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Coordinates: 32°12′55″N 76°19′07″E / 32.21528°N 76.31861°E / 32.21528; 76.31861
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From top, left to right:
Skyline of Dharamsala, Mcleodganj during winter, Triund, Bhagsunag Temple, Kalachakra Temple, HPCA Stadium
Dharamshala is located in Himachal Pradesh
Location within the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh
Dharamshala is located in India
Location within India
Coordinates: 32°12′55″N 76°19′07″E / 32.21528°N 76.31861°E / 32.21528; 76.31861
Country India
StateHimachal Pradesh
Named forDerives its name from an old Hindu sanctuary, called Dharamsàla which once stood there.[1]
Member of legislative AssemblySudhir Sharma[2]
 • TypeMunicipal Corporation
 • BodyDharamshala Municipal Corporation[3]
 • MayorOnkar Singh Nehria
 • Total27.60 km2 (10.66 sq mi)
1,457 m (4,780 ft)
 • Total62,596
 • Rank2nd in HP
 • Density2,300/km2 (5,900/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
176 215
Telephone code+91- 01892
Vehicle registrationHP- 39(RLA), 68(RTO), 01D/02D(Taxi)

Dharamshala (/ˈdɑːrəmʃɑːlə/, Hindi: [d̪ʱərmʃaːlaː]; also spelled Dharamsala) is a town in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It serves as the winter capital of the state and the administrative headquarters of the Kangra district since 1855.[5][6][7] The town also hosts the Tibetan Government-in-exile. Dharamshala was a municipal council until 2015, when it was upgraded to a municipal corporation.

The town is located in the Kangra Valley, in the shadow of the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1,457 metres (4,780 ft). References to Dharamshala and its surrounding areas are found in ancient Hindu scriptures such as Rig Veda and Mahabharata. The region was under Mughal influence before it was captured by the Sikh empire in 1785. The East India Company captured the region for the British following the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846, from when it became part of the British Indian province of the Punjab. Post Indian Independence in 1947, it remained as a small hill station. In 1960, the Central Tibetan Administration was moved to Dharamshala when the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso established the Tibetan administration-in-exile after he had to flee Tibet.

The economy of the region is highly dependent on agriculture and tourism. The town is now a major hill station and spiritual center. It has been selected as one of a hundred in India to be developed as a smart city under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship "Smart Cities Mission".[8]


Dharamshala (Devanagari: धर्मशाला; ITRANS: Dharmashala; IAST: Dharmaśālā) is a Hindi word derived from Sanskrit that is a compound of the words dharma (धर्म) and shālā (शाला), literally 'House or place of Dharma'. In common usage, the word refers to a shelter or rest house for spiritual pilgrims.[9] When permanent settlements were established in the region, there was one such rest house from which the settlement took its name.[10]

Due to a lack of uniform observance of conventions for Hindi transcription and transliteration of the script used to write it, Devanagari, the name of the town has been variously romanised in English and other languages as Dharamshala, Dharamsala, Dharmshala and Dharmsala.[10] These four permutations result from two variables: the transcription of the word धर्म (dharma)—particularly the second syllable (र्म) and that of the third syllable (शा). A strict transliteration of धर्म as written would be 'dharma' [ˈdʱərmə]. In the modern spoken Hindi of the region, there is a common metathesis in which the vowel and consonant sounds in the second syllable of certain words (including धर्म) are transposed, which changes 'dharma' to 'dharam' pronounced somewhere between [ˈdʱərəm] and [ˈdʱərm]. Regarding the third syllable, the Devanagari श corresponds to the English sh sound, [ʃ] and thus शाला is transcribed in English as 'shala'. Therefore, the most accurate phonetic transcription of the Hindi धर्मशाला into Roman script for common (non-technical) English usage is either 'Dharamshala' or, less commonly, 'Dharmshala', both of which render the sh (/ʃ/) sound of in English as 'sh' to convey the correct native pronunciation, 'Dharamshala' [dʱərəmˈʃaːlaː] or 'Dharmshala' ([dʱərmˈʃaːlaː]). Regardless of spelling variations, the correct native pronunciation is with the sh sound (/ʃ/).[11]


