets of combustible gas) which come out from the crevices of the rock. The temple was looted and destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009. The Mughal Emperor Akbar, learning about the legends of Jwalamukhi tried to douse the flames with a stream of water. However, the great power of the Goddess, still kept the flames burning. Realizing the power of Jwala Devi, Akbar came with his army to this temple. He brought a gold umbrella for the goddess, but on offering, the umbrella turned into an unknown metal suggesting that the goddess did not accept his offering.

Shiva temple in Baijnath: The Baijnath temple has been continuously under worship ever since its construction in 1204 A.D. by two local merchants named Ahuka and Manyuka. The present temple is a beautiful example of the early medieval north Indian temple architecture known as Nagara style of temples. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva as Vaidyanath, ‘the Lord of physicians’. The temple attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims from all over India and abroad throughout the year. Special prayers are offered in the morning and evening every day besides on special occasions and during festive seasons.

There are also important Buddhist temples in Dharamsala, Sidhbari and the Bir Tibetan Colony in Bir.

Dharamsala also has historical villages of Pragpur and Garli in its vicinity, along with Naddi village known for its panoramic views.

Pragpur (Prag in Sanskrit translates to pollen) is a heritage village which is home to the famous Kangra school of painting. The world's - most certainly India's - oldest ruling lineage comes from Pragpur. Located 65 kms from Dharamsala, it is an ornamental village with unchanged shops, cobbled stone streets, old water tank, mud-plastered walls and slate-roofed houses. The narrow streets, lined with fort-like houses, havelis and villas are indicative of the aged charisma and remind much of enthralment and interest, especially among the foreign tourists. Pragpur offers angling opportunities in the Beas nearby and a panoramic view of the snow-capped majestic Dhauladhars. The village is known for its cottage industry. The inhabitants in the area are mostly crafts people weavers, basket makers, silversmiths, painters, musicians and tailors. You can purchase hand-woven blankets, shawls and hand-block printed clothes. Around Pragpur, River Beas with its unspoilt beaches offers a possibility of boating, swimming and angling during season.

Some of the notable buildings and landmarks in Pragpur include:

The Taal:  Dating before 1868, the Taal or pond forms the core of Pragpur village and serves as a recreational space for young and aged alike. Many heritage structures are placed around Taal like Radha Krishna Temple, Naun (dated around 1864), Nehar Bhawan (almost 250 years old) and Dhunichand Bhardial Serai (village inn).

The Judge's Court: Completed in 1918, this is a country manor designed in Indo-European tradition. It stands in 12 acres of greens, and is just a short walk from the village core and the Taal. It is now run by the owning family as a heritage hotel.

Other places of interest within the Heritage village of Pragpur are the Lala Rerumal Haveli built in 1931 by a Rais of Pragpur, which has a Mughal style garden, pleasure terrace and a large water reservoir. This village celebrates Lohri Festival (a community festival of joy celebrated with bonfires) in January/February, which marks the sun's movement from the southern to the northern hemisphere. A wrestling fair is also celebrated at the beginning of September, in which wrestlers from far and near participate.

Garli is a heritage village located about 65 kms from Dharamsala. The village has a population of approximately 2000, and boasts of schools, hospitals, water systems, and more - all which were established almost 100 years ago. It has havelis, mansions and Italianate buildings, interspersed amongst mud-plastered and slate-roofed houses. Diversity of architecture, scenery, biodiversity gives Garli a medieval ambience.

Naddi Village

Situated at a height of 7,152 feet above sea level and offers a magnificent view of Dhauladhar mountain range to the north and the vast expanse of the lush green Kangra Valley to the south. The people of Naddi are mainly people of Punjabi decent and speak a dialect of the language. In the village there are a couple of small temples of their god, Lord Keyling. A walk through the village is a must as it takes one through the corn and bajra fields with the houses of the villagers all around the fields.

Church of St John in the Wilderness

This small stone church, with it’s beautiful stained glass windows, dates from 1852 and is one of the few buildings remaining from the time of the British rule in India. It is a short walk of about 10-15 minutes from either McLeod Ganj or Naddi, on the road to lower Dharamsala. The church houses a memorial to Lord Elgin, 2nd Viceroy of British India. Lord Elgin was so captivated by the forests and mountains of Dharamsala, that he asked to be buried here, saying it reminded him of Scotland. David McLeod, a Lieutenant Governor of Punjab for whom McLeod Ganj (Upper Dharamsala) was named, is also buried here.