Kangra Valley Tour
Distance : 18 km south of Dharamsala, 86 km from Pathankot,
248km from Shimla
Altitude : 620m
STD : 018926
¤ The Historic Perspective
Kangra a name which spells a rich history. A capital city
which the Katoch dynasty guarded for ages. A Pandoras box which
attracted many plunderers. An alcove where bloomed the famous Kangra
school of art.
Thats Kangra. and much more.
this ancient town of Kangra, that lies overlooking the gushing
torrents of the Banganga River, a tributary of the Beas rising from
the southern slopes of the milky Dhauladhars. But saying simply that
Kangra is an ancient town is not enough; it has the distinction of
being the site of the oldest recorded war in human history. The Rig
Veda (approximately 1200 BC), one of the oldest texts in the world,
mentions the 12-year war between Divodas (king of the Aryans) and
Shambar (king of the hill regions when the Aryans first arrived in
India) being fought here. That was around 1500 BC. The land also
figures in innumerable episodes of history, legends and folklore. It
even finds a mention in Alexanders (around 326 BC) war records.
The great Indian epic Mahabharata cites this wonderful Kangra as
The present name Kangra given to this area is not very
old. It came into vogue in the late medieval period and is supposedly
derived from the term kan-ghara (a place where ears are cast). But it
is not known why the term came to be applied to this place, probably
because of some long-lost legend or folktale.
¤ Main Attractions
Today Kangra is also known as Bhawan or Nagarkot. Bhawan because of
the Bajreshwari Devi Temple, and Nagarkot because of the fort
Nagarkot. The cruel earthquake of 1905 saw to it that Nagarkots
impermeability became a thing of the past. The place where the
dilapidated fort mutely stands is called Purana Kangra or Old Kangra.
The other attractions of the town are the Gorakh Dibbi Temple, the old
Jain Temple and the Gupt Ganga Temple.
Although Kangra served as the hotbed of power in the olden times, all
the hustle-bustle of a capital city has now shifted elsewhere
to Dharamsala, the present district headquarter. Leaving Kangra with
memories of a glorious past and making for a destination par
¤ The Kangra School of Miniature Painting
Various schools of miniature painting, collectively called Pahari,
flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries in the sub-Himalayan
The hilly region, then divided into 22 princely states, was ruled by
Rajput kings or chieftains who were all great connoisseurs of art,
with most of them maintaining ateliers.
The focal points of their lives were war, hunting, lineage, and the
zenana. Also partial to love themes, especially the legends of Radha
and Krishna, the Rajputs liked them depicted in their paintings.
¤ Pahari Paintings
The early Pahari paintings of the mid-17th century were in the Basholi
style (dubbed so because of its association with the king of Basholi).
These are extraordinarily colourful and charged with vitality and
Two persistent strains can be observed a fondness for the
portraits of the local rajas in plain white garments and for the gods
of the Hindu pantheon.
The paintings bear resemblance to Rajasthani and Malwa paintings but
this can be attributed to the fact that the kings of the princely
states in Himachal were Rajputs.
Some of the telling characteristics are the use of extremely elegant
two-dimensional architectural settings topped by domes or pavilions,
bands of scrollwork pattern and the use of elaborately figured rugs.
There are many striking works in this genre as the Basholi style, with
its strong indigenous Indian element, is well suited to the portrayal
of many-headed Shivas and many-armed Durgas (figures from the vast
stockpile of Indian mythology).
¤ Basholi Style Paintings
The coming of painters from the Mughal court in the second quarter of
the 18th century (due to the decline of the Mughal Empire) led to a
complete transformation of the existing Basholi style. There was a
wholesale ferrying in of Mughal style and fashion, from dress to
architecture to the arts. The resultant was the Guler-Kangra style.
The style owes a great deal to later Mughal painting, particularly in
its receding planes, its fondness for quasi-realistic landscape and
its frequent enlargement of the figures on the page. This late Pahari
style first appeared in Guler, and then in Kangra. Raja Goverdhan
Singh (1744-1773) of Guler gave shelter to many artists.
