The Himachal Pradesh government’s unique cultural festival, Trigart, is designed to bring out the very best of the Kangra Valley and provide national and international visitors an added incentive to explore the rich natural and cultural tapestry of the land.
‘Trigart’ is the ancient name of the region now known as Kangra Valley, under the all-seeing eye of the mighty Dhauladhar mountain range. Mythological references can be found of a great battle between Goddess Ambika and a demon that was troubling the residents in these parts. A Rajput emerged in aid of the Goddess and after the demon was killed, she named him the King of ‘Trigart’ – the fertile land that nurtured magical herbs in the midst of the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej rivers.
Home to several known and several unknown temples and shrines dedicated to the Goddess, it has always had a place in the spiritual travellers’ mind. This year, with the very first edition of the Trigart Kangra Valley Festival, the state government aims to highlight several of the idyllic destinations of the region using a cultural approach.
Alpaviram travelled to the mountains for the inauguration of the Trigart Festival and to explore a few of the events and destinations that you should surely make a beeline for.
Earmarked as the hub of activity for the Trigart Festival, Dharamshala is also witnessed the iconic Dharamshala International Film Festival – funded by the Himachal Pradesh state government. Hosted at the Tibetan Children’s Village, the film festival’s inauguration was attended by actor Manoj Bajpayee who also conducted a workshop for acting aspirants. A host of cultural programmes under Trigart were organised at the Dharamshala College auditorium.
The town requires no introduction as it is the base of the Tibetan people living in exile and has been quite the attraction for travellers with an interest in Tibetan culture and way of life. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) is a premier institute working towards the conservation of the Tibetan heritage in the world.
If you needed an added reason to visit this incredible fort, this is certainly it. It is believed to have been built by a king of the Katoch clan, Susharma Chandra. He was also known to have fought with the Kouravas in the epic battle of Mahabharata. After the Kouravas lost the battle, Susharma Chandra did not return to his original capital city of Multan. Instead he took his soldiers and built the Kangra Fort and ruled his kingdom from there, this roughly makes the foundation of the Fort at least 5,000 years old! Since that first dramatic beginning, the Fort is believed to have outlived 52 attacks and the Katoch dynasty that ruled from the Fort traces its heritage to all major wars and battles fought since that time.
Today Kangra Fort remains the largest of its kind in the Himalayas and is considered as one of the oldest forts in the country. It makes for a glorious backdrop to the cultural festivals slated under Trigart Kangra Valley Festival.
Andretta Artist Colony
Yet another hidden gem that you can explore during the ongoing Trigart Kangra Valley Festival is Andretta Artist Colony. A celebrated destination for potters in northern India, Andretta’s laidback and rustic charms has attracted a global audience over the years. The list of celebrities who have visited and found inspiration in this village is an impressive one. The artist colony was set up by Norah Richards, who built the first of the Kangra-styled mud houses here in 1920s. Since then, Norah Richard’s house and her village have turned into a haven for creative minds seeking solace from the block as well as for bright new inspiration.
Over the course of years, several guests built their own mud houses around the village. And after 15 acres were allotted to Norah Richards by the government to continue her inspiring work, the Woodland Estate was established. A theatre performance was held at Andretta Artist Village to encourage travellers to experience its charms.
Bir and Billing
Just above the Gunehar Village in Bir, on the way to Billing, is the setting for a unique art exhibition called ‘In The Woods’. In its second edition this year, under the umbrella of the Trigart Festival, the event presented the works of contemporary artists in a unique manner. The art installations are divided into ‘Black Boxes’ and ‘Poet Trees’. This year, there were 2 black boxes which featured the artwork of Samresh Shrivastava, Vishal Kumaraswamy, Onen Atsongchanger, Four Missing Fingers and Nikhil Narendra. Poem recitation in open spaces were recorded by poets: Shantanu Anand, Aishwarya Shrivastav, Don Mihsill, Priyanka Menon, Zainab Kakal, Yamini Krishnan along with Rohini Kejriwal.
This unique project is the brainchild of Frank Schlichtmann who also exhibited an art installation of his own at the event. It is a great initiative by Frank and we hope that the government will continue to support his effort to promote fresh perspectives on art in the upcoming years. Both the events by him, ‘In The Woods’ as well as ‘Shop Art Art Shop’, deserve more attention and are a must-visit for responsible travellers. You can read more about his work here.
If you have followed in Shiva’s footsteps across India, you’d know that there’s an enchanting surprise waiting somewhere around the corner. The sleepy town Baijnath takes its name from the 11th century Shiva Temple known simply as the Baijnath Temple. The setting of the temple is mesmerising with the snow-clad mountains serving as the perfect backdrop to the intricate engravings that make the temple’s exterior. Some of the statues and engravings are much older than the structure of the temple itself. They had been brought in from farthest corners of the land to complete this shrine for Lord Shiva that is counted as one of the ‘jyotirlingas’ in India.
The government has taken adequate measures to protect this heritage site and the Trigart Festival provided the option of witnessing a cultural performance with the temple as the backdrop.
The state-sponsored Trigart Festival has already paved the way for an annual celebration of the hidden gems of the Kangra Valley and is sure to draw the attention of travellers to the nuances of the Kangra way of life while providing better benefits from tourism for the locals. Witnessing the line-up of celebrated names in art and culture along with fresh faces and unique cponcepts in the very first edition of the Trigart Festival makes it truly worth planning for the next editions.
— Text and Photos by Susmita Mukherjee