The thrill of travelling across states by road is unparalleled, especially when add-ons and bonuses are thrown in.
The call of the open road is a joy the beating heart can barely ignore. To escape the bustle of the capital and to enjoy a drive zipping past endless fields and plains, forests and changing landscapes, is a temptation few can resist. One of the benefits of being in Delhi is that it’s easy to slip away to the Himalayan towns more frequently. There’s nothing like stopping at wayside dhabas for fresh, piping hot aloo parathas to quell any hunger pangs, or stop at scenic spots for that mandatory selfie. To explore the cities en route and their history, the drive can be stretched to three days, taking a detour to explore the city of Amritsar.
Leaving Delhi in the wee hours of the morning provides you a luxury of driving on relatively traffic-free roads. On NH-1, the first stop is Panipat or Panduprastha, founded by the legendary Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata fame. Pages from history come alive as you conjure images of charging elephants and soldiers swishing swords. Three wars took place here between 1526 and 1761 that changed the fate of our country.
Enter the city through its famed Salarjung Gate and visit the 700-yearold Dargah of Abu Ali Shah Qalandar Kala, the Sufi saint. From here, move to the outskirts of Panipat towards Kala Amb, meaning ‘black mango’ derived from a mango tree believed to have turned black due to the gruesome bloodshed that happened here. There is also a mural commemorating the First Battle of Panipat, a spot now cloaked in silence and serenity. Also visit the Tomb of Ibrahim Lodhi and Kabuli Bagh with its lush garden, tank and mosque, named after Babur’s wife Mussammat Kabuli Begum, built to commemorate Babur’s victory over Ibrahim Lodhi.
Next stop is Karnal, founded by Karna, yet another legend associated with the Mahabharata. The city that came out of obscurity in 1739, with the victory of Nadir Shah over Mohammad Shah. The Tomb of Abu Ali Qalandar, Miran Sahib’s Tomb – built in memory of a saint who is believed to have rescued a Brahmin girl from the clutches of a Hindu king in a battle, and Gurudwara Manji Sahib that commemorates the meeting of Qalander Shah and Guru Nanak, are some of the places to visit.
Kurukshetra comes next, a city where history breathes. Bhadra Kali Mandir where the Pandavas performed austerities and rituals before their final battle against the Kauravas, the Bhishma Kund where Arjuna is believed to have shot an arrow towards the earth to quench the thirst of Bhishma, the Brahma Sarovar where pilgrims throng to have a holy dip during Somvati Amavasya, Jyotisar – Kurukshetra’s most revered site, housing the Vat or Banyan tree under which Lord Krishna is believed to have delivered the message of the Bhagvad Gita to Arjun, the Sthaneshwar Mandir where the Pandavas prayed to Shiva and sought his blessings for victory in the Battle of Mahabharat, and the Sannihit Sarovar considered the holy abode of Vishnu, are some other places one can visit.
On the highway between Kurukshetra and Ambala, make a brief halt at the Temple of Markandeya. In Ambala city, visit Manji Sahib and Panjokhra Sahib Gurudwaras, St Paul’s Church, the city’s oldest church that now lies in ruins due to bombings during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Drive onward to Ludhiana for the night halt.
Enter Amritsar as the first rays of the rising star douses the dome of Harmandir Sahib in its pastel glow. The chorus singing of kirtans is soothing to the senses and despite the continuous flow of pilgrims, there is a kind of tranquility that can best be described as a spiritual feeling defying description. Pay obeisance to the Holy Granth, partake of the prasad and walk through the city’s bustling and colourful lanes.
A few hundred meters from the Golden Temple, is the ground of Jallianwala Bagh, a silent ode to hundreds of innocent lives lost to the gunfire of General Dyer on 13 April 1919. The now-serene area, is a tragic reminder of the massacre when hapless victims jumped to their deaths into the well which is situated in a corner of the well manicured garden.
A visit to Durgiana Temple – the Golden Temple-look-alike and Dogri War Memorial in the outskirts of Amritsar is a must, while heading towards Bhakra Nangal. At Nangal, the crystal clear waters beckon you to spend time savouring their glassy beauty before you make your way to Anandpur Sahib, passing rocky and rugged mountain terrain. At several places along the way, you will be mesmerised by the nature’s own sculptural handiwork on rock faces. The hilltop temple of Naina Devi follows Anandpur Sahib and then it is a nonstop drive up to Swarghat.
Follow the path of Gobind Sagar Lake through to Bilaspur to visit Vyas Gufa – the cave where Ved Vyas began to compose the epic Mahabharata. A slight deviation will bring you to the 285 mt long Kandror Bridge, considered as Asia’s highest bridge of its kind.
The scenic surrounds at Sundarnagar Valley with the backdrop of snow clad mountain ranges against the dam and waterways are breathtaking. Reach the temple town of Mandi by afternoon and then comes the colourful town of Kullu. The route to Kullu, once known as Kulanthpitha meaning ‘end of the habitable world’, is dotted with fruit trees. At an elevation of 1,220 mt, ensconced between the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges, the Kullu valley spreads out its mesmerising charm on the banks of the Beas River. A visit to the less-frequented Bashesewar Mahadev Temple at Bajaura, 15 km from Kullu leaves you in a state of trance from witnessing the sculptural beauty on the walls of its exterior.
The final destination is Manali where a stunning view of the snowcapped mountains, the slopes of which are dotted with little village dwellings awaits you. Manu & Vasisht temples, the hot springs of Vasisht, Buddhist monasteries and its vicinity and the Hadimba Devi Temple, a delicate structure of stone and wood amidst tall evergreens, are the main places to visit here.
written by :- Chitra Ramaswamy