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

Are you looking for information on Sidhbari ? Want to know about the Sidhbari Ashram of Chinmaya Mission in Himachal Pradesh? Wondering where Sidhbari is located? Well, then you have to the right place.

For, we have it all covered in this write-up on Sidhbari.

Interestingly, Sidhbari near Dharamshala in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, still remains elusive when it comes to listicles — 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 beautiful village of Sidhbari nearby Dharamshala, to truly experience the sheer beauty of this place against the backdrop of the Dhauladhars.

All the better, if you consider Sidhbari as your next destination for a spiritual retreat in India.

Quick links to planning a Sidhbari trip

Opt for our free-guided virtual tour, by reading this post further!

Combine your Sidhbari darshan with a trip to the Kangra fort, a Shakti Peeth, and Masroor Rock-Cut temple

Here are a few more options of paid guided tours:

Amritsar-Dalhousie-Dharamshala 6 Days Tour

Guided Buddhist Culture Tour at Dharamshala

Full Day Private Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj City Tour

Hiking Day Tour to Triund from Dharamshala

Are you a book lover? Then, I suggest you tag along these books published by the Chinmaya Mission : Chinmaya Mission Upanishads (Pack of 12) ; Chinmaya Mission – Hindu Culture Series (Pack of 9)

If you are looking for books on Indian history, then I highly recommend you read The Ocean of Churns , The Incredible History of India’s Geography, and, Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography — all written by Sanjeev Sanyal

This post may contain a few affiliate links. Read our affiliate policy for further information.

Sidhbari – an unknown gem near Dharamshala

Cloistered away from sights of tourist madhouse of Dharamshala is a quaint town named Sidhbari, on its outskirts, overlooking the Dhauladhars.

Often ignored by commercial tour agencies who savour on listicles, Sidhbari, thankfully is a bit far from the famous tourist triangle of McLeodganj-Triund-Dharamshala.

As you and me [albeit many decades back], a Hindu monk too was enchanted by this town (which then was still a nondescript village) on the banks of the rivulet Bindusaras.

He wanted a place for a retreat where knowledge could meet spirituality, service and devotion.

Thus was established the Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram of Sandeepany by Swami Chinmayananda, the famous Hindu monk.

And, being a student of the educational institution he had established and visited often, Sidhbari had always been on my cards, from school days!

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

Is McLeod Ganj overhyped?

Although, our family trip to Sidhbari was indeed a pleasant serendipity, we ended up extremely disappointed by the crowded McLeod Ganj.

Allow me to tell you why!

Yes! The misty mountain paths of McLeod Ganj are beautiful, the climate is inviting, views from here are spectacular, yet I(we) found it extremely restless, and too chaotic for us — seekers of serenity.

A majority of tourists who flock this place on weekends often behave brazenly — crisscrossing carelessly on their bikes, blocking roads, driving in inebriated stae, and haggling with peddlers all along the way to Bagsu Nag.

The less I discuss the atrocious behaviour of these ‘backpackers’, the better.

Hence, during our visit , we decided to evade from this mad-house by cutting short our visit to the ‘overtly hyped’ McLeod Ganj.

Having stayed in a calm and not so touristy Dalhousie and often finding ourselves trekking in the Singing Hills of Dainkund, I found McLeod Ganj repulsive.

Well, to not sound politically incorrect, let me just say that…may be , may be… August – September is not the best season for family travellers to visit McLeod Ganj.

For, during this family trip, the only place where we could seek some peace was inside the monastery at McLeod Ganj!

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

Bhagsu Nag water springs
Water springs near Bhagsu Nag
Sidhbari
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 McLeod Ganj and the slopes of Dharamshala, we took a detour before reaching the Yol Cantonment.

Yol was the location of a Prisoners-of-War (PoW) camp that had hosted German and Italian soldiers, during the two world wars.

While the Yol cantonment extends from the foothills of Dhauladhar across the viridescent region of Dharamshala, the Sidhbari Chinmaya ashram is strategically located between Yol and Sidhbari village.

