Hauntingly Beautiful St John In The Wilderness Church, Dharamshala

St John In The Wilderness Church In Dharamshala

St John in the Wilderness Church in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India is a beautiful church dedicated to St John The Baptist.

St John In The Wilderness Church in Dharamshala

As soon as we stepped into the premises of St John In The Wilderness Church in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India, we were blown away by its surreal beauty. The beauty was at once haunting and eerie at the same time. The beauty of the place could not subdue the aura of melancholia that seemed to pervade the surroundings.

The rays of the sun pierced through the thick cover of the tall deodar trees and fell on the numerous graves that lay on either side of the pathway that led to the church building. Each grave seemed to cajole us to listen to its story. A story of a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a wife, a husband!

St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala
St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala

St John In The Wilderness Dharamshala came as a pleasant surprise to us on our road trip that started in Amritsar and ended in Chandigarh, after covering Dalhousie, Khajjiar, Dharamshala, Mcleodganj, Palampur, Bir Billing, Mandi, and Anandpur Sahib.

Read on to know more about the intriguing St John In The Wilderness Church of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Join us as we take you on a virtual journey to learn about the history of St John In The Wilderness, and about the graves that dot its precincts.

St John In The Wilderness Church – An Enduring Enigma

St John In The Wilderness Church in Dharamshala

St John In The Wilderness Church is the oldest church in Dharamshala and was built in the year 1852. Ironically, it is also the building from that era that has survived. A devastating earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter Scale rocked the Kangra Valley in the year 1905 and sounded the death knell of most of the colonial buildings in the region. It also killed almost 20,000 people. Many of the Britishers who were killed in the earthquake, lie in eternal sleep beneath their graves on the premises of St John In The Wilderness Church.

The stone building of the church survived the earthquake, though it was partially damaged.

Visiting St John In The Wilderness Dharamshala | The Graves

St John In The Wilderness Church
St John In The Wilderness Church

We were spending a couple of days in McLeodganj, and taking in the sights. On our way back from the Naddi village, in a place called Forsythganj, we stopped in front of St John In The Wilderness Church. It is located right by the side of the road that leads from Naddi Village to Mcleodganj.

Yak
Yak

A couple of decorated Yaks stood by the side of the road and were attracting the attention of the passers-by. With just a cursory glance at the Yaks, we made our way through an iron gate and entered the world of St John In The Wilderness, Dharamshala.

The entire St John In The Wilderness Church, Mcleodganj premises is covered by large Deodhar trees. The shade of these magnificent trees almost blocks the sunlight from reaching the ground, except for stray rays of light that play hide and seek. A path meanders towards a stone building covered with a roof that has a pleasing pink shade. This is the main church building.

The Graves at St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala
The Graves at St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala

Hundreds of graves lay scattered, surrounding the stone building of the church and grabbed our attention  Our morbid curiosity got aroused. Death is something that is certain for everyone, however, it always holds a strange fascination for the living. Some invisible force drew us towards the graves, and we went to have a look at them, leaving the path that led towards the stone building that housed the church.

We found the graves “greying with age.” The words on many of the epitaphs were barely visible. Moss and weeds covered some of the graves. We could make out that the dead had been in eternal rest here for more than a century.

John Duncan Crawford lay beneath his grave, which seemed to be guarded by a giant Deodhar tree. If you wonder who John Duncan Crawford was, his epitaph, which has survived the ravages of time, gives more information. It says, ” In the Memory of John Duncan Crawford, Surgeon-Major 2nd Regiment B.C., born at Ballyshannon, 20th April 1824, who died on 16th, May 1871.” You wonder about how the surgeon aged 47 years died, and how it must have felt to take your last breath so far away from your birthplace in faraway Ireland.

The graves of a brother and sister leave you plummeting to the depths of pathos. They are aged 4 and 7 and died on the same fateful day, April 4th, 1905. That was the day when the devastating earthquake that rocked the Kangra Valley took the lives of thousands of people and also snuffed out the lives of these little children.

Thinking about the children and the many people who lay under the benevolent shade of the Deodhar Trees, we reached a tall structure, located towards the rear of the Church.

