Manali to Naggar Village, Himachal Pradesh.
Who would think that just 20 km away from Manali, India’s top tourist destination, lies the Naggar village, a town that refuses to think beyond stone temples, apple orchards, and wooden huts accommodating both cows and their humans equitably.
Manali to Naggar bus ride took about an hour. After roaring along with the Beas river for a while, the bus passed through tiny countryside settlements halting at them shakily. Call those clusters of country houses a hamlet or a village, but more often then not, the bus had to stop for cows unabashedly crossing the roads or villagers dashing to the opposite side with baskets of farm-fresh apples on their heads.
Once you get down at the main road at which Naggar village peeks from the high Himalayan hills that rise above the Beas valley, one has to trudge up a steep uphill road to get close to any of the Naggar’s many historical attractions some of whose origins are still unknown.
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On your way, you will walk by small wooden and stone houses that are typical to the entire Kullu and Parvati valley. Stone over stone put in a meticulous manner while the intermittent wooden logs and mud support the entire structure.
Wooden windows and doors of Naggar homes seem to give a view into the world that even the Raja of Rajas would have been jealous of. Slanting roof made with stones might seem rickety but they have kept the house dwellers safe from rain and snow(which falls on the valley for the most part of the year), some as much as for 100 years.
But it is the ingenuity of this proprietary Kathkuni architecture of Himachal that castles built even five hundred years ago have survived the worst of the earthquakes amongst other tragedies.
Before you can even think of the Naggar Castle on your Naggar sightseeing tour, the tall Gauri Shankar temple standing in its own lone courtyard would stop you. No one knows who built the temple, but this revered Shiva temple is said to be from the 12th century.
The temple is a perfect example of finely carved stones set over each other to reach up to an open shikhara. The open paved courtyard of the temple would remind you of the days spent at your grandmother’s home in a village.
A girl would enquire about her 20 rupees ink pen that she kept in the temple wall. An old man would come for his regular 2 pm prayer and sit with you on the stone bench sharing a few moments from his most precious string of memories. But only to tell you that even though you are busy soaking in the temple peace and the water from the courtyard tap is fresher than the mint-lime juice back home, you must rush for you need to see a lot in a few hours.
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After giving a final glance to a temple that might just have been carved from the same monolith and making sure that you got close-ups of the stone carvings and the small idols chiseled out of stone, you dart upwards.
But only to stop again at another stone monument which could be anything from a temple to a memorial. After all, Naggar was once the capital of Kullu and thus home to many moody kings. Naggar is at a height of 1800 meters, and from the edge of that structure’s paved private courtyard, you would feel even higher looking at the entire valley sprawling under your feet.
This empty courtyard scene with the backdrop of an ancient gorgeous temple would repeat in the many temples of Naggar that you would see on your way. Each temple would make the same tempting promise that it can offer the solitude you have been looking for better than the previous one.
When you climb further up from the Gauri Shankar temple, it is obvious that you would walk towards the Naggar castle.
Over the years in which Naggar tourism has flourished, the castle of Naggar or Naggar palace, as it was in the past, has remained one of the most popular places to visit in Naggar, Himachal Pradesh. Naggar castle history dictates that the palace was built by Raja Sidh Singh more than 500 years ago.
The castle is another robust but beautiful example of the self-sufficient Kathkuni architecture. Alternate slabs of stone and wooden beams have been fit together to form this castle that hosted at least one-third of the 1500-years of the lineage of Kullu kings who eventually made Kullu city their capital.
The castle that now serves as an HTPDC hotel offers grand balconies with seamless views over the Naggar village and the Beas cradling the valley. Sit down for a moment in the rooftop restaurant of this ancient but unforgotten mahal, and enjoy a trout or a vegetable cutlet that seem to have come out straight from the royal kitchen.
Don’t blame yourself if you enjoy the vegetarian cutlets more than the views over the Beas.