Early history[edit]

References to Dharamshala and its surrounding areas are found in ancient Hindu scriptures such as Rig Veda and Mahabharata.[12] There are mentions of the region by Pāṇini in 4th century BC and by Chinese traveler Heun Tsang during the reign of king Harshavardhana in 7th century AD.[13] The indigenous people of the Dharamshala area (and the surrounding region) are the Gaddis, a predominantly Hindu group who traditionally lived a nomadic or semi-nomadic transhumant lifestyle.[14]

The region was subject to attacks from Mughal rulers Mahmud of Ghazni in 1009 and Firuz Shah Tughlaq in 1360. In 1566, Akbar captured the region and brought it under the Mughal rule. As the Mughal rule disintegrated, Sikh chieftain Jai Singh brought the region to his control and gave it to Sansar Chand of the Katoch dynasty, legitimate Rajput prince in 1785. Gurkhas invaded and captured the region in 1806 before being defeated by Ranjit Singh in 1809. The Katoch dynasty was reduced to the status of jagirdars under the treaty of Jawalamukhi signed between Chand and Singh in 1810. Post the death of Chand, Ranjit Singh annexed the region into the Sikh empire.[12]

British occupation[edit]

The East India Company captured the region following the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846. Under the British Raj, the regions were part of the undivided British Indian province of the Punjab, and were ruled by the governors of Punjab from Lahore.[10] In 1860, the 66th Gurkha Light Infantry was moved from Kangra to Dharamshala, which was at first made a subsidiary cantonment.[15][10] The Battalion was later renamed 1st Gurkha Rifles.[16] Dharamshala became a popular hill station in the British Raj era.[10] The 1905 Kangra earthquake devastated the Kangra Valley, destroying the cantonment, much of the infrastructure of the region, and killing nearly 20,000 people: 1,625 at Dharmasala, including 15 foreigners and 112 of the Gurkha garrison.[10] Many of the Gurkhas were part of the Indian National Army founded by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose taking part in the Indian Independence movement.

Post independence[edit]

The architecture in Dharamsala has a Buddhist influence

Post Indian Independence in 1947, it remained as a small hill station. On 29 April 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso established the Tibetan administration-in-exile in Mussoorie when he had to flee Tibet.[17] In May 1960, the Central Tibetan Administration was moved to Dharamshala when Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister of India allowed him and his followers to settle in McLeod Ganj north of Dharamshala.[18][19] There they established the "government-in-exile" in 1960 and the Namgyal Monastery.[20] In 1970, the Dalai Lama opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which is one of the most important institutions for Tibetology.[21]

Several thousand Tibetan exiles have now settled in the area where monasteries, temples, and schools have come up. It has become an important tourist destination with many hotels and restaurants, leading to growth in tourism and commerce.[22] In 2017, Dharamshala was made the winter capital of Himachal Pradesh with the legislative assembly located at Sidhbari.[23]


View of the Kangra Valley from Bhagsu Nag

Dharamshala has an average elevation of 1,457 m (4,780 ft), covering an area of almost 8.51 km2 (3.29 sq mi).[24] Dharamsala is located in the Kangra Valley, in the shadow of the Dhauladhar mountains. The town is divided into two distinct sections "Lower Dharamshala" and McLeod Ganj with a narrow road surrounded by pine, Himalayan oak, and rhododendron connecting the regions.[25]


Dharamshala has a monsoon influenced, humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cwa). Summer begins in early April and peaks in May when temperatures can reach 36 °C (97 °F) and lasts until the start of June. From June to mid-September is the monsoon season, when up to 3,000 mm (120 in) of rainfall can be experienced, making Dharamshala one of the wettest places in the state. Autumn is mild and lasts from October to the end of November.

