Sidhbari – A Spiritual Retreat in the lap of the Dhauladhars near Dharamshala


Sidhbari in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, still remains an unknown destination when it comes to online searches on places to visit in Dharamshala, things to do in and around Dharamshala or for that matter even off-beat places near Dharamshala. Yet, I would suggest you visit this village nearby Dharamshala to truly experience the sheer beauty of this region against the backdrop of the Dhauladhars. All the better, if you consider Sidhbari as your next destination for a spiritual retreat in India.

Sidhbari – an unknown gem near Dharamshala

Cloistered away from the sight of tourist madhouse is a quaint town named Sidhbari, near Dharamshala, overlooking the Dhauladhars. Often ignored by commercial tour agencies who savour on listicles, Sidhbari is thankfully a bit far from famous tourist triangle of McLeodganj- Triund- Dharamshala.

Many decades ago, a Hindu monk too was enchanted by this town (which then, was still a nondescript village) on the banks of rivulet Bindusaras and wanted a place for a retreat where knowledge could meet divinity, service and devotion. Thus was established the Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram of Sandeepany by Swami Chinmayananda.

Visiting this place had always been on cards since my school days!

A view of Dhauladhars from Sidhbari
A view of Dhauladhars from Sidhbari

Curtailing the McLeodganj trip

Our family trip to Sidhbari was indeed pleasant serendipity. We were quite disappointed by the crowded McLedoganj. Yes, the misty mountain paths are beautiful, the climate is inviting, views from McLeodganj is spectacular. However, I found it extremely restless and too chaotic for seekers of serenity.

A majority of the tourists who visit this place on weekends behave in a brazen way, crisscrossing carelessly on their bikes, blocking roads, driving in a state of inebriation and haggling with peddlers all along the way to Bagsu Nag. The less I discuss the atrocious ways of behaviour of these ‘backpackers’, the better. We decided to evade from this mad-house by cutting short our visit to the ‘overtly hyped’ McLeodganj.

Having stayed in a calm and not so touristry Dalhousie and often finding ourselves trekking in the Singing Hills of Dainkund, I found McLeodganj repulsive. Better, let me put it this way, maybe August – September is not the best season for family travellers to visit McLeodganj. During the family trip, the only place where we could seek some peace was inside the monastery!

However, a few years after this unpleasant experience, I had visited Mcleodganj as part of the media team covering the Trigart Kangra Valley festival during the month of October, and that is when McLeodganj revealed its innate beauty to me amidst a serene clime.

Bhagsu Nag water springs
Water springs near Bhagsu Nag


The lane leading to the monastery in McLeodganj


Prayer wheels at the Dalai Lama temple Dharamshala
Om Mani Padme Hum

You may also want to read about Mindrolling Monastery – the largest monastery in India

History of Yol

Ascending the slopes of McLeodganj and Dharamshala, we took a detour before Yol Cantonment. Yol was the location of a Prisoners-of-War (PoW) camp which had hosted German and Italian soldiers during the two world wars. The cantonment extends from the foothills of  Dhauladhar across the viridescent region of Dharamshala. And the ashram is strategically located between Yol and Sidhbari.

Yol cantonment
Dhauladhars from inside the Yol Cantt


Sidhbari village

Sidhbari Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram

Lush green valley, curvy paths lined with evergreen deodars and oaks, a crisp chill in the air with a backdrop of the majestic snow-capped Dhauladhars for a company, is how one is greeted as we enter this suburb. To keep it short, Sidhbari is a post-card perfect village. And this is what we were in quest of, as a family!

The Chinmaya Tapovan premises in Sidhbari is indeed a sight to behold. Upon entering, I was fleetingly reminded of a famous life-size portrait that inspired me to visit this place.

Source: Chinmaya Mission Australia site

The portrait was of Chinmayananda with hands crossed at the chest against a backdrop of the Dhauladhars that adorned the wall of our prayer hall, back in school. Through this portrait, he radiated a larger than life presence on the students of our school which was run by Chinmaya Mission.

‘If you rest, you rust’, said Swamiji and had ended his address to us, more than two decades back when he came visiting our school and mesmerized most of us with his impeccable diction and soft-spoken personality.

