Himachal Pradesh ( हिमाचल प्रदेश ) is a state in Northern India. It is spread over 55,670 km, and is bordered by Jammu and Kashmir on the north, Punjab on thewest and south-west, Haryana and Uttarakhand on the south-east and by the Tibet Autonomous Region on the east.
Himachal Pradesh is famous for its abundant natural beauty. After the war between Nepal and Britain, also known as the Anglo-Gorkha War (1814–1816), the British colonial government came into power.
In 1950 Himachal was declared a union territory, but after the State of Himachal Pradesh Act 1971, Himachal emerged as the 18th state of the Republic of India.
Hima means snow in Sanskrit, and the literal meaning of the state's name is In the lap of Himalayas.
It was named by Acharya Diwakar Datt Sharma, one of the great Sanskrit scholars of Himachal Pradesh.
Hima means snow in Sanskrit, and the literal meaning of the state's name is In the lap of Himalayas.
It was named by Acharya Diwakar Datt Sharma, one of the great Sanskrit scholars of Himachal Pradesh.
The economy of Himachal Pradesh is currently the third fastest growing economy in India.
Himachal Pradesh has been ranked fourth in the list of the highest per capita incomes of Indian states. The abundance of perennial rivers enables Himachal to sell hydroelectricity to other states such as Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan. The economy of the state is highly dependent on three sources: hydroelectric power, tourism and agriculture.
Himachal Pradesh is the least urbanized state in India with nearly 90% of population living in rural area, but the Shimla district is comparatively urbanized with nearly 25% population living in an urban area. According to a 2005 Transparency International survey, Himachal Pradesh is ranked the second-least corrupt state in the country after Kerala.
History of Himachal Pradesh :
Prehistory and Protohistory
About 2 million years ago man lived in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh, viz in the Bangana valley of Kangra, Sirsa valley of Nalagarh and Markanda valley of Sirmour. The foothills of the state were inhabited by people from Indus valley civilization which flourished between 2250 and 1750 B.C. People of Indus valley civilization pushed the original inhabitants of Ganga plains who were known as Kolorian people towards north. They moved to the hills of Himachal Pradesh where they could live peacefully and preserve their way of life.
In the Vedas they have been referred to as Dasas, Dasyus and Nishadas while in later works they have been called Kinnars, Nagas and Yakshas. The Kols or Mundas are believed to be the original migrants to the hills of present day Himachal.
The second phase of migrants came in the form of Mongoloid people known as Bhotas and Kiratas. Later on came the third and most important wave of migrants in the form of the Aryans who left their Central Asian home. These laid the base of history and culture of Himachal Pradesh.
Early History up to Harsha
According to the Mahabharta the tract which forms the present day Himachal Pradesh was made up of number of small republics known as Janpadas each of which constituted both a state and cultural unit.
Audumbras: The were the most prominent ancient tribes of Himachal who lived in the lower hills between Pathankot and Jwalamukhi. They formed a separate state in 2 B.C.
Trigarta: The state lay in the foothills drained by three rivers, i.e. Ravi, Beas and Satluj and hence the name. It is believed to have been an independent republic.
Kuluta: The kingdom of Kilita was situated in the upper Beas valley which is also known as the Kully valley. Its capital was Naggar.
Kulindas: This kingdom covered the area lying between the Beas, Satluj and Yamuna rivers, i.e. the Shimla and Sirmour hills. Their administration resembled a republic with members of a central assembly sharing the powers of the king.
Gupta Empire: Chandragupta slowly subdued most of the republics of Himachal by show of strength or use of force though he usually did not rule them directly. Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta extended his boundaries to the Himalyan region. He introduced Buddhism to this tract. He built many stupas one of which is in the Kullu valley.
Harsha: After the collapse of Gupta empire and before the rise of Harsha, this area was again ruled by petty chiefs known as Thakurs and Ranas. With the rise of Harsha in the early 7th century, most of these small states acknowledged his overall supremacy though many local powers remained with the petty chiefs.
A few decades after Harsha's death (647 A.D.) many Rajput states ascended in Rajsthan and Indus plains. They fought amongst themselves and the vanquished moved to the hills with their followers, where they set up small states or principalities. These states were Kangra, Nurpur, Suket, Mandi, Kutlehar, Baghal, Bilaspur, Nalagarh, Keonthal, Dhami, Kunihar, Bushahar, Sirmour.