Autumn temperatures average around 16–17 °C (61–63 °F). Winter starts in December and continues until late February. Snow and sleet are common during the winter in upper Dharamshala (including McLeodganj, Bhagsu Nag, and Naddi). Lower Dharamshala receives little frozen precipitation except for hail. Historically, the Dhauladhar mountains used to remain snow-covered all year long; however, in recent years they have been losing their snow blanket during dry spells.[26]

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 24.7
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 15.7
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 6.0
Record low °C (°F) −1.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 83.6
Average rainy days 4.5 6.1 6.4 5.2 5.2 9.8 20.6 22.4 13.0 2.8 1.4 2.8 100.2
Average relative humidity (%) (at 17:30 IST) 66 63 54 47 45 53 80 86 78 63 62 65 63
Source: India Meteorological Department[27][28]


Religions in Dharamsala[29]
Religion Percent

As of the 2011 Census of India, Dharamshala had a population of 30,764. In 2015, the area under the administration of the municipal body was expanded with a revised population of 53,543 in 10,992 households.[30] Males constituted 55% of the population and females 45%. Dharamshala has an average literacy rate of 87%, higher than the national average of 74.04%: male literacy is 90% and female literacy is 83%. 9% of the population is under 6 years of age with a sex ratio of 941.[31] Hinduism is the most followed religion followed by Buddhism. Hindi is the official language while other languages spoken include Gaddi, Kangri, English, Lhasa Tibetan, Nepali and Pahari.[32]

Administration and politics[edit]

Dharamshala became a municipal corporation in 2015; before that it had been a municipal council.[33] The corporation has 17 wards under its jurisdiction.[34] The current mayor is Onkar Singh Nehria of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), elected in 2022.[35] The town is part of the Dharamshala Assembly constituency that elects its member to the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly and Kangra Lok Sabha constituency that elects its member to the Lok Sabha, lower house of the Indian Parliament.[36][37]


A trekking trail in Dharamsala

The economy of the region is highly dependent on agriculture and tourism. The main crops grown in the valley are rice, wheat, and tea. Dharamshala has many tea plantations which produce the Kangra tea which has been granted geographical indication status.[38]

Dharamshala is a major hill station and spiritual center.[39] It hosts a number of trekking trails across the Himalayas into the upper Ravi Valley and Chamba district. Trekking trails include hikes to Indrahar Pass (4,342 meters or 14,245 ft ) Toral Pass (4,575 m or 15,010 ft), Bhimghasutri Pass (4,580 m or 15,030 ft), Dharamshala—Bleni Pass (3,710 m or 12,170 ft), Kareri Lake, Himani Chamunda, Thatarna and Triund.[40][41]



National Highway NH 503 starts from Dharmashala and connects the town to Hoshiarpur in Punjab via Kangra. State highways link the town with NH 154 running from Pathankot to Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.[42] Buses connect the town with other major locations nearby.


The town is served by Kangra Ghaggal airport located about 12 km (7.5 mi) to the town's south.[43]


Pathankot, 90 km (56 mi) away, is the nearest major rail head.[44] The Kangra Valley Railway is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge railway that runs from Pathankot, Punjab to Jogindernagar through the Kangra Valley with the nearest station to Dharamshala being Chamunda Marg, located about 22 km (14 mi) southeast.[45]


A 1.8 km (1.1 mi) long ropeway called Dharamshala Skyway connecting Dharamshala and Mcleodganj via cable car was inaugurated in January 2022.[46]


Major educational institutions include Central University of Himachal Pradesh and Government College of Teacher Education Dharamsala.[47]

Sports and recreation[edit]

HPCA cricket stadium at Dharamshala

Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium is a cricket stadium located in Dharamshala.[48] Situated at an altitude of 1317m, it is one of the highest altitude cricket stadiums.[49] It has a capacity of 23,000 and serves as the home ground to the Himachal Pradesh cricket team and IPL team Kings XI Punjab.[50][51]

Traditional shopping streets are located in Kotwali Bazaar. Malls and multiplex cinemas are found on the National Highway Road in the Chilgari area, near Kotwali Bazaar and the main bus stand. DIFF was established in 2012 to promote contemporary art, cinema and independent media practices in the Himalayan region.[52] Hari Kothi is a historic property located in the town.[53]

Notable people[edit]


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External links[edit]