Sidhbari ashram
The retreat rooms

Childhood memories of meeting Swami Chinmayananda ji

Be rest assured that I am no follower of any gurus nor am I a member of these ashrams. I am one of the many of my generation who have been smitten by Balakrishna Menon’s oratory skills and his flair with words that were filled with conviction. I am fortunate to have been an audience to various spiritual discourses rendered by Swami Chinmayananda during my childhood days. He made the essence of the Bhagavad Gita, the spiritual text of the Indians, a part of our daily routine.

After all, Mr.Menon was once an advocate and like any good professional, he was awe-inspiring with his words. It was but natural that he had a huge following once he took sanyasa and assumed the name of Swami Chinmayananda.

An ashram with aesthetics

As we entered the aesthetically designed premises in Sidhbari and walked towards the resting place of Chinmayananda or the Mahasamadhi of Gurudev, as it is widely referred to, I could understand why saints from aeons wanted to settle in and around the majestic Dhauladhars.

And, there cannot be another place for a retreat other than Sidhbari. The calm and serene Kangra valley with its interplay of nature’s elements can lure mortals and immortals alike! In the same village of Sidhbari lies what is commonly regarded as the meditation spot of Sage Kapila. Kapila is locally regarded as Sidh Baba due to his mystic powers and so the village shares his name.

Interiors of the Sidhbari Sandheepany ashram


Sidhbari chinmayananda samadhi
Mahasamadhi of Gurudev with Dhauladhars in the backdrop


Sidhbari landscape
A Spiritual Window

A sense of belonging pervaded me as I looked through the huge glass window of Kerala styled Samadhi structure.

Sidhbari chinmayananda samadhi
Statue of Gurudev

The ashtadaathu(made of eight-metal ) statue of Gurudev sits calmly amidst his most loved environs. I am again reminded of the year 1993 when we students chanted the revered Mrutyunjay Mantra, 1008 times, for the speedy recovery of Gurudev as he lay ailing in the U.S on his deathbed.  He passed away on 3 August 1993 and his mortal remains were laid to rest amidst Vedic rituals at this very spot.

Sidhbari spiritual retreat rooms
One with nature

A scenic view with a glimpse of the Legislative Assembly with its beautiful green roofs

As we exit the premises, the 22-feet gigantic statue of Hanumanji graces us and looks imposing. A glimpse of the progeny of the wind God seemed like an apt ending to this spiritual quest of ours as we always ended our morning prayers back in school with chanting of Hanuman Chalisa!

Interesting facts about Swami Chinmayananda

  • Swamiji was born in Ernakulum, Kerala on 8 May 1916, as the eldest son of Vadakke Kuruppathu Kuttan Menon, who was the nephew of the Maharaja of Cochin. He was named Balakrishna Menon
  • Swami Chinmayananda was a post-graduate in law and literature. He also completed a few journalism courses.
  • Balakrishna was an active participant of the freedom movement in India.
  • He was initiated into sannyasa by Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh.
  • Chinmayananda inaugurated the Chinmaya Mission Hospital in Bangalore in the year 1970.
  • Chinmayananda addressed the United Nations on 2nd December 1992. The talk was titled “Planet in Crisis.”
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a commemorative coin to mark Swamiji’s birth centenary on 8th  May 2015.

Must visit sightseeing spots in and around Sidhbari

  • Apart from the Sidhbari Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram, you can also visit the picturesque Cricket Stadium of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association.
    HPCA stadium
  • The Legislative Assembly of the state is at Sidhbari, near the Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram, and the winter sessions of the Government are held here. This because Dharamshala is the winter capital of Himachal Pradesh. The building looks beautiful and one can catch a glimpse of it from Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram itself.
  • Apart from these, the latest addition to the magnificence of Sidhbari is the Norbulingka Institute for Tibetan Culture. ( We could not visit this due to a paucity of time)
  • Also, do visit the villages of Rakkar and Khaniyara that are famous for shepherd hamlets and slate-industry. They are unspoilt by urbanization with a riverine running alongside and look serene being enriched with lush forest area.

Where to stay in Sidhbari

  • There are hostel rooms available at CORD nearby to the Ashram. Check with the mission office for availability. (CORD- Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development).Also, if you are looking for spiritual Veda classes, then do contact the ashram for accommodation.
  • There are many home-stays and hostels in and around Sidhbari and in Dharamshala.
  • Entitled personnel and their families can utilize the guest houses inside Yol Cantonment.
Contact details of Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram – Sidhbari
  • Sandeepany (Himalayas) Sidhbari, H.P. 176057 Tel: (01892 ) 234324, 236199
  •  E-mail:

Hope you enjoyed this off-beat retreat in the lap of Dhauladhars. Leaving you with some more captures of our  Dharamshala-McLeodganj-Sidhbari trip.