The small hill kingdom enjoyed a large degree of independence till the eve of Muslim invasions in northern India. States of the foothills were devastated by Muslim invaders from time to time. Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered Kangra at the begining of the 10th centuary. Timur and Sikander Lodi also marched through the lower hills and captured several forts and fought many battles.
Later on as the Mughal dynasty began to break up; the rulers of the hill states took full advantage. The Katoch rulers of Kangra availed of this opportunity and Kangra regained independence status under Maharaja Sansar Chand who ruled for nearly half a centuary. He was one of the ablest administrators of the region. After he took formal possession of Kangra fort, Sansar Chand began to expand his territory. The states of Chamba, Suket, Mandi, Bilaspur, Guler, Jaswan, Siwan and Datarpur came under the direct or indirect control of Sansar Chand.
Anglo-Gorkha and Anglo-Sikh War
The Gorkhas, a martial tribe came to power in Nepal in the year 1768. They consolidated their military power and began to expand their territory. Gradually the Gorkhas annexed Sirmour and Shimla hill states. With the leadership of Amar Singh Thapa, Gorkhas laid siege to Kangra. They managed to defeat Sansar Chand, the ruler of kangra, in 1806 with the help of many hill chiefs. However Gorkhas could not capture Kangra fort which came under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1809. After this defeat the Gorkhas began to expand towards south. This resulted in the Anglo-Gorkha war. They came into direct conflict with the English along the tarai belt after which the English expelled them from the hill states east of the Satluj. Thus British slowly emerged as the paramount powers in this tract.
After the Anglo-Gorkha war the common border of the British domain and Punjab became very sensitive. Both the Sikh and English wanted to avoid a direct conflict, but after the death of Ranjit Singh, the Khalsa army fought a number of wars with the British. In 1845 when the Sikhs invaded the British territory by crossing the Satluj, the rulers of many hill states sided with the English as they were looking for an opportunity to settle scores with the former. Many of these rulers entered into secret communication with the English. After the first Anglo-Sikh war, the British did not restore the hill territory vacated by Sikhs to their original owners.
Revolt of 1857
The revolt or first Indian war of independence resulted due to the building up of political, social, economic, religious and military grievances against the British. People of the hill states were not politically alive as the people in other parts of the country. They remained more or less aloof and so did their rulers with the exception of Bushahr. Some of them even rendered help to the Britishers during the revolt. Among them were the rulers of Chamba, Bilaspur, Bhagal and Dhami. The rulers of Bushars acted in a manner hostile to the interests of British. However it is not clear whether they actually aided the rebels or not.
British Rule 1858 to 1914
The British territories in the hill came under British Crown after Queen Victoria's proclamation of 1858. The states of Chamba, Mandi and Bilaspur made good progress in many fields during the British rule. During the first World War, virtually all rulers of the hill states remained loyal and contributed to the British war effort both in thr form of men and materials. Amongst these were the states of Kangra, Siba, Nurpur, Chamba, Suket, Mandi and Bilaspur.
Freedom Struggle 1914 to 1947
The people of the hill also participated in the freedom struggle. The highlights of the freedom movement in this tract are listed below:
1. Praja Mandal launched agitations against the British yoke in areas under direct British Rule.
2. In other princely states agitations were launched for social and political reforms. However these were directed more against the princes than against the British and as such were mere extensions of freedom movement.
3. The Mandi conspiracy was carried out in 1914-15 under the influence of the Gadhr party. Meetings were held in Mandi and Suket states in December 1914 and January 1915 and it was decided to murder the Superintendent and Wazir of Mandi and Suket, to loot the treasury, blow to up the bridge over Beas river. However conspirators were caught and sentenced to long terms in prison.
4. The Pajhota agitation in which the people of a part of Sirmour state revolted is regarded as an extension of the Quit India Movement of 1942.
5. Important freedom fighters of this state during this period included Dr. Y.S. Parmar, Padam Dev, Shivanand Ramaul, Purnanand, Satya Dev, Sada Ram Chandel, Daulat Ram, Thakur Hazara Singh and Pahari Gandhi Baba Kanshi Ram.
