I woke up to snow- capped peaks and frozen apple orchards. As Hira Bhai had predicted, it had snowed in Kullu Naggar Manali and surrounding places the previous night.
Every inch of the landscape had turned white and hence, today, was the day when we would do ‘nothing’. The slow traveler in me simply refused to buzz from the warm snug comfort of the kitchen of our host, where we continued to gulp down countless cups of tea. And then, there was Siddu for breakfast, my all- time favorite Himachali delicacy.
I was in Rumsu, a tiny hamlet situated 8 kilometers north of Naggar, the forgotten capital of Kullu Valley, which was the seat of Kullu Rajas for centuries. Later during the day, we would go about exploring Naggar.
Naggar was once the dreamy capital of Kullu kingdom, located at an altitude of 1,800 meters by the left bank of fiery Beas river, 21 kilometers south of Manali. It was founded by Raja Visudh Pal and continued to be the headquarters of the state until the capital was transferred to Sultanpur in Kullu, by Raja Jagat Singh in 1460 AD. While most people consider Naggar as a part of one day visit from Manali, we decided to stay around and explore the unmatched novelty of the erstwhile capital at our own pace.
There’s something for everyone here starting from fishing and angling enthusiasts to trekkers to adventure sports lovers to photography and nature enthusiasts to slow travelers.
Naggar – In and Around
Built on the edge of the biggest cliff of Naggar, this 15th Century castle is a magnificent example of the famous ‘Kath Kooni’ architectural style, a style very specific to the Himalayan region, wherein homes are built using alternate layers of wood and stones. This type of architecture not only lends an aesthetic look to the homes, but also makes the structure sturdy. Being the seat of royalty of Kullu, Naggar castle has, since centuries, been the nucleus of Naggar village.
The Naggar Castle was built by Raja Siddhi Singh about 1460 years ago, using local stones from ruins of the Gharhdhek palace, which was a fortified palace of Rana Bhosal. The layers of stone are punctuated by long wooden beams, thereby giving the structure its resilience, due to which it could withstand the disastrous 1905 earthquake. Even after the capital was shifted to Sultanpur, the palace was used as a summer retreat for the rulers.
At present, part of the castle has been converted into a heritage hotel and offers an amazing experience of Himachali hospitality.
The temple in the central courtyard of the palace is called Jagti Patt Temple. It is believed by the locals to be the principal judgement seat of all Kullu Gods wherein they assemble to take major decisions and alleviate sufferings of people/devotees.
Hikerwolf arranges trips to Manali and around. Traveling with them makes every trip worth remembering for their knowledge of the place, its history, culture and tradition. They make sure their travel companions take away numerous stories back with them.
Gauri Shankar Temple
The grey sandstone structure of the Gauri Shankar Temple stands tall right below the Naggar Castle. Believed to have been built around 12th century AD, the temple is a Shaivite temple with Shikhara style of architecture, a specific style wherein the temple resembles a mountain peak. The Gauri Shankar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is also believed to be the last monument of Gurjara Pratihara traditions and is a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Roerich Art Gallery
Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, explorer, philosopher and writer, who was also nominated for Nobel Peace Prize quite a few times. He is known to have traveled extensively through Tibet and research on Himalayan herbs. He made Naggar his home for the last few years of his life from the late 1920s till his death in 1947. His home has now been converted into a museum.
The museum displays Nicholas’s as well as his son, Svetoslav’s artworks . Svetoslav Roerich, Nicholas’s son was married to Rabindranath Tagore’s grandniece and Bollywood movie actor, Devika Rani. It was Devika Rani who converted the house into the art gallery after her husband’s death. The gallery houses Roerich’s paintings (mostly on the ground floor) and Roerich family memorabilia. The gallery is jointly managed by Himachal State government and government of Russia.
Urusvati Himalayan Folk-Art Museum
Situated just across the street from Roerich Art Gallery, the Urusvati Himalayan Folk- Art Museum was established for sole purpose of preserving the folk art and craft of the region by the Roerich family. It was Nicholas Roerich’s wife who initiated the establishment of the museum in 1928. The gallery displays the local costumes and local folk art, Russian folk art, family photographs of the Roerich family, various artifacts including fossils, sculptures, utensils, weapons, and life size stone statues.
There are a number of stone slabs resembling monolithic structures with beautiful carvings at the entrance of the museum, placed in neat rows. The information on one of the placards suggest that these are memorial stones of Kullu kings and queens. These memorial stones were restored by the Roerich family.
Tripura Sundari Temple
With wooden Pagoda style architecture, the Tripura Sundari Temple of Naggar is the most beautiful temple in entire Naggar. The temple is dedicated to two deities, Tripura Sundari and Kailashini. The magnificent temple is built with deodar wood and bears semblance to the Hidimba Devi Temple of Old Manali. The roof of the temple is triple layered and the conical shikhara sits on top of double slanted roof.
The intricate carvings on the pillars and roof are a sight to behold. The temple has a courtyard in the front and also has couple of smaller temples inside the temple complex.
Devotees from Kullu Naggar Manali gather here during the annual festival wherein a feast is arranged for all pilgrims.
At a distance of 15 km from town of Naggar, the Jana waterfalls is a magnificent fall in the village of Jana. The water gushes down a cluster of rocks overlooking a wooden bridge and the waterfall is surrounded by conifers, apple orchards as well as mountains. A short trek up the hill treats one with the most amazing view of the waterfall. The local food stalls by the waterfall serve some authentic and lip-smacking Himachali cuisine.
There are some adventure activities like zip lining and archery, that one can indulge in by the waterfall. Staying around Kullu Naggar Manali is an advantage so one can spare an entire day to indulge in these activities.
Rumsu is a tiny village located 8 kilometers north of Naggar, with wooden houses and is famous for its residents worshiping Jamlu Devta, who also happen to be the main deity of Malana. Outsiders are neither allowed to enter the temple, nor allowed to touch.
Rumsu is also the base village for treks to Malana and Chanderkhani pass.
Though Naggar can be covered in a day from Manali, I would strongly recommend to stay around and explore the sleepy villages at your pace.
Have you been to Naggar? Share your experiences and thoughts in comments below