I’ve seen Chandigarh dusted with snow and surrounded by mountains along a turquoise-grey coloured river.
Chandigarh’s been my home for 15 years. I’d been living in City Beautiful, pleased and delighted with its urban landscape. I was content till I happened to visit its namesake in the Himalayas.
Yes, there are places that don’t find a place on the map, that are not painted on milestones or listed on the GPS (global positioning system), but emerge out of nowhere, much to your surprise.
The Hindustan-Tibet road or National Highway 5 took me from this Chandigarh to that Chandigarh. Nestled in the cold desert of Himachal Pradesh, it is equally glorious and resplendent.
The Himalayan Chandigarh, so different from my Union Territory, is yet so similar. It is serene, splendid, captivating and totally convinces you that you are at the right place at the right time.
The snow-capped mountains and arid terrain with the Spiti river burbling down in the valley forms the backdrop as a treacherous road leads to the Chandigarh in Himachal Pradesh. You may be travelling from Delhi to Spiti or from Manali to Kinnaur, no matter which route you take, Chandigarh happens to be located exactly where you’d want to stop over and unwind.Of the many stories attributed to Chandigarh coming up in the mountains, the most prominent one a local narrated dates back to 1962.
During the Indo-China war, the Indian Army wanted to set up its base at Lepcha (read Lapcha) and offered local residents monetary compensation and relocation to a Union Territory in the making called Chandigarh. The locals relocated but chose to settle down in the valley along the Spiti river instead. The reason was their belief that they couldn’t do anything for a living except grow apples which would not have been feasible in any other terrain. So they simply named their new home ground Chandigarh.
The distance between the two Chandigarhs is over 500 km. I happened to come across it during a mountain trip that saw me driving through three districts of Himachal Pradesh. Kaza being my destination, when I started from my Chandigarh, I knew I’d be travelling on the Hindustan-Tibet road and beyond but didn’t see this coming. Chandigarh in Himachal Pradesh is 10 km once you enter the district of Spiti through Kinnaur. Though this hamlet does not promise any opulent place to stay unlike my hometown, you can find homestays and small hotels at nearby Hurling and Tabo. There is a neighbouring village called Gue, which has a mummy of monk said to be 500 years old.The road to Chandigarh is also known as Leo village road and goes till Tabo and Kaza. It remains closed in winter, yes even in April, as one can expect snowfall and debris anytime, owing to the bare mountains around.
The Chandigarh of Spiti may not be a destination but it can certainly add adventure to the escapade. So the next time you take National Highway 5, don’t miss the rain shelter called ‘Varsha Shaalika Chandigarh SH-30’. That’s where the ‘spice’ of this article will be found and your life will also have two Chandigarhs.