A memorable evening at Fort Kamru

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Prologue

Melancholy was grabbing our spirits very fast while we were on our way back from Chitkul, passing the Godly valleys looking so ever  mysterious in the growing cloud cover. The sun rays were playing hide and seek with the clouds, the mountain tops were looking darker and shaded than before and there was growing bite in the winds blowing down into the valley from the glaciers guarding this amazing paradise.

Reaching Village Kamru, Sangla

Our SUV left the alpine tracks and entered into a whole new world surrounded by apple orchards after taking a sudden uphill right turn from town Sangla. We had just reached a dead-end after 3 mins of another bumpy climb. The small strip of road was amazing – we had orchards everywhere.

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A panoramic view of the Apple Orchards at Kamru, Sangla

The tiny green apples were dancing along with the tree leaves with the cold evening breeze refreshing our tired spirits. We had reached village Kamru and a large beautifully painted gate with a tall uphill staircase welcomed us.

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Entrance Gate to Village Kamru

Village Kamru

Geographically and historically the village Kamru has an amazing feat. Located at a height of 2700m it is one of the oldest and culturally important villages in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. It was the capital of the ‘Bashahr’ or ‘Bussahir’ ancient princely state of the Himachal. According to historians the Bashahr state was once occupied by a Gorkha king from originating from central Nepal during 1803 to 1815. Later on during 1815–16, when the Gorkhas were driven out from Kinnaur by the Anglo-Gorkha conflict, this little princely state was taken over by the British Raj and included into one among the 28 Shimla Hills States. The monarch of the Bashahr princely state from then onwards started existing as a titular leader like other princely states of the then India.

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Kamru Village

Considering its strategic importance, the village and the Fort Kamru were chosen to be located on a small hillock located in the Sangla valley. It is believed that the ancestors of the ruling family were devotees of Devi Kamakhya (located in Guwahati). The village and the fort itself were instigated in the name of Devi Kamakhya Herself (also known as Kamroop Devi) and hence the name Kamru was followed by the local people since years . The present Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Sri Virbhadra Singh is a descendant of the Royal family of Kamru.

Trek to the Fort Kamru

The almost half and hour uphill climb to the fort Kamru was one of the most amazing experiences we had during our entire Kinnaur tour. The aura was simply awesome because as tourists we were the only one there. We were entirely all on our own with just the school returning kids helping us to guide our way up into the village.

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An old gate..Kamru Village

The entry gate located at the base of the hillock was worth mentioning. We wondered why it had the paintings portraying both Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. Two huge dragons were fiercely guarding at the two pillars of the gate. The uphill climb was steep and tiresome. We wondered how the school kids were laughing, jumping all along their way – climbing these stairs with precise ease and comfort.

The entire Sangla valley bloomed into its full glory with our gradual ascent on the stairs leading us to the Kamru village. The very first sight was the vastness of the lush green apple orchards lying below enchanted us.

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View of the Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple complex, Kamru

The very few houses of the Kamru village just opened up into our sight with a climb of another 100 stairs. Most of the village houses in these parts were much advanced as compared to what we had seen in Rakchham and Chitkul villages, although some had typical stoned walls and roofs thatched with slate tiles.

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Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple Gate, Kamru

The Temple Gate

All of a sudden after turning an uphill bend, we were standing right in front of a beautiful large brass gate covered by polished slate tiles. The walls of the gate had statues of almost all Hindu Gods and Goddesses leading us into a paved courtyard.

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The beautiful mural, Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple, Kamru

There was a mural depicting Lord Hanuman along with a fearsome Tibetian God right in front of us. The left of the courtyard housed a beautiful monastery. In the exact right side of the courtyard, we found a large wooden temple (Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple) standing tall on a stone plinth. The answers to our unexplored queries while we were down at the main entrance of the village were clear. Like most other Kinnauri villages, Kamru too had a tradition of following both Hindu and Buddhism as their religion.

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The Monastery in Village Kamru

Both the monastery and the temple had amazing architectural hallmarks.

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Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple, Kamru

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The Beautiful wood works on Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple, Kamru

The wood works on the walls of the Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple were particularly worth mentioning. It was similar to what we had already seen in the temples located in Rakchham and Chitkul villages.

