Dalhousie – A Colonial Experience In The Primeval Grandeur Of Himachal Pradesh!
Nestled among the lower ranges of the Himalayas known by the name of Dhauladhar, facing the majestic PirPanjal ranges, away from the maddening lives of the city and its dwellers is a majestic hill station in Himachal which boasts of a rich colonial heritage and fascinating stories. This small, sleepy and sluggish town may not be able to compete with its famous counterparts like Shimla or Manali, yet it has an unexplainable and enchanting charm.
This bijou of a hill station forested with Oak and Deodars all around is named after one of the youngest Governor General of India. Yes, you guessed it right! This quaint town is ‘Dalhousie’ which had been our home a couple of years back.
This Colonial town of Dalhousie has found a place among the rich and the educated lot of the surrounding states, who flock here during the weekends to meet their progeny and the Generation Next studying in the handful of Prestigious Educational Institutions (boarding schools) of the town like Sacred Heart Convent and Dalhousie Public School.
Beyond the Golden Hues
Dalhousie was a welcome escape for our family from the scorching heat of a nondescript border town in the heart of the Thar desert(our previous home for 2 years)!
I vividly remember the day in the month of September when after an exciting yet tedious drive of more than three hours from Pathankot, we finally reached our destination cocooned away amidst greenery. We landed in this picturesque town of Himachal just before the snowy and chilly winters, that would set in a couple of months.
The very first shocker was the very narrow and serpentine roads of this place as compared to the wide and smooth as butter-roads of Rajasthan (and of course the severe bouts of motion sickness that I experienced for the very first time).But the excitement of a hill station stay for at least a couple of years, boosted and overshadowed the rest!
Our First Glimpse
The first day went away in acclimatizing to the clime and altitude of the place but not before catching the fluffy clouds drifting away all the while kissing the pines and deodars.
For the next one month or so, had to shuttle to and fro, down South. The month of November followed, and, we had finally managed to settle in our new home which looked like a cottage straight out of a fairy tale.Soon, we were busy setting up our new dwelling. However, the busy chore of unpacking things could not deter us from enjoying the amazing sunrises and sunsets of the mountains.
Oh, I remember how I had crazily captured on my mobile, the ever-changing horizon at dusk for over a month, every day!
Long walks and treks became a part of our daily schedule during our stay in Dalhousie. The salubrious surroundings and the breathtaking views of the valley down below along the trail and the Colonial town of Dalhousie, in itself, made the walks all the more soothing and enjoyable.
You may read about our trek to the Dainkund Peak here
The British have left enough impressions in the form of Century-old churches, European styled cottages and homes with ornate doors and the unmissable colonial architecture scattered across the town.
Many of these Colonial Cottages have now been converted into home-stays and hotels.
One can find old photos of Dalhousie and captures of the hill-station under the Imperial rule on the restaurant- walls of the ‘Grand View Hotel’, located near the Dalhousie Bus Stand.
These colonial time photographs remind the tourists that the Britishers had once ruled this place and a diverse country like India. They plundered it, stripped away its wealth and built massive structures all the while reasoning that they shall rule forever without an iota of misgiving.
But then, Power is intoxicating to the extent that it can ruin the ones who are bestowed with it and one never knows when the door shuts on the powerful! Isn’t it?
The Britishers themselves wouldn’t have thought that they will have to one day bow in front of the Indians. And then, leave the country owing to the resilient yet non-violent Indian freedom movement that is a landmark in the World History!
Shopping in Dalhousie
Unlike Shimla or other hill-stations, there are not many options for shopping here. And, I am glad it is this way! This the sole reason why there is a non-commercial look to the town.
Of course, you get basic necessities and yummy Maggi, Momos and Hot-Parathas. You may also like to shop for Himachali woollens in the GPO market, Tibetan Market and Subash Chowk. Remember, that, these are just a single lane with an array of shops and not very fanciful and huge ones like in Shimla or Mc-Leodganj!
