“The castle is on the very edge of a terrible precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green tree tops….” My trance of the horror was cut short by the doorbell and it was none other than the gate-keeper of our housing society with the water bill of the month. You must be all wondering what was I doing all the time? The quote was from the pages of Stoker’s masterpiece “Dracula” which I was literally gulping on this rainy afternoon…The mystery and horror of the castle once again run a spell of cold sweat in my body till my wife returned from her office.
Adieu Parvati Valley: Our journey from Kasol to Naggar
On the way to the Castle
We were on our 3 hour drive from Kasol to the Castle. You must be wondering which castle was I talking about and that too in Himachal Pradesh? It was obviously not Castle Dracula! But the inspiration was definitely there.
Route Map to Castle Naggar from Kullu (Courtesy: Google Maps)
I had been to Castle Naggar several times. But spending a day and night in a Royal Suite had hardly ever cropped in my mind. I was wondering what kind of experience would be there as a takeaway? It took almost one and half hour to reach Kullu with the Manali highway being in pathetic condition. After leaving Kullu instead of taking the Beas Bridge taking to the other bank of the river we took the Bijli Mahadev Marg also known as the Kullu-Naggar-Manali Road to our right. A few kilometers ahead the Beas was bifurcated by two streams flowing downstream and we continued our drive taking its right bank until we reached Seobagh. Leaving Seobagh led to our gradual climb. After another 20 mins drive we were right there in Naggar bazaar. We turned right again leaving the Manali road with a stiff climb. With few meters more climb….the gorgeous structure of the castle was already visible.
Welcome to Castle Naggar
The main gate of the Castle had a deserted appearance. Normally you see a pile of tourist cabs and groups of tourists buzzing around the corridor for car parking. It was understandable nobody expected to be on tour on a Bhaidhuj festival. The lone person in the ticket counter asked for entry tickets.
Destination Castle Naggar
When we showed our reservation papers, he led us to the reception. On this odd day the manager was obviously not on his desk. Feeling our presence he rushed in probably from the restaurant kitchen. After completing the check-in formalities a chauffeur took our luggage to our suite while we decided to explore the Castle.
My attention was right on the Castle Walls
Castle Naggar (Near the Reception Center)
While I thanked our cab driver, my attention shifted to the wooden billboard talking about the history of Castle Naggar. The Castle remained the seat of the Royal Dynasty of the Kullu Maharaja. Historians are of the opinion that probably the Castle was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu in the year 1460. The majestic structure was probably built by bringing huge blocks of stones from Garhdhek of Baragarh across the river Beas. The main door of the castle was carved out of massive tree.
The courtyard near the reception
The architecture the of the castle remains uses the traditional “Kathkooni” housing style popular in the villages of Kullu. The splendor lied in the way how such huge stone walls and the roof structures were held together only by using gigantic wooden beams. The castle was used as a royal residence by the Kullu kings until the middle of 17th century. HPTDC took over the castle in the year 1978. On 19th August 2012 Castle Naggar was declared as a National Heritage property.
The “Jagti Patt” Temple, Castle Naggar
My son suddenly pulled my jacket and asked me what those three metal axes on the castle walls were for. Pointing out at the skull of a mountain goat, I explained him probably these were used for hunting, chopping off wood and protecting the people from intruders. It was going to be 12.30pm and we decided to have lunch and enjoy the majestic restaurant balconies in the first floor of the main building.
Trout Dishes for Good Health
Trout Curry & Steamed Rice
While moving in, I found a placard to our left talking highly of Trout meals which was one of the delicacies in the day’s menu. Being Bongs we were immediately mesmerized by the scent of freshly fried fish in mustard oil. We ordered steamed rice and trout curry for lunch. The galleries outside the dining hall were truly majestic.
The galleries outside the dining hall were truly majestic
Waiting for the lunch to be served
We decided to be there very soon after our lunch. The interior of the dining hall had lot of resemblance to old British Bungalows we had earlier seen in and around Himachal. Probably the British had a role play to bring about some major architectural renovations keeping the exterior traditional look intact. The furniture used in the dining room had a majestic Lutyen flavor still flagging the flamboyancy of the by-gone era. The dishes were about to be served. It was admirable that the management of HPTDC maintained strict professional standards for service, including the choice of crockery and the overall presentation of the dishes being served.
