Dharamsala, town (2001 est. pop. 19,200), Himachal Pradesh, N India. Located on the slopes of the Kangra valley at the edge of Dhauladhar range in the outer Himalayas. Dharamsala is noted as the residence of the Dalai Lama. The lower section is a largely Indian market town; the upper section, also known as McLeod Ganj, is a former British hill station and site of the Tibetan government in exile since 1960. The 8th earl of Elgin is buried in the churchyard of St. John in the Wilderness in Upper Dharamsala.

Dharamsala or Dharamshāla, (literally "Rest House"; Hindi: धर्मशाला; ; Hindi pronunciation /d̪ʱərmʃɑlɑ/) is a town and a municipal council in Kangra district in the northern regions of India in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

The town is notable as the capital of the Central Tibetan Administration, a Tibetan government in exile led by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama. The government's headquarters are located in McLeod Ganj, a suburb that is also referred to as Upper Dharamsala or "Little Lhasa".


In 1860, the 66th Goorkha Light Infantry was moved to Dharamshala. The Battalion was later renamed the historic 1st Gorkha Rifles, the beginning of the legend of the world-famous Gorkhas 'Bravest of the Brave'. Consequently, 14 Gorkha paltan vilages grew from this settlement which exist till date, namely Dari, Ramnagar, Shyamnagar, Dal, Totarani, Khanyara,Sadher, Chaandmaari, Sallagarhi, Sidhbaari, Yol,etc.The Gorkhas patronised the ancient Shiva temple of Bhagsunag. The Gorkhas called Dharamshala, Bhagsu and themselves as Bhagsuwalas. The Gorkha cantonment reached its zenith during World War 11, when battalions from here created history during the war. The 2/1st GR from Dharamshala also performed heroic feats during WW1 and the NWFP campaigns. The Gorkha Rifles built the sleepy hamlet of villages into the town Dharamshala. Most names still follow the cantonment terminologies. Depot Bazaar, Pensioners lines, Tirah lines (named after the 19th century Battle of Tirah), Bharatpore Lines (named after the 1826 Battle of Bharatpore, names of famous Gorkha battles tc. IN 1905, the Kangra valley suffred a major earthquake which demolisehd much of the cantonment and also the Bhagsunag temple. The Gorkhas rebuilt the town and also rebuilt the demolished temple of their patron diety Bhagsunag Temple which is today acknowledged as the 1st Gorkha Rifles heritage. The Gorkhas of Dharmshala have not only contributed majorly to India's defence but also freedom fighters of the INA founded by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. INA CAPT Ram Singh Thakur, a Gorkha of village Khanyara has composed India's most popular and stirring patriotic songs including 'Kadam kadam badeya jaye'. He is acknowledged so by the Netaji Research Bureau, Kolkata. Noted social writer Gorkha Late Master Mitrasen Thapa of village Totarani has also been acknowledged by the HP govt. Recently, a park dedicated to the memory of Late Brigadier Sher Jung Thapa, MVC, 'Hero of Skardu' has been opened alongside the road between Lower and Upper Dharamshala. The Gorkhas of Dharamshala have made historical contributions to India. The Dharamsala came into existence in 1849, it was selected as a site to accommodate the 1st Gorkha Rifles, a native regiment that was being raised in the town. Thus Dharamsala originally formed a subsidiary cantonment for the troops stationed at Kangra Valley was fully occupied by its garrison and there was insufficient space for the civil station, a search for an alternate location was made. The ideal location for the cantonment was found at the slopes of the Dhauladhar, upon which stood an old Hindu sanctuary or 'Dharamsala' the name adopted for the town.

The Tibetan settlement of Dharamshala began in 1959, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who had to flee Tibet alongwith the Tibetans, was alotted Mcleodganj (in Upper Dharmshala), a colonial British summer picnic spot, as his new home of refuge. Dharamsala has been connected with Hinduism and Buddhism for a long time, with many monasteries having been established there in the past, built by Tibetan immigrants in the 19th century. The local Gaddi people are Hindu, Gorkhas (Hindu) and for the most part worship many gods and goddesses, principally Durga and Shiva.

In 1848, the area was annexed by the British, and a year later, a military garrison was established in the town. Dharamsala eventually became the administrative capital of Kangra District in 1852. The second Lord Elgin Viceroy of India died here (at the 1st Gorkha Rifles Officers mess) in 1863 and is buried in the cemetery of St. John in the Wilderness. It became a popular hill station for the British working in or near Delhi, offering a cool respite during the hot summer months. However, the town was virtually destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1905, which killed an estimated 20,000 people. Not only the town was devastated, but the nearby town Kangra was also ruined. After this, the British moved their summer headquarters to Shimla (also written Simla) which, though not far away, is off the main fault line and, therefore, less likely to experience a serious earthquake. Dharamsala still experiences frequent minor earthquakes.