When in Dalhousie, try to grab a few bottles of the Himachali Chuk and exotic wines!
Apart from the Classic style of everyday living, the sleepy town has an amusing quirkiness about itself, like the colourful yet laid-back mobile food joint that is usually found the near the GPO market.
There are many Tibetans who have made Dalhousie their abode and the Buddhist influence across the town cannot be missed. A dedicated Tibetan School for the children and the fluttering prayer flags across the Bakrota Hills convey the secular accommodating nature of the Himachalis and Indians in general. Bakrota hills look misty and heavenly during the rainy season which is from July end to September. And do not shudder when heavy thunderbolts hit the hills on a rainy day!
By the way, the climate of Dalhousie is quite unpredictable so one can pretty much see people carrying umbrellas almost all the time as a back-up!
Colourful mural paintings adorn the rocks of the Moti-Tibba hill on the stretches of the Gandhi Chowk Market.There are tiny shops arrayed on either side of the Tibetan Market – selling quirky trinkets, vibrant woollens, funky footwear and other Chinese goods nearby to the Dalhousie Post-Office!
Colonial or Tibetan influence though omnipresent, the hues of Himachal cannot be missed! Beautiful landscape complemented by deep valleys and fluffy white clouds floating around, tiny hamlets and their quintessential colourful homes with slated roofs, liberal use of wood in architecture, the intricately woven Himachali woollens, elaborate shawls, the sluggish atmosphere in going through everyday ordeals all add to the Himachali feel. Let us not forget the ancient temples that are revered by the mountain people that look not so ornate yet are beautiful and have a calming effect on people!
You may want to read my article on our trek to the famous Poloni Mata Temple here
These valleys look beautiful just after the winters when the snow starts melting paving way to gurgling streams that gush through narrow crevices of the hills! The best time would be from March to April and then again during the rainy season.
The hospitality and the real feel of Himachali town are witnessed as we descend the hills and venture into the narrow lanes of Sadar Bazar.
One cannot but admire the way the people of Dalhousie have adapted to the space constraint and scarcity of water in the mountains. Indeed, walking is a fashion in these hills!!
There is a ‘Saying’ nowadays in the mountains which when translated into English reads:‘The Youth and Water of the Mountains are never used for the benefit of the Mountains’ as both run away to the plains for greener pastures! Ironically, this is true.
Dalhousie in Winters
Winters are ruthless, yet, comforting when in front of the fireplace! Watching the snowflakes gently glide towards the ground is a treat to the eyes. Dalhousie looks amazing the next morning after a snowfall, and you are sure to conclude, that, maybe this is the paradise the scriptures talk about! Heavenly bliss!
Although it is exciting to visit the mountains as an urban dweller from the plains, staying in the mountains and making a living, come with their own setbacks about which a traveller might be oblivious. The best way in which one can help the mountain people is to be a responsible tourist and traveller!
You may like to catch a glimpse of Dalhousie enveloped in this white blanket here
Best Season to Visit Dalhousie
Well, I have given a glimpse of Dalhousie in all seasons in this article. I personally find it beautiful and salubrious throughout the year. Still, if I have to emphasise on few special aspects of the months, then, here we go…
- Plan a visit during the months of December-March if looking to experience the snow-fall.But remember, the winters are quite harsh here. (Do check up-to-date Weather report for signs of snowfall)
- If you want to witness a town with fluttering butterflies and white daisies swaying in the breeze all around then April-June would be the best season.
- You can experience the floating clouds, verdant green valleys, misty mornings, the sudden appearance of the Rainbows and gurgling streams from July onwards until September.
- October and November are best for long treks and hikes and to catch the first snowfall of the season on the Lower Himalayan range and Dhauladhars.
Hope this photo tour helps you plan a visit to this beautiful town of Dalhousie in Himachal.Happy Landings! 🙂
Information on How to Reach Dalhousie, Where to Stay and What to visit can be read in the other posts of this series on Dalhousie.