Trout Curry & Steamed Rice
I am not overrating myself. The fishes were indeed fresh and the taste of the dish was awesome. Later I got to know that trouts were not harvested from the Beas, rather they are bred artificially in a village Haripur (Haripur Nala) about 5.6 Km from Naggar on the Naggar-Manali road. The project was initiated by the Directorate of Coldwater Fisheries Research.
Well our wonderful trout moment was cut short with the arrival of the chauffeur informing that our suite was ready for use and the luggage had already been taken from the reception.
Breathtaking Valley View from “Her Highness Suite”, Castle Naggar
The Royal Suites of the Castle
After the acquisition of Castle Naggar, HPTDC ensured a thorough restoration of the historical monument and later it decided to open the same for public stay as a deluxe hotel. The royal suites facing the breathtaking Kullu valley could well be the experience of your lifetime. These include the Baragarh Forte Suite, Her Highness Suite, Fozal Peak Suite, His Highness Suite and the Royal Suite. The Green Field Suite and the River View Suites also provide spectacular view of the entire valley. The other popular suites include the court yard suites (near the dining hall), Village view, orchard view, Trapogan, Devika, Tripura, Chanderkhani, Monal, Forest View and the Castle View Suites. The assistant manager informed us that we had been allotted to stay at the “Her Highness Suite” located at the Northern Complex of the Castle.
Kullu Valley View, Castle Naggar
We crossed the small courtyard to enter the mansion housing the “Her Highness Suite”. To our left was the historical “Jagti Patt” temple popularly known as the “Judgement Seat of the Kullu Gods”. As it 1.10 pm the deity was closed for visitors. Offering prayers, we proceeded through a mighty hall similar to the lower floor of the dining hall on the other side of the Castle Mansion leading us to a wooden gallery with the full valley view lying to the North. A wooden stair case went down to the Kings’ Royal suite and the Castle museum. We followed the left gallery and turned the bend again to the left with the most exquisite, breathtaking view we had in the entire day. The snow clad mountains and the lush green valley gorged by the river Beas lay wide open right in front of us. A hawk was gliding on the distant blue sky. There was a lovely cacophony of wild birds from the jungles lying right below the Castle gallery. The wind hard a sharp chill probably it was bathed by the fresh snows of the magnificent towering peaks that lay ahead. This was heaven indeed! A view past compare anything even what we had enjoyed during our trek tours at Kasol.
Naggar Town & Kullu Valley View, Castle Naggar
Our suite was right behind the wooden gallery where we were standing. We had reached the Royal “Her Highness” suite. We thanked our chauffeur and found the surprisingly large bed room to be meticulously well maintained. This was luxury at our disposal.
In front of our suite
The crockery was new on the service table. The curtains were fresh and the room had a sweet scent of polished wood which was everywhere including the huge cupboards, almirah, the sofas and the beam structures on the ceiling. With belly full of lunch we strongly resisted the desire to lay down for a sleep for an hour or so and decided to explore in and around the castle, which we later agreed was the right decision. While locking our suite, we found that we were the only boarder in this side of the castle. The other two suites lying on the other end of the wooden gallery were locked.
The Royal Balcony, Castle Naggar
The Castle Courtyard
Crossing the temple courtyard we entered the dining hall complex and entered the spacious courtyard surrounded by the magnificent mansions of the castle and the beautiful wooden galleries.
The Castle Courtyard
The wood work was so exquisite and delicate. And the sweetness of polished wood work had a mesmerizing aura. To our right we had a similar valley view like that in front of out suite.
The Central Courtyard, Castle Naggar
View of the Central Courtyard from the Dinning Hall
Exquisite wood word in the Royal Courtyard
Exploring the village beside near Castle Naggar
It was going to be 2 o’clock. We decided to explore the outside whereabouts of the Castle and took the tiny paved road lying at the North-east side of the castle taking us down towards a small village.
Exploring the Village near Castle Naggar
The village by its very sight had an aura of the bygone era. The old mansions had the traditional “Kathkooni” housing style of architecture similar to what we had seen in the castle. After crossing the snow view lodge we took paved road ended and we took a hilly trail to reach the famous Tripura Sundri Temple.
