History of Dharamsala

With the advent of the Tibetans in the city of Dharamsala, the relevance of the city in terms of history had multiplied several folds. The royal family, colonial background, Kangra Indians and Tibetan influence present the viewer with a refreshing cocktail of all culture. The delectably alluring sceneries that Dharamsala presents only add to the charm of the whole city. Amidst the snow-clad mountains and the thick coniferous forest, the background has developed slowly and meaningfully.

The Royal Family in Dharamsala

The commencement of history of Dharamsala has to be with the rule of the Katoch dynasty. Though the family was not based in the city yet they had influence over the vicinity. The Kangra fort, a few kilometers from Dharamsala has been built by the Katoch emperors to safeguard many aspects that also includes the interest of Dharamsala. Presently the royal family keeps a residence at Dharamsala which is known as ‘Clouds End Villa’.

Royal Family in Dharamsala

The Christening of Dharamsala

The canon of administration shifted from Indians to the British in March 1850. In the second Anglo-Sikh war, Dharamsala was annexed by the British. It was a cantonment for the British troops that were posted to Kangra. The official cantonment was established a little later with only a rest house called Dharamsala for Hindus in the empty land on slopes of Kangra valley. Thus the city received its name ‘Dharamsala’.

The British Raj in Dharamsala

The British primarily used Dharamsala as their military station in the Kangra area. It was also considered the retreat for British in hot summers around the middle of 19th century. However, when the district headquarters of kangra became overcrowded with troops the British were divided into two regiments and moved to Dharamsala. McLeodganj and Forsythganj, the two parts of Dharamsala city are named after the divisional commissioners of the British Raj. These two places were developed to settle the civilians in Dharamsala.

British Touch in Dharamsala


By the 1860 the 66th Gurkha Light Infantry was moved to Dharamsala. They settled near the Bhagsu falls and a small settlement eventually spread into fourteen Gurkha Platoon villages. This Gurka platoon was later christened as 1st Gurkha Rifles. They had performed heroic fleets during the world wars. The settlement of Gurkhas was counted as the initial settlers in that area. The Gurkhas also liked to be called Bhagsuwalas owing to their sacred temple known as Bhagsunath. More heroic achievements followed when they rebuilt the city after a massive earthquake in the beginning of the 20th Century.

By 1904 Dharamsala had become the centers for trade, commerce and important official duties of the British in Kangra district. The city was as such very alluring to which beautiful gardens with imported plants added an extra feather. However, the heaven on earth was almost destructed by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 1905. Thousands of people including the British were killed and injures, buildings in Dharamsala were almost destroyed which included the Bhagsunag temple of the Gurkhas. Though the city was rebuilt and the Platoon of 1st Gurkha Rifles operated from here, the district headquarters was moved to Shimla.

Tibetan Influx in Dharamsala

The city of Dharamsala had to wait about half a century more to witness something more interesting and recordable in history of the city. The summer capital being declined by the British, the city became a quiet hill town. However, in March 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India as an exile from China. He had to take refuge in India after the failure of uprising in 1959 against the Communist Party of China in Tibet. Indian government chose to locate him in Dharamsala with a residence in McLeod Ganj. In 1960 he established Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamsala, the official refuge for Tibetans in India.

Tibet in Dharamsala


With this historical change, an incessant flow of Tibetan refugees turned the upper part of the city into a miniature Tibet with followers of Buddhism and a culture transcended from there.
Founded by British in the commencement of the 19th Century and turned into the culturally vivacious city, Dharamsala offers a lot to the enthusiasts of history.

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