The Lord Elgin Memorial At St John In The Wilderness Church

The Lord Elgin Memorial At St John In The Wilderness Church
The Lord Elgin Memorial At St John in The Wilderness Church

James Bruce, who was the 8th Earl of Elgin, also served as the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, during the colonial regime. He died in Dharamshala on the 20th of November, 1863. He was buried in the churchyard of St John In The Wilderness. A memorial that resembles the design of a cathedral was built over Lord Elgin’s grave, by his widow, Mary Louisa.

The memorial of John Bruce or Lord Elgin stands somnolently overlooking the Dhauladhar ranges, beneath the shade of the Deodhar trees.

History of St John In The Wilderness Church

St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala

St John In The Wilderness Church was built in the year 1852. It is a protestant church that is dedicated to John The Baptist. It is remarkable that the Church withstood the devastating effect of the 1905 earthquake that rocked the Kangra valley. Though most of the major portion of the stone building escaped the fury of the quake, its bell tower was destroyed in the earthquake. 10 years later, a new bell was procured from England in 1915, and installed in the Church. The Church bell has now been tolling for more than a century.

St John In The Wilderness Church Architecture

Inside St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala
Inside St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala

The Church has been constructed in the Neo-Gothic style of architecture. The elements of typical medieval Gothic architecture, like pointed arches, large windows, and vaulted ceilings can be seen in the 19th-century church. The stone building does have a cold and forbidding appearance, however once inside, the exquisite Belgian stained glass windows add colour to the forbidding setting. The stained glass windows were donated by Lord Elgin’s widow. Other features of the church are its beautiful altar railings made of polished wood and brass lamps, that tell the story of a grand era of the past.

The church of St John In The Wilderness Dharamshala, may not have the grandeur of the churches of Goa or that of the St Lawrence Church in Karkala, Karnataka. However, it has a strange timeless beauty that merges harmoniously with its setting amidst the beautiful Dhauladhar ranges.

St John In The Wilderness Church Dharamshala

The feeling of melancholy still wraps around you as you make your way out of the church. And then you see a single band of light, leaving the sun near the Church’s steeple and piercing the darkness created by the cover of the trees. It is as if God has shone his light, and you realize that life and death are both two sides of the same coin. Life is what you script against the blackboard of death.

A smile lights up your face as you spot the monks posing for pictures with the Yak.

Images of  St. John in the Wilderness

St. John in the Wilderness images
St. John in the Wilderness images

We leave you with some haunting images of the beautiful church of St John in The Wilderness at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.

How To Get To St. John In The Wilderness Church Mcleodganj | Church of St John’s in the Wilderness

We at St John In The Wilderness Church

  • St John In The Wilderness Church is located in McLeodganj/Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, India
  • The address of St John In The Wilderness Church is Road to Naddi Village from McLeod Ganj, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh 176215

By Air

The nearest airport to Mcleodganj is Kangra Airport in Gaggal, at a distance of about 18 kilometres. It is a regional airport and has flights to and from Chandigarh, Hisar, and Delhi. Alternate airports are Pathankot at a distance of about 91 kilometres.

By Rail

The closest broad gauge railway head to Mcleodgang is Pathankot. There is a narrow-gauge railway from Pathankot to Jogindernagar. Kangra Mandir is a railway station on this line which is at a distance of 38 kilometres from Mcleodganj.

By Road

Mcleodganj is well connected by road to other towns and cities of Himachal Pradesh. Himachal Roadways buses to Mcleodganj are available from Delhi and other places.

If you are planning a visit to Mcleoganj, you can book your flight tickets right here through Cleartrip or Makemytrip or CheapAir or Priceline  and fly to Pathankot or Amritsar. If you are thinking of a road trip, do check out the rental car and bus options.

Where To Stay In McLeodganj

Hotel In Dharamshala Mcleodganj – Spring Valley Resort
Hotel In Dharamshala Mcleodganj – Spring Valley Resort

There is no dearth of hotels in McLeodganj as well as Dharamshala. We stayed at the Spring Valley Resort in McLeodganj.

