Located in the western part of Himachal Pradesh and spread between the Shivalik foothills and the Dhauladhar Range, the Kangra Valley is a land of gentle beauty.Undulating expanses of tea gardens and terraced paddy fields are crisscrossed by sparkling snow-fed rivulets. Kangra is the most populated district of Himachal Pradesh, and is well connected with the plains as it is situated along the border with Punjab.
The valley derives its name from the ancient town of Kangra, even though Dharamsala is the present district headquarters. The history of the town goes back 3,500 years when it was called Nagarkot and was the capital of the kingdom of Trigartha. In 1620, Kangra and its fort were captured by Emperor Jaharigir , after which it became a Mughal province. Dominating the town today are the ruins of the once formidable Kangra Fort, perched on top of a steep cliff overlooking the Banganga and Majbi rivulets.
Within the fort’s compound are two Hindu emples dedicated to Ambika Devi (a local goddess) and Lakshmi Nitrayan, and a Bain temple with a stone image of Adinath. Behind the crowded bazaar is the Brajeshwari Devi Temple, whose fabled riches were plundered by Mahmucl of Ghazni in 1009. The present structure was built in 1920, after the terrible earthquake of 1905 destroyed the city and original temple.
Some 15 km (9 miles) southwest of Kangra town, are the 15 monolithic rock-cut temples of Masroor, dating to the 10th century and carved in a style similar to those at Ellora . The picturesque Jwalamulthi Temple, 34 km (21 miles) southwest of Kangra, is one of North India’s most important pilgrimage sites.Further east of Kangra, the beauty of the tea garden country unfolds around Palampur, 45 km (28 miles) away. East of Palampur, are the 9th-century stone Baijnath Temple dedicated to Shiva, Biro with its Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and Billing, wellknown as a take-off point for paragliding over the valley.
About 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Palampur, is the fortress of Sujanpur-Tira, located on the right bank of the Beas. Built by the Kangra kings in the early 18th century, it was the favoured residence of Raja Sansar Chant, the renowned patron of Kangra miniature painting. The fortress also preserves some excellent wall paintings. At the far end of the Kangra Valley is Jogindernagar, 55 km (34 miles) south of Palampur, the terminus of a narrows gauge railway line that winds up the valley from Pathankot in the west.
The Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake, created in 1979 by the construction of the Pong Dam across the Beas, lies to the southwest of Kangra district. This large wetland, spread over 45,000 ha (111,200 acres) when full, is a favoured stopover for migratory birds from Central Asia.