The Saga of Rewalsar and Naggar- under the mystic spell of rain

Last August in 2014 when the entire nation was celebrating Independence day with pomp and gaiety, we chose to free our souls in the wilderness. We planned for a short four days trip,as usual to the mountains,to two lesser known destinations in Himachal Pradesh,Rewalsar and Naggar. This time we were a small group of six, we three and our family friend Jayanta Da, his wife Satarupa and their kid, sweet little Khusi.We started from Delhi at around 4 in the afternoon in our most reliable Santro and Jayanta Da in his grand Honda City for his maiden trip to the himalayas. It was planned that we would take a night halt at Kurukshetra and next day early morning would move towards Rewalsar. But terrible traffic jam in Delhi ruined all our plans and by the time we reached Kurukshetra, it was too late to check in to a hotel. So we decided to move on. Everything was fine and we reached smoothly to Swarghat via Chandigarh at the dawn hours enjoying a night long drive. But who could apprehend what was waiting for us. Two days of incessant rain caused landslides in places washing away half of the roads in the hills. As a result there was a huge traffic snarl. Thousands of vehicles were stranded on the road and we were a part of that never ending serpentile queue. Time passed on and we were inside our car, practically starving. By the time we reached Bilaspur it was almost 11 in the morning. We halted in the Lake View hotel of HPTDC for breakfast feeling relieved as only 65 kms were left to reach Rewalsar. The sky was more or less clear and we were really happy. But we were ill fated. No sooner we reached Mandi, rain started pouring in heavily. It was very tough for Subhransu to drive through the water logged hilly roads.Anyhow by God’s grace we could make to our destination. But like a silver lining to our ill fate we enjoyed the last lap of our journey,driving through narrow winding hilly roads with thick lush green vegetation. At one place we saw a gushing waterfalls at a stone’s throw and were enthusiastic enough to take some nice pictures of it.

This waterfall was  just beside the road

The road was very narrow and completely deserted.Jayanta Da was very scared and started to believe that we had been lost.Somehow we reached Rewalsar at last.It was almost afternoon and both Jayanta Da and Subhransu were on the verge of collapsing after driving 23 hours at a stretch.But as soon as we entered the hotel premises of Tourist Inn all our fatigue and desperation vanished.This HPTDC hotel complex is most strategically located just by the side of the holy Rewalsar lake with a beautiful colossal architecture.

 

This is Rewalsar

 

A part of the HPTDC “Tourist Inn” at Rewalsar

 

Rakhi infront of the Beautiful building of “Tourist Inn”

 

Rewalsar is a small holy tourist spot encompassing a beautiful lake.Rewalsar Lake, or Tso Pema Lotus Lake, is a mid-altitude lake located on a mountain spur in Mandi district, 22.5 km from Mandi at an altitude of 1306 mts from the sea level.

The lake is square shaped surrounded  with dense green woodland and high hills. It is held as a sacred spot for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists with three Buddhist monasteries,  three Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Krishna,  Lord Shiva and to the sage Lomas.
Rewalsar is associated with the escape of ‘Pandavas’ from the burning palace of wax—an episode from the epic Mahabharata. It was from here that the great Indian teacher and `Tantric` Padmasambhava left for Tibet. There are islands of floating reed on Rewalsar lake and the spirit of Padmasambhava is said to reside in them.

The sacred Rewalsar lake

We checked in the hotel and at the first glance I liked it very much. Our room was on the first floor, a big cosy one with a spacious balcony facing the beautiful emerald lake with thick coat of greens all around. Just on the left hand side of our hotel was the old Buddhist monastery with a gigantic gorgeous statue of Guru Padmasambhava standing erect amidst the small residential buildings of the Buddhist monks. We were relentlessly tired and hungry too. So I first ordered for food. After a refreshing bath and modest but sumptuous meal of rice, dal and sabji plunged into the bed to compensate our night long sleep. How time ran out we hardly could realise but woke up with the mystic sound of the prayer bells from the  Buddhist monastery. I peeped through the window to have a look all around but hardly could see anything. It was pitch dark outside with very tiny pale lights flickering from the monasteries, temples and buildings placed all around the lake.Rakhi and Subhransu went out to visit the monastery while I opted to stay indoors.But they returned soon as rain had started. After a quick dinner with chicken chow mein we went to sleep. The noise of the raindrops rolling down the tin roof shades of our room,on the brimming lake,over the tree leaves near-by,were indeed very romantic but I could hardly relish those moments. I was rather very sad to apprehend what was waiting for us for the entire trip,specially was panicked to guess the road conditions which were already in a bad state.  Gradually the intensity of rain increased and went on and on. It seemed that a deluge would take place and I fantasised to take shelter in a Noah’s Arc.

