When you think only mountains can bring peace to your soul, or the almighty, you come to ‘Little Lhasa’, Dharamshala. Located in the Kangra Valley at an elevation of 1,457 meters, Dharamshala is not just one of your conventional hill stations in Uttarakhand that is meant for tourists wanting to have some “fun times” or Insta-worthy selfies. It is for the lost souls, for the uphill walkers, and for people looking for miraculous spiritual awakening. And it happens, it does happen in Dharamshala.
Home to some of the ancient shrines and temples, Dharamshala has an age-old and intimate connection with spirituality. With several temples of different religions in and around Dharamshala, diverse religious beliefs and cultural diversity live here harmoniously. Temples and monasteries in Dharamshala have always been the center of attraction, apart from the beauty of majestic mountains.
If you too are looking for that miraculous moment of awakening, your union with oneness, you can start your journey with these houses of worship.
1. Dalai Lama’s Temple (Namgyal Monastery)
Peacefully sitting on the mountains of Dharamshala as Dalai Lama’s temple, Namgyal Monastery is the personal monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama. After the Tibetan uprising of 1959, Dalai Lama’s temple was relocated to Dharamshala. Dalai Lama’s temple is home to more than 200 monks and can be your first port of call on your spiritual journey. The peace that envelops this place, the subliminal chanting of mantras, the constant rotating prayer wheels, the luminosity of butter lamps, and every single thing in Dalai Lama’s temple, Dharamshala makes this place a fulfilling experience in itself. If you are visiting Dharamshala for the first time, just ask for the Buddha temple in Dharamshala and you will be directed.
2. Chamunda Nandikeshwar Temple
One of the most distinguished temples near Dharamshala, Chamunda Nandikeshwar Temple, or as the locals call it, Chamunda Devi Temple is one of the Shakti Peeths. The legend has it that here Goddess Kali destroyed the demons with the help of her monster guards, Chanda and Munda, hence the name Chamunda. Situated in the Kangra Valley near Dharamshala, this temple is visited by people from all around the world. If you are in Dharamshala, temples like these are not just famous amongst the religiously inclined but also among people looking to experience spirituality. A trek to this place can be a divine experience if you are up for it.
3. Shri Kunal Pathri Devi Temple
After Chamunda Devi Temple, Dharamshala is home to a few more Hindu temples and Shri Kunal Pathri Devi Mandir in Dharamshala is one of them. There is a very interesting story behind the origin of this temple. It is said that the stone in the temple always remains wet. As the legend goes, when the rock begins to dry, it starts raining. Pretty interesting, isn’t it?! There’s more! It is believed that the goddess Sati’s skull fell on this very spot. A place with such an intriguing backstory is surprisingly very modest to look at. Surrounded by beautiful tea gardens, Shri Kunal Pathri Devi Temple has a very small temple complex, an ideal place for the worshippers looking to pray in peace.
4. Bhagsu Nag Temple
Situated in McLeod Ganj, Kangra District, Bhagsu Nag temple is one of the most famous Dharamshala temples. Also known as Bhagsunath temple, this place holds the utmost significance in Indian Mythology. The story goes that the Snake God got into a battle with King Bhagsu because he stole water from the sacred lake called the Nag Dal Lake. The king was defeated by the Snake God but eventually was forgiven. The site was, from there, known as Bhagsu Nag. When in Dharamshala, Bhagsu Nath temple mustn’t be missed. What makes it a must-visit, you ask? The Bhagsu waterfall! A short hike from the temple and there it is. The beauty of this fall is unmatched and if you manage to be there before the sunrise, you can experience the calming aura of this place to the fullest.
5. Shiv Mandir
With intricate carvings on the walls and pillars, Shiv Mandir is an ancient piece of art. Shiv Bhakts, devotees of Lord Shiva, visit Shiv Mandir in Dharamshala to pay obeisance to their Lord. However, very few people know that the compound and the surrounding meadows of the mandir are perfect for meditation, and many people visit to meditate here in the mandir. Dharamshala witnesses heavy footfall but on the occasions of Maha Shivaratri, the glory of the Mandir is quite something. So, if you are one for seclusion, it would be better to avoid Maha Shivaratri as the rush can be overwhelming. Alternatively, be a part of the rush! Either way, the experience is mesmerizing.
6. Nechung Monastery
If you are booking a Dharamshala tour package, make sure your itinerary allows you to make a short trip to McLeod Ganj where you can visit Nechung Monastery. The complex is surrounded by peaceful valleys which makes Nechung Monastery a perfect place to meditate. You can sit here for hours and no one will disturb you. Prayer wheels and aroma from the butter lamps make the aura more peaceful. Here you can have a glimpse of the Tibetan way of life; the monks are wonderful to be around.
Rightfully known for its majestic valleys and scenic beauty, Dharamshala is an abode to many temples, shrines, and monasteries. Dharamshala houses Buddha temples, Hindu temples, churches, and mosques, and in no other part of India will you find such diversity. If you seek peace, spiritual awakening, and divine experiences, the monasteries and temples in Dharamshala can be the beacon of light.