Under the ambitious Sansar Chand (1775-1823) of the great Katoch
dynasty, the Kangra School flourished happily. It is said that Sansars
love for a gaddi (a tribe of Chamba-Kangra region) maiden drove him to
commission the paintings. Nagarkot or Kangra Fort, where he held court
for nearly 25 years, was adorned greatly with paintings and it
attracted art lovers from far and wide. Later he moved his capital to
Nadaun and finally to Sujanpur Tira. The temples and palaces at each
of these places were also adorned with lovely miniatures. The 1905
earthquake damaged many of these buildings but you can still see some
of the miniature wall paintings.
The Kangra style is by far the most poetic and lyrical of Indian
styles, says art historian J. C. Harle. His favourite subject here is
the idealization of woman, in flowing sari, head half-covered
with a shawl, demure but stately, passionate and shy.
The more complex many-figured compositions usually larger and
horizontal in format tend to illustrate events from the Krishna
legend the cowherd god putting out a forest fire, subduing the
serpent Kaliya, or stealing the clothes of gopis (milkmaids of Braj)
while they were bathing in the river. The ability to handle large
groups of figures and landscapes with towns or clusters of houses in
the distance is admirable. Apart from intricate brushwork, Kangra
miniatures are characterized by the skillful use of brilliant mineral
and vegetable extract colours that possess an enamel-like lustre. But
the strangest thing about these hill paintings is that youll
never find snow-capped mountains in them!
Research shows that while the Kangra style became well-entrenched in
the Hills, many offshoots emerged in regions like Kullu, Nurpur,
Chamba and Mandi. The Bhuri Singh Museum in Chamba is best-known for
its exquisite collection of Pahari miniatures.
¤ Fairs & Festivals
This festival is celebrated only in the Kangra district in the month
of March/April. Clay figurines of Shiva and Parvati are worshipped by
young unmarried girls who dress up in their finery and gather around a
heap of grass to sing and dance. After being worshipped for 10 days,
the figurines are immersed in a pond or river on the first day of
Vaisakha or Baisakhi (13th April).
The festival is held to commemorate the tragic death of a beautiful
young girl called Rali. It is said that Rali was engaged to Shankar, a
boy much younger than her, but came to know about it (the fact that he
was younger) only on the day of the marriage. Overcome with grief and
resentment, she decided to end to her life. But before doing so she
called upon god to be considerate to all marriageable girls so that
they find suitable matches. Well, strange as it might sound, marriage
between a younger boy and elder girl is taboo in traditional Indian
Though celebrated in many northern states, this agrarian festival is
celebrated differently in different regions of Himachal. Generally
held on the first of Baisakh (13th April), it is called Bissu or
Bisha. It signifies vigour and vitality and serves as a ritual before
the onset of the harvesting season. Burning the jhalra a pile
of dry twigs with a pole bearing a conical bamboo basket erected in
the middle is an important ritual. It is set afire in the
morning as young boys sing and dance around it.
Haryali means greenery, and in the Kangra Valley, it is the festival
that celebrates rain. Since good rain means a good harvest and
prosperity, it is important to keep the rain god happy. Haryali is
celebrated on the first of Shravana (July 16). Some 10 days before
this, seeds of five or seven grains (wheat, barley and the like) are
mixed together and sown ceremoniously by the head of the family or the
family priest in a small basket filled with earth. A day before the
festival, Shiva and Parvati are ritually married as their union brings
fertility to the world. Clay images of the divine couple are placed in
the midst of sprouting grain to the chant of, "O Haryali, may
thou ever remain in the green fields..."
Sair is basically thanksgiving for abundant rainfall and is
celebrated in September/October. Traditionally, a barber goes round
the village with a galgal (fruit in a basket) announcing the coming of
the festival. Men, women and children bow to this sacred fruit which
is considered an emblem of the fruits of harvest about to be reaped.