The Jagatipatt temple in the center of the palace courtyard stays closed for reasons unknown. Also, the museum is dismal and doesn’t offer a tourist the answers to his questions about the smart building techniques and other histories of Naggar or the castle.
But you only paid rupees 30 to enter the castle, and the Krishna temple still awaits at a hike away in the jungle above Naggar.
So take the appropriate directions from the guard of the castle and head left from the palace on the Naggar road. Ask a few shops again and take the stairs that will take you right up to the majestic Krishna temple.
Listen to the ladies when they say you have to climb uphill continuously. Because another mischievous path on the right will take you to the temple but through lonely jungles, private apple orchards, and, to your dismay, to the backside of the temple from where you will have to scramble up the temple’s wall to fall directly into the hands of God.
But if you keep climbing up the correct path, the stairs continue until another stone masterpiece from the ancient era that is the Krishna temple becomes visible.
No matter which path you take, you will forget everything else when you arrive at the Krishna temple.
An orange tree in the folkloric courtyard, flower pots made out of medieval stone objects, detailed motifs chiseled out of stone, Krishna and Hanuman carved out of temple walls, dancing apsaras on the amber stone walls, children playing in the backside of the temple under apple trees — everything would convince you that you time-traveled to another century.
Suggested Read: Hiking around in Dharamshala, Himachal – Ways you can stay in nature.
Take your time there for the temple deserves it. But keep an eye on the watch that is your compass to the present, and let her remind you that the last bus to Manali from Naggar leaves by 6-7 pm.
As you head back down the curvy staircase, the jungles surrounding Naggar would start to sleep. Keep a swift pace and retrace your path to the place where the bus had earlier dropped you. Now the ramshackle HRTC bus would come on the other side of the road to drive you back to Manali.
While the wheels of the bus churn, you have about an hour to be shaken back into reality. If not for the cows crossing the road, the humans haggling their way into an over-stuffed bus will do the job.
Don’t dismay over the fact that neither you were born in those laidback eras nor can you ever call Naggar home. But rejoice, for you just visited a place where temple courtyards are still the modern Cafe Coffee Days.
Please note: Some other things to do in Naggar are seeing the Tripura Sundari temple and visiting the Russian painter’s Nicholas Roerich art gallery in Naggar amongst other things. I didn’t go to these places but they all lie within walking distances from each other. Ask a local and you would find your way. Google maps also worked pretty well in Naggar Manali.
Where to stay in Naggar, Manali?
Although I visited Naggar only for a few hours, I would highly recommend you to stay there to fully experience the temples and their serenity. You can find a place in Naggar on Booking. This is a list of Manali places and you would have to direct yourself through the map to find Naggar hotels or homestays in Naggar.
You can also stay at the Naggar castle hotel, as I said earlier. Do the Naggar castle booking here on the official site of Himachal Tourism.
How to reach Naggar, Manali?
Manali to Naggar bus runs very frequently and takes about an hour to reach. Manali to Naggar distance is about 21 km. But remember that the last bus only runs until 6 or 7. Do ask the locals or the bus driver while getting down in Naggar.
What is the best time to visit Naggar, Himachal Pradesh?
Naggar weather is similar to Manali’s climate. The best season to visit Naggar would be the summer months of June, July, and August.
Further Reading and places around Naggar, India.
Other places to explore in Himachal Pradesh –
7 Quirky ways to experience Manali – Best Places to visit in Manali
Admiring the timelessness of a busy village in Parvati – Manikaran Sahib, Parvati
A unique Himalayan Valley to see in India – Spiti Valley, Himalayas, India
Exploring Dharamshala slowly – Traveling in Dharamshala
Living and traveling in a Dharamshala village – Life in Bhagsu Nag
Temples from around the world –
Another beautiful place to travel to see temples and Indian religious beliefs – Pushkar, Rajasthan
One of the grandest Hindu temple of Asia – Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Did you like my travel guide to Naggar Himachal Pradesh? Let me know in the comments.
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