Kangra is the largest district of Himachal Pradesh, which lies in the western region of Himalayas, with Dharamshala as its administrative headquarters. Kangra locates in the backdrop of majestic Dhauladhar Range with Beas River flowing through the valley. In the ancient times, Kangra district was known as “Nagarkot”, and is famous for having the oldest serving Royal Dynasty in the world, called “The Katoch Dynasty”.The history of Kangra is around 3,500 years old and even has mentions in the Puranas and the Mahabharta. Kangra is derived from two words ‘Kaan’ means ear and ‘Gaddha’ means to create. The place is the home for many ancient temples, handicraft industries and, agriculture as the main source of living.
Location: Kangra district is located at an altitude of around 500 meters to 5000 meters above sea level. It lies between the latitude of 31˚21ˈ to 32˚ 59ˈ N and the longitude of 75˚47ˈ55″ to 77˚45ˈ E. Kangra is surrounded by six districts namely Hamirpur, Una, Lahaul-Spiti, Chamba, Kullu, and Mandi districts of Himachal and one district of Punjab state namely Gurdaspur. The Kangra district can be accessed by road, railway as well as through flight.
Road: The place is accessible by buses from Delhi, Chandigarh, and Pathankot. HRTC buses are the main buses that run in the whole state.
Railway: The nearest broad gauge railway station is Pathankot which connects with Kangra through a narrow-gauge railway line.
Air: The nearest airport to this place is the Gaggal airport which has frequent flights from Delhi and Chandigarh. Further, one can hire a cab from the airport to Kangra.
Himachal Pradesh is known as “Devbhoomi” aka “Land of Gods” because of the number of beautiful ancient temples. Each temple has its own significance and influence. In fact, the architecture of these temples has its own importance. Many tourists visit Kangra to seek blessings by visiting divine temples as well as enjoy its scenic beauty.
Temples to visit in Kangra District:
1. Bajreshwari Mata Temple: The temple is situated amid the Kangra town and is about 5-10 minutes’ walk from the main market. It is said that the temple was originally built by the Pandavas at the Mahabharata time. Goddess Bajreshwari (an incarnation of Goddess Durga) is worshiped here as the main deity. It is said that when Goddess Sati sacrificed herself in the honor of Lord Shiva, then Shiva took her body on his shoulder and started doing Tandav. In order to stop Shiva from destroying the universe, Lord Vishnu made 51 parts of the body of Sati, and then her left breast fell at the temple site, as a result of which the place is considered as Shakti Peeth. The temple is well-known for its great wealth. It was looted many times by Muslim invaders in 1009 A.D, and then the temple was devastated by a powerful earthquake in 1905. But later, the temple was rebuilt by the government. Devotees come here twice a year during Navratri to seek blessings from the Goddess and enjoy the calm and peaceful environment of the place.
2. Ambika Mata Temple: The temple is built at the famous Kangra fort in Kangra valley, and is about 22 km from Dharamshala. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Ambika, a rock-cut idol of the Goddess, who is the family deity of the Katoch King. The temple has been the main attraction for the people visiting Kangra.
3. Kunal Pathri Temple: The temple is located in the beautiful Dhauladhar Ranges at Kunal Pathri town, which is 6 km from Dharamshala. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kapleshwari (an incarnation of Goddess Durga). It is believed that when Goddess Sati died her skull had fallen at the temple site, and the deity is immortalized here in the form of a stone, that always remains wet. People believed that when the stone starts to dry, then rainfall takes place. The road which leads to the temple is surrounded by beautiful dense tea gardens. One can enjoy the serene beauty of the Dhauladhars and the appealing environment of the temple.
4. Bhagsu Nag Temple: This ancient temple lies around 2km from the Dharamshala bus stand. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Nagdevta. According to Indian mythology, King Bhagsu had stolen the water from the sacred lake (NagDal Lake), in order to save his people from drought, but then Nagdevta came to know about it, and they had a fight. King Bhagsu was defeated and forgiven as well, as a result, the temple was known as Bhagsunag. Next to the temple, a small trek leads to a beautiful waterfall and is considered as a popular tourist attraction.
