I took the less-travelled road, and that has made all the difference. It always does; so, I started my search for a peaceful, dreamy place again. I came across this small hamlet off Kalka-Shimla highway while searching for UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Nestled in Solan district is a small hill station named Barog, an unspoken and the vaguely overlooked tourist destination. It is situated in the Choor Chandani hills of Himalayas. And it enjoys the unique seclusion of not being part of the mainstream. Still, it is within convenient proximity of the Cantonment town of Kasauli and Chail the summer capital of Punjab’s erstwhile state. This less-travelled place is 17 km from Kasauli and 60 km from Chandigarh on the Kalka-Shimla highway.
It was a long weekend getaway to with my mom, so I had to follow her schedule and started on Saturday morning around 8 am from Gurgaon. We took the Gurgaon -Ambala-Chandigarh -Shimla route, the weather was pleasant mostly, except for the drizzle. Speaking of Barog, it’s nearly 2000 m above the sea level, with temperatures ranging between 4 to 14-degree Celsius in winters and around 20-27 degrees in summers. The drive to Barog is a serene one (including most of the hour driving the Delhi-Chandigarh highway) before you start climbing on Chandigarh-Shimla highway. As we neared our destination, fresh air filled in my lungs, and I felt refreshed and exhilarated. After a drive of 340 km and 7 hours, we reached Barog from Gurgaon at 2 pm.
Since I prefer lodging at the State Tourism, I booked The Pinewood under HPDTC on Kalka Shimla Highway. All we need is a place to lay our weary head, and The Pinewood provides an excellent choice for rest and rejuvenation. The rooms were spacious, with a balcony which I loved, as from there, my eyes could see lush greenery and the cloud-filled valley. I ordered a pot of tea & some mixed pakoras. Despite Barog being a small village, there are many hotels, Single apartment & Homestay prices starting as low as Rs 460/per night and go up to 3000/per night. Mom & I decided to spend the evening at leisure, so I picked a copy of my Charles dickens & moved to the balcony. It was a grey afternoon with a dull sky, threatening rain. I was busy munching my pakoras, & sipping a hot cup of tea when a curtain of rain beat down from heaven. Barog was quite cold in March as it’s surrounded by thick pine forest, & we have to switch on the room heater.
Talking of Barog, it was settled in the early 20th century during the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla railways building. During the Kalka–Shimla railway line construction in the year 1903, an architect named Barog commenced establishing a tunnel near the railway track as per government orders. To hasten the construction, he started digging from both ends. However, due to mistakes in his calculation, the ends of the tunnel did not meet, and the British government heavily fined him. Failing to withstand this embarrassment, Barog committed suicide. His body was cremated near this incomplete tunnel, and the area came to be known by his name. Barog tunnel is the longest in which 103 are operational tunnels on the UNESCO heritage Kalka-Shimla railways route, which is 1143.61m long.
It was a bright Sunday morning, and the high sunlit clouds were drifting across the clear blue sky. The whole valley was bathed in the warm glow of the rising sun when we hit the road to explore the village. We started with the Dalonji Bon Monastery, also known as the Menri, a monastery run by the Yungdrung Bon Monastic Centre. The centre was built in 1969 by Abbot Lungtog Tenpai Nyima, & is the second oldest monastery in the world. This monastery has recreated the Geshe training program and is home to over 200 monks, now hosts the only two Geshe programs in the Bon lineage. This place radiates peace & calmness, & the best place to witness Tibetan culture. The monastery is located at 8.5km from our hotel.
Our next stop was Jatoli Shiva Temple; its 8.7 km(approx) from the Dalonji Bon Monastery. The magnificent Jatoli temple was established by Swami Krishnananda Paramahansa in 1974, in the beautiful garden of Jatoli. It is a grand and spectacular temple, perched on a hilltop where the samadhi of Swami Krishnananda Paramahansa rest too. The style of architecture is typical Southern-Dravidian and considered Asia’s one of the highest Shiva temple. This shrine is indeed an architectural marvel, which attracts a large number of devotees.
It was almost lunchtime when we left from Jatoli, so we headed to Spencer. Spencer is one of the well-known restaurants in Barog, and it dates back to the period of the British era. The cuisines served in this historic restaurant enhance the appetite of diners because of its varieties. Earlier, the restaurant was divided into sections for the Hindus, British, and Muslims. It is a cafe of Indian and other cuisines. After relishing a delectable feast, sit back and enjoy the panoramic views of nature all around. I was so satiated with the delicacy, I forget about my next attraction Dakshai.
After a sumptuous lunch, collecting myself drove to a small cantonment, also known as Daag-e-shahi, one of the oldest cantonments in the Salon district of Himachal Pradesh founded in 1847 by the East India Company by securing free five villages from Maharaja of Patiala. These villages were Dabbi, Badhtiala, Chunawad, Jawag, and Dagshai, & the cantonment was named after the last town, as it was the most spacious and most strategically located. The name Dagshai was derived from Daagh-e-Shahi; during the Moghul times, a Daagh-e-Shahi (royal mark) was put on the criminals’ forehead and sent packing to Dagshai village. Dakshai is 28.4 km(approx) from Spencer restaurant, situated on a top of a high hillock astride the Kalka-Shimla highway.
Upon reaching Dakshai, the first thing to visit is the Dakshai Jail, constructed in 1849. This Jail came into limelight as several Irish freedom fighters were executed here—prompting Mahatma Gandhi to rush to an on-spot assessment of the situation. This Jail is a T shaped structure with a high ceiling and wooden flooring. It has 54 cells, 11 were converted into staff accommodation, out of the balance 43; 27 cells were called normal cells & 16 cells were for solitary confinement. Historical facts state four revolutionaries of the Komagata Maru incident were also executed at Dagshai. The Jail is currently converted into a museum for the commoners.
