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Friday, 26 May 2017

Kamru Fort ,Sangla(Kinnaur)....History along the Baspa valley

  The tall dark coloured tower of the Kamru Fort stood out clearly in the white backdrop of the mighty snow capped ranges as we looked up from the main market place of Sangla .The colour of the structure was enough to tell its age and spoke of years of supremacy that it had enjoyed.Not much had changed since then,only a few houses which sprung around it ,at places replacing wood and stone with concrete now.The houses were probably of the distant kins of the kings of the erstwhile Bushair kingdom who ruled there thousands of years ago. The Baspa(a tributary of the Sutlej) still flows in all its elegance,and the mighty ranges stand tall even today fortifying the people in its folds.Talking about the people ,their faith in the mountains Gods remain as firm as ever.


     Over the years I have developed a strong liking for places which relate to history,the  more ancient the structures are ,the more I am lured towards them,to the extent that our manager at the hotel at Sangla ended up asking, if I am doing some research in archaeology.The place with  its abundant beauty ,a 360 degree view of the snow capped mountains and the mere feeling of staying so close to nature should have been more than enough for an urban dweller like me.  But a constant harping to an already irked driver, resulted in him leaving us till the last motorable spot on the way to Kamru fort. And then a steep climb through the houses on the mountain slopes,with an overcast  sky above and rain drenched steps finally took us panting to our destination.  Kamru Fort finally happened. It was worth all the effort and left us with no scope to repent for.


An abandoned shrine at Kamru fort

  The cluster of houses that we saw around us was actually the village of Kamru which is at a distance of 2 kilometres from the tourist hub Sangla.Climbing the path was strenuous,but the surroundings was a scene to behold. Apple orchards,walnut and apricot trees lined our paths .The apple blossoms made us promise to ourselves that we shall be back again to this land of gods in the harvest season. Cosy little wooden houses along the slopes painted the perfect postcard with the mighty ranges behind.




Apple orchards



And finally the gates of the fort with wooden carvings on either sides of Gods and Goddesses carved to perfection.A Buddhist temple welcomes us,each shrine intricately carved out of wood.We look right and surprisingly in the very same premises stands the most important Hindu temple of the region.The temple of Badri Vishal (a Shiva temple).




























The temple of Badri Vishal


Intrigued as we were ,we looked around for someone to answer our many questions.We had visited the place in the odd hours of the afternoon when the temple was closed(both the Hindu and the Buddhist temple are opened during the mornings). Though we could not get darshan  ,this seemed to be a blessing in disguise as we had the whole place to ourselves ,in complete silence, to appreciate its oneness with nature.









This was the first time in the trip that we had come across this kind of an amalgamation of the two religions .We soon learnt that due to the proximity with Tibet and a very long standing trade relation with the country , the people in the mid Kinnaur valley follow a unique mix of the two religions.

Fascinated , enlightened and undoubtedly uplifted, we left the temple premises to climb a few more steps to the fort tower.




    A five story ancient structure made out of wood and stone stood there overlooking the entire valley.It was built in the typical architectural style of the valley.Entry to the tower was strictly restricted only to the priest.In front of the tower was the shrine of Goddess Kamakhya Devi.  The idol is believed to be brought by the kings of Kamru from Assam.We were at the stronghold of the Bushair kings.


The shrine of Kamakya devi at Kamru



An old door at the Fort


The history of Kamru
Kinnaur was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Bushair. Kamru was the capital of the Bushair kingdom which was later shifted to Sarahan and then to Rampur,which are places lying in the lower Kinnaur  Valley.The tower and the fifteenth century old temple of Badri Vishal were made by the then kings of Kamru.


Sangla is close to the ancient trade route to Tibet.Years of trade with  Tibet has left a indelible mark on the people of this region .With the infusion of people from Tibet the place saw a slow change in their culture ,food habits ,clothing ,looks and most undeniably ,the religion.
One can only wish that the blessed Dev Bhumi remains just the same with all its beauty,simplicity and beliefs.

