Pinjore, 22km north of Chandigarh and 7km south of Kalka on the Shimla road, is one of many sites associated with the exile of the Pandavas as chronicled in the Mahabharata. It is best known for its walled Yadavindra Gardens on Kalka Shimla Road, which originally belonged to the rajas of Sirmaur, but under the Mughals were taken over by Aurangzeb’s foster brother, Fidai Khan, who erected three pleasure palaces for his wife amid the cypress trees. Legend tells that the raja reclaimed his summer retreat by sending a female fruit-seller with goitre to the imperial impostors. On being told that the woman’s unsightly swelling was caused by the local water, the begum and her entourage fled. The gardens are on seven levels, bisected by waterways with fountains; the best time to visit is in the evening, when it’s all aglow with pretty lights.
Nearby, excavated remains of the tenth-century Bhima Devi Temple – destroyed during the Muslim conquest of the area – have been assembled in a pleasant park with four exhibition rooms that the caretaker will open for you if he’s about. The temple is contemporary with Khajuraho, and one or two of the reliefs are similarly erotic, though well worn.