6. The Congress party was also active in the freedom movement in the hill state particularly in Kangra.
The history of present day Himachal Pradesh in the post-independence era has been outlined below:
1. The Chief Commissioner's province of H.P. came into being on 15th April, 1948.
2. H.P. became a part C state on 26th January, 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India.
3. Bilaspur was merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1st July, 1954.
4. Himachal Pradesh became Union Territory on 1st November, 1956.
5. Kangra and most of the other hill areas of Punjab were merged with H.P. on 1st November, 1966 though its status remained that of a Union Territory.
6. On 18th December, 1970 the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and the new state came into being on 25th January, 1971. Thus H.P. emerged as the eighteenth state of Indian Union.
7. Himachal Pradesh has come a long way since then. It has seen a number of full-fledged governments which have led the state towards economic self-reliance.
Important Details About Himachal Pradesh :
Census 2015 - Some Comparisons
Source: Department of Information and Public Relations
Geography and Climate :
Himachal is situated in the western Himalayas. Covering an area of 55,673 kilometres (34,594 mi), it is a mountainous state with elevation ranging from about 350 metres (1,148 ft) to 7,000 metres (22,966 ft) above the sea level.
The drainage system of Himachal is composed both of rivers and glaciers. Himalayan rivers criss-cross the entire mountain chain. Himachal Pradesh provides water to both the Indus and Ganges basins. The drainage systems of the region are the Chandra Bhaga or the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, the Sutlej and the Yamuna. These rivers are perennial and are fed by snow and rainfall. They are protected by an extensive cover of natural vegetation. There is great variation in the climatic conditions of Himachal due to extreme variation in elevation. The climate varies from hot and sub-humid tropical in the southern tracts to cold, alpine and glacial in the northern and eastern mountain ranges with more elevation. The state has areas like Dharamsala that receive very heavy rainfall, as well as those like Lahaul and Spiti that are cold and almost rainless. Broadly, Himachal experiences three seasons: Summer, Winter and rainy season. Summer lasts from mid April till the end of June and most parts become very hot (except in alpine zone which experiences a mild summer) with the average temperature ranging from 28 °C (82 °F) to 32 °C (90 °F). Winter lasts from late November till mid March. Snowfall is common in alpine tracts (generally above 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) i.e. in the Higher and Trans-Himalayan region).
Flora and fauna :
According to 2003 Forest Survey of India report, legally defined forest areas constitute 66.52% of the area of Himachal Pradesh, although area under tree cover is only 25.78%.Vegetation in the state is dictated by elevation and precipitation.
The southern part of the state, at lower elevations than the north, has both tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests and tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. These are represented by northwestern thorn scrub forests along the border with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and by Upper Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests in the far southeast. Sal and shisham are found here.
Rising into the hills, we find a mosaic of western Himalayan broadleaf forests and Himalayan subtropical pine forests. Various deciduous and evergreen oaks live in the broadleaf forests, while Chir pine dominates the pine forests. Western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests grow near treeline, with species that include East Himalayan Fir, West Himalayan Spruce, Deodar (State tree), and Blue pine.
The uppermost elevations have western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows in the northeast and northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows in the northwest. Trees are sturdy with a vast network of roots. Alders, birches, rhododendrons and moist alpine shrubs are there as the regional vegetation. The rhododendrons can be seen along the hillsides around Shimla from March to May. The shrublands and meadows give way to rock and ice around the highest peaks.
Himachal is also said to be the fruit bowl of the country with orchards scattered all over the place. Meadows and pastures are also seen clinging to steep slopes. After the winter season, the hillsides and orchards bloom with wild flowers, while gladiolas, carnations, marigolds, roses, chrysanthemums, tulips and lilies are carefully cultivated. The state government is gearing up to make Himachal Pradesh as the flower basket of the world. Himachal Pradesh has around 1200 bird and 359 animal species, including the leopard, snow leopard (State animal), ghoral, musk deer and Western Tragopan. It has 2 major national parks and sanctuaries — the largest number in the Himalayan region. The Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu district was created to conserve the flora and fauna of the main Himalayan range, while the Pin Valley National Park to conserve the flora and fauna of the cold desert.
The era of planning in Himachal Pradesh started 1948 along with the rest of India. The first five-year plan allocated ₹ 52.7 million to Himachal. More than 50% of this expenditure was incurred on road construction since it was felt that without proper transport facilities, the process of planning and development could not be carried to the people, who mostly lived an isolated existence in far away areas. Himachal now ranks fourth in respect of per capita income among the states of the Indian Union.
