Tucked away in the foothills of the mighty Dhauladhar range, Palampur sits in relative silence. While tourists flock to Manali and McLeodGanj, Palampur remains shielded from their eyes, yet is welcoming to every offbeat traveler that heads here. Surprisingly, in all this seclusion lie structures that are marvels to behold, both in Palampur and around it. From Buddhist edifices to Hindu temples, make sure you catch these 6 striking structures of Palampur.
Tashi Jong Monastery
The Tashi Jong Monastery is located practically in the lap of nature, a vibrant landmark amidst lush green trees and snow-capped mountains. It was established by the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, Dongyu Nyima, and is one of the centers of the Drugpa Kagyu tradition of Buddhism. Under this tradition, the community here practices ascetic yoga.
The complex comprises the main temple, the Yamantaka Retreat Center, and the Khamtrul Rinpoche stupa. Unfortunately, the retreat center remains closed to visitors and outsiders. Thankfully though, the main sight to see is the Khamtrul Rinpoche stupa, designed by Rinpoche himself.
Intricate wooden carvings crawl their way across the surface of the building, complemented by paintings. The entire structure is a burst of coordinated color, even more striking to behold against the foggy mountain-tops and clear skies. Within are statues of Buddha’s many manifestations, the most popular of which is the traditional representation called ‘Buddha Shakyamuni’. The complex also has a Tibetan craft emporium, so you can tick sightseeing as well as souvenir shopping off that to-do list, killing two birds with one stone.
Baijnath Shiva Temple
Himachal Pradesh is a land of pilgrims; while many flock here to surround themselves with nature and spirituality, others are literal pilgrims of religion, coming here to get closer to the Divine. One such spot that holds reverence for the Hindus is the Baijnath Shiva Temple. The beauty of the temple is that whether you’re a believer or not, its serenity is sure to strike a chord with your peaceful side. Additionally, it also has historical and architectural importance, a real treat from every aspect!
Built in 1204 CE, the temple is said to be one of the oldest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple contains one of the 12 Jyotirlingas present across India, and Lord Shiva is commemorated here as Vaidyanath, the lord of physicians. It is from this that the temple derives its name. The Baijnath Shiva temple is around 16 kilometres from Palampur, and has the distinction of being one of the few heritage temples that has survived a number of earthquakes in its history.
This temple makes it onto our list of the stunning structures of Palampur because of its Nagara style of architecture, which is truly marvelous to behold. The temple tower or shikara rises to a whopping height of 80 feet, and is covered in iconographs. Elaborately decorated niches are dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The temple is surrounded by an outer wall, which, like two sides of the same coin, is uniquely engraved. Divine and semi-divine figures bring life to the inner wall, while the outer face is covered in carvings of various shlokas.
Inside the temple, inscriptions written in the Pahari language help us deduce that the temple was built by two wealthy merchants, Ahukya and Manyuka, both ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. The next time you see someone carving their names into heritage sites (and vandalizing them), make sure you ask them if they’re the ones building it, since that’s the only time it is allowed!
Palpung Sherabling Monastery
Fleeing from the Chinese, the Tibetans sought shelter in the hills of India. Today, they’re home to some esteemed figures in Buddhism. The most famous of course is the Dalai Lama, but there’s another one to be found at the Sherabling Monastery. This monastic complex, flanked on all sides by towering pine woods, is the seat in exile of the Tai Situpa. He is one of the highest ranking Karma Kagyu lamas, a monk of a high order. His original Palpung Monastery in Sichuan is historically one of the most important seats of Tibetan Buddhism.
The present 12th Kenting Tai Situpa was the one to design the building all the way back in 1975, which was when his disciples donated this land to him. Building it with modern material to ensure it remained sturdy, the Tai Situpa imbibed Tibetan culture into the building as well, finishing it off with traditional Tibetan architecture. He followed the ancient science of geomancy, a method of divination that follows markings on the ground or patterns by tossed soil or rocks, in lieu with it being a spot of sanctity.
The complex has quarters to accommodate over 500 monks, as well as nine shrine rooms and halls, all of which boast both traditional and modern monastic features. It also has retreat houses for Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as a retreat center for visitors. Any of you weary souls looking for a little respite from the rush can head here for some calm and serenity. Of all the structures in Palampur, this one is definitely the most peaceful to behold.
In case you go there, don’t stand around wondering what you’re looking at, since we can give you the perfect rundown. The main monastery of the complex houses several wonderful murals, each as artistically crafted as the next. The 4th floor has a series of 9 thangkas, traditional Tibetan paintings depicting the 8 lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The entrance to the main temple is guarded by Four Great Kings, while the protector meditation room is guarded by mural-covered walls.
Peek into the main prayer hall, where the gilded two-storey Maitreya statue is sure to stun you. Finally, spin the universal mandala aka wheel of life at the southern entrance to the monastery. And hey, if there’s a small prayer you’d like to whisper as you watch the wheel spin, go right ahead!
