Some places are special because they hold fond memories of the past and some are simply enchanting to the core, this really tiny town in the Himalayas is both! I am a little biased because Sujanpur Tira in Himachal Pradesh happens to be my hometown as well. I can probably never get over the reminiscence of my childhood when summer holidays meant escaping the scorching heat of South India and diving right into the lap of this quaint but beautiful town that enjoyed cool weather all through the blistering heat of Indian summers. The lofty peaks of snow-covered Dhauladhars were like soul therapy and wood oven cooked mutton curry with rice, a meal where an entire family came together. Those days Sujanpur was every bit Himalayan with signature mud house and slate roofs. All cousins would get together, climb trees, bath in springs and rivers, eat the most awesome food. To sum it all, that was the life! Today as I fondly remember those days, it strikes me that this town has quite a bit to offer to visitors who are looking for something offbeat. From restored ruins of old palaces, heritage structures to lip-smacking street food, this tiny lil thing packs a punch!
Baradari....The enchanting Military Palace
Baradari is actually known as Katoch Garh, it is a military fort palace that was built in 1750 by Maharaja Abhay Chandra of Katoch dynasty. It suffered heavy damage in 1905’s earthquake but now full-scale renovation has restored much of the older glory of this beautiful edifice. There are green grounds here for picnics and a view of the Sujanpur Tira town from the cliff. The complex is quite extensive and you can roam and explore the palace for hours. There is no guide here, and the place usually has only occasional local visitors. If you ever wanted to lose yourself in the corridors of history this is the place to be.
Just off the busy bazaar and its congested street, turn to this temple takes you to a different world in a matter of seconds. This temple was also built by the erstwhile rajas and this is why the architecture resonates with the fort and palace perched high up from the main town. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is made of stone and has a huge verandah and a terrace which overlooks the mighty river Beas. None of our visits to this temples have ever been complete without spending time on the terrace witnessing the sunset and chattering away to glory.
This is one more of my favorite spots where this natural spring water flows from the deepest caverns of the mountains. The water is super cold and sweetest you will ever have! Remember those packaged bottles that boast of Himalayan spring water and charge you a bomb for it? Well come here and drink right from the source....you will know the difference!
The Mighty Beas
Before I even begin to talk about Beas, here is a word of caution about the Himalayan rivers. They are dangerous, unpredictable and have strong undercurrents. So even the water that looks calm may simply drag you off easily. So it goes without saying that entering the river has always been a big NO. We would venture into the river only with elders or cousins who knew where one could get into the water. We also had a technique of keeping an eye on the level of the river. The second we saw a rise, we would just run out the water. But that bridge you see in the picture, well that is where we usually carry amazing street food and watch the sun go down. If you want to go down to the river, always take a local and if that is not possible always check with a local about the safe zones and things to keep in mind.
Picnics in the Woods
As you take a walk to the outskirts of Sujanpur, either towards the old fort or towards Hamirpur, the woods greet you on both sides of the road. The pine forests are lush and give out the most amazing scent you would have ever come across. On a beautiful sunny day, it is just the place to spread a picnic blanket, put on your favorite music and eat some knick-knacks. It was always the best way to catch up with everyone and indulge in some harmless gossip!
The Rope bridge
When we were small, coming here meant we had this huge swing all to ourselves! Yes, it swings with the wind and if you stand and hold the railings while moving side to side, it definitely swings along! But it is completely safe, in fact not too long ago, even cars would pass on this bridge. Now they have finally made a concrete bridge that you can see on the right side.
Every evening Sujanpur comes alive with locals thronging the grounds. Families come out, kids play around and groups of youngsters can be seen having a good time over street-side food. Juicy fried chicken, fish, momos, spicy chats, lip-smacking paneer pakora with chutney stuffed inside and Chinese food! In fact, they have a really popular chat corner called "Sonu ki Chat", people from all around the place come here to get some packed!
The image above shows a local folk dance called "Tammak". The famous Indian festival of color, known as Holi, of this small town is quite famous. Holi sees a big carnival being set up in the town grounds for almost a month! Yep, I was lucky to have been here when the festival was being celebrated and it was unlike I have seen anywhere. Since its really cold, no body plays with water, instead Holi happens to be celebrated with a lot of civility here. It is all about shopping, eating out an enjoying on the giant wheels! It also provides a great opportunity to witness local culture, folk dances, artistes, handicrafts etc.
So next time you visit the captivating state of Himachal Pradesh, look beyond the usual haunts of Manali, Shimla, Dharamshala........carve new ways and enter unknown towns like this one. You would be surprised! Well, before we take leave let us tell you how to reach Sujapur Tira.
By Road: One Volvo bus runs between Sujanpur and Capital city Delhi every night from Delhi Inter-state bus terminal. The journey would take about 12 hours.
By Air: The nearest Airport is Gaggal Airport which is over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away from Sujanpur Tira. From there you can either take a bus or hire a cab.
Where to Stay:
Now Sujanpur hardly has any hotels. However, there is one government rest house and one hotel called "Sagar" which is super basic. But if you are looking for better options and wider range, it is advisable to stay at Palampur which gives you options that range from B&Bs amongst tea gardens to heritage palace of Raja Karan Singh, now a hotel of prestigious Oberoi group.