Gross State Domestic Product at Current Prices
figures in Millions of Indian Rupees :
Agriculture contributes over 45% to the net state domestic product. It is the main source of income and employment in Himachal. Over 93% of the population in Himachal depends directly upon agriculture which provides direct employment to 71% of its people. The main cereals grown are wheat, maize, rice and barley.
Hydro Power is also one of the major source of income generation for the State. Identified Hydroelectric Potential for the state is 23,000.43 MW in five rivers basins.
Himachal is extremely rich in hydro electric resources. The state has about 25% of the national potential in this respect. It has been estimated that about 20,300MW of hydro electric power can be generated in the State by constructing various major, medium, small and mini/micro hydel projects on the five river basins. The state is also the first state in India to achieve the goal of having a bank account for every family. As per the current prices, the total GDP was estimated at ₹254 billion as against ₹ 230 billion in the year 2004–05, showing an increase of 10.5%.The recent years witnessed quick establishment of International Entrepreneurship. Luxury hotels, food and franchisees of recognised brands e.g. Mc Donalds, KFC and Pizza hut have rapidly spread.
Agriculture contributes nearly 45% to the net state domestic product. It is the main source of income as well as employment in Himachal. About 93% of the state population depends directly upon agriculture.
However, agriculture in the state suffers from certain limitations, especially in the production of food grains. One of these reasons is that the area under cultivation can't be extended to an appreciable extent. Also, reclamation of land on slopes is not economical and increases environmental degradation. The state can profit more by cultivating cash crops as per the agro-climatic conditions.
The main cereals grown in the state are wheat, maize, rice and barley. Kangra, Mandi and the Paonta valley of Sirmaur (to some extent) are the major producers of the first three cereals, while barley is mostly cultivated in Shimla.
Though the state is deficient in food grains, it has gained a lot in other spheres of agricultural production such as seed potato, ginger, vegetables, vegetable seeds, mushrooms, chicory seeds, hops, olives and fig. Seed potato is mostly grown in the Shimla, Kullu and Lahaul areas. Special efforts are being made to promote cultivation of crops like olives, figs, hops, mushrooms, flowers, pistachio nuts, sarda melon and saffron. Solan is the largest vegetable producing district in the state. The district of Sirmaur is also famous for growing flowers, and is the largest producer of flowers in the state.
Fruit cultivation has also proved to be an economic boon. There are huge tracts of land suitable only for growing fruits. Fruit of all cultivation does not add to the problem of soil erosion and its employment potential is more than conventional farming. The yield per acre in terms of income is also much higher. Apple farming produces the maximum income. Fruit growing in the state is fetching over ₹ 3 billion annually.
Land husbandry initiatives such as the Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project, which includes the Himachal Pradesh Reforestation Project (HPRP), the world's largest clean development mechanism (CDM) undertaking, have improved agricultural yields and productivity, and raised rural household incomes
Himachal Pradesh has a total population of 6,856,509 including 3,473,892 males and 3,382,617 females as per the provisional results of the Census of India 2011. This is only 0.57 per cent of India's total population, recording a growth of 12.81 per cent. Total fertility rate (TFR) per woman is 1.8 which is one of lowest in India.
Himachal Pradesh has a literacy rate of 83.78 per cent and gender ratio at 974/1000, according to the 2011 Census figures.
Census-wise, the state is placed 21st on the population chart followed by Tripura at 22nd place. Kangra district was top ranked with a population strength of 1,507,223 (21.98%), Mandi district 999,518 (14.58%), Shimla district 813,384 (11.86%), Solan district 576,670 (8.41%), Sirmaur district 530,164 (7.73%), Una district 521,057 (7.60%), Chamba district 518,844 (7.57%), Hamirpur district 454,293 (6.63%), Kullu district 437,474 (6.38%), Bilaspur district 382,056 (5.57%), Kinnaur district 84,298 (1.23%) and Lahaul Spiti 31,528 (0.46%).