Yol cantonment
Dhauladhars from inside the Yol Cantt
Sidhbari village
Sidhbari

Sidhbari Chinmaya Tapovan Ashram

Lush green valley against a backdrop of the majestic snow-capped Dhauladhars for company, curvy paths lined with evergreen deodars and oaks, a crisp nip in the air, is how one is greeted upon entering Sidhbari village, on the outskirts of Dharamshala.

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.

Sidhbari
Source: Chinmaya Mission Australia site

The portrait was of Chinmayananda with his hands crossed at the chest, against a backdrop of the Dhauladhars that had once adorned the wall of our prayer hall at school.

Through this portrait, he radiated a larger than life presence over the students of our school which was run by Chinmaya Mission.

” If you rest, you rust “, Swamiji has said and 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.

However, I am one of the many of my generation who has been smitten by Balakrishna Menon’s oratory skills and his flair for words that were filled with conviction.

I am fortunate to have been an audience to various spiritual discourses rendered by Balakrishna Menon aka Swami Chinmayananda during my childhood days.

He made sure the essence of Bhagavad Gita [the spiritual text of Indians] becomes a part of our daily routine.

After all, Swamiji was once an advocate, and like any good professional was awe-inspiring with his words.

So, it was but natural that he had a huge following once he took sanyas and assumed the name of Swami Chinmayananda.

Sidhbari : An ashram with aesthetics

As we entered the aesthetically designed premises of the Sidhbari ashram, 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.

For, there couldn’t be another perfect place for a spiritual retreat, other than Sidhbari.

The calm and serene Kangra valley with its many hamlets at the foothills of the Dhauladhars, can lure mortals and immortals alike!

Moreover, there seems to be an inexplicable interplay of elements of nature here at Sidhbari.

In the same village of Sidhbari lies what is commonly regarded as the meditation spot of sage Kapila, who is locally regarded as Sidh Baba owing to the mystic powers that he possessed.A reason why the village partakes his name.

Sidhbari
Interiors of the Sidhbari Sandheepany ashram
Sidhbari chinmayananda samadhi
Mahasamadhi of Gurudev with Dhauladhars in the backdrop
Sidhbari landscape
A Spiritual Window
Sidhbari chinmayananda samadhi
Statue of Gurudev

The Mahasamadhi of Gurudev

A sense of belonging pervaded, as I looked through the huge glass window of the Kerala-styled samadhi structure.

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 had chanted the revered mrutyunjay mantra for over 1008 times, praying for his speedy recovery, as Gurudev was 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 of Sidhbari Hanuman

As we exited the premises, the 22-feet gigantic statue of Hanumanji loomed large over us as if to bless us.

A glimpse of the progeny of the wind-god Vayu seemed like an apt ending to this spiritual quest of ours, as we always ended our morning prayers back in school days with a 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 should also plan a visit to the picturesque Cricket Stadium of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association.

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, take a tour of Rakkar and Khaniyara villages that are famous for shepherd hamlets and slate-industry. They are unspoilt by urbanization, with a riverine running alongside and enriched with lush forest area.

HPCA-stadium-Dharamshala-Sidhbari
HPCA stadium

You could also utilize the below customisable private tour to visit Sidhbari, as well as other places of interest in Dharamshala

Where to stay in Sidhbari

There are hostel rooms available at Sidhbari CORD nearby to the Ashram. Check with the mission office for availability

Also, CORD stands for Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development.

If you are looking for spiritual Veda classes at Sidhbari, then do contact the Chinmaya 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 ; email: ctt@chinmayamission.com

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

Sidhbari
Chamba Khed river
Sidhbari
By-pass near Nurpur
Sidhbari-ashram
Sidhbari Tapovan ashram
Sidhbari
Sidhbari
Tinted view of the distant Dhauladhars
HPCA-stadium-Dharamshala
Grey clouds hovering over the snow-clad Dhauladhars gracing the cricket stadium
Sidhbari-chamba-khed-river
Chamba Khed Riverine

McLeodganj Photo Gallery

Sidhbari
Time stands still
Sidhbari
Childhood revisited
Sidhbari
Just outside the Dalai Lama’s Monastery
Sidhbari
Revere
Sidhbari
Sidhbari
polkajunction

30 thoughts on “Sidhbari – A Spiritual Retreat in the lap of the Dhauladhars, 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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