The majestic statue of Guru Padmasambhava beside the lake

The next day morning we woke up at a sudden knock at our balcony door.I came out in the balcony and to my surprise discovered a monkey. But he was not alone,there were bunch of them all over the place rampaging everything. The sun was smiling everywhere. Rain had stopped and the sky was clear. I thanked God to be so merciful. We quickly got ready and stepped out of the hotel complex to explore this small but significant place.First we had breakfast from one of the Tibetian joints just outside our hotel beside the monastery. There were a few locals and a couple of foreigners at that hour in the morning. Then we visited the monastery, the temples and the Gurudwara one by one.
The beauty of the serene lake was mesmerising and we wished to stay a little longer here but had no options only to move on,as our itinerary was pre planned

Rakhi and Khusi at Rewalsar inside the tourist complex

We were all in high spirits as the sun was shining brightly and there were no traces of ominous clouds anywhere in the sky. But yesterday’s rain already had done a lot of damage to the roads. The shorter route from Rewalsar to Mandi was washed away in parts and so we had to take the same route to Mandi via Nerchowk. I noticed that by this time Jayanta Da had become more accustomed to uphill driving and he was practically enjoying every bit of his drive. Two of our cars ran through the hilly paths of Mandi full with potholes and mud. Just outside the town we again had to face a traffic jam, but this time a much smaller one. Slowly the nature started revealing its glory. I was not well since morning down with nausea and acidity.But the fresh cool air of the mountains relieved my problem quite a bit.The road was indeed very picturesque with river Beas dancing all along on one side and the mighty barren mountains standing high on the other. Suddenly at one point of the road we saw gallons of white foamy water gushing out of the mountain crevice falling from a great height to the river Beas .This magnificient anonymous waterfall on the roadside made us spellbound. We stopped to take some snaps

This massive outbursts of water was flowing down the river Beas

 

This was the anonymous gigantic waterfall on the way to Pandoh

 

Rakhi by the side of Beas on our way to Naggar

Subhransu was driving at a speed of nearly 60kms/hr in that hilly terrain. The weather was very pleasant and soon we crossed the historic Pandoh tunnel and reached Aut.From here We took the left hand road towards Kullu. The right hand road leads to the Tirthan Valley in Banjar, one of the most fascinating places in Himachal Pradesh. It was noon and all our stock of food including fresh oranges were finished. So we decided to have our lunch at a dhaba by the river side. The location of the dhaba was mind blowing but the food was horrible.Anyways food never seems to be my priority when I am in the mountains. I try to devour all the essence of the nature through my six senses. Gradually we crossed Bhuntar, passed by the small cute airport and soon entered the Kullu valley. The town was bubbling with local people , their rustic charm, their colorful dresses added extra fervour. Kullu also known as Valley of Gods is a district in Himachal Pradesh with number of important Government buildings,schools,offices,shops etc. On the contrary it still retains its past glory of the Rajas and their rule having a number of noted temples and the significant Dholpur ground where Dasshera is celebrated each year with enormous pomp. Satarupa was extremely eager to do some shopping from here specially the famous Kullu shawls but we promised her to halt while we return as we were already running out of time. We crossed the new bridge over the Beas river and left Kullu town and took the by – pass road. After travelling a few kilometers through the dusty hilly road we turned right and headed towards our next destination -Naggar. From here the road is extremely beautiful with the river Beas just by our side and acres of apple orchards on both sides of the valley. It was the month of August and so the trees were in full bloom with scarlet red and fluorescent green golden luscious  apples. We were jubilant and little Khusi was very eager to pluck a few but we cautioned her showing the big hound dogs keeping a constant vigil on the orchards.But truly speaking the child in me was also very much eager to pluck some of those red apples from the trees but could not.Within an hour we reached Naggar.