The main communities are Rajputs, Rathis, Brahmins and Ghirth. The Ghirth (choudhary) community is found mainly in Kangra District. Himachal has a sizeable population of Tibetans. Himachal Pradesh has the one of the highest proportion of Hindu population in India (95.45%). Other religions that form a small percentage are Buddhism and Sikhism. The Lahaulis of Lahaul and Spiti region are mainly Buddhists. Sikhs mostly live in towns and cities and constitute 1.21% of the state population. For example they form 10% of the population in Una District adjoining the state of Punjab and 17% in Shimla, the state capital. The Buddhists are mainly natives and tribals from Lahaul and Spiti, where they form majority of 60% and Kinnaur where they form 40%, however the bulk are refugees from Tibet. The Muslims constitute slightly 1.94% of the population of Himachal Pradesh.
The life expectancy at birth in Himachal Pradesh is 62.8 years (higher than the national average of 57.7 years) for 1986–1990. The infant mortality rate stood at 40 in 2010 and crude birth rate has declined from 37.3 in 1971 to 16.9 in 2010, below the national average of 26.5 in 1998. The crude death rate was 6.9 in 2010.Himachal Pradesh's literacy rate almost doubled between 1981 and 2011 (see table to right).
Hindi is both the official language and the lingua franca of Himachal Pradesh. However, most of the population speaks Pahari in everyday conversation, which includes nearly all Western Pahari dialects. There are total 32 languages in HP.
Himachal was one of the few states that had remained largely untouched by external customs, largely due to its difficult terrain. With the technological advancements the state has changed very rapidly. It is a multireligional, multicultural as well as multilingual state like other Indian states.
Some of the most commonly spoken languages includes Hindi, Pahari, Dogri, Mandeali Kangri, Mandyali, Gojri and Kinnauri. The caste communities residing in Himachal include the Khatri, Brahmins of the Hindu Faith and the Sikh Brahmin Caste Bhatra, Rajputs, Gujjars, Gaddis, Ghirth (choudhary), Kannets, Rathis and Kolis, Sood There are tribal populations in the state which mainly comprise Kinnars, Pangawals, Sulehria, and Lahaulis.
The state is well known for its handicrafts. The carpets, leather works, shawls, metalware, woodwork and paintings are worth appreciating. Pashmina shawls are a product that is highly in demand in Himachal and all over the country. Himachali caps are famous art work of the people. Extreme cold winters of Himachal necessitated wool weaving. Nearly every household in Himachal owns a pit-loom. Wool is considered as pure and is used as a ritual cloth. The well-known woven object is the shawl, ranging from fine pashmina to the coarse desar. Kullu is famous for its shawls with striking patterns and vibrant colours. Kangra and Dharamshala are famous for Kangra miniature paintings.
Local music and dance reflect the cultural identity of the state. Through their dance and music, they entreat their gods during local festivals and other special occasions. Apart from the fairs and festivals that are celebrated all over India, there are number of other fairs and festivals that are of great significance to Himachal Pradesh.
Shimla, the state capital, is home to Asia's only natural ice skating rink.
Himachal was known since the earliest of times as "Devabhoomi", the abode of the Gods. The splendid heights of the Himalyan ranges, with its great scenic beauty and aura of spiritual calm seem the natural home of the Gods. Two thousands or more temples all over the State, reiterate this fact.
Being a State full of isolated valleys and high ranges, several different styles of temple architecture developed and there are temples with carved stone shikharas, pagoda style shrines, temples that look like Buddhist Gompas or Sikh Gurudwaras etc. Several of them are important places of pilgrimage and each year attract thousands of devotees from all over the country.
Hindu Pilgrimage :
BAJRESHWARI TEMPLE: Just outside the town of Kangra is the temple dedicated to Bajreshwari
Devi. Known once for its legendary wealth this temple was subject to successive depredations by invaders from the north. Destroyed completely in 1905 by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1920 and continues to be a busy place of pilgrimage.
BAIJNATH: The ancient temple at Baijnath is particularly beautiful. Built of stone in the 9th century AD, in the shikhara style, it is a fine blend of sculpture and architecture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Baijnath is close to Palampur and Kangra.
JWALAMUKHI TEMPLE: Not too far from Kangra is this popular place of pilgrimage. An eternally burning flame that issues from a hollow rock in the sanctum, is considered the manifestation of the goddess Devi. During March-April and September-October every year, colorful fairs are held during the Navratra celebration. Jwalamukhi temple is 30 km. from Kangra.
CHAMUNDA DEVI TEMPLE: Not far from Dharamsala (Kangra) is the famous temple to Chamunda Devi. It is an enchanting spot with glorious views of the mountains, the Baner Khud, Pathiar and Lahla forest.
