The first leg of the journey is a ride on the Kangra “Toy Train” to Palampur, a town 50 kms from Kangra, known for its lush tea gardens. The miniature, open-air train slowly winds its way through the hill and forests of the Kangra Valley, affording stunning views of the Dhauladar Mountains, surrounding emerald fields, and a glimpse into Indian village life. The next stop is Baijnath Temple, an ancient shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva the Destroyer. The current structure was built in the 13th century by two local merchants, though an inscription on a wall speaks of an older shrine having existed on the same spot.
A Train Ride Journey to the Magical Town of Palampur
Sacred Legends and Traditions
The main shrine houses a linga, or phallus, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. The beautifully chiseled faces of deities emerging from the stone walls illustrate the depth of Hindu mythology and the artistic sophistication of the time. The visitor is immersed in the atmosphere of the temple, serene vibrations echoing from the constantly ringing prayer bells and chants.
A few kilometres down the road is Tashi Jong, a settlement of Tibetan yogis, monks, and lay people living together in a self-sustaining community. Tashi Jong was one of the first Tibetan refugee settlements in India, founded in the 60s by the late 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche. The hillside is dotted with the hermitages of yogis who live in retreat, who though invisible, make their presence felt in this magical place. At Tashi Jong, you can also observe the ancient craft of Tibetan carpet weaving, done by hand on enormous floor looms, which provides a livelihood for many people in the community.
For lunch we will dine at Taragarh Palace, a lovely estate and hotel, once the summer residence of the royal family of Jammu and Kashmir. The palace, built in British style in the 1930’s and furnished with the family furniture, painting, and keepsakes, is a charming haven from another era. Their restaurant serves fine Indian cuisine, and is the perfect place to relax after the day’s tour.
Choose to take the train, although you may not find a seat, or to take a taxi directly to the sites. The drive is still very beautiful!
- Tour leaves Norbulingka at 10:30 am and returns around 6.
- Snacks will be provided.
- As you will be visiting temples, please dress modestly.
- The train is a very local experience which gives the traveller a taste of village life, not a luxury train. Depending on the season and day, the train can be crowded. In this case, guests can either choose to take the train, although they may not find a seat, or to take a taxi directly to the sites. The drive is still very beautiful.
- The cost per person is 4000 Rs. and group should be a minimum of two people.