“Kathkooni” housing style of architecture
Entrance of the Tripura Sundri Temple, Naggar
The Tripura Sundri Temple
We were mesmerized by another architectural splendor that lay ahead us in the form of the Tripura Sundri Temple. The ancient temple which was probably built in the 11th century had a majestic look that would fascinate you at its very sight. The centrally placed temple housed the deities of Lord Vishnu, Gauri Shankar and Sri Krishna.
The Tripura Sundri Temple, Naggar
The conical roof was thatched with flat slabs of slate rock. The main structure was built by large blocks of stone work supported by polished wooden pillars housing meticulously carved traditional designs and statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. We joined the Pulag Marg and ascended towards the Roerich Art Gallery.
Tripura Sundri Temple, Naggar
Well it would be fair to share the story of the Roerick Art Gallery in another article. It was 6 o’clock and we were trekking down the Pulag Marg back to Castle Naggar.
A Random Click at the Pulag Marg
A random click of the Valley View from the Pulag Marg
The street lights were on and so were the lights from the adjoining houses beside the Pulag Marg. When we reached Castle Naggar it was almost dark and after a long trek we were hungry like anything. We ordered hot cappuccino and onion pakora.
Evening at Castle Naggar
Evening at the Central Courtyard, Castle Naggar
We were seated in the courtyard facing the Kullu valley. The darkness was getting deeper. Yet the orange tinges from the western sky made the evening so adorable. Surprisingly the chill in the wind was gone. Perhaps it was getting ready to have its spell for the night.
The day coming to an end at Castle Naggar
Night in the Castle
The Castle now had a deserted look. The long galleries began to have mighty shadows!! The sudden shallow murmurs of the wind whispered the aura of an untold ancient mystery. Perhaps guessing our emotions the hotel manager who nearby, assured us “Sir yaha pe dariye maat. Even during the season time, when the daily visitors leave, the castle adored this deserted look!!” He was convinced perhaps we were not assured.
Shadows looming in the wooden galleries: Evening in Castle Naggar
We moved to the dining hall upstairs and found that the preparations for dinner were on. A couple of gentlemen were seated with hot coffee on the other table and were discussing business matters. Probably they were local business men. The LED TV was on airing a Hindi New Channel. We hardly had any attention towards what was going on in the TV. Our 12 year old son had probably got some clues from our emotions. He asked me “Pappa are we going to meet Count Dracula in this Castle”. I knew this question was definitely on the cards from his end which led us to a burst of laughter from our end. We ordered our dinner with Himachali Pulao, Matar Paneer, Dal and Chapathis.
That was the end of an eventful day starting with a memorable journey from Kasol to Naggar.
A New day unfolds at Castle Naggar
Morning in the Castle
The morning was more charming than the day. The cacophonies of the birds were at their loudest peak. The mist cover on the valley was disappearing slowly revealing its adorable charm. The event was touching.. it was just like a curtain raiser. Day light was all over the valley spreading its positivity defeating the gloomy dawn.
The mist cover on the valley was disappearing
We ordered our morning tea from the room service. Our son took out his drawing book and came out with an amazing sketch of the valley. I was obliging myself with all the shots that you are now enjoying in this article.
Waiting for the breakfast
We had our much needed breakfast at the dining hall gallery with stuffed paranthas and chutney. The morning newspaper and another round of tea never felt so refreshing.
Catching hold of time was the need of the day. And that hardly happened!! It was time to bid adieu to Naggar. Our cab for Manali was already booked yesterday evening.
The river Beas would keep on flowing with its youthful exuberance gorging the Kullu Valley. The far off snow clad mountains would soon cast their snowy spells in the winter. The birds would take shelter somewhere.
The lush green woods would soon be lost under snow. The clear blue skies would haunt many souls to breathe the fresh air nurturing the very existence of the aura of the valley.
Castle Naggar would stand strong like a worthy knight and witness countless dawns in the rapidly changing world, like what it had being doing selflessly since the past centuries. Dynasties would come, rule, fade away and hand over the baton of holding on the rich traditions and flavor of our bygone era. The Caslte would symbolize our country’s culture, rich folk heritage and continue to mesmerize tourists and travelers for ages to come.
All the Photographs (c) mytravelnama.com
The Castle Naggar can be booked on-line from: http://hptdc.in/index.php/the-naggar-castle/
You can reach Castle Naggar either from Kullu (23 KM) or Manali (22.8 KM) by Tourist Taxi