St. John In The Wilderness Church
This solemn-looking structure of Palampur lives up to its name of being in the wilderness! Imagine trudging through a forest, nothing but the chirping of birds and the sound of your footsteps, when you come across a grand stone facade looming up out of the trees. It may sound like something you can only experience in a book, but this stunning structure of Palampur can turn that into reality.
The church is Anglican, and was built by the British in 1852. Scour over the church with keen eyes to spot the Neo – Gothic architectural features it boasts; narrow, slender windows have pointed arches, and floral motifs adorn certain arches and walls. The church suffered some damage in the massive earthquake of 1905, when its tower came crashing down. In 1915, a new tower was sent from England and installed in the church compound; you can easily spot this as you approach the church. Along with the tower, the Belgian stained glass windows that were initially donated by Lady Elgin have also been redone.
The Elgin name will come up once again when you visit the church, quite prominently. This is because Lord Elgin, Governor-General & Viceroy of India in 1861, died and was buried here in 1863. Apart from his gravestone, you can also see the graves and memorials of people who were killed in the earthquake. The church has survived the destruction that time often brings with it, and is one of the last remnants of this region’s colonial past.
Andretta Society & Chameli Niwas
If you take a look at our title, you’ll notice the use of the word ‘striking’. Not necessarily just for something huge, imposing or historical, but for anything that draws your attention and makes you wonder at it. And one of these things, not big or imposing but small yet astonishing, is the Andretta Pottery & Craft Society, around 30 minutes away from Palampur. The history behind this small village and its important clay house is one that most are unaware of, reading like something out of a storybook. This definitely makes for one of the most unique striking structures of Palampur!
It all started when an Irish woman named Norah Richards came to Himachal Pradesh in 1911 along with her husband. She grew to love the hills of India, and her adulation for theatre was infectious. So much so, that she is affectionately referred to as the grandmother or the nani of Punjabi theatre since it was she who created a culture of theatre in Punjab. Her love for rural life led to her building herself ‘Chameli Niwas’, a traditional Kangra-style house with mud, slate and bamboo.
She also built a makeshift proscenium, where each year in March, she invited theatre students from Punjab to organize plays during a week-long theatre festival. She soon became the talk of the town, infusing it with her love for the arts, and several esteemed artists began to come here, drawn by her zeal. These include renowned painter B.C. Sanyal and actor Prtihviraj Kapoor. Of these, Sardar Gurucharan Singh, one of the finest Studio Potters in the country, had the most impact on the region.
Residing here, it was people like Nora and Gurucharan Singh who fueled a passion for the arts among the people. In 1984, Gurcharan’s son Mansimran Singh and his wife Mary, both potters, moved to Andretta and thus, the Andretta Pottery and Craft Society was born.
The Society has pottery courses that are three months long, as well as shorter courses. Nora Richards’ humble house was recently renovated by the Punjab University, taking the help of none other than the local artisans to finish the task. Dropping into Andretta today is like stepping into a world in the woods filled with creation and artistry. And of course, two-storeyed Chameli Niwas, with its chrome yellow walls, dinky staircases and slanted roofs, is a truly striking structure of Palampur.
Tracing back to the 4th century CE, the Kangra Fort is said to be the oldest and largest fort in all of the Himalayas! It definitely is old, and large as well, since it covers a circuit of 4 km. It lies around 20 km from Palampur, and is located at the confluence of the Banganga and Patalganga rivers. Throughout history, rulers have tried and failed to seize control of the fort, with only a handful succeeding. Plus, it also survived the massive 1905 earthquake.
The fort was first built by Katoch kings of the Kangra state, and in its prime had over 70 villages under its jagir or district. Today, an easy trek up to the fort leads you to explore its temples, darwazas with inscriptions on them, and the watchtower. All you history freaks can drop into the museum that’s adjoining the fort that gives you a deeper insight into its history.
After a line of Indian rulers, the British finally took the fort in 1846 after the Anglo-Sikh war. A British garrison occupied the fort all the way up until 1905, when the earthquake struck. The fort today makes for a fun exploration spot. Battered and bruised but not defeated, it is still standing, earning it a mention on our list of the 6 striking structures of Palampur.
Hidden in the mountains and shielded from mainstream tourists, these striking structures of Palampur are perfect for the offbeat wanderer. If you’re one of these travelers always seeking out new, fun experiences, check out goSTOPS Palampur for just that. We’ve got dorms and private rooms, and the most lively common room filled with even livelier travelers. After all, why shouldn’t your accommodation be as exciting as your destination?
Why Is Palampur Famous?
Apart from some unbeatable landscapes and mountains, Palampur is also famous for its tea production. A colonial past gives it some brag worthy architecture, and the many temples that surround it give it religious significance.
Is Palampur Beautiful?
As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But if fog-capped mountaintops and lush green forests are what you seek, then Palampur will be gorgeous to behold.
Does Palampur Have Snow?
Palampur gets an occasional snowfall in the winter season, from the months of November to February.
What Is The Height Of Palampur?
Palampur is located at a height of 1219 metres above sea level.