Picturesque road leading to Naggar

 

The dancing Beas on the way to Naggar

 

Apple orchards in Naggar with full bloom

Situated on the left bank of river Beas at an altitude of 1851m, Naggar is an ancient town commanding extensive views, especially to the North West of the valley. Naggar was the former capital of Kullu. It was founded by Raja Visudhpal and continued as a headquarters of the State until the capital was transferred to Sultanpur (Kullu) by Jagat Singh in 1460 A.D.
Located in Naggar Town, amidst breathtaking forested hills, the Naggar Castle is a magnificent historical edifice. This medieval wood and stone mansion with intricate designs is presently a heritage hotel of HPTDC and for the next two days we would be staying here.

This is Naggar-a small sleepy hilly hamlet

 

The Naggar castle can be viewed from here

The entrance of the hotel is just bang on the roadside with an ornately crafted wooden gate. We checked in the hotel room,ours being the River View Suite at the end of the long corridor facing the Beas valley. Each and every room has a suitable name and is refurbished accordingly. Our room was a big, cosy one with a royal feel and specially the bathroom needs a special mention, built in dark black marble with sparkling white toilet fittings. Rakhi and I decided to dress ourselves with regal touch to match with the flavour of the hotel. It was afternoon and we had some snacks in a shop just opposite to the Castle. The sun was setting and the air was cool. All the five of our group wanted to stroll in the uphill road while I came back to my hotel room.

The Naggar Castle

 

View of the Castle from the road

 

The Castle inside

 

The beautifully carved Entrance of the Castle

 

The Reception of the Castle straight ahead

 

The Centre of the Castle with the temple on the left

 

Silver Door handle of the Royal Era

 

The majestic corridor

 

Our suite in the castle

 

Inside our River View Suite

 

View of the valley from the balcony

 

Rakhi-the princess inside the Castle

The Naggar Castle was converted into a rest house, a hundred year back and in 1978 this ancient building was handed over to HPTDC to run as a heritage hotel. This medieval Castle was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu around 1460 A.D. The hotel overlooks the Kullu Valley and apart from the spectacular view and superb location this has a flavour of authentic western Himalayan architecture. Here, a gallery houses the paintings of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.
I plunged into the king sized bed in our suite and soon fell asleep. After a short while they all returned exploring the place quite a bit. By then the sun had completely set in.I came out in the balcony to experience a magical scene.The distant valley was all covered with a thick blanket of darkness and the lights from the village houses far away were shining like stars. It was a mystic ambience and we wished to celebrate that moment.Subhransu and Jayanta Da arranged for drinks and snacks. Hours rolled on and we with scotch in our glasses were enraptured by the buzzing sound of the crickets from the near by trees amidst the eerie silence of the nature. The dim wall lamps under the ornate shades in the corridor added a hypnotic touch to that moment.Soon it was our dinner time, where another surprise was waiting for us. The dining room was on the upstairs of another portion of the castle facing a huge courtyard  with a lone ” Bottle Brush” tree at the centre. But the staffs of the castle had already arranged our food on the balcony outside the dining. Chandeliers of the bygone era were hanging from the wooden ceiling, candles burning on the walls, exquisitely beautiful mahogany chairs being well arranged and well ironed white table covers draping on the Sal tables…and we were greeted with a warm smile from the staffs of the castle. Food was served… Matar mushrooms,  Paneer Pasanda, Green salad and hot fulkas.The sight of the food was indeed very tempting.The balcony was facing the vast Kullu valley drenched in black with stars glittering all over. An awesome silence prevailed with only the rippling of the river Beas far at the valley piercing through our ears. We were speechless That night I had a blissful sleep.