LAKSHMI NARAYAN TEMPLE: The Lakshminarayan group of temples in the town of Chamba
are of great archaeological importance. Six stone temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu with tall shikaras, finely carved, date from the 8th century AD. The Lakshminarayan Temple is the oldest in this group. Other temples around Chamba town include, those dedicated to Hari Rai, Champavati, Bansigopal, Ram Chandra, Brijeshwari, Chamunda, Narsingh, and Yogi Charpat Nath.
CHAURASI TEMPLES: The 9th century temples at Bharmaur are among the most important early Hindu temples in the Chamba Valley. According to legend, 84 (chaurasi) yogi's visited Bharmaur, capital of King Sahil Varma. They were so pleased with the king's humility and hospitality that they blessed him with ten sons and a daughter, Champavati. A cluster of shrines commemorates that visit. The temple square is the Centre of all activities in the little town of Bharmaur and the Lakshmi, Ganesh, Manimahesh and Narsing temples, the main shrines, are splendidly set off by the dramatic mountainscape.
CHATTARI TEMPLES: Not far from Bharmaur (Chamba) is the Chattari Temple with early examples of carved wood and an 8th century brass image of Shakti.
MANIMAHESH (3,950 m): The Manimahesh Lake, high up in the mountains near Bharmaur, is an important place of pilgrimage. The solitary Manimahesh Kailash Peak- the legendary abode of Shiva, is reflected in its still waters. A little temple in the shikhara style with an exquisite brass image of Lakshmi Devi as Mahishasuramardini stands near-by. Every year, following Janmashtami, the annual Manimahesh Yatra is undertaken. The pilgrimage starts from Chamba from the Lakshaminarayan Temple and devotees wend their way up the arduous track from Bharmaur to take a sacred dip in the waters of the lake.
MANDI: Mandi has a picturesque group of ancient stone temples with tall vimanas, splendidly located below the town on the banks of the foaming river. The Tarna Devi Temple (Mandi), a new shrine up on a hill, overlooks the town and valley.
REWALSAR: Around a natural lake with a floating island are a Shiva temple-the Lomesh Rishi Temple, Guru Govind Singh's gurdwara and a Buddhist monastery founded by Guru Padmasambhava. A spot that is revered by people of three faiths (Mandi).
PRASHAR TEMPLE: This temple, built in the 14th century, is a shrine where the rulers of Mandi once worshipped. The pagoda-style temple stands in the little green hollow around the Prashar lake, above the town of Pandoh. The views of the mountains are spectacular.
SHIKARI DEVI (2850 m): It is possible to trek up to Shikari Devi from Janjheli and Karsog (Mandi). Through woods of assorted trees and shrubs - which include several medicinal herbs - two separate trek routes lead up to this ancient shrine located at the crown of the hill. Hunters in the area once prayed to the Goddess for success in their hunt - and here, perhaps, lies the origin of the name 'Shikari Devi'. The Goddess is worshipped in the form of a stone image. Interestingly, the temple which is said to have been in existence since the time of the Pandavas, has no roof - for local legend has it, that all attempts to build one have been unsuccessful.
HANOGI MAA & KOYLA MAA TEMPLE: Hanogi Maa temple in on the way from Mandi to Kullu near Pandoh and Koyla Maa temple near Sunder Nagar in Mandi district.
RAGHUNATH TEMPLE: Built in 1651 by the Raja of Kullu, the temple has an image of Raghunathji that was brought from Ayodhya. During the Kullu Dussehra, all the temples in the area send their deities to pay homage to Raghunathji at Kullu.
BIJLI MAHADEV TEMPLE: An unusual temple dedicated to Shiva-the Lord of lightning, is located on a height overlooking the Kullu and Parvati valleys. A 60ft staff above the temple attracts divine blessing in the form of lightning and breaks the stone linga in the sanctum.
DHOONGRI TEMPLE: This four tiered pagoda, embellished in finely carved wood, stands sheltered in grove of tall deodar at Manali (Kullu). It is dedicated to Hadimba Devi, wife of the Pandava, Bhim.
