Himachal Pradesh is popularly known as the Devbhumi – “Land of the Gods”. Himachal Pradesh is one of most beautiful states in India, nestles in north-west region of western Himalayas. Himachal Pradesh is bordered by Jammu & Kashmir on North, Punjab on West, Haryana on South, Uttar Pradesh on South-East and China on the East. However Himachal Pradesh stands apart from its neighbours in terms of its sheer topographic diversity and divine natural beauty. From vast tracts of high-altitude Trans-Himalayan desert to dense green deodar forests, from apple orchards to cultivated terraces, from snow capped high Himalayan mountain ranges to snow fed lakes and gushing rivers.
Socio-Political History of Himachal Pradesh
The earliest known inhabitants of the region were tribals called Dasas. Later, Aryans came and they assimilated in the tribes. In the later centuries, the hill chieftains accepted suzerainty of the Mauryan empire, the Kaushans, the Guptas and Kanuaj rulers. During the Mughal period, the Rajas of the hill states made some mutually agreed arrangements which governed their relations. In the 19th century, Ranjit Singh annexed/subjugated many of the states. When the British came, they defeated Gorkhas and entered into treaties with some Rajas and annexed the kingdoms of the others. The situation largely remained the same untill 1947. After Independence, 30 princely states of the area were united and Himachal Pradesh was formed on 15th April, 1948. On 1st November, 1966, certain areas belonging to Punjab were included in Himachal Pradesh. On 25th January, 1971, Himachal Pradesh was made a full-fledged State.
Getting to Himachal Pradesh
There are five major zones that draw the maximum visitor or act as base camps for most of Himachal Pradesh – Shimla, Kullu and Manali, Dalhousie and Chamba, Kangra- Dharamshala-Palampur and Paonta-Nahan. From these routes one can explore “off-beat” destinations also. A wide range of accommodation like tourism hotels, private hotels, guest houses, home stays, rest houses etc. are available in these areas.
By Air: The airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 km from Shimla city and is connected to Delhi. Taxi/cabs are available.
By Rail: Shimla is connected by a broadgauge line up to Kalka (90 km). The journey between Kalka and Shimla takes about six hours and is one of the finest ways of enjoying the landscape. The quaint rail car, which runs on this stretch, takes about five hours. A luxury coach that accommodates six persons has recentely been introduced and can be attached to any train of your choice. The Shivalik Express is a deluxe train on this route. Delhi (380 km), Chandigarh (120 km) and Kalka (90 km) from Shimla.
By Road: Shimla is connected by road to all major cities in north India. Taxi cabs for Shimla are available at Delhi, Chandigarh, Ambala and Kalka. Several state-run transport corporations including the Himachal Tourism Development Corporations ply Volvo ac and deluxe buses from Delhi and Chandigarh. Buses can also be chartered.
Dalhousie, Chamba and Bharmour
By Air: The closest airport is at Gaggal (Kangra) near Dharamshala which is 125 km (Approx) from Dalhousie, 170 km (Approx) from Chamba via Banikhet route and 230 km from Bharmour. Taxis are available.
By Rail: The nearest railhead is at Pathankot 85 km from Dalhousie,120 km from Chamba and 180 km from Bharmour. Taxis are available.
By Road: Dalhousie, Chamba and Bharmour are well connected by road. Taxis and regular coaches connect the towns.
Dharamshala, Kangra and Palampur
By Air: The airport at Gaggal is 14 km from Dharamshala, 10 km from Kangra and 23 km from its twin town Mcleodganj. Palampur is 40 km away. Taxis are available.
By Rail: Pathankot is the closest broadgauge railhead and is 85 km from Dharamshala and 124 km from Palampur. Taxis are available. You can opt for the narrow gauge train for a taste of the area. It connects Pathankot to Jogindernagar. The station feeding Dharamshala is Kangra Mandir (20 km) and the one for Palampur is Maranda.
By Road: Dharamshala is accessible from National Highway No. 20 and is well linked to the region. It is 12 km from Gaggal town. Palampur is 38 km from Dharamshala and even independently is well linked. Dharamshala is 17 km from Kangra.
An interesting variation of the standard can be made by taking the train from Delhi up to Jalandhar or Una and then traveling by road. En route you can visit the shrines of Chintpurni, Jawalamukhi and Bajreshwari Devi (Kangra). The shrine of Naina Devi is also easily accessible if you opt for the Nangal railway station. The road distance from Jalandhar to Dharamshala is 165 km along this route.
Kullu and Manali
By Air: The airport at Bhuntar is the common base that feeds these towns. This is 10 km from Kullu and 50 km from Manali. Public transport buses and taxis are available.
By Road: Kullu and Manali are connected by an extensive network of road with the northen region. Air-conditioned and non air-conditioned deluxe coaches are run by HRTC, HPTDC and by private sector operators. National Highway No. 21 runs through the valley and connects Chandigarh and Delhi. Kullu is 535 km from Delhi.
Nahan, Paonta and Renuka (Sirmaur)
By Air: The closest airport is at Chandigarh.
By Rail: The nearest railhead is at Ambala and Kalka . Taxi’s are available.
By Road: From Ambala, Chandigarh & Kalka and Dehradun. Regular bus service connect the towns. Paonta Sahib is 45 km and Renuka is 38 km from Nahan.