Himachal Pradesh – land of eternal snow peaks, lakes, flowers, shrines

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Himachal Pradesh - Quick Facts

Area:55,673 sq. Km.
State Capital: Shimla
Population: 6,864,602
Altitude: 350m to 6975m
Max Temperature: 350C
Min Temperature: 20C
Rainfall: 1469mm
Wildlife Sancturies: 32
Clothing: Summer- Light cotton Winter- Heavy woolen
Languages: Hindi, Pahari & English
Best time: April-July & September-November

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Himachal Pradesh the land of eternal snow peaks is a charming mountain state. Blessed with charming crystal lakes, pretty flowers, ancient shrines and beautiful people; Himachal Pradesh is one of the loveliest states in India. Himachal Pradesh is enveloped by the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges in the northwest, dominated by the great Himalayas in the north and east and marked with lower ridges of the Shivalik ranges in the south-east.

Himachal has five mighty snow-fed rivers flowing through it - the Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej and Yamuna. Climatically, this state is divisible into two regions - the south which is as warm as the plains, and the north where the summers are temperate and winters are extremely cold.

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By Air
The airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 km from Shimla town and is connected to Delhi and Kullu. Taxi cabs are available.

By Rail

Shimla is connected by a broadgauge line up to Kalka. Then a narrow gauge line takes over for Shimla and covers 96 km of track. 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. Alternative combinations – By train up to Delhi (375 km), Chandigarh (120 km), or Kalka (90 km) and then by road

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.


The population of Himachal Pradesh consists of various hill tribes, all speaking their own languages. These tribes include the Gadis, Gujaris, Kinnauris, Lahulis, and Pangwalis. More than 95 percent of the people are Hindus, although the caste system of social groupings is less rigid than elsewhere in India. Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian minorities total about five percent of the population. Himachalis lead a simple and quiet life, tending their orchards, fields and flocks. Hindi (the official state language) and Pahari are the principal languages.

Himachal Pradesh is the least urbanized state in India. Its urban population accounts for less than 10 percent of the total. There are about 55 towns, of which only the capital, Shimla, has a population exceeding 80,000. Other major towns are Bilaspur, Chamba, Dalhousie, Dharamshala, Hamirpur, Kangra, Kasauli, Kullu, Mandi, Nahan, Palampur, Solan, and Sundarnagar. Himachal also has a rich cultural heritage, and has a variety of dances, musical forms and architectural styles. The fairs and festivals of the hill people are occasions of joyful song and dance; they are a veritable riot of colours. Kullu Dussehra (October), Lavi fair (November), Minjar fair (August-September), Manimahesh fair, Shivaratri fair (February-March), and Navratri fair (April and October) are among the famous religious celebrations of Himachal.The 200 odd temples of Himachal Pradesh, diverse in style are dedicated mainly to Shiva, Durga and Buddha. Baijnath, Chintpurni, Jwalamukhi and the Laxmi Narayan temples are a few of these shrines. Exquisitely designed shawls of Kinnaur, the distinctive woolen caps of Kullu, and the embroidered handkerchiefs of Chamba accent their colourful, festive clothing. Himachal Pradesh is also known for its Kangra Valley School of paintings.

Except for the scenic, narrow-gauge rail line from Kalka (in Haryana) to Shimla and the narrow-gauge track connecting Pathankot (Punjab) and Jogindarnagar through the Kangra valley, there are no railways or waterways in the state. Roads are the communications lifeline of Himachal Pradesh. The state-owned transport system operates more than 140 bus routes in Himachal Pradesh.
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There is no specific cuisine of Himachal Pradesh. The influence of a long and close association with Punjab and large-scale migration of Tibetans can be on the cuisine of the state. Some of the unique Himachali recipes include Nasasta, a sweetmeat of the Kangra region; Indra, dish made of Urad dal; Baadi / Ghaunda, and Bada/Poldu of the Shimla region. The popular dishes of the state are Pateer, Chouck, Bhagjery and chutney of Til. Non-vegetarian food is quite popular and preferred in Himachal Pradesh.
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The geographic isolation of Himachal has allowed its people to evolve their own unique tradition of handicrafts. The mind-boggling range includes fine woodwork, traditional leather embroidery, beautifully patterned carpets, traditional woollen shawls and lots of other things.

Wood Carving


Forests all over the state abound in pine and deodar, besides walnut, horse chestnut and wild black mulberry. Wood has been used to great effect in temples and lavishly built palaces. The steep-roofed pine temples of northern HP often bear relief figures carved on their outer walls. Intricately carved seats, doors, windows and panels speak volumes of the craftspersons’ skill. The Bhimakali Temple of Sarahan is a perfect product of the kind.