BHIMAKALI TEMPLE: A marvelous example of hill architecture, the temple complex at Sarahan
is set against the incredibly beautiful backdrop of high ranges and forested slopes. Built in a mixture of the Hindu and Budhists styles, it was the temple of Bushair rulers of Rampur (Shimla). The palaces of the royal family are adjacent to the temple. From Sarahan there is a view of the Srikhand Peak, revered as the home of goddess Lakshami.
HATKOTI: Along the River Pabbar, 104 km from Shimla, is the temple dedicated to Durga and Shiva. The gods are said to have fought a pitched battled at this spot.
JAKHU AND SANKAT MOCHAN: These two temples close to Shimla have a commanding views of the hills.
NAINA DEVI TEMPLE: On a hill, close to Bilaspur and Kiratpur (34 km), is famous shrine of Naina Devi. A colourful fair, the Shravana Astami Mela is held in July-August.
CHINTPURNI: A winding road goes up to the temple dedicated to Bhagwati Chinmastika or Chinpurni-the goddess who grants all wishes. A popular place of pilgrimage, Chintpurni is about 75 km from the town of Una and 100 km from Jalandhar.
RENUKA: The temple, dedicated to the immortal Renuka, stands near the picturesque Renuka Lake (Sirmour).
TRILOKPUR: About 25 km from Nurpur (Kangra), at the confluence of the Bohar and Bhali streams, is another sacred spot popular with pilgrims of various faiths. There is a Hindu temple, a Buddhist monastery, a gurdwara and a mosque at Trilokpur.
BABA BALAK NATH TEMPLE: A cave temple located in Deothsidth, in the Dhaulagiri Hills of Hamirpur, is a noted place of pilgrimage. People come here to seek the blessing of Baba Balak Nath whose image is located in the cave. Shahtalai, 46 km from the the district headquarters of Hamirpur and accessible by road, is about 10 km from Deothsidh.
The remote valleys of Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur have strong Buddhist traditions. Splendid gompas, Buddhist monasteries, built along bare mountain-sides seem to be a part of the rugged terrain. These are the repositories of a wealth of Buddhist art and culture. The dim, cool interiors of ancient monasteries glow with the brilliance of painted murals, stuccos and elaborate thangkas framed with rich borders of silk.
In Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama has settled in exile, is a marvelous Tibetan township where an entire cultural tradition is being nurtured. It is a centre that attracts scholars, pilgrims and tourists.
REWALSAR: Perhaps the most sacred spot for Buddhists in Himachal Pradesh, Rewalsar is 20
km south west of Mandi. According to legend, Guru Padmasambhava departed for Tibet from this beautiful spot, to spread the 'dharma'. A pagoda-style monastery stands along the edge of the lake.
GURU GHANTAL MONASTERY(3020 m): This is on the right bank of Chandra river about 4 kms. above Tandi and is believed to be the oldest Gompa of Lahaul having wooden structure with pyramidal roofs, wood carving, preserving the idols of Padmasambhava & Brajeshwari Devi. On the full moon night in mid-June a festival called "GHANTAL" is celebrated by Lamas & Thakurs together.
KARDANG MONASTERY(3500 m): It is about 5 kms. from Keylong across Bhaga river. It is believed to be built in 12th century. Monastery has a large library of Kangyur and Tangyur volumes of Budhist scriptures in Bhoti. Kardang village was once the capital of Lahaul.
SHASHUR MONASTERY: Situated on a hill about 3 kms from Keylong (Lahaul & Spiti) towards north on the same slope. During June/ July this monastery attracts a large number of visitors when Lamas perform the devil dance. It was founded in the 17th century a.d. It belongs to red hat sec and is located among the blue pines. The paintings represent the history of 84 Buddhas.
TAYUL GOMPA(3900 m): Tayul Gompa is 6 kms. from Keylong (Lahaul & Spiti) and is one of the oldest monasteries of the valley having a huge statue of Guru Padmasamhava about 5m high and houses library of Kangyur having 101 volumes. In Tibetan language Ta-Yul means the chosen place. There is an interesting story behind this.
KYE MONASTERY: It is situated 12 kms. north of Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti) and serves the western population of
Spiti. It is the oldest and biggest monastery of the valley and located at (4116 m) above Kye village. It houses beautiful scriptures and paintings of Buddha and other goddesses. Lamas practice dance, sing and play on pipes and horns. Relegious training to Lama's is imparted here. It has murals and books of high value.