You can book Hotels in Mcleodganj, Hotels in BirHotels in DharamshalaHotels in Palampur or any destination right here through any of the options  – TripAdvisor or Cleartrip or  makemytrip or  goibibo or  Booking.com or  HotelsCombined or  Agoda and save a lot by getting the best deals on booking your stay.

Click to book the best hotels in Mcleodganj or the best hotels in Himachal Pradesh

We hope you liked reading our St John In The Wilderness Church post. Subscribe to our blog for posts about interesting places, travel tips, and travel stories. Connect with us on our social media platforms to stay updated.

We are a reader-supported site. This means, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you book a flight or hotel, or make a purchase through one of our affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Are you planning a last-minute Holiday?
Below are some useful resources to help you book flights, hotels, and tours! And also clothes, luggage and accessories for your trip!

Flights –  Cleartrip or Makemytrip or IndiGo or Cheapair or Priceline

Tours –  Click to book top tours around the world. Book tours and activities here.

ExperiencesBook your next unforgettable experience here, with flexible bookings and free cancellations. Reserve tours and activities now and pay later.

Hotels – Click to book the best hotels/resorts. Choose the best stay options with TripAdvisor or Cleartrip or  makemytrip or  goibibo or  Booking.com or  HotelsCombined or  Agoda

Travel Insurance – Click to book Travel Insurance that covers a range of travel insurance and safety services including medical emergencies, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more

Visas and Travel Documents ApplicationClick here for Online Travel Visa Check

Online Passport PhotoGet Your Passport Photo Online here

Pinit
Pinit

St John In The Wilderness Church, Dharamshala

Do You Love Traveling?

Do you want to know how to travel the world? We have put together a very useful travel resources page with the best travel tips. Go check it out now. Thanks for visiting our site Voyager - imvoyager.com and taking the time to read this post! If you wish to collaborate/work with us then reach us at [email protected] We’d love it if you’d comment by sharing your thoughts on this post and share this post on social media and with your friends. Follow our journey on our social media channels: Facebook  X  Instagram  Pinterest  YouTube 

Start dreaming about your next adventure with Tripadvisor. Book your next unforgettable experience here with flexible bookings and free cancellations.

Start dreaming about your next adventure with Tripadvisor

If you enjoyed reading this, join our community and subscribe to Voyager's site to receive great content delivered right to your inbox.
JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
And get notified everytime we publish a new post.

60+ Million Users Trust TripAdvisor With Their Travel Plans. Shouldn't You?

 TA CJ

Hauntingly Beautiful St John In The Wilderness Church, Dharamshala

12 thoughts on “Hauntingly Beautiful St John In The Wilderness Church, Dharamshala”

  1. I have heard so much about Dharamshala and I truly want to go there. This is the first time I am reading about The Wilderness Church. I am sure the serenity of the church when combined with the beautiful and mesmerizing Dharamshalaa beauty, it must be a treat to anyone’s soul.

  2. Shreemayee Chattopadhyay

    Long back we visited this place and enjoyed the serenity here without knowing the history behind. Now, I’d like to go again.

  3. Wow it was such and intriguing post about Dharamshala as I was not aware about some of the places that should not be ignored during our trip. Saving it

  4. A friend of mine was in Dharamshala recently, I hope she saw this place. I hadn’t heard about this church, much less about its long history. Must be exciting to go through all those old graves.

  5. I have never been to Dharamshala, we made plans twice but something else came up. So glad I found this post with all the required details in one place. saving it for the future. Thank you!

  6. Dharamshala I know, Mcleodganj I know but St John church is something new for me. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the history and the present form of the place.

  7. This is such a beautiful church in Dharamshala. We have been there and I couldn’t help but be enamoured by the deodar forest backdrop of this church.

  8. Dharmashala is such a beautiful place. I had never heard about this church but the architecture is beautiful. The backstory, the graveyard, the devastating earth quake all made for an interesting read.

  9. Wow what a beautiful church. It looks spectacular and lovely. Unfortunately, I have not been to Dharamshala till now but want to visit it soon. Thanks for this, will add this church as well.

  10. St John In The Wilderness church in Dharamshala is a must visit due to its beautiful architecture and history behind. I have so many places to visit in north and this is definitely one of the place which has made a room in my bucket list.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top