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The Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple complex

There was a small pagoda like gallery located at the centre of the courtyard which was probably meant for religious activities and meetings held in the village.

Climb towards Fort Kamru

One of the villagers asked us to take the small staircase located at the right side of the Sri Badri Vishal Ji Temple for the Kamru fort.

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The traditional mansions at Village Kamru..An aura of the bygone era

The modern looks of the Kamru village disappeared all of a sudden. We entered into a village that was no where similar to what lay further down from where we have climbed up.

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Having the flavor of the bygone era..The experience was simply amazing

All the huts, cottages and mansions on the side of our narrow uphill stone paved lane clearly bore the hallmarks of the bygone era of the Bashahr dynasty.

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A dip into the bygone era..at Village Kamru

The paved lane was getting narrower with piles of woods and stones heaped beside us. The apple orchards were gradually narrowing on us from both the two sides.

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The narrow paved lane bordered by Apple Orchards & Stone Walls

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The canopy of the Apple Vines

We reached a place where we had to bend through a vine of apple trees.

The wooden mansion

After leaving the apple vine, we had to regain our breath as the climb getting more and more challenging. But this was perhaps a blessing in disguise.

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The wooden mansion..we liked so much

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The wooden mansion..we spent so much time to behold

To our right, we found an amazing wooden mansion with a conical roof thatched by slate tiles in the backdrop of the vast greenness of the heavenly Sangla valley. It was a moment to cherish, a moment to remember. We wasted not even a moment before we had captured this spellbinding aura in our lenses.

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Kamru Fort, Main Entrance

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Fort Kamru..Tall, Proud and Gorgeous..

Fort Kamru

We were more than happy to find our almost 40 mins climb coming to an end. Yet again we were standing in front of a huge stone-walled complex – the Fort Kamru, with a large brass gate containing amazing sculptures of Hindu deities welcoming us.

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The amazing door bells at the Inner Gate, Kamru Fort

We were welcomed by a lone priest who requested us to wear traditional Kinnauri caps and tie a strip of ribbon belt (neatly arranged in a wooden rack) in our waists before entering another brass gate leading us to the interior of the Fort.

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Fort Kamru & Kamru Devi Temple

Fort Kamru was a mammoth structure, an architectural wonder. It was more of a cylindrical shaped tower built of from a massive plinth with its basement and ground floors made of stone bricks. The upper floors and galleries had exquisite woodwork.

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Fort Kamru, Unplugged

The beauty and the quality of the woodwork were far better than what we had seen in any of the other village temples in Rakchham or Chitkul. Unfortunately many of these woodwork have been worn out due to lack of proper preservation and maintenance.

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Kamru Devi Temple

We found the historical Kamru Devi Temple to the left of the fort. People of royal family and local villagers of Sangla valley had worshiped Goddess Durga as Devi Kamru (originating from Devi Kamroop or Goddess Kamakhya) ever since the dawn of the Bashahr dynasty in Kinnaur. Every year hundreds of villagers organize a gala celebration performing pujas where the holy procession is led by the members of the Royal family.

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The Kamru Temple Complex

The valley facing the terrace of the fort provides a panoramic view of the Sangla Valley. With the day coming to an eventful end, the fading valley view preached a peculiar melancholy in our hearts…we knew it was time to leave.

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Sangla Valley view from Fort Kamru..It was getting Darker as the Day was coming to an end

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Snap of the evening..while climbing down to our waiting SUV

Our downhill climb to the place where our SUV was parked was surprisingly very fast and Mukesh Ji, our tour guide drove us to the Sangla Village, where he had to meet somebody before taking us back to our hotel in Kalpa.

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Evening in Village Kamru

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Adieu Kamru

The Kinnauri Marriage Reception Party

Mukesh Ji went down to a meet his friend in a small provision store in Sangla. We found that a marriage ceremony was going on in a small walled garden.

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The Traditional Kinnauri Marriage Reception Party at Sangla

All the villagers assembled here were colorfully dressed in traditional Kinnauri attires. The groom and the bride were looking bright and jubilant. Probably their marriage was already over and it was the time for them to interact with family members and the invitees. Members of the groom’s family were offering garlands made of dry fruits and other gifts to the bride’s family. A feast was going on under a small tent and two middle-aged ladies were arranging the gift items received from the relatives and invitees.