The lone tree at the centre of the courtyard

 

The View from the upstairs of the Castle

 

Rakhi there

 

Subhransu inside the Castle

 

Looking at the greens all around the Castle

 

Royal Feeling inside the Castle

 

We at the courtyard

 

Smiling Khusi

 

Well maintained Castle
One part of the Castle with Subhransu

 

The rear view of the Castle

 

Our cars being parked outside the Castle
The Kullu valley at night seen from our balcony

Next day morning we woke up little late and was in a lackadaisical mood. After a heavy breakfast we all set out by foot to explore the Naggar valley.Rakhi and Khusi were at the best of their mood and were like free birds. First we sawthe JAGATIPATT TEMPLE inside the upper courtyard of the castle adjacent to our suite. Inside this small temple there is a small square structure which contains “Jagtipatt” a slab of stone measuring 5’x8’x6″ which is said to have been brought from a place near Vashisht by honey bee. This is also place for meeting of local deities of Kullu.

Jagatipatt temple inside the Castle

Then we went to TRIPURA SUNDRI TEMPLE situated in the upper part of the village.This is a pagoda shaped wooden temple with intricate wooden carvings. The deity inside is Tripura Sundari or Devi Durga.
Subhransu was busy with his camera capturing both the architecture of this small temple as well as the mischievousness of Rakhi and Khusi.

Tripura Sundari temple

 

Another view

 

Me at the entrance of this beautifully carved wood and stone temple

Next we walked through the narrow uphill road to visit the most important place of Naggar- NICHOLAS ROERICH’S ART GALLERY.About 2km above the castle is this famous Roerich Gallery , the former home of noted Russian painter, spiritualist, Inner Asian explorer Nikolai Roerich, who died in Naggar in 1947. His residence had been converted to an art gallery.The lower floors display some of Roerich’s surreally colourful landscapes, while the upper floors preserve the artist’s private rooms. The 1930 Dodge car of Roerich outside the house should not be missed.We were engrossed by the creation of this world renowned artist.Then walked deep down hill through dense woods to see his grave rested in utter silence and peace.A five minute walk uphill from the gallery is the Urusvati  Himalayan Folk & Art Museum which houses ethnological artefacts and photos of early days of the Himalayan Research Institute.

Rakhi at the entrance of  the Nicholas Roerich’s Art Gallery
We two infront of the gallery

 

The Art Gallery
JayantaDa.Rakhi and Khusi on the way to the grave of Roerich
The stone grave of Nicholas Roerich

It was late noon and we were severely hungry specially Khusi who wanted to taste authentic pizza from a near-by Italian restaurant. This place has a quite few  European food joints serving authentic foods as lots of foreigners often visit this beautiful hamlet called Naggar. They prefer to stay in the near by home stays and cottages.The restaurant was closed so we preferred to have Chinese in our lunch at another food joint

All girls in Naggar
Little Sonakshi-the daughter of the restauranter where we had lunch

Nowadays a lot of tourists flock in to Naggar, most of them are day visitors from Manali. For them the Naggar Castle charge an entry fee of meagre 30 rupees.The castle is itself a masterpiece of art and architecture with a museum in it.There is also a souvenir shop inside the castle with a decent collection of Kullu handicrafts and hand loom textiles. I was exploring each and every nook of the castle.The weather was perfect and there was a huge rush of visitors. Some of them even peeped through our suite unknowingly. It was a real fun to explain to them that these are rooms in the castle and they are trespassing our privacy.Slowly the day came to an end and we all were feeling sad. That night we again experienced the majestic dinner in the most fascinating surrounding. It was an unforgettable night.

The sun has set in Naggar

 

Illuminated hilly path infront of the Castle

Next day we had to leave. ..so quickly cleared the hotel bills and by 10 in the morning started from Naggar to reach Swarghat by day time where we would take a night halt and reach Delhi the day after.The wheels of our car started rolling on and I breathlessly gazed at the Castle for the last time, not to bid good bye but to promise myself to return back soon.Each and every moment spent here in this wood and stone mansion was whispering into my ears making me pensively joyous. Our cherished two days stay in this Naggar Castle would remain in my memory for years to come. It was a true Soul safar. ….

The Dining area where we had a magical experience

 

From our balcony

 

Intricately carved wood and stone mansion

 

We three infront of the castle

 

Our Gang in the Trip

 

Jayanta Da,Satarupa and little Khusi with their Honda City-Maiden drive to the Himalayas
Wish to come back here again!!!
The distant Kullu valley seen from the Castle-

Adieu Naggar

 

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