5. Chamunda Devi Temple: The temple is located in the backdrop of Dhauladhar Range, by the banks of Baner River, and is around 15 km from Kangra valley, 10 km west of Palampur. Holy Goddess Maa Chamunda is worshipped here, and Shiva Linga is also cited in the small cave under a rock. The name Chamunda is derived from two names ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’, the two monsters who were killed by the Goddess. The temple is about 400 years old. It is believed that a Brahmin had a dream of Devi Chamunda, and the temple is built on the instructions of the Devi. It is a major tourist attraction, where people come here to take blessings of Maa Chamunda.
6. Baijnath Temple: This 13th-century architectural site is located in the small town of Baijnath in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, and is about 50 kilometers from Dharamshala. It is situated on the banks of river Beas, in the lap of beautiful snow-capped Dhauladhar Himalayan Range. The Lord Shiva deity is worshipped here as ‘God of Healing’ also known as Baijnath, on whom the name of the town is based. Baijnath Temple is one of the most popular temples in Himachal Pradesh.
7. Jwalamukhi Temple: The temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas, and is located in Jawalamukhi town of Kangra district. It is about 30 km from Kangra and 55 km from Dharamshala. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Jawalamukhi, in the form of eternal flame. It is believed that the tongue of Goddess Sati had fallen at the temple site, and the Goddess resides in the form of holy flames, which burns day and night without any fuel or external source. There are about nine flames in the temple which signifies nine forms of Goddess Durga like Mahakali, Annapurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Vindhya Vasini, Mahalakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika, and Anji Devi.
8. Bagalamukhi Temple: The temple lies on the Kangra-Hoshiarpur road, which is around 30 km from Kangra, near a small village called Bankhandi. Goddess Bagalamukhi also known as Pitambara Maa is worshipped here, and is considered as the ‘Goddess of Power’. It is believed that Maa Bagalamukhi destroys the enemies and makes them helpless too. The temple is one of the 10 Mahavidyas (great knowledge Goddess) and is painted in yellow, because of the favorite color of the Goddess.
9. Masroor Temple: Masroor temple also known as Rock Cut Temple was built in the early 8th century, located on the Nagrota-Surian link road, which is around 32 km from Kangra. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu), his devout wife Sita and his righteous brother Lakshmana. The architect of the temple is an adaptation of North Indian Nagara style and is carved out of a single rock with shikhara facing towards the Sun, with a sacred pool of water in front of the temple. It is believed that the Pandavas spent a long period of time in this temple.
10. Kathgarh Temple: This very famous temple is located around 7 km from Indora at a meeting point of two rivers; River Beas and River Choch, which is about 106 km from Kangra. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the form of ‘Shivalingas’. This is the only temple in India where the large Shivalinga is divided vertically into two, where the bigger Linga (6 feet long) is worshipped as Lord Shiva and the small one (5 feet long) is worshipped as Goddess Parvati. The gap between the two Lingas is very small and it keeps on increasing and decreasing as per the changing seasons.
11. Baba Baroh Temple: The temple is located at Baroh tehsil of Kangra district, which is about 23 km from Kangra and 52 km from Dharamshala. The temple is dedicated to Radha Krishna. The idol of Goddess Durga made up of metal is also placed inside the temple. The temple is made up of white marble, and this is the only temple in Himachal Pradesh where a large amount of white marble is used. The temple is very famous among the devotees because of its impeccable beauty.
12. Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple: This is the ancient temple, which is located around 8 km from Paragpur village of Kangra district, and is about 44 km from Kangra. Lord Shiva is worshipped here in the temple and is believed to be the Maha Rudra of Mata Chintpurni. The temple is also known as Kalesar, and is built on the banks of River Beas. Many devotees come here during the Maha Shivratri festival to seek blessings from the deity.
13. Jakhani Mata Temple: The temple is located at the top point of Chandpur village which is about 8 km from Palampur. The temple is devoted to Devi Latti Jakhni, and one can enjoy the beauty of Mighty Dhauladhars very closely.
14. Vindhyavasini Temple: This ancient temple is located at the hilltop, around 8 km from Palampur bus stand, in a small village called Bandla. The temple is devoted to Bandla Mata, and has a very special place in the hearts of people of Palampur. One can enjoy the scenic beauty of the place by a small trek to the temple.