The charming town of Kangra is located on one of the most pictorial valleys in Himachal Pradesh. Bordered between the banks of the Banganga and the Manjhi Rivers, the lush green valley is surrounded by the magnificent white peaks of the Dhauladhar. The beauty and romance reminiscent of this beautifully spread valley covered with forests of deodar, apple orchards, green tea gardens and sloping terraced farms lies in its unblemished charm.
Kangra’s historically rich and vibrant culture can be seen in the grandeur of its temples and art centers. In the 18th century Raja Sansar Chand katoch II recaptured the city from the Mughals and supplemented its boundaries to the Kullu Valley. Under Raja Sansar Chand II the region prospered and so did the art and architecture. A connoisseur of art, the famous Kangra paintings came into existence and flourished during the period of his rule. The only remnant of the Katoch dynasty’s celebrated past is the Kangra fort.
The Kangra Fort, also known as the Kot Kangra, stands on a steep cliff overlooking the valley. Situated to the south-west corner of old Kangra town and built on the convergence of the Banganga and Manjhi rivers, the ancient fortress was recovered by Raja Sansar Chand II in 1786 when the Mughal power rapidly declined in the second half of the eighteenth century. It was later handed over to the British Government along with the other hill States. The Fort was evacuated sometime before the earthquake on 4th April 1905 in which capacious damage was incurred. The main entrance gate is called the Ranjit Singh Gate which leads to the portion housing the Vajreshwari Devi temple, dating back to the ninth-tenth century AD and shrines of Sitala and Ambika Devi. The most admired piece of architecture in the Kangra Fort are the temples of Vajreshwari Devi and Sitala, the chambers of which are intricately decorated with carvings. The ceiling of the Vajreshwari Devi temple is stunning with detailed embellishments. The temple dedicated to goddess Vajreshwari Devi was once the most acclaimed shrines of Himachal Pradesh. Legend has it that this is the site of the famous Shaktipeeth where the left breast of Pauranik Sati Parvati is stated to have fallen. The Devi is worshipped in the form of Pindi. Though the main temple was demolished by alien assailants and completely destroyed by the 1905 earthquake, it has been rebuilt to its maiden glory, by the Temple Restoration Committee in 1930. The three domes of this temple showcase the architecture of the three main religions Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs which is very rare
The Kangra Art Museum is located at the Kotwali Bazaar which is also the main shopping area of Kangra. Built in mid 18th century, the museum houses the best forms of Kangra arts and crafts. It exhibits artwork dating back to the 5th century miniature paintings, sculptures, pottery and anthropological items, old brass and silver coins, jewelry and ancient manuscripts.
The quaint city is famous for the innumerable places of worship that adorn its sprawling valleys. The St John Church is built of stone with exquisite stained glass paintings adorning its windows. Also known as the church of St.
The Brajeshwari Devi Temple is one of the important temples situated in the Kangra valley. Famous for its opulence, this beautiful temple was ravaged by invaders many times. In the coming years the temple was restored and renovated several times but in the great earthquake of 1905 the structure was damaged tremendously. Built again in 1920 the temple is situated behind the crowded colorful markets in the main town.
Nadaun is a quaint village close by, perfect for a weekend of adventure or peace. Cradled between emerald green valleys and speckled with orange trees, this village offers visitors the chance to go river rafting in the River Beas. Nadaun is also popular for its challenging treks and walks across the apple orchards. This village provides excellent spots for Mahaseer fishing in the Beas River flowing close by. The city is famous for its arts and cultural center, the renowned Kangra School of painting is also situated here. The Palace Building at Amtar still houses some of the paintings of that time. In the days of the Raj, it used to be the headquarters of the entire estate or Nadaun Jagir. Maharaja Sansar Chand of Kangra used this city to hold his court here for a number of years during his rule. The famed Blikleshwar Mahadev temple which is said to go back to the age of the Pandavs is also built here. Acclaimed poet, Ghulam Mohiuddin in Tarikh-i Punjab wrote about a saying in the hillside which translates to “Who that comes to Nadaun will not go away”. The bewitching beauty of the place coupled with the existence of the two hundred nauch girls in earlier times cast a spell that was difficult to escape.
The best time to visit is from March to July and September to November. It is advisable to carry heavy woolen and wind proof jackets because the weather tends to be chilly during the winters. Thick gloves and a pair of good walking shoes are also recommended.
How to Reach
Gaggal is the nearest airport, located at a distance of 8 km from Kangra town. Jagson airlines and Indian Airlines fly their regular flights to Gaggal. Tourists can hire a taxi to reach Kangra.
Nearest railway station is at Kangra, which is 17 km away from Dharamshala and connects to Pathankot through narrow gauge railway track. Private taxi and bus services are available from the station to Kangra city. Pathankot, which is located at a distance of 88 km from Kangra, is the nearest broad gauge railway station.
Kangra can be reached via Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Manali and Pathankot covering the distance of 510 km.
To move in and around the city, there are several mode of transport available, one can hire private taxi or take local bus service. You can also sign up for an organized tour which is run by the government and private agencies; it covers the entire region of Kangra and nearby places of interest.