Looking out from my window seat, I see the chaotic & touristy Manali getting smaller and smaller as the bus slowly crawls down one last bridge before it starts snaking ahead. Tall pine trees on both sides lean-to make sort of a green tunnel around the snaking road. I try to be as comfortable as I can in my cramped seat and settle-down for the hour-long journey ahead. Old Hindi songs blare from the stereo as my co-passengers get busy with whatever seems to interest them. Some talking, some dozing-off while few of them twiddling their mobiles. With every turn, the road seems to become narrower leaving me surprised every time our jovial driver comfortably gives way to an oncoming vehicle without having stop the bus even once.
After close to a week of walking through the beautiful meadows and majestic mountains of Himachal, we had thought of getting yet another feel of the place before we leave. We decided to take a bus to Naggar, a small settlement some 20 kilometers from Manali instead of any private conveyance. I have never been a fan of bus journeys but this time around things seemed to be a little different and a lot of fun. All credit to the locals who were very friendly, forthcoming and happy to interact with strangers.
After what felt like a very quick one hour or so of chit-chatting with my co-passengers all of whom were locals, we alighted at Naggar. At first it felt like any other small Indian town with no visible characteristics of the hills. Even the sun was shining with all its might forcing us to take-off our jackets. However, the beauty of the place started showing-up as soon as we began the steep 1.5 kilometers ride up to the castle.
The Naggar Castle built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu is close to six centuries old (built-in 1460 AD) and is almost entirely built by stones and wood. In the old days, it used to serve as the Raja’s residence but now has now been converted into a heritage hotel. The castle with its fireplaces and fitting staircases is a perfect example of brilliant amalgamation of Himalayan and European architecture.
As we took a walk inside the castle which houses an in-house restaurant, an art-gallery and a museum within its multiple levels, we couldn’t help but be amazed at the intricate wooden architecture in and around the palace. The three small temples inside the compound were in no way any less when it came to the degree of workmanship involved in their designs.
Of the many interesting facts that we learned as we explored the palace one fact that stood out for me was, because it was made with stones and wood, it has always been significantly immune to earthquakes. In its close to four century long existence and still standing tall, it has successfully stood through every devastating earthquake the area has suffered, even the deadly quake of 1905 which killed close to 20,000 people. Closer to today, it has been famous for the Bollywood movie Jab We Met which was shot here among many other Hollywood and south-Indian movies and serials.
As if we were any less impressed by the beautiful wrap-around wooden verandah of the castle our eyes happened to fall on the gorgeous Beas-valley below. The hills with their dotted colourful houses peeping through the greenery over looked the valley as a bank of clouds moved in from the opposite direction.
Rain it seemed, was inevitable and rain it did within moments albeit, it stopped as abruptly as it had started. Leaving the place with a fresh coat of green.
There are a handful of trails, small as well as long that start from Naggar and pass through quaint little villages. Given our love for the mountains and quaint little villages we so wanted to go for a walk on one of these but this time around all we had time for was a few photographs.
As we walked our way down to the bus-stand we saw the sun slowly go down behind the mountains spreading a golden aura in the air. Making this already beautiful place look all the more perfect.
Have you seen the Naggar castle? Or any other age-old architecture that had captured your imagination and left you spell-bound?
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