A small picturesque saucer-shaped plateau surrounded by dense pine and deodar forests, is one of the 160 places throughout the world to have been designated “Mini Switzerland”. Yes, this is Khajjiar, a tiny tourist resort in Chamba about 24 kms from Dalhousie; at an altitude of 6,500 ft. above sea level. The moment one enters the picturesque Khajjiar, one is welcomed by a yellow Swiss sign for ‘hiking path’ which reads “Mini Switzerland”.Set against the backdrop of dense pines, deodars and lush green meadow, Khajjiar is exquisitely nestled down in the foothills of the imposing Dhauladhar ranges of the Western Himalayas. The dish-shaped Khajjiar provides a panoramic and breathtaking perspective to visitors.
Khajjiar was officially baptized by the Swiss Ambassador on July 7, 1992 and as per records, a stone was taken here and forms part of the stone sculpture erected in Berne, capital of Switzerland.The journey from Chamba to Dalhousie to this idyllic scenic spot may be undertaken either by buses run by the HP Tourism Development Corporation or by one’s own vehicle. Khajjiar is about 95kms from Pathankot Railway Station and 130 kms from the Gaggal Airport in the district Kangra.
Khajjiar is famous for the popular Khajji Naga shrine dedicated to the serpent god from which the name is believed to have been derived. The temple dates back to the 10th century and is interspaced with different patterns and images on the ceiling and wooden posts. A curious blend of Hindu and Mughal styles of architecture is reflected in the wooden carvings on the ceilings and wooden posts. The image carvings are said to represent the Kauravas who were tied up here in the hideout by the Pandavas. The temple consists of a spacious congregation hall sufficiently enclosed by wooden supports. The dome-shaped shrine is made of slates locally extracted from limestone quarries. Adjoining are other shrines of Shiva and Hadimba goddess also. The age-old tradition of sacrificing a goat is still practiced outside the temple premises.
While traveling to Khajjiar from Dalhousie, one is tempted to halt at Kalatop, famous for its wildlife sanctuary. Here, one can watch the different species of wildlife amidst their natural habitat. However, it is sad that there is no proper racecourse, which has resulted in soil erosion.
Moreover, Khajjiar has an islet with a small lake surrounding it. The lake is considered to be holy by the locals as legend associated it with Khajinag, the deity in the Khaaji temple. The lake has been neglected over the years and its waters, which at one time reflected the clear blue skies, today give its resemblance to a shallow pond. However, the Department of Environment has recently taken up the beautification of the lake.
Whether the original glory of the lake will be restored by means of the beautification scheme is for the times to tell.
Situated at an altitude of 6300 ft. Khajjiar is another wonderland midway of Dalhousie and Chamba. The drive from Dalhousie is through a busable road winding through dense forest of pines and cedar. The distance of Khajjiar from Dalhousie is twenty miles There is a bridal path also from Dalhousie to Kalatop and Khajjiar and one can pleasurably trek to these places Khajjiar is a beautiful sylvan glade about a mile in length and half a mile in breadth picturesquely set in the midst of forest. The glade is green in its turf and contains in its bosom a small lake heaving approximate area of 5000 sq. yards. Its depth has been mentioned as 13 feet by Dr. Hutchison put as per prevailing belief, the lake is fathomless and no one has been able to measure its depth so far. Once, a saint is said to have attempted to measure its depth with a rope for days together but in Bain.
There is a clump of reeds and grasses exaggeratedly called an island floating on this lake adding charm to the eye of the viewer. The lake is so set in the midst of the grassy sward and in the back-drop of an array of stately arranged cedars that the whole ensemble, as Shri Thakur Sen Negi puts it, makes one think of a sapphire set in background of gold and emerald.
The lake is unfortunately squeezing due to silting problem and the growth of weeds which is mainly ascribed to the letting loose of animals in the glade by the villagers for the grazing purpose. But on the other hand the presence of animals provides a rural background to the place and it looks so beautiful to see the herds of animals grazing in the glade.
Khajjiar was a favorite place for golf players until recent past. The golf holes can still be seen though in abandoned state.On the brink of lake, there is a beautiful temple of Khajji Nag from where the place derives its name as Khajji. So it attached a religious significance for the local people who celebrate a fair every year. The Khajji Nag temple is made in pahari style and the object of worship is ‘Nagdev’, carved out of stone in human from. The images of five Pandvas: Yudhishtra, Bhim, Arjun,Nakul and Sahdev beautiful made out of wood stand in the corners of the Mandapa of the temple. A small temple of Hidimba also stands close by. This has led people tp believe that the Pandavas happened to visit this place during their exile and their period of incognito. There stands a deodar tree near the P.W.D. Rest house having six shoots of almost equal height. The locals believe that these six shoots represent five Pandvas and their common wife Dropadi. But trees with many shoots are a common occurrence in the Khajjiar forest. At a distance of one kilometetre from Khajjiar towards Dalhousie a big deodar trees exists having more than 13 soots of comparable height. This trees has popularly come to be known as ‘Mother Tree’ of the area.
Located almost midway between Dalhousie and Khajjiar, Kalatope is a beautiful forested area. A very thick and dark forest crowns the hilltop and perhaps that is why the place has derived its name as Kalatop which literally means a black cap. The spot really commands a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. One can see the hills, snow-capped mountains, the valleys,the hamlets, the greenery and the ruggedness standing from the place. The forest mainly comprises of the deodar, kail, spruce,ban trees and various bushes providing a safe habitat for wild animals. The place has already been declared a wild life sanctuary by the government. Pheasants and Monal and various other birds can be frequently seen in the place. Leopards, black bear are also found by a traveller occasionally.