Alongside the Jail, an old church is built in gothic style by the Irish solider in 1852 A.D. It was the first garrison church famous for its colonial architecture. The area is surrounded by thick pine and oak trees that add another charm to the place. There is also a graveyard overlooking the valley, which carries its history dated back 1920. Dozens of Scottish mutineers were incarcerated at Dagshai Prison, who was in British service in 1920. On 2 November 1920, mutineer leader James Daly – a 21-year-old was shot by a firing squad in the prison courtyard, the last member of the British Forces to be executed for mutiny. He was buried at the Dagshai graveyard until 1970.
The silence of this place speaks volumes of pain, suffering, and torture of mutineers. Later the area was used as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients by the Britishers. Dakshai has a breathtaking scenic view & historical treasures. It’s said you do not praise a day before the sunset, as its a delight to photographers. Clutching my camera, we drove to Choor Chandani peak 15.2 km(approx) for Dakshai. The hill is situated at 3,650 m above the sea level surrounded by pine trees why it’s known as the Choordhar Mountains because it gives an impression of various silver bangles sliding down the slope of the mountain a moonlit night.
It’s an ideal destination for photographers, Trekkers, nature enthusiasts, and adventure lovers, and the place boasts impressive views. We sat down, absorbing the beauty of nature, as the sun sets and thin strips of clouds on the horizon changed vivid colours. It fascinated my eye, and I captured them in my lens. After a long expedition, our tiredness engulfed us in a deep sleep once we hit the bed after eating dinner.
The next day post breakfast, when I was planning the day, my mom declared she wants to visit Shimla Kalibadi & Jakhoo valley. You cannot argue with your mother, so we drove to Shimla. Shimla is 54.6 km(approx) from Barog, throughout the way we got to enjoy blue skies, spring breezes, and lush greenery. It was Holika Dahan, an auspicious day for Hindus, and we were blessed to see 180 degrees of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas from Shimla. We have to walk down, as no vehicle is allowed on the Mall road. Shimla Kalibadi is dedicated to Goddess Kali, also known as Shyamala, built-in 1845. The name of Goddess Shyamala that from where Shimla derives its name. The Kalibari temple was primarily located in Jakhoo hill, but the British brought it to its current site.
We attended the noon Aarti before the temple was closed for Bhog. We then moved to Jakhoo Temple 2.2km (approx) from Kalibadi, so we decided to walk. Jakhoo temple is dedicated to Hindu deity Hanuman. According to the Ramayana, Hanuman stopped at the location to rest while searching for the Sanjivni Booti to revive Lakshmana. It is situated on Jakhoo Hill, Shimla’s highest peak, at the height of 2,455 m above sea level.
A giant 108-feet-high idol of Hanuman stands tall on the hills, overlooking the city of Shimla. This hilltop offers spectacular views of the Shivalik mountain range and is home to a large monkey colony. The temple is accessible by foot if you are an adventure enthusiast can trek up the hill; however, the climb is quite steep in places; or takes a pony ride from the Mall road; or taxi (Rs 400/per person both ways) from the ridge. Recently, an aerial ropeway (555/per person both ways) – the Jhaku Ropeway Shimla takes you from The Ridge to the Jahku Temple in just 6 minutes.
We took the forest hill road till ridge, which was a 30min walk. The tall pine & cedar trees were overhanging the road sunlight streaming through the leaves. And in this wilderness, my soul strums to the rhythm of pure bliss. Reaching upon the ridge, we took a taxi to the temple, offered prayers & took blessing. Way back to Barog, we bought golden apples for home.
By the time we reached our hotel, it was late evening, and the moon was abnormally large. But it bathed the earth with its luminous glow. Then mom reminded me of its Purnima. And the clouds drifted away from a full moon, drenching my balcony with soft lunar light. We sat for a while listening to music & soaking ourselves in the moonlit night. Later that night we ordered local cuisine of Himachal for dinner. I wanted to visit the Grave of Barog, before leaving the town tomorrow so slept early.
Its Holi today, the sun rose in a crimson and gold pool, spilling light all over the land with the white clouds. On the occasion of the colourful festival, calls started coming in of family & friends. Amidst the wishes, we packed & got ready to leave for Gurgaon. The Grave of Barog was 0.7Km(approx) from our hotel, so we decided to walk down. The engineer named Barog failed to construct the longest tunnel. Due to his miscalculation cremated near the incomplete tunnel after committing suicide. The Grave of Barog is surrounded by a garden, which is well maintained and beautifully manicured. The surrounding is scenic & calm, with a station building of Scottish architecture. We walked back to our hotel & drove back to Gurgaon.
Serenity and the city are two diametrically opposite concepts, which, however, get belied in this ‘beautiful town’, Barog. It offers walks through towering pine trees and rolling hills with the chirping birds for company. Also boasting its raw natural beauty, and a historical treasure its own, the quaint town is like clouds that came floating into one’s life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm but to add colour to their sunset sky.
How To Reach Barog
By Air: The nearest airport is Shimla Airport, which is well connected with the major cities & cabs are available to reach Barog. The distance from here is 61km.
By Rail: Barog has its small railway station in the Solan district. It falls on UNESCO World Heritage Site Kalka–Shimla Railway. The next railway station will be in Chandigarh. It further connects the town with other major cities in India.
By Road: You can opt for a road journey to reach Barog directly since it’s well connected with the major cities. It is located around 300 km from Delhi & 340 km from Gurgaon.