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The colorful Kinnauri Marriage Reception party

Unable to restrain ourselves from this rare opportunity we tried to interact with one of the gentlemen invited in the marriage ceremony. To our surprise this person was fluent in Hindi and English. He said that he was an employee of the HP state Government at Mandi and it was the marriage ceremony of one of his distant cousins.

We came to know that the ceremony started with a procession made by the groom to the bride’s house where all the relatives and invitees performed the traditional dance Nati. The procession is then accompanied by members of the bride and both the families move together to a village temple for performing Pujas and completing religious rituals.

Epilogue

We were getting late and considering the harsh terrain we had to climb down from the Baspa Dam to Karcham bridge, we decided to call off our interaction and return to the SUV. The road leading us down the Baspa gorge started to literally scare the hell out of us. We could feel the aura of the growing tension around us.

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Devi Durga’s temple….Karcham Sangla Road

We reached the spot where Devi Durga’s temple was guarding the hideous gorge-pit. With Her divine blessings, the road led us down safely to Karcham. The SUV dropped us at our hotel Kinnaur Kailash, Kalpa at around 8pm with the three of us dead tired and exhausted. Yet, there was an amazing satisfaction and content among all of us! We were all heavily fueled with a life long memory of the prized Sangla, Rakchham, Chitkul and Kamru tour.


CREDITS

Script, Photography & Videography (C) Indranil Mutsuddi


ESSENTIAL GUIDELINES FOR TOURISTS

When to visit: The ideal season for touring Kalpa Kinnaur Sangla is during the months of June, July and August. Tourists are advised to avoid the rainy days of Septemeber as the roads are frequently disconnected by heavy landslides. After October most of the roads of the Kinnaur District become un-navigable. During summer it is advised to pack light woolens for Kalpa, Sangla and Chitkul tours. However anybody having plans to move further up to tour Nako, Kaza and Kunzum Pass (Spiti Valley) may take heavy woolens.

How to travel: The only way to travel Kinnaur is through Shimla. The Shimla-Narkanda road leads you to Rampur where the NH 5 takes you to Karcham where the road bifurcates to Sangla and Reckong Peo. Tourists may book cars (SUVs are highly recommended on Kinnaur roads) from Shimla itself or may travel upto Reckong Peo by HRTC Delux bus (originating from Chandigarh) or ordinary bus from Shimla Tutikandi ISBT. However journey by ordinary buses are quite often tiresome and uncomfortable. Considering the challenging road conditions of Kinnaur, HRTC bus service is the most reliable form of communication. However local taxi service could be availed from Kalpa or Reckong Peo which are reliable, as most of the drivers are aware of the tricky road conditions in Kinnaur, Reckong Peo and Sangla. HRTC bus service is only available upto Sangla from Shimla or Rampur. Very few HRTC buses travel upto Chitkul.

Where to stay: A fair number of hotels are available at Kalpa and Reckong Peo. At Kalpa, the Kinner Kailash Hotel of HPTDC provides a luxurious stay and spectacular view of the Holy “Shivalinga” on Mount Kinnaur Kailash. At Sangla a good number of Hotels and camps are available for staying. Banjara Camps of Sangla are one of the most reputed among the few.

Mobile Connectivity & Civic Facilities: Tourists may note that mobile connections are often very poor in Kinnaur. At Chitkul except BSNL no mobile connection is available. The same issue arises when one moves beyond Reckong Peo towards Kaza. Banks, ATMs, Petrol Pumps, Medical centres and other civic facilities are only available in plenty at Reckong Peo and partially at the Sangla town.


WHY YOU NEED TO CONTACT http://www.mytravelnama.com?

  • Hotel & Resorts, Kalpa, Sangla, Chitkul
  • Local travel (SUVs) Booking from Kalpa/Reckong Peo: Mr. Mukesh Kumar Negi, Kalpa (09418340009, 09857340009)
  • Trekking Adventure Tours, Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama, Shivalinga Darshan: Mr. Nav Negi, Kalpa (09805582595)

Email us to KNOW MORE at:

mytravlenama2015@gmail.com

indranil.mutsuddi74@gmail.com


 

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