The Kangra Valley is more than the popular spots of Dharamshala and its pilgrimage destinations-if travelers opt to venture out to see the many different sites it has to offer, they will most certainly relish in the diversity of the region.
The Kangra Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India, is one of the most fascinating travel destinations in the region, both for its spiritual sites as well as the spellbinding landscape. With a geographical area of 5,739 Kilometers, the attitude ranges from 427 to 6,401 meters above sea level-the lowest being in the plains bordering Gurdaspur district of Punjab in the west and Una and Hamirpur districts of Himachal Pradesh to the south while the highest lies amidst the Dhaulandhar mountain range which forms the border with Chamba and Kullu districts. The land here is equally diverse in its soils, physiography, land use patterns and cropping systems.
This amazing landscape is home to many religions, most notably Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism. Much like other regions in the Himalayas, this convergence of spirituality has given rise to a special culture, which can be seen in the day-to-day activities of the communities living here. It’s given a sense of harmony and strength in the region for thousands of years and it resonates all across Kangra Valley.
You’ve got to see it to believe it; an unforgettable experience which this book has tried to reveal as much as possible. Enjoy the ride!
Rinchen Wangchuk is an avid photographer, who loves to travel and write inspiring stories from his various trips. This project has been a culmination of a similar journey and his first ever book to be published.
More than just a story, this book’s ultimate aim is to promote the region of Kangra valley as an amazing cultural and travel destination for all those who love the great outdoors.
Time and again I’ve been lured to the valley of Kangra and I could not put my finger down on the reason why. perhaps, it was the nostalgia of many trips I’d made there since childhood or the sheer magnetism of the region. This time, however, was a little different-I had a purpose in mind but wasn’t quite sure of what it was, until now.
In 2007, the “financial crisis” swept across the job market worldwide just as I had completed my studies in Australia. Instead of wallowing in the drudgery of attending limitless interviews to find the ideal job, I decided to return home to my friends and family, whom I missed while I was away. Once back in India I travelled to attend a dear friends’ wedding in Jaipur, after which I went to Kangra one again. My only intention back then was to explore the region; something I had not done previously.
Try and visualize Kangra’s spellbinding geographical location. The districts of Una, Hamirpur and Mandi to the south, Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti to the east, and Chamba to the north, surround the valley. Rising like a snow-clad giant from the Himalayas, the majestic Dhaulandhar range insulates the valley to the north and divides the district of Chamba from Kangra. The Shivalik hills outline the southern part of the valley. Perennial streams flow in abundance here and irrigate the region into fertility as they pass, making it one of the most picturesque valleys in the Himalayas.
Accompanied by a friend till Triund, I traveled extensively all over Kangra for months with only my camera, a cabbie, and my thoughts and curiosity for the place. A little later, one of my closest cousins decided to come along. I am quite certain that I have only been another addition to the millions of devotees, pilgrims and tourists who have done so previously-learning about the region’s intriguing history, breathtaking flora and fauna, and some of the most exceptional and stunning temples, churches and monasteries hidden in this backdrop.
I feel blessed to have started and culminated my journey in and around Kangra valley from Palpung Sherabling Monastery, one of the largest and most unique in the region. The monastic seat provides accommodation for all visitors at their guesthouse, who prefer to stay overnight amidst a serene environment. The rooms have no modern amenities like television sets and air conditioners, but substitute all that for the simpler things in life-the sound of the whispering pine trees when the wind blows; the pleasure of sipping tea on a rainy day on the veranda of the guest house overlooking the panoramic view of the monastic seat; and much-needed silence to meditate and dwell deep within ourselves. Throughout this journey, I felt William Blake’s words of wisdom echo in my ears”…when the doors of perception are cleansed, man will see things as they truly are; infinite.”
Carrying a camera, I had intended to film every place that I visited in Kangra-sacred temple grounds, popular tourist hubs, Buddhist monasteries and so much more. I did everything I could to capture the moments in my camera; spoke to numerous professional photographers in Delhi on clicking the ideal photo and selecting the right angles. But it wasn’t enough because I realized that my experience would only be complete if I also wrote about it. Now I had a story to tell and pictures to show! This is how this coffee table book came about, without a predetermined concept but in a spur of a moment.
All set and done, I took this off-beat idea to various publishing houses in the city and receive very similar yet disappointing feedbacks in return. Nevertheless, as my first foray into the world of publishing, I have learnt some very valuable lessons along the way, including the processes of pre-press production. I’m grateful to the various important and influential people in my life, who have supported and guided me throughout this project. They have helped me overcome the insecurities prevalent in the business, the biggest of which was my own and whether I would be able to meet their expectations, something I have been haunted with throughout the duration of this project. Overall, the whole experience has been an eye-opener in every sense.
It is my sincere wish that this book encourages readers, both young and old, to conserve this Dev Bhoomi’s (Land of the Gods) rich natural and cultural heritage for generations to come.
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