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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

A Glimpse into our Dharamsala Experience in 20 photos

From the jungles of Tadoba in Nagpur, Maharashtra, our Summer Trip next took us to the foothills of the Dhauladhar ranges in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. We spent a little over three days in Dharamsala, driving around, exploring the region, with just one caveat – no temples; at least, not big, popular, crowded ones. That was a promise we had made to Samhith, since this was part of his birthday trip! Much as I enjoy visiting temples, this was one decision we did not regret, since there was so much more to see! 

The Dhauladhars were impressive, visible wherever we went. They stood, towering over the region, its natural protectors, challenging those who dared, to scale their peaks. We didn’t, this time, even attempt to, choosing instead, to simply view and admire them, from afar.

The Dhauladhars, as seen from one of the highest points at McLeod Ganj

The Deodar or Cedar trees, in spite of the harsh summer, were a bright, deep green, their shades and textures a beautiful sight....

Deodars at the Dal Lake

Our intention at the Bhagsu Nag temple was to visit the waterfalls, but the crowd there dissuaded us, and instead, we found more interesting aspects right outside the temple, such as this small shrine…. And thus was our ‘no temple’ rule first broken! But we didn’t mind, at least the temple wasn’t crowded!

At McLeod Ganj, I was once again fascinated by the customs and traditions of Tibetan Buddhism…

And the Tibet Museum opened my eyes to the fascinating history of the region.

A Map of Tibet at the Tibet Museum

Walking back, I found myself tempted by the beautiful jewelry sold at the many roadside shops…

The Church of St. John in the wilderness, so appropriately named, gave us a brief brush with Christianity in the region, a welcome change after all the temples and monasteries we had seen so far.

Our second day began at the Martyr’s Memorial, where I spent a lot more time watching birds, rather than the memorial itself.

The Dharamsala Cricket Stadium was the first cricket stadium I had ever been to, and was blown away by how picturesque it was…

The Gyuto Monastery was deserted when we visited, yet there was much to see and appreciate. 

At the Aghanjar Mahadev Mandir, while my son and husband were fascinated by the river which flowed behind, I found myself intrigued by these conches someone had brought here…

We spent hours drooling over the wonderful artwork at the Norbulingka Institute, wishing I could buy everything in sight….

The next day, at another small temple, home to a hot spring, the play of light on the simple shrines was the most interesting thing we saw.

That changed, at the Rock Cut Temples of Masroor, where I found myself ignoring the scorching sun, wandering around the ruins, trying to identify the deities depicted, and imagine what it would have looked like, when the boulders had been carved into temples.

That sense of astonishment continued at the Kangra Fort, where our thoughts turned over and over again to the incredible men who had built and manned such a fort. The transition from a stronghold to ruins, and now to a heritage structure speaks volumes of all those who called it home.

While at Kangra, ardent rail fans that we are, we made it a point to visit the Kangra Railway Station, and spent much time simply sitting there, relishing its old world charm.

Early the next morning, we went for a walk in the tea estates, watching birds, and later, playing in the river. What better way to end a stay in Dharamsala than relaxing thus?

Driving back to Pathankot, we stopped, at our driver’s insistence, at the Trilokinath Cave temple, where stalactites are worshipped as Shiva lingams. Breaking once again our ‘no temple’ rule, however, was much more fun, since this too, was not just a usual temple, but a cave.

However, the highlight of the trip came last, as we stopped once again, at the Nurpur Fort. This fort, which wasn’t on our itinerary, surprised us so much, that our short halt extended to over an hour!

And this was just a glimpse of our memorable tour of Himachal. Watch out for detailed posts on some of our experiences, very soon! 

P.S. It was very tempting to title this post "20 sights you shouldn't miss at Dharamsala". But then, these aren't the only twenty, or fifty or hundred sights, or sites, or places, you shouldn't miss. It is our  own experiences and our eyes that make sights memorable. I hope you will come along with me as I show you, through my next few posts, some memories, some special sights, that have stayed with us, over a month since our return. I also hope that these posts can help you visit Dharamsala and make your own memories. For those of you who have already been there, I hope they will revive your memories..... 

This post is part of my series on my #summertrip 2015, and I hope to take you along with me as I recount stories from my month long trip, which took me across the country. To get an idea of all the places I visited, and what you can hope to read about, click here.  

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  1. True, I visited these places last October, and your post revived my memories ,but I still dont have the faintest idea of the last fort u mentioned ...would like to know more about it in ur upcoming vist my blog ..i am sure u shall like my recent post on the ancestral home of the Tagores

    1. Aah, Ani, that was the surprise element, even for us! you have to wait a bit more to read about it though :D and heading straight over to your blog...

  2. sorry forgot to mention in the previous comment

  3. This post says a lot. More than Dharmshala, it says about your trip to Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.

    1. Yes, VJ.. it does... considering that I enjoyed roaming around Kangra. But, I chose to still title it Dharamsala since that was our base and we made all trips from there.

  4. Once at Dharamshala I saw a rainbow starting from snow capped mountains and ending into a village around a valley.
    That was too good to watch and it was double rainbow. Thanks for writing post which rewinds memory. Thanks again.

    1. That must have one great experience, Tushar!! glad to have rekindled that memory!

  5. It's an awesome place, visiting there is always fun. Lovely pics :)

  6. Visited Dharmashala 10 yrs Back . Amazing Place with a Lot of Spiritual Element to it . Must Visit.

    Amit lamba
    Amit lamba

  7. Hmm, you saw a totally Dharamshala :) All I saw was a half-frozen lake. But that was enough then. It gave me a lot of peace :)

    1. Hmm... we missed the half frozen lake, since it was summer :D guess it would be completely different in winter! and maybe its time for you to go again, Usha! btw, great to see all your comments :D


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