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Kullu, once known as Kul-anti-peetha - "the end of the habitable world", is the capital town of the Kullu District, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is located on the banks of the Beas River in the Kullu Valley about ten kilometres north of the airport at Bhuntar. Kullu is the administrative capital with the offices of District Collector, the Superintendent of Police and the District courts. It is also the largest and the most varied constituency for the lower house of the parliament. The valley of gods, as the Kullu valley has come to be known, is perhaps the most delightful region in the western Himalayas. The valley spreads out its charm on either side of the upper reaches of the river Beas. Running north to south, the main river. The valley is only 80 kilometres long and 2 kilometres at its broadest, yet a fairly wide area is open to the visitors to enjoy the spectacle of variegated mountain scenery.
Situated on the banks of the Beas, Kullu, the headquarters of the district, serves as a nerve center of the valley and is the starting place for a number of treks. The deodar-fringed grassy huge maidan called Dhalpur, is a stage for many colorful fairs. Due to it being the commercial and economic center the township of Kullu has had an eclectic diaspora of nearby village/district inhabitants, shop owners and governmental employees from bordering states which give a different feel from the rest of the valley.
The chief tourist interest of Kullu is the Raghunath Temple that worships Lord Ram, one of the most important deities in the Hindu mythology, and who is the patron deity amongst the residents of Kullu valley. The temple was erected in the year 1660 by Raja Jagat Singh, to make amends for his sins. He got an idol of Lord Ram from Ayodhya and displayed it in this temple.
3 kilometres from Kullu lies the Jagannathi Devi Temple or the Bekhli temple in the village of Bekhli. Although it is a precipitous 1½ hour uphill walk that leads to the temple, it provides an amazing view over Kullu which is worth the ascent.
The Bijli Mahadev Temple is placed on a spur at an elevation of 2,460 metres. As the name suggests, the temple is frequently struck by lightning. There is a 20-metre-high staff projecting out of the shrine, which is said to catch lightening from the skies and destroy them below the Shivlingam (the symbol of Lord Shiva). The Bijli Mahadev temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is located across the river Beas, at some ten kilometers distance from Kullu. The temple offers a panoramic view over the Kullu valley and is worth visiting.
A major tributary Sar-vari, (derived from "Shiv -Baardi") leads to the less explored and steeper Lug-valley on the west. On the east of Kullu lies a broad mountainous ridge having the village-temples of Bijli Mahadev, Mount Nag and Pueed. Beyond the ridge lies the Manikaran valley, along the Parvati river which joins Beas in Bhuntar. On the South of Kullu lie the towns of Bhuntar, Out (leading to Anni, Banjar and Siraj Valley) and Mandi (a separate district). Historically Kullu was accessible from Shimla via Siraj valley or through passes on the west leading to Jogindernagar and onto Kangra. To the north lies the famous town of Manali, which through the Rohtang pass leads onto the Lahaul and Spiti Valley. One can see an enormous change in the climate as one climbs up the windward side of the ranges to proceed to the leeward and much drier plateaus to the north of Manali.
45 kilometres from Kullu, in the Parvati Valley, lies the holy pilgrimage place of Manikaran. The hot water springs are reputed for their healing properties. The springs in the area are hot enough to boil rice in it. Manikaran, a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Sikhs, has a temple and a Gurudwara. The Gurudwara is commemorated to the visit of the Guru Nanak Dev. The Janam Sakhi or the ‘Autobiography of Bhai Mardana’ mentions the various miracles done by the Guru at this place. Manikaran Gurudwara, built in the mountains, provides some extraordinary sights.
The artisans of Kullu valley preserve a rich heritage of handlooms and handicrafts. There is an amazing range of beautiful handloom and handicraft products in Kullu. The traditional brilliant colors of the handlooms probably manifest people's zest for life and creation.
The famous Kullu Shawls are admired for their elegant look. The Kullu Shawl owes its origin to the Kinnauri Shawl. The Kullu Shawl's designs and motifs woven today have originally been derived from intricate Kinnauri designs that have been enlarged enormously and simplified with the passage of time. Shawls made in Kullu in Himachal Pradesh occupy a place of pride among the handicrafts of Kullu. For their elegant look, brilliant traditional patterns, quality and reasonable cost, these shawls are world famous. Kullu Caps are widely worn by the local people and are also equally popular among tourists. Warm local Tweeds, Pattus, Muflars etc. are the other handloom products largely produced in Kullu.
Other places of interest in the area include Manikaran (famous for its hot springs) and hot water springs at Vashisht village near Manali, 40 kilometres north of Kullu, a hub for tourists and rock climbers. Malana, Kaish-Dhaar in Lug Valley, Bijli Mahadev, Bhekhli and Bajaura house the famous temples of the region and places like Kasol and Gohar. The surprise thing about Bijli mahadev temple is that the dhwaza sthupa of the temple will attract thunders some days and at that time the main shiv ling be broken into pieces. The priest will reconstruct the shiv ling by using butter. Manali is perhaps the most famous town and center of all tourist attraction in the state. Manali also has a well-known temple dedicated to the mythical princess Hadimba. The economy of the town largely depends on tourism, horticulture (apples, plums, pears, and almonds) and handicrafts (shawls, caps etc.).