THANG YUG GOMPA: It is located 13 kms. above Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti) serving western part of central Spiti. Situated in a secluded place in the narrow gauge of Kaza Nallah, it generally has a Lama from Tibet. Above this there is a long plateau which leads to Shilla peak.
KUNGRI GOMPA: It is situated in the Pin valley about 10 kms. from Attargo where Spiti river has to be crossed to enter Pin valley. It is serves the population of Pin valley.
DHANKAR MONASTERY: It is situated about 25 kms. east of Kaza and serves eastern part of
central Spiti. Dhankar is a big village and erstwhile capital of Spiti King. On top of a hill there is a fort which use to be a prison in olden times. The Monastery has about 100 Lamas and is in position of Buddhist scriptures in Bhoti language. Principal figure is a Statue of "Vairochana" (Dhayan Budha) consisting of 4 complete figures seated back to back. It has relics in the shape of paintings and sculptures.
TABO MONASTERY: This is another large gompa serving the population of eastern side. It has its origin in the tenth century old and is located 50 kms. from Kaza (Lahaul & Spiti). In fame it is next to Tholing Gompa in Tibet. It has about 60 Lamas and houses a large collection of Scriptures, wall paintings etc. Murals of this gompa have similarity to that of the Ajanta paintings.
NAKO: The legendary footprints of the Guru Padamsambhava are enshrined at the Lotsabaage Monastery at Nako. This high altitude village in Kinnaur is located near a limpid lake.
TASHIGANG GOMPA: Can be visited by taking diversion from Khab to Namgya and then trekking to the Gompa.,
TILASANGH MONASTERY: 1 km. trek from Ka, it is 12 km. short of Yangthang.
Sikh Pilgrimage :
The Sikhs came to the Shivalik Hills, in Himachal Pradesh in 1695, at the invitation of the ruler of Sirmaur, to help him fight the Mughals. Guru Gobind Singh with his army, settled in Paonta Sahib in the foothills. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, at the end of the 18th century, many of the western hill states also came under Sikh sovereignty.
PAONTA SAHIB: This is the main centre of Sikh pilgrimage in Himachal. The gurdwara picturesquely located on the banks of the River Yamuna in district Sirmour, is venerated due to its association with Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru. In March, an important fair is held and the holy Granth Sahib is taken out in procession.
REWALSAR: The gurdwara at Rewalsar, near Mandi, is located on the periphery of a lake sacred to both the Hindus and Buddhists as well.
MANIKARAN: The serene location and the seemingly mysterious hot springs made Manikaran (Kullu) a place of pilgrimage in earlier times. Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs, visited this place to spend time in meditation. A gurdwara that was built to commemorate his visit, is now a place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs.
Christian Pilgrimage :
Christianity made a late appearance in Himachal Pradesh, after the arrival of the British. The churches here are not more than 150 years old. Tall churches-the relics of the Raj, are to be found mainly in the small hill stations that the British created as summer retreats.
KASAULI: Still unspoiled and very much as the British left it fifty years ago, Kasauli (Solan) has a fine old church. The Christ Church, is a typically Anglican structure of the period. Its foundation stone was laid in 1844. Well proportioned, its spires, buttresses and gothic arches are framed against the stately deodars.
SHIMLA: The Christ Church, with its tall spire dominates the ridge in Shimla. This imposing structure is visible from as far away as Tara Devi, 8 km away. It was built in 1844, when Shimla was slowly coming into its own as the premier hill station of India., the Christ Church was designed to accommodate the entire Shimla congregation. Various memorials and stained glass windows fill the somber interior with colour and light.
The first Catholic edifice of Shimla, St. Michael's Church, was built in 1850, at the western end of the Lower Bazaar. Later additions have made it an unusual piece of architecture. Inside the church are five marble altars, all brought from Italy in 1855 and fine stained glass windows.
DHARAMSHALA: The stone church of St. John lies on a motorable road between Mcleodganj and Forsyteganj 8 Km from Lower Dharamshala (Kangra). It has a monument of Lord Elgin, one of the viceroys of India, who died in Dharamshala and was buried here.
DALHOUSIE: Dalhosie (Chamba) is another hill station with a number of old churches. The church near the G.P.O. looks untouched by time. It has an angular roof of inter-leafed hexagonal slates. The Catholic church of St. Francis, built in 1894, is set against a backdrop of tall pines overlooking the Subash Chowk.