Places to visit in Sangla
Sangla in itself is a beautiful village set above the right bank of Baspa. From the entire trip to the Kinnaur valley  I can infer that one need not visit any places of interest in particular.The entire valley is replete with clusters of houses ,fields and orchards ,lending so splendid a scenery that one can spend few days simply relaxing in the hotel.Almost all places to stay are located in marvellous locations with wonderful views of the magnificent snow capped ranges of the Kinner Kailash.
The places to visit in or near Sangla are-
The Kamru Fort
The Bering Nag Temple 
Batseri village(deserves a separate post...coming soon)


View of Sangla from the Kamru Fort


Sangla is at a distance of approximately 240 kms. from Shimla,and is a7 hours drive from Shimla.Natural beauty apart it is an important place in the Kinnaur valley as it is equipped with restaurants, petrol pumps,ATMs, medical facilities ,bars, etc.Though it does not own a HPTDC property it has numerous other staying options.A stay of 3 nights and four days can be optimum for a relaxed visit to the place and the sorrounding places of interest .One can stay in Sangla and visit the nearby places like Raksham  ,Chitkul, Batseri, etc.
Sangla to Raksham-14 kilometres
Sangla to Chitkul-22 kilometres
Sangla to Bastseri_7 Kilometres










Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Papu Dhaba ...The remarkable food joint in Kinnaur

Narkanda to Sangla is a wearing journey . We had a late breakfast of alu parathas on the way. In about an hours time we would reach Sangla.The roads had started becoming very treacherous.We had started dozing off in the car, when the driver announced that we shall stop at Tapri for  lunch.We were still not hungry for lunch,so we asked our driver "Sangla me lunch nahi milega kya"(Shall we not get lunch at Sangla?).   He answered without hesitation "Milega,lekin is jaisa nehi milega"(You will get lunch in Sangla but not as good as  this).  Reluctantly we dragged ourselves out of the car for lunch and got seated at the wooden benches.
Related posts    Sangla in the Kinnaur Valley
                      Rakcham,The mesmerizing Himalayan Village 





  Suddenly everything seemed to speed up.The plates and soon the food. Hot rotis and curry in a separate bowl followed soon.Typical Indian vegetarian fare is the menu,like chana, matar, rajma and dal.The taste of the food at this place is nothing but home cooked.


 As customers keep streaming in steadily ,they are ushered in by the ever smiling waiters who show them a table.One will not fail to notice the waiters who are always ready to cater to all small demands made by the people at the table.The tables never go empty as tourists and locals throng to the place in equal numbers.


The taste of the food was homecooked and so was the service ,as the hot rotis are served straight from the tawa to the plate one at a time. Papu ji ,the owner of the place can be seen standing there and keeping watch ,so that none of his guests go unattented. He makes it a point to ask every single customer if there is something they needed more. In just one meal we could make out that this nondescript place in a small hamlet in Kinnaur ,neither compromised on quality nor quantity .





  This place has been serving hungry souls on the difficult mountain roads for over three decades now(as he keeps repeating the statement to all) and has become a landmark of sorts in the village Tapri. A name synonymous with Tapri ,where you can always spot the septuagenarian standing tall, lovingly giving saunf (fennel seeds)to his guests ,as he collects the money from them.No wonder ,for his ubiquitous presence and warm hospitality ,Papu Dhaba has found a place in the maps of Kinnaur.



  Tapri is a small village on the banks of the Sutlej on NH 22 ,which comes soon after one crosses Wantu village while coming from Shimla to Kalpa .On your way back from  Kalpa ,Tapri comes after Urni village on the same road. You shall find this dhaba at the main market place on the highway.
I would highly recommend this place for lunch,where you are served food tasting as good as home for a modest eighty rupees and dollops of care for free.

 Sangla or Kalpa are places in the Kinnaur Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh.Known as the best apple producing region in the state,Kinnaur with its mesmerizing beauty is also called Devbhumi,a place gifted by the gods.


I regret the hastily clicked photographs of the post.

You may also read-  Mcleodganj in its splendour
                               -Kangra fort..history in the lap of nature 
                               -Temples of the Himachal