Painting


To say that HP has a rich tradition of painting would be an understatement. While museums and art galleries preserve the famous miniature paintings of the region, traditional ritual paintings can be seen in most village houses, on the floors and walls. Women draw magic diagrammatic designs called yantras on the thresholds on ceremonial occasions.Floor paintings are white, done with rice paste, while wall paintings are colourful. The colours are from what the women use in their daily lives – red from kumkum (the liquid for bindi, the dot between the brows), yellow from turmeric powder, red ochre from golru (red clay), and so on.

The Pahari Paintings of Mid-17th Century


The early Pahari paintings of the mid-17th century were in the Basholi style (dubbed so because of its association with the king of Basholi).These are extraordinarily colourful and charged with vitality and emotion. Two persistent strains can be observed – a fondness for the portraits of the local rajas in plain white garments and for the gods of the Hindu pantheon.The paintings bear resemblance to Rajasthani and Malwa paintings but this can be attributed to the fact that the kings of the princely states in Himachal were Rajputs.

Painters from the Mughal Court


The coming of painters from the Mughal court in the second quarter of the 18th century (due to the decline of the Mughal Empire) led to a complete transformation of the existing Basholi style. "There was a wholesale ferrying in of Mughal style and fashion, from dress to architecture to the arts. The resultant was the Guler-Kangra style.The style owes a great deal to later Mughal painting, particularly in its receding planes, its fondness for quasi-realistic landscape and its frequent enlargement

Woollen Garments


Wool is an auspicious thing in Himachal, and no ritual occasion goes without wearing woollen clothes. A quaint ritual during weddings, for instance, is to wrap the bride and groom in a woollen shawl to protect them from evil eyes.

Shawls


Extremely fine and valuable shawls are a speciality of Himachal and Kashmir. They are greatly sought after by tourists from all over the world. In fact, shawl weaving is a major cottage industry in HP. These shawls, both plain and patterned, are made from the fine hair of pashmina goats. Pashm is the wool of a certain Asian species of mountain goat, Capra hircus.

Embroidery


Embroidery seems to be the favourite pastime of pahari women, their nimble fingers busy with needle and thread on lazy afternoons. Houses in HP are replete with beautiful pieces like rumals (scarves), coverlets, handfans, caps, cholis (bodices), gaumukhi (prayer gloves) and such things.

The motifs are either from the traditional stock of miniature painting, the landscape or are innovations of the women themselves. This urge to create and live with beautiful pieces is very much a part of pahari culture.The red and orange richly embroidered silk rumals (scarves) of Chamba are simply beautiful. The women of Chamba have traditionally made them for a 1000 years now. These rumals are actually small shawls meant to be used as head coverings.

Rugs & Carpets

Carpets and blankets are almost synonymous with Himachali furnishing. Their brilliant colours and traditional motifs can make you forget your Persian back home! You’ll be spellbound by their appearance – Garudas (Vishnu’s mount, the eagle) perched on flowering trees, dragons, swastikas (auspicious Hindu/Buddhist emblem), flutes (symbolizing happiness) and lotus blooms (signifying purity). In the higher reaches of the state, hillfolk rear sheep and goats and weave the wool and hair into traditional blankets, rugs and namdas (heavy rugs). Namdas are made with beaten wool. In fact men spinning wool by hand as they watch their flocks are a common sight in Himachal.
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Dhoongri Fair

May gushes in with a whole series of river rafting festival and water sports. Regattas are conducted through the state. Focused around the goddess Hidimba Devi, Kullu celebrates the Dhoongri fair.

Summer Festivals


They are held at shimla and Dharamshala in the month of June. A variety of programmes like folk dances, sports tournaments, mushairas, golf and flowers show to add colour to the summer season.

Kullu Dussehra


When Dussehra celebrations comes to and end in the rest of the country, they begin at Kullu.Over 600 local deities come to page homage to lord Raghunath ji. Folk Daces, Exhibitions, cultural programmes are held to mark the festivities.

Ice Skating Carnival


It is most important event held in Shimla in month of December.
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Shimla
There is an enormous range of goods that Shimla has to offer. This includes Handicrafts, wood and metal work, Shawls, pullovers, local tweeds, caps Tibetan carpets and pickle James, and squashes. Himachal Pradesh Govt. has an Emporium at the Mall which exhibits these entire product for sale.Lakkar Bazaar adjacent to the ridge is popular for its wood crafts and souvenirs.

Dharamshala

For local handicrafts visit Kotwali Bazar, Tibetan handicrafts and carpets are available at Mcleodganj.

Kullu
Kullu is Famous for woolen clothing, Shawls, caps sweaters, carpets etc.Handmade artifacts can also be purchased from the State Govt.Handicrafts Emporium.

Manali
The Mall, New Shopping centre market and Government Emporium offers many interesting items to be purchased. These include the famous Kullu Topis, Woolen Goods and Tibetian curios.
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Bilaspur | Dalhousie | Dharamshala | Kangra | Kinnaur | Kullu | Lahaul & Spiti | Manali | Mandi | Panota Sahib | Pragpur | Shimla.
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