Dharamshala Photo Gallery
Chamba Khed river


By-pass near Nurpur


Sidhbari Tapovan ashram



Tinted view of the distant Dhauladhars


Grey clouds hovering over the snow-clad Dhauladhars gracing the cricket stadium


Chamba Khed Riverine
McLeodganj Photo Gallery
Time stands still


Childhood revisited


Just outside the Dalai Lama’s Monastery






30 thoughts on “Sidhbari – A Spiritual Retreat in the lap of the Dhauladhars near Dharamshala”

  1. I would have to agree, I would prefer the more peaceful off-the-beaten-path vibe of Sidhbari over the bustling Mc-Ladoganj. Set among the mountains and so green…no wonder it was chosen as the place where “knowledge would meet divinity, service and devotion.” I love that it was also a place to revisit childhood memories. That makes an enchanting place all the more special. I enjoyed your story, and appreciate your insights and practical tips.

  2. I am not much into spiritual retreats but postcard perfect towns and villages? Absolutely! Sidhbari looks amazing – love the mountains and the landscapes and I can totally imagine the peace one can expect in a place like that. I haven’t been to Dharamshala but I really need to go sometime. Kangra Valley is gorgeous!

  3. I love destinations off the beaten path and Sidhbari fits right in. I am glad you found peace and solace at this beautiful ashram in Sidhbari. I have never been to McLeodganj. We keep on postponing that trip for exactly the same reason you have mentioned here – the crowds. But I am so happy to see places like Sidhbari nearby. Would have never known about it had I not read this post. So, a big thank you!

    1. Thank you , Soumya. Not sure if I would be part of a retreat at an ashram , at this age, but yes, the place has reckoned me time and again.May be it has to do with my love for the mountains. I hope you get visit this place soon.Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Sidhbari looks gorgeous. I love hearing about these hidden gems and escaping huge crowds of tourists. I’m not familiar with this part of India, so as I’m planning a trip hopefully next year, I’m going to see if I can add this.

    1. I am sure Mc-Leodganj will find a place on your tour to India.You can easily visit this place from there.Hope you get to see this verdant valley of Himachal pradesh on your India visit soon.. Thanks for reading, Sarah :))

  5. The mountains and countryside look very peaceful – much better place to escape the crowds. I really liked looking at all your photos. You included some very helpful information at the end of the post to help anyone planning a visit.

  6. Lovely to read about somewhere that is less on the main tourist path or listicles! Looks like Sidhbari was the perfect antidote to crowds at McLedoganj. It looks peaceful and charming, and the lush green setting is very attractive.

  7. I visited this place during my Dharamshala trip and it was a really amazing experience. With that being said, I still honestly enjoyed your post. It made me experience the whole thing all over again through your words. Thank you for sharing this lovely article, it brought back a lot of nice memories.

  8. I’ve never heard of this destination. Thank you so much for sharing. It looks very peaceful; would love to visit one day.

  9. Wow what a great place to visit! I had not heard of it before. It sounds like truly a hidden gem. Thank you for sharing this beautiful place.

  10. It’s really sad that some obnoxious backpackers could ruin the first part of your visit. So glad that you were able to continue on to Chinmaya Tapovan and turn your family experience into a positive one with amazing views! Love how you felt reminiscent of old days and became comfortable around the beauties around you. Such a perfect ending.

  11. A lovely post! I had been to Yol years back yet the magnificence of the place continues to linger in my mind. I’m going to definitely visit Sidhbari when I go next.

  12. Meenu this is indeed postcard kinds!!! I hadnt heard about Sidhbari until I read this blog post. Its always Dharmsala that was on my mind, and yes like all hill stations, i was sure it would have its share of crowds. This is a nice tucked away place thats worth an explore, right?

  13. I was in such a pathetic mood. Reading your post and going through the pics actually took me to the place. I am sure if I get a chance to visit it would be a lifetime experience. Thanks for sharing Meenakshi 😊👍

  14. I can imagine your awe at Swamiji’s address and the wish to visit the beautiful Dhauladhars in the background in his picture. Its a beautiful place. Would like to visit it someday.

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