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.
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope you enjoyed this off-beat retreat in the lap of Dhauladhars.
Leaving you with some more captures of our Dharamshala-McLeodganj-Sidhbari trip.