Places, people, things we get,
Leave an impression, no matter the epithet.
Beauty always ends up stealing the hearts,
Unveiling its soul to the eyes, right when the day starts.
As when the sun rises,
From the smallest to the biggest…
Every being gets into its daily routine,
to snuggle at dusk with satisfaction in its nest.
Routine is what defines the place better,
For it becomes the culture if followed forever.
A place like this, nurtured on its own, supported by the people living
there, and discovered by the British, has an everlasting impression on
the travellers. The serenity and the warmth of hospitality are very
promising. Doubtless to say that Dalhousie offers a remarkable and scenic aura that leaves the travellers awestruck with its geographical charisma.
Now, there are many other things, together with all the above-mentioned points, that contribute to the beauty of a place. The two contributing factors which I find significant are the social behaviour and the traditional way of living. Dalhousie has maintained its traditionality despite the foreign interference. However, what I observed was a nice blend of British architecture, Indian civility, Pahadi lifestyle, Christian blessings, and Punjabi warmth. All of these ingredients prepare a blissful dish called Dalhousie. Many of the old houses and hotels here clearly show a foreign engagement; the architecture is quite old i.e. of the colonial time. Structures being modest and all wooden with the gabled roof, and an astounding mountain view, something that fascinates me in particular.
Roads of Dalhousie speak Bengali, as one can see something written in
Bengali and images of Gods carved on the big rocks beside the road.
Also, there is a Punjabi touch in the Pahadi language that locals speak. People involved in tourism speak English as well, for a better communication. No doubt this Pahadi residence and Punjabi neighbourhood have a good combination.
Coming to the Christian component, Dalhousie is ornamented with a few
Christian churches as well. The one we visited was St. Francis Church
at Subhash Chowk. This was my first time to visit a church, so I have
no idea how beautiful a church can be. However, one thing that
I am sure about is that this was worth my first visit. Even before entering
the nave (the main part of a church where people sit and worship) I
was mesmerized by the beautifully built stairs, a well-blossomed garden area and holy figures of Jesus on the way blessing your entry to the church.
I was blessed further when I met a DOG here (feel the excitement when
I say DOG!), who was so fond of being loved and unaware of his size,
that he almost pushed me to the edge of a height. Sadly, he
was lonely and used to cry every day for his owner who was out of town
for almost a week.
Oh! I got emotional, let’s come back to the point.
The building had me stare at it for a while; it was a typical British
architecture built in 1894, very old but well maintained. Inside, the
nave was so peaceful that I thought of skipping all the evening plans
to come and sit there for as long as I want.
There are many other churches in Dalhousie I am sure can dazzle you.
The Tale of Khajjiar
Being an Indian place has its own benefits, as India never fails to show the religious colours and is full of mythological history. One such story rests within the lap of Khajjair (also called mini Switzerland).
The legend says, centuries back there was a man named Rane, in Chamba. One day, a bright light on the mountain in front of Lilly village caught his eye. He quite quickly assumed it to be some kind of treasure and went on to dig that area, but instead of some treasure, there appeared 4 Naag Devta (Snake Gods). When these snakes were being carried in a Paalki (a palanquin) they spoke that they are going to part with each other when the paalki gets heavy. The palanquin got heavy at a place called Sukreh, and as decided, the snake gods went their separate ways.
The 4 Naag Devta occupied Nanghui, Jamuhaar, Khajjair, and
Chuwadi each. Later on, temples were built at these places. The temple in Khajjair is known as Khajji Naag temple.
The Snake God that came to Khajjiar, named Pumper Naag, won the place from a Sidh baba (saint) by defeating him in Sarpasa (a type of game), with the help of the elder snake. The saint left the place to the snake and said “Ab tu yaha kha or ji” which means “Now you Eat and Live here” and from that moment on the snake was called Khajji Naag (kha+ji+naag) and the place, Khajjiar.
Khajji Naag temple is 800 years old and is famous for its religious importance. The architecture of the original wooden temple dates back to the period of the 12th century. In the 16th century, Raja Balbhadra set wooden pandwas statues in the temple. Years later, in the 17th century, this temple was renovated by Batlu, the religious nurse of Raja Prithvi Singh. It is a punishable offence to change or destroy the original wooden architecture of Khajji Naag temple.
The lake that attracts people in Khajjiar is believed to be endless and the home of the Khajji Naag himself. It is also said that he has been seen by the local residents at times.
According to a tale, a shepherd once dropped his earrings in the lake while drinking water. Subsequently, when he was drinking water from another water body in Sultanpur (Chamba), he got his earrings back in his hands. Local people consider bathing in this lake as holy which happens on the day of ‘Manimahesh Snaan’ and pay a visit to the temple before any auspicious work. It is completely prohibited to make this lake or place dirty in any way.
Another such mythological story revolves around the very famous Dainkund Peak, which is a show stealer in Dalhousie for me at least.
It is believed that in the olden times Raakshas (Demons) dwelled on this peak. These demons were a constant threat to the people who needed to cross the area. The locals and travellers were scared and troubled. To protect the innocents from the dangers, a goddess incarnated herself as Pohlani devi and killed the demons. People believe that Pohlani Devi is still protecting the region.
There is a temple at the top of the Dainkund peak where people go to get their wishes fulfilled with a trident (trishool) and a red auspicious cloth for the Devi. They often climb the peak, enjoying and dancing on the beats of drum and the melody of the flute, making their musical journey to the top.
I met a dog here too, on the way to Dainkund Peak, who together with the incredible view of cloudy peak made our journey even more special.
Not only places or stories get all the attention, but pahadi people also steal the limelight. The type of life they are living is both fascinating and surprising, especially to someone who lives in the plains. Md. Kaif, a boy we met at Dainkund while having hot coffee in the cold rainy weather, shared his experience of living at such high altitude. He along with his family and cattle lives on the peak for 8 months, and the rest 4 months are spent down the Dalhousie in Pathankot. Many of the people in Dalhousie do the same because of the fact that during winters the whole area is covered in thick snow, leaving no way to move from one place to another. Even the hotels are closed during this time, as told by our hotel serviceman, who also moves down during winters.
One unforgettable person we met is Usha, whom we met at Chamera lake. She has a shop offering Maggi and Momos right in front of the
entry gate to the boating area. Usha is a great example of a good parent and an amazing person. Her husband died in a road accident near the Chamera Dam, which is banned now for safety reasons. She has a son and a daughter and just like any other parent she wants a good and secure life for her children. But what is inspiring about her is that she doesn’t force her aspirations and wishes on her kids. She has given them the freedom to choose their own path and live a happy life, even after all the struggles faced. She is a jolly person and a fine cook.
Do try her delicious momos with instantly prepared chatni (sauce) and her inspiring company. One can have a nice chat with her about the place as well, as she knows enough about it and loves it when travellers take some time out to converse with her instead of just giggling together within their group.
This experience had a strong effect on us and if you ever visit Dalhousie, we are sure you’ll find something different.
Continue to explore…