Kullu Valley, also known as the "Valley of Gods", is well known for the seven day festival of Kullu Dussehra, a celebration of the mythical Lord Rama's victory over the evil king Ravana. The festival takes place in the months of October or November depending upon the Hindu calendar.
During summers, the weather is very plesant and the maximum temperature hardly reaches 30 °C in the day, while the nights still retain a bit of chill. Summer is the season when tourists come in large numbers. When the rest of India goes through extreme heat Kullu offers respite, with its cool and calm climate. Light woolen and cotton clothing is ideal during this weather condition. Extreme weather is observed in Kullu during the winters, when the temperature may go down to freezing point from December to February. Heavy woolen clothes are required during this weather. Temperatures in Kullu are lower as compared to Manali which is at a greater height. In the spring Kullu is at its most colorful with pink blossoms and white flowers while the higher slopes are aglow with gorgeous rhododendrons. By December, there is no greenery except the majestic pines and cedars in the forests. In winter the hillsides are flanked in white.
The nearest airport is at Bhuntar (Airport Code: KUU), 10 kilometres from Kullu and 50 kilometres from Manali. Direct flights are available from Delhi on Kingfisher Airlines and Indian Airlines. Regular bus services are available from the airport to Kullu and Manali. Taxis are also available but they usually operate on a fixed fare basis.
The nearest broad gauge railhead is Chandigarh (270 kilometres). Alternative railheads are Shimla (220 kilometres) and Jogindernagar (narrow gauge, 40 kilometres), connected with Kalka and Pathankot (broad gauge).
Distances and travel times from Kullu are:
Both government and private deluxe and Volvo buses are available from Delhi but you need to book these two to five days in advance.
There are many hotels and guesthouses in Kullu to stay. Kullu lies in the heart of the 70-kilometre-long kullu valley and offers a central location for seight seeing to manali & rothang pass in the north to shoja & jalori pass in the south & Manikaran in the east. Manikaran is around 40 kilometres from main Kullu city.
There's good coverage over most of India for Internet cafes. However, following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and some other cities, all internet cafes have been instructed by the authorities to maintain a register and note down the identification details of all persons using internet. Sify iWay is a reliable and cheap cafe with over 1,600 cafes over India. iWay also allows you to open a pre-paid account that you can use all over India. Whenever you have Internet access probably the best and cheapest way to call family and friends at home is software that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet such as Skype.
Wifi hotspots in India are, for most part, limited. The major airports and stations do offer paid wifi at around RS.60-100 an hour. Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai are the only cities with decent wifi coverage. At Mumbai airport, you get to use WiFi internet free, for an hour or so.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country code for India is 91. To dial outside the country from India, prefix the country code with 00.
The general emergency number is 100 (emergency response police & fire), while for ambulance you should dial 102 or 112, though some regions have 108 for this emergency. 108 is used in in the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha,Assam, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 108 can be called for medical, crime, fire, or any other emergency from any phone.
Local phone numbers can be anywhere from 5-8 digits long. But when the area code is included, all landline phone numbers in India are 10 digits long. Cellphone numbers usually start with '9', '8', or '7'. Toll-free numbers start with 1-800.
If staying longterm it is probably wise to think about investing in a mobile phone. You'll possibly need to provide a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, so come prepared. Make sure you arrange it upon arrival in a big city, as it can sometimes be difficult to organise with language barriers and such in more regional areas. You can buy a cheap nokia for about RS.1,200 with a pre-paid plan. Airtel is a good carrier to think about as they have great coverage, and constant offers for cheaper calling. To recharge, most shop vendors with phone carrier signs can do it via their own phone. You give them your mobile number, they put it in their phone and you'll both get messages as to whether or not the recharge has been successful. Also, if possible, buy the phone in the state where you do the most travelling as the charges are higher in the states where you did not originally buy the phone.
Over the entire country there are plenty of public phones, even in the middle of the countryside. Although most of the time these phones are not very well maintained and have horrible connections. Therefore remember when using one of these public phones one must be extremely patient.
For international calls from payphones, you'll have to visit a reputable internet cafe with a phone-booth. Mobile phones are usually a better and cheaper option.
India Post is the national postal service of India, and on their website you find details about prices to send postcards, letters and parcels, both domestically and internationally. For most postcards to send internationally, it is better to visit the post office before writing on the card as you may need quite a few stamps. Parcels must be taken to a tailor, he will then sew it up in white linen. Make sure he seals it with red wax, otherwise the post office may refuse to send it or try to get you to pay them to do it. Sewing up a parcel should only cost RS.50 to 200. In general, post offices are open from 10:00am to 1:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:30pm in most bigger towns and cities, though there are regional variations and some might keep longer hours or be open during (part of) the weekend as well. Ask around.
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