Wetland Wonder


, Travel

If you are looking for a tranquil holiday in the midst of nature and spirituality, Himachal Pradesh has two gems to offer. The first, Pong lake is situated near the picturesque hill station of Dharamshala in the Kangra district. Also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar or Pong Dam reservoir, it is situated in the northern Himalayan range and surrounded by rugged ridges, forested glades and silver streams that cut through valleys and canyons. The reservoir was named in honour of patriot Maharana Pratap. While wildlife enthusiasts can opt for long walks to discover the rich flora and fauna of the sanctuary, tourists can also try their hand at angling. The Maharana Pratap Sagar wetland is home to a large number of Asian water birds like the bar-headed geese and even threatened species such as the greater spotted eagle, white rumped vulture, red necked falcon and saurus crane. The Pong Lake also has a Regional Water Sports Centre, where one can enjoy swimming, canoeing, kayaking, water surfing and water skiing. Apart from its natural beauty, the wetland is culturally rich as well with a significant number of ancient temples.


One of the most famous temple complexes in the surrounding area of the lake is the monolithic rock-cut temples at Masroor. Located in the district of Kangra, Masroor has a large, monolithic temple that is similar to the famous structures of Ellora in central India. With rich ornamentation, this is the only shrine carved out of live rock in north India. Dating back to the 8th century, this is a complex of 15 temples carved in a monolith. The temple was damaged by an earthquake in 1905 and some of the figures, carvings and panels that were dislodged are now displayed at the complex. The main temple is 50 ft high and its sanctum is dedicated to Lord Rama. The remaining 14 structures are on either side of the main edifice.


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