McLeodganj is a small settlement/village, near Dharamshala in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh and boasts of breathtaking view of the Dhaulandhar range. The Ravi rivers presents a mesmerizing sight sauntering in the beautiful valley below. The place hosts a large population of Tibetans and is still an unexplored tourist destination.

People sit in these peaceful corridors and meditate

It is home to the Namgyal Monestary which is the home to the Dalai Lama. And if you are really lucky, you can even see The Dalai Lama during one of his visits.

Monks coming out during their break

The narrow and steep lanes with a row of shops and houses leaves one with an intrigued impression.

There are many places to visit nearby.

  1. Dharamsala – It is the major city in the Kangra Valley. McLeodganj is up ahead in the suburbs. Dharamsala is also famous for the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium.
Stunning view at the HPCA stadium – Dharamsala

2. Bhagsugnag Falls – It is about 11kms from Dharamsala and is a fresh water spring. Bhagsugnag temple is located at the base and is a Shiv temple. The climb to the waterfall is steep but not very long. It is located in a slate quarry surrounded by pine trees.

3. Panchpulla – It is another waterfall nearby and can be easily reached by road. This one is a popular picnic spot and has a few water sports in the pond below. Completely overwhelmed with nature, the place calm and serene surrounded by mountains and trees and there are treks leading to the nearest town of Dalhousie. The water of this stream has medicinal properties. The climb is not as stiff as Bhagsugnag but it has no real steps or pathway to climb up.

It’s best to visit during the monsoons when the water is gushing through the mountain

4. Dal Lake – This is a small scenic lake near the Tota Rani Village and is a mid-altitude lake. The lake has a variety of fish in it. The water appears greenish. There is a Shiv temple in the vicinity. It is surrounded by trees and the mere calm of the ambience takes you in a different world.

Dal Lake, McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh
Fish in the lake

5. Hanuman ka Tibba – This is the highest peak of the Dhaulandhar range.

Unfortunately at the time we went there, the peak was covered with clouds and mist, so we couldn’t get a clear view.

We stayed at Norbu House in Mcleodganj. It was an amazing experience. It is quite close to the market main road and the Namgyal monestry. Also do try out the Tibetan recipes which are not only easy on the taste-buds but appetizing as well.

The mini Tibetan market is on the McLeodganj main road and has a good collection of artifacts, shawls, and other native craft.

Best time to visit is summer and monsoon. The roads are inaccessible during winter due to snow.


Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu

Hoysaleswara Temple

Halebidu is a town located in Karnataka and is the home to the Hoysalsewara Temple or the Halebidu Temple. This 12th century Hindu temple is famous for its rich architecture and has one of the most beautiful monolithic Nandi Statues in the world.

The word Halebidu means – Dilapidated Village. The original name of this Hoysaleswar capital was Dwarsamudra. The temple was under construction when the capital city was invaded and destroyed. The work of the temple was resumed later and it took almost 195 years and 4 generations to get it to this stage. It was abandoned thereafter. This fact is in accordance to the variance in the carving inside the temple.

It is, in fact, a twin temple with Shiv Linga in both the sanctums. They are identical, one for the Queen and one for the King to worship and are joined in the centre. Hence the dual monolithic Nandi statues outside.

King’s Nandi

The intricate decor of the Nandis differ, signifying the difference in King’s and Queen’s idols. The King’s Nandi is one foot taller than the Queen’s and their posture and jewellery designs too, vary.

Queen’s Nandi

The outer walls are carved with 12 different borders/levels. The 1st one starting from below, shows elephants which signifies strength. 2nd one has lions, signifying courage. 3rd has a decorative pattern whereas the 4th depicts the king’s army in the form of the horsemen. 5th band is again a decorative pattern followed by the 6th one showing the major episodes of Ramayana and the Mahabharata. 7th band shows the imaginary animal from heaven and 8th one depicts swans and peacocks. The daily life of people and their work is shown in the 9th level whereas, the 10th one denotes scenes of festivals, rituals and culture of that time. 11th border of the Temple is a depiction of Artha, Dharma, Karma and also shows some images related to courtship. 12th level is that of huge carvings of various God and Goddesses of Hindu dharma.

Outer walls of the Hoysleswara Temple
Shiv-Parvati can be seen on extreme right whereas Lord Brahma is seen towards the left.
The outer walls are all intricately carved and each carving shows the grandeur of the craftsmen’s imagination and skill
Beautiful murals and amazing handcraft

Inside there are different mandapas, whose ceilings are carved with images of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses with respect to the direction in which they are believed to reside. For example, Lord Kuber resides in the North, Yama in the South, Indra in the East and Varun in the west.

Also the outer walls have carvings of Lord Karthikeya and the entire Shiv family together.

The Ganas or the gatekeepers of Lord Shiva carved on the entrance of the King’s side of the temple

In short, it’s a temple whose walls tell tales of the Hindu beliefs and culture with it’s magnificent architecture and is in league with the famous temples of Khajuraho and the Sun Temple of Odisha.

Ram-Ravana war

There is an appending museum which displays various relics from the 12th century. Museum entry ticket is 5/- per head and no charge for children.

Car Parking -Paid parking is available outside the main gate

Shoe stand is available inside below the main temple stairs with a nominal fees of 10/-

Tranquil surroundings of the Hoysaleswara Shiv Temple

Do hire a government recognised tour guide to learn more about the minute details in the architecture for a nominal fee. Avoid visiting the place during summer as the stone structure would be really hot.

Find out more about this place – click here.

Bidar Fort

Bidar, Karnataka

Bidar Fort is located in north Karnataka. It was built by Bahmani Sultan Ahmed Shah in the 15th century and is believed to be among the most formidable forts in India.

Lawn at the entrance of the fort

The speciality of this fort is it’s unusual defence features. It was built by the Turkish soldiers and has many entrances and zig-zag passageways. There is a triple moat surrounding the fort. There are numerous tunnels and underground halls/chambers that made escape easy during emergencies.

One unique feature is the well guarded Mandu Darwaza. Its entrance is through a tunnel!

The fort is a sprawling structure with a 55 Km thick wall that encloses various monuments like the Takth Mahal, Rangeen Mahal, Gagan Mahal, the royal kitchen, Diwan-e-Aam etc.

Bidar Fort

The rooms are mostly sealed off keeping safety in mind. However, a peep inside does reveal some underground stairways.

Fort Main Gate

It is picturesque and the sunsets are lovely. Click away to your delight.

Main courtyard

The place is very well maintained, neat and clean. There is a small museum at the entrance.

A lot of South movies were shot in these magnificent ruins.

Narrow staircase leading to the upper floor

Look we found one of the curious passageways.

Another staircase leading to some underground chamber
Way to Diwan-e-aam
Ruins with mysterious tunnels
A well

Also, the water harvesting system is unique and extensive. It is based on the historic water harnessing technique of Persia. There is an intrinsic layout of underground canals and vertical water shafts and wells.

These moats look lush green during the monsoons.

Protected Monument

Historical importance
One of the entry ways
Near Diwan-e-Aam

Bidar fort is a good weekend get away from Hyderabad. The best times to visit is during winter or late monsoon season, to avoid the harshness of the sun. The entire stroll through the premises takes around 3 hrs.

  • Entry Fee – None
  • Timing – 9am – 5pm
  • Parking – Available
  • Washrooms – Available
  • Guide – Not available
  • A small cafeteria is there for a tea/coffee break
  • Nearest cities – Hyderabad, Gulbarga, Bengaluru

Photo credit – Chinmay Deo

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