Though Dharamsala is well known around the world for being the residence of the Dalai Lama, the Guru of Tibetan Buddhism, this peacefull region is also known for many ancient Hindu temples. Hinduism and Buddhism co-exist in this beautiful hill town. Here is a selection for you:
This is the officiel residence of the 14th Dalai Lama. The most striking features of Tsuglagkhang is the amazing architecture and its scenic location, surrounded by beautiful mountains and pine trees. If you are lucky enough or if you plan your journey accordingly, you can attend a teaching session by his Holiness the Dalai himself. If your visit doesn't coincide with the teaching you can always enjoy the calm of the place, interact with the monks and learn about their culture.
This one is the personal monastery of the present Dalai Lama and considered as one of the most divine places in the world. Originally established by the second Dalai Lama in Tibet, Namgyal was re-established by the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamsala after his exile from Tibet. The monastery specifically focuses on preservation of Tibetan Buddhist rituals and practices. As you enter the main prayer hall, you will be struck by the grandeur of the Buddha statue and beautifully painted walls depicting stories and teachings of Buddha.
Set against the beautiful backdrop of Dhauladhars, this tranquil monastery is the seat of Tantric Buddhism in India. Originally founded in 1474 in Tibet, it was re-established in Dharamsala after 1959. This is one of the most serene and calm monasteries in the town.
The architecture of this institute is purely Tibetan which is dotted with pretty Japanese style gardens and water streams. The stone building decorated with Tibetan art makes it look like mini-Tibet. Those of you who would like to have a slice of old-Tibet in terms of food, culture and art must visit this little gem.
This temple is the shrine of Lord Shiva, one of the members of the supreme trinity of Hindu Gods. The mandir (or temple) was constructed in the early 13th century. Excellent example of medieval Indian architecture. The walls of the temple are decorated with beautiful paintings and carvings of numerous Hindu deities. The water in the temple is believed to contain therapeutic properties that cure people of their illnesses. A unique feature of this temple is the presence of the 2 Nandi statues (Nandi is the gatekeeper of Lord Shiva) unlike the other Shiva temples where onely one Nandi statue can be seen. Devotees perform a famous ritual where they whisper their wishes into the ears of the Nandi idol and their wishes would be granted by the God.
It is the abode of the deity Goddess Durga, known locally as Chamunda. According to the legends, the Goddess killed the 2 demons Chand and Munda in a fierce battle, and was thus endowed with the title Chamunda Devi. The Devi's idol is flanked on either sides by the idols of Lord Hanuman and Lord Bhairo. Devot followers believe that worshipping at this shrine would give them and their ancestors mohksha (salvation). The temple itself features a diverse range of images from various Hindu sacred texts such as the Devi Mahatmyam, the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. These images vividly portray various aspects of Hindu folklore and tradition.
This temple is believed to be more than 1000 years old and it is unlike any other typical Hindu temple. Dedicated to the Goddess Jwalamukhi who is an incarnation of the Goddess Durga, the temple does not feature any idols or images of the Goddess. People worship a blue-coloured flame that seems to emerge from the rock crevices. The temple perhaps derives its name from these flames (the term Jwala means "fire" in Sanskrit). While scientists might argue that these flames are an effect of the natural jets of combustible gases underneath the rocks, the locals believe it to be the manifestation of the deity. If you come and visit in April and October, don't miss the biannual fairs during Navrati!
Also known as the Vajreshwari Devi or the Vajrayogini temple. The term Vajra means thunder in Sanskrit and the name Vajreshwari literally translates to "The Goddess with the power of the thunderbolt". It is believed that the temple was built by the Pandava kings, a noble race of warrior kings in the Indian epic tale Mahabharatha. In the past the temple bore the brunt of plunderers and invaders. In 1905, it was completely destroyed by an earthquake before it was rebuilt to its current form 25 years later.
Named after Raja Bhagsu who built this temple, it is the home of the snake God Naga and Lord Shiva. The temple plays host to a fresh-water spring and devotees believe that their sins can be washed away by taking a bath in this water. The temple is surrounded by rich greenery and the picturesque scenery is a treat for the eyes. A short walk up the hills leads to a pristine waterfall which can be experienced in its full splendour during the monsoon.