The India Series #15: Himachal Pradesh

Featured Image: Manali, Source: Travel Triangle

As I had said in the first installment of the series, my main objective is to break stereotypes about India. And here comes an article that will shatter one such myth – India is NOT completely a hot country. In fact Gulmarg in Kashmir is among the top 5 highest ski resorts in the world. But before we take a tour of Kashmir, lets first visit the state just below it, which I have been fortunate to visit twice until now.


 

From the state of Haryana, we move just a bit north to State #9: Himachal Pradesh. Him‘ in Himachal means ‘snow’, and ‘achal’ stands for  ‘land’ or ‘abode’, so the name is quite self-explanatory. The capital is Shimla, and Dharamshala is the second capital in winters. The official language is Hindi.

himachal_pradesh_districtSource: Maps of India

 

CULTURE:

  • Although Hindi is the official language, a more regional spoken language is Pahari, which has many dialects of its own.
  • The majority of the people are Hindus, although there is a significant population of Buddhists as well. In places like Spiti and Lahaul, there is a percentage of Tibetan people.

buddhist-monastery-kaza-spiti-valley-22271620Buddhist monastery in Spiti Valley, Source: DreamsTime

  • Arts and crafts from Himachal are well-known all over the country and internationally, especially pashmina shawl. Other specialties include carpets, leatherworks, paintings, carpentry, pottery, and so on.

product-500x500Pashmina shawl, Source: Indiamart

  • There are various folk dance forms, some of which are Losar Shona Chuksam, Dangi, Burah dance, Naati, Kharait and Shunto.
  • Some fairs and festivals exclusive to Himachal are Kullu Dussehra, Minjar Fair, Renuka fair, Lavi Trade Fair, Vrajeshwari fair and Jwalamukhi Fair.

kullu-dussehra-2Kullu Dusseshra, Source: DiscoveringIndia.net

 

CUISINE:

  • The Himachali cuisine is similar to typical North Indian food, with an abundance of red meat and wheat bread.
  • Some vegetarian dishes are Madra (a dish made from soaked chickpeas), Dhaam (basically a complete thali), Tudkiya Bhath (a kind of pulao), and Auriya Kaddu (pumpkins cooked with mustard seeds).

img_ce5897dd3f7021ad3c441eb1a143bdb2_1474190183856_originalHimachali Dhaam, Source: Events High

  • Non-vegetarian dishes include Chha Gosht (a delicious lamb dish), Kullu trout fish, and Pahadi chicken.

image-thumbnail_medium-bf5058ab75b4daf1-64622e696d6167652e31343735325f36303070782e6a706567Chha Gosht, Source: Shoes on Loose

  • There are various popular snacks such as Bhey (spicy lotus stems), Siddu, Babru (a modification of the kachori), and Patande (a kind of pancake).

1462959496Bhey, Source: Himachal Pradesh Times

  • Sweet dishes such as Mittha and Akotri are relished.

ctaissuwiae3hjsMittha, Source: Hot Friday Talks

  • Tibetan cuisine occupies a special place in the heart of Himachal, with Momos being the most favorite, along with others like Thukpa, Tingmo , LuchiPoti, Thentuk and Naizha Cake.

shutterstock_82912426Momos, Source: Thomas Cook

See 10 best recipes of Himachal Pradesh on NDTV Food.

TRADITIONAL ATTIRE:

  • The attire varies slightly among the two main classes of Hindus: Brahmins and Rajputs. While the Brahmin men wear typical dhoti-kurta with possibly a waistcost and a turban, Rajput men mostly wear tight churidar pyjama with kurta and long silk overcoat.
  • Women often wear long salwar-kameez and ghaghra-choli.
  • Some of the jewellery worn by women are Chakk, Chanderhar, Chiri, Toke, Pari and Jhumka.

5cbd97a0db5cd45bae2787d99076f979Scene from a jewellery market in McLeodganj, Source: Pinterest

  • The caps from Kullu are known to be one of the most popular souvenirs from Himachal Pradesh.

bhuttico3Kullu caps, Source: Manali Online

  • The tribal wear of this state is also well-preserved, and is very colourful and vibrant.

Watch this short video for traditional attire from different regions:

INTERESTING FACTS:

  • Shigri Glacier in Lahaul is one of the largest glaciers in Asia.

img_20140820_081553Climbers on the Bara Shigri Glacier, Source: Wanderer’s Diaries

  • Manali-Leh National Highway is the highest motorable road in the world.

1464162905_m-manal-20to-20leh1Manali-Leh Highway, Source: Thrillophilia

  • Chail cricket ground is the highest cricket ground of the world.

chaicricketgroundChail cricket ground, Source: Himachal Tour and Travel

  • Hikkim is a village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh which has world highest “post office” and “polling station”.

dakbabu-blogspot-inworlds-highest-post-office-hikkim-in-india-hikkim-branch-post-letterSource: Mysterious Himachal

  • Malana, a small unexplored and hidden village in Himachal Pradesh is called as ‘The Village of Taboos.’ It has a strict rule that no outsider should touch any belonging of the residents or any wall of the village. Even more interestingly, the villagers are said to be descendants of the soldiers of Greek ruler Alexander the Great.

kullu-view-district-historical-village-malana-aqil_f4e93a2c-6544-11e7-95fb-ec6334583ea6Malana village, Source: Hindustan Times

  • The Great Himalayan National Park has been declared as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The National Park is home to 370 fauna species, 30 plus mammals, 180 birds and 9 amphibians among others.
  •  Shimla is the only place in the whole of Asia to sport a natural ice skating rink.

ice20skating-himachal20pradeshSource: Himachal Pradesh Helpline Tourism

  • The Shimla-Kalka route was declared as world heritage site by UNESCO and holds the world record of being the toy train to cover the steepest (5816 ft) slope in least distance (96km).

kalkae28093shimla-journey-with-toy-train-newspatrollingSource: News Patrolling

 

FAMOUS PERSONALITIES:

  • Dalip Singh Rana (the Great Khali): Eighth tallest professional wrestler in history in 2014 and the fourth tallest wrestler in WWE history in 2017.
  • Shiva Keshavan: Six time Olympian and the first Indian representative to compete in luge at the Winter Olympic Games
  • Charanjit Singh: Captained the Indian hockey team that won the gold medal in the 1964 Summer Olympics at Tokyo, Japan.

cwbalgsusaar7bbCharanjit Singh at 1964 Summer Olympics, Source: Twitter

  • Rattan Chand: Former senior bureaucrat and currently member of the working group of National Statistical Commission, Government of India and senior expert for World Bank.
  • Shyam Saran Negi: First voter of India after independence, who is now a retired schoolteacher, and has voted in every general election since 1951

Watch the very dynamic 100 year old Shyam Saran Negi in this inspiring video:

 

Since Himachal Pradesh is one of the most sough-after tourist destinations in India, my article would be incomplete without redirecting you to a link where you can find the top 15 crazy things to do while in this state. With this, lets bid goodbye to “Land of the Gods” with this incredible timelapse video:


 

Next stop: Jammu and Kashmir

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