When the Dalai Lama left Tibet, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru offered to permit him and his followers to establish a "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala in 1960. Since then, many Tibetan exiles have settled in the town, numbering several thousand. Most of these exiles live in Upper Dharamsala, or McLeod Ganj, where they established monasteries, temples and schools. The town is sometimes known as "Little Lhasa", after the Tibetan capital city, and has become an important tourist destination with many hotels and restaurants, creating a resurgence in tourism and commerce.

In 1970, Tenzin Gyatso opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which houses over 80,000 manuscripts and important knowledge resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture. It is considered one of the most important institutions for Tibetology in the world.

Since 2002, Dharamsala has hosted a Miss Tibet beauty contest. The winter capital Dharamsala has its secretariat at Tapovan and the government would run for 2 months from there.


Dharamsala is located at , with an average elevation of 1457 metres (4780 feet). The area covered by Dharamsala is almost 29 km².

Dharamsala is in the Kangra valley, in the Dhauladhar mountains, and became the capital of the Kangra District in 1852. It can be accessible from Pathankot which is 120 km away. The nearest railway connection to Dharamsala is Kangra. The nearest airport is Gaggal at Kangra which is just 15km from Dharamsala. There is a daily flight from Dharamsala to Delhi.

The town is divided between McLeod Ganj or Upper Dharamsala (which retains a British colonial atmosphere), and Lower Dharamsala (the commercial centre). Upper Dharamsala (elevation about 1,700 m or 5,580 ft) is about 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from Lower Dharmsala by road and is some 460 m (1,510 ft) higher.

McLeod Ganj, or Upper Dharamsala, is the residence of Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama. A substantial community of Tibetan exiles resides in the town. There is a small Anglican church, St. John in the Wilderness, featuring stained-glass windows, just a few hundred metres from McLeod Ganj. Lord Elgin (James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin), one of the British viceroys, is buried here, as is Francis Younghusband.


As of the 2001 India census, Dharamsala had a population of 19,034. Males constitute 55% of the population and females 45%. Dharamsala has an average literacy rate of 77%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 80% and, female literacy is 73%. In Dharamsala, 9% of the population is under 6 years of age.

Famous residents


During the months of December and January, snow and sleet is common. Summer temperatures range from 22 °C to 38 °C. It is very cold in winter as Dhauladar range of hills, at over 15000 feet, is close by and covered with thick snow during winter and sometimes in Autumn and Spring. The natural features surrounding the town include rich forests of Pine and Deodars. Rice, wheat and tea are grown around Dharamsala.


  • The nearest airport is Gaggal Airport, it is an hour drive from Dharamsala.
  • Air conditioned, deluxe buses ply from major cities like : Chandigarh, Delhi, Shimla etc.
  • Nearest railway station is Chakki Bank at Pathankot, which is 3 hours from Dharamsala and is well connected to rest of Northern India their is an other rail way line from Pathankot to jogindernagar

which is a part of Mandi distt. of HP. and it is an narrow gadge line and for going to Dharmshala nearest railway station is Chamunda Marg which is 1/2 hours from Dharamsala and is well connected by the road to the other parts of country(Chasmunda is an famous SHAKTIPITHA IN the world )

Places of attraction

  • St.John's Church
  • Triund (2975 m)
  • Kunal Pathri
  • brajeshwari temple
  • dari
  • Cafe Boom Boom the Fifth, popular restaurant with tourists
  • khaniyara
  • aghanjar mahadev
  • indru nag temple
  • golf course (yol cant)
  • kareri lake
  • lam dal lake
  • Chinmaya Tapovan
  • Dal lake
  • Dharamkot (2100 m)
  • Bhagsunath
  • Tatwani and Machhrial
  • Chamunda Mandir
  • Trilokpur
  • Masrur (rock temple)
  • Nurpur
  • Norbulingka Institute
  • Sidhbari
  • Adi Shakti Temple , Naddi
  • Historical fort of kangra in Purana Kangra.
  • Haripu Village



  • Verma, V. 1996. Gaddis of Dhauladhar: A Transhumant Tribe of the Himalayas. Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi.
  • Handa, O. C. 1987. Buddhist Monasteries in Himachal Pradesh. Indus Publishing Co., New Delhi. ISBN 81-85182-03-5.

External links

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