Naggar is an exotic location that filmmakers like to go to when they want to shoot in Himachal Pradesh. They were not the first ones to be fascinated by this picturesque location situated midway between Kullu & Manali. It was the seat of kings and rulers of the Kullu-Manali region who first made their castles and palaces overlooking the Beas River Valley. Artists like Nicholas Roerich chose to live in the very same palaces. And taking inspiration from the surroundings to create his well-known works.
Naggar, Kullu Manali – Explore Art, History, Nature
Today, it is a popular tourist destination in Himachal Pradesh. You can visit it either from Kullu or Manali. You can also stay there, in a less crowded part of Kullu Manali.
I was there at the fag end of my Himachal Odyssey. The enthusiasm for reaching there was pretty much the same as on day 1 of the trip. I had heard so much about the castle and art galleries of this charming little town. It seemed like a perfect destination – sitting in the lap of nature, nurtured by the waters of the Beas River, with castles to peep into history and art galleries to soak in some art. If you are there in the right weather, you can see a whole lot of flowers all around.
Here is my small travel guide to the enchanting place in Himachal Pradesh.
Naggar has been a seat of Kullu kings for the known part of history. Naggar Castle is a rather small castle sitting on the edge of a cliff-like formation. It was built in the 16th CE. During the colonial period, it was used as a court and then as a rest house after independence. It is now an HPTDC heritage hotel – a lovely option to stay while on holiday in Kullu Manali.
Made entirely of stone and wood with a local architectural technique called ‘Kathkooni’, this castle has many unique features. No nails or iron have been used in the construction. There are two stories about how the stone was brought here from the other side of the Beas River. Read them on the castle information board. The doors of the castle have been made using a single piece of wood. You can only imagine the size of the tree that could give such a large piece of wood.
Walk on the corridor that goes around the castle. You get some of the most wonderful views of the valley on one side and the town on the other side. On the town side, the temples stand out with their Shikharas announcing their location. You can pretty much see the activity of the town from here.
There is a small museum at the castle but probably the smallest and something that you can let go of. The castle shop though is a decent place to look for local souvenirs.
Temples of Naggar, Kullu Manali
Jagati Patt Temple
Jagati Patt is a small temple located within the castle. It is culturally the most important part of the castle as this is believed to be the seat of the Kullu Gods. Even today, in the case of any natural calamities like earthquakes or epidemics, all the Gurus i.e. the wise men of the villages gather here and make decisions for public welfare. They also collectively perform Yagnas or other rituals to control the situation. To me, it sounded like the most democratic and collective way of dealing with the crisis at hand.
It is believed that the various divine beings took the shape of honey bees and brought a piece of Bhrigu Tung mountain and placed it here. The current temple was renovated in 1999.
Chamunda Devi Temple, Nashala Village
This is rather an unusual temple with blue blending with dark wood. A combination that we earlier saw at Padam Palace in Rampur Bushahr was standing prominently against the perfect green backdrop. A simple temple with doors that were open and closed at the same time – as we found in temples across Himachal Pradesh. Do not know much about this temple, but the deity told me that Shakti had a presence in this part of the Himalayas.
Tripura Sundari Temple
This was the second Shakti temple that I saw in this region of Kullu Manali. May I say the most beautiful of the temple? The conical shikhara sits proudly on top of double-slanted roofs. The pillars are made of carved wood as are the doors. Stone and wood architecture are the same in all temples. But in Tripura Sundari Temple there is extra woodwork and far more intricate carving.
Looks like the temple architects were trying to replicate the beauty of the presiding deity of the temple. A lovely wood-carved Ganesha welcomes you into the temple that has an open courtyard. There are many small temples in the complex, with many carved stones most of which I could not make out what they are.
Nar Singh Dev Temple
The Nar Singh Dev is a small temple located bang opposite the castle. It has a very European double staircase leading to it.
Roerich Art Gallery, Naggar
Roerich Art Gallery is the house of Artist Nicholas Roerich who wore many hats in his lifetime. Check out his Wikipedia page. However before Roerich moved here with his wife Elena in 1928, it was a palace of the kings of Kullu usually called Kully Rajahs. The building is surrounded by well-maintained gardens. In July when I was visiting, there were all kinds of colorful flowers. A path through these gardens leads to the double-story house that overlooks the valley. No photography is allowed at the Roerich Art Gallery.
The first floor of the gallery has paintings of Roerich. You can see his distinct style of painting the landscapes. Assuming that the place would not have been so populated, the place must have been even more endearing and inspiring for an artist.
In the second story, you can walk around the open corridor and see the private living area of the Roerich family. In fact, one of the first well-known Indian film actresses – Devika Rani was married into the family and you can see her room. The museum-like house is interesting but the view from the balcony is the best part of the house. For more details visit their website.
Statues below a tree
I was intrigued by the dark grey stone statues beneath a tree just outside the entrance of the Roerich Art Gallery. A cursory observation, 3 statues of men riding horses that were surrounded by other figurines including one that looked like Lajja Gauri. There were fresh tilaks on the foreheads of all the figures indicating that the idols are still worshiped. There was no board indicating any explanation but the security guard said – these are representations of the brave kings of Kullu.
Urusvati – Himalayan Research Institute
A good 10-minute uphill walk from Roerich Art Gallery will take you to two lovely hidden buildings that now host exhibitions of Himalayan Folk Art. The Himalayan research institute was originally set up in Darjeeling but was soon moved to Kullu Valley.
This museum has interesting displays ranging from stones collected from the region to fossil stones and sculpted stones.
Kullu Rajah Memorial Stones
Before you climb the staircase leading to the Himalayan research institute, you see a series of carved stone slabs lying in neat rows. One is bound to stop and admire the carvings on them that have their own stories to tell. A board at the location informs that these are memorial stones of Kullu Kings and Queens. That was found below the Naggar castle and the Roerich’s restored them here. Such stones are also known as Sati stones or Hero’s stones.
King is usually depicted in the center surrounded by his queens. Women can be seen wearing very Rajputana kind of dresses and in one stone wearing a Sari like a garment. Each stone has a Shikhara like the one we see in North Indian Temples – indicating that the kings and queens were treated like Devatas.
How much more do you expect in a small place like this?
Recommend you to read Places to Visit in Kullu Manali & Himachal.