Close to the Maddening Crowd -Naggar in Himachal Pradesh
So you have done the Simla, Manali, Kullu, Kufri and Chails of the world, lunar landscape of Ladakh is not your cup of tea and because your head spins in the rarefied air, Spiti is out of the question.
Now you are wondering where to go in the mountains where you get all the creature comforts, yet you are away from the Touristy places because you just realized “ Oh I am to Traveler and not a tourist”, well dear awakened soul may I present to you the town of Naggar.
Ah you wonder where is this desi guy sending me , where is the first name of this Nagar, like Ram Nagar, Ganga Nagar, etc. But dear reader notices the second “ g” in Naggar and repeat after me
“ I want to go to Naggar, I want to go to Naggar in Himachal, and I want to go to Naggar near those towns of Kullu and Manali.”
Good, now that you know you take a sigh of relief that Naggar is close to the Manali so you can pack your bags to take that overnight bus to Manali but immediately head towards Naggar in a local taxi. Or if you are the Road Trip types take the detour from Kullu without going to Manali and head to the hill abode of Nicholas Roerich and his equally illustrious son Svetoslav Roerich, who is better known to the movie buffs for marrying the first superstar heroine of Bollywood, that eternal beauty Devika Rani.
Nicholas Roerich was a painter who loved painting in every color except for blood-red that Russia was being colored by the communists in those days. He once visited India and fell in love with the Himalayas, and explored most of the Himalayas and went to places that we call remote even today. Remember those were the days when the fastest mode of transport in the Himalayas was a mule. ( In places like Spiti it still is ) .
Anyways long story short, the Roerichs were rich in more ways than their name and could afford to start an estate in Naggar then a sleepy little town that is still in an eternal slumber and refuses to wake up to even with all the balle balle over bottles of Beer and moaning of honeymooners in Manali just 22 KM away.
Now as this town owes a lot to the Roerich’s visit their former home that is now a museum cum art gallery dedicated to their life work. Just like the Roerichs fell in love with the Himalayas you will fall in love with the work they did in capturing the beauty of Himalayas on canvas. The colors, the details the expression on the humans they captured will make you forget time. But is that not the purpose of Naggar ? A town with magical and spiritual qualities and I am not even talking about the spirits that some folks claim to feel in the Roerichs former home. No I am not saying the place is haunted but yes you do feel a bit eerie in those cold corridors, so be on the lookout and talk softly when you are there for the spirits do not like to be awakened by the loud sounds or the creaking wood under your foot. Did I say speak softly ? May I also recommend treading softly for you may spook a spirit out of its slumber.
So how was Naggar spared by the malignant growth of Manali ? Well if you look at the Map it is not on the main NH 21 and you need to take a detour and come back, and our desi Tourists never like to go back on a road. There is an old road that you can take from Kullu but all the buses go on the highway and Naggar is not on the Highway. बल्ले बल्ले बच गए ( Balle Balle Bach Gaye or thank god got saved ).
So what should you do in Naggar? If you listen to me ( which I am sure you will not ), do nothing. You don’t go to Naggar to do anything. Naggar is not a town you go and click your selfies and splatter Facebook and Instagram with for if you do so Roerich’s soul will never forgive you. And remember we are talking here about Roerichs in plural , so be careful ).
So now that splattering selfies to boost your sagging self-esteem is out of the question, the question still remain what to do in Naggar? My answer remains nothing, but since you will not listen to me, let me give some suggestions.
To begin with, sit on the rooftop of one of the cafes that serve some decent coffee and excellent croissants and pastries, for Naggar is equipped to cater to the Germans and the Dutch and the French and the Israelis and even the odd Brazilian and Japanese who may wander there. When you have the urge for Chole Bhature you can head back to Manali or try one of the desi Shops in the town.
Look at the clouds in the sky try to find some resemblance the face of one of the Roerichs or to map of the state you belong to. Once you get bored ( though I wonder how one can get bored of looking and contemplating and anthropomorphize clouds ?). But if you want to get adventurous visit the Naggar Castle, you may have to walk about 120 seconds from where ever you are in Naggar to the wood castle of the former ruler of Naggar. Your walk may last less than 120 seconds if you are staying in the Naggar Castle as it is also a hotel now. The castle has a museum that you can visit and see some of the weapons used earlier.
When you have your fill of the museum and the castle and the croissants head towards one of the many apple orchards around that have some of the best apples in Himachal. Eat, Pluck and loiter around in the apple orchard, if you are lucky you may hear a mountain bulbul (Ixos mcclellandii) sing a song, though mostly she will remain elusive. But try your luck, you never know the bulbul is known to show up at exactly the time you least expect her.
You can also visit some of the old temples in the vicinity of the town, including one in the premises of the Naggar Castle. There is also a trout farm nearby where a natural spring is used to cultivate the famed Himalayan trout. But you don’t have to catch the same, most restaurants in Naggar serve the same.
Shopping in Naggar : Visit some of the weaver families around the villages and you can purchase some authentic Himachali shawls, though you could also buy apple juice, apple jam, apple murabba, apple cedar and apple in all other forms.
Who should go to Naggar: The just awakened traveler, who has evolved from Tourist so now want to take on slow travel and experience places at their own pace or at no pace at all.
Delhi to Naggar distance: Naggar is about 520 KM from Delhi and on driving on your own you will need about 10-12 hours depending on traffic and road conditions. You can also take a bus to Manali or Kullu then take a taxi to Naggar or drive till Kullu and then take the old road to Naggar.
Trivia about Naggar name: Naggar here does not denote a city like in Nagar but Naggar means a wise or a learned man. No wonder Nicholas Roerich chose this town the former capital of the kings of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh.
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