Numerous forts, palaces, temples, monasteries and residences of heritage prominence are found all over the state of Himachal. The thousand year old Buddhist monastery of Tabo in Spiti with its fine wall-paintings and stucco statues has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The village of Pragpur with its age-old and well preserved architecture and cobbled streets has been declared a ‘Heritage village’. Many of Himachal’s forts, palaces and residences are privately owned, and naturally, the discretion of their use rests with their owners. Yet, we are proud to have them as a part of our rich heritage.
With nostalgia and comfort skilfully interlaced, here is a window that invites you to share a bygone era and hold its enduring charms.
On the top of a hill known as Bahadurpur the highest (1,980 m) point in the district near Tepra Village in Paragana Bahadurpur, about 40 Km from Bilaspur. The range is embellished by a beautiful wood of deodar and ban trees. It is just 6 Km above Namhol. From this high place the Ratanpur Fort, Swarghat, the Fatehpur Fort, the Naina Devi hill, plains near Ropar and the mountains of Shimla can be seen. This Fort was built prior to 1835. The area is now being developed with proper facilities, forest walks and some other adventurous activities.
To the eastern side of the Tiun range, on the lifty range and peak of Sariun like this stronghold at an elevation of about 1500 m above MSL. It is about 58 Km from Bilaspur. Tradition holds that the fort was originally built by Raja of the erstwhile Suket State and was subsequently wrested by the ruler of Bilaspur; the local people entertain a superstition according to which the stones once forming part of the Fort are not used in any residential building.
Fatgarh or Satgarh Fort
The fort is on a flat hill. This fort affords a gorgeous view of the valley below and of other forts in the area. There were some artifacts like idols of five deities, huge vessels for storage etc. which are now kept in the Bilaspur museum.
This fort is near Mailthi village on the Brahmapukhar-Jamli road; trek through Khui village uphill. A good and challenging trek up to the fort. It has a Devi temple nearby, which she villagers maintain well.
Swarghat is a strategically located small town on the Chandigarh-Manali Highway and from Dar Barkha one could climb up to fort Mundkhar. Historically rich, the fort is a small bastion hidden behind the trees. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top.
Tiun and Sriun Forts
The twin forts of Tiun and Sriun are towards Ghumarwin side. Located on two mountain ranges, facing each other, the forts have strong ramparts and the towers still stand intact. Sriun fort is spread across the knoll and is approachable via Harlog.
The fort is situated at a tactical location with open valleys on all four sides. It is a watch-post from where movement could be seen in the far-off plains. Spread in one Bigha and situated on a precipice with a sheer fall on the western side the fort affords view of Chandigarh, Nalagarh, Anandpur and faint glimpses of the Naina Devi Dhar.
Taragarh and Lodhargarh Forts
Chamba, it seems, has had very few forts. But two of the forts that claim attention are Taragarh and Lodhargarh. Taragarh fort is on the Kakira-Chowari road above the Bainia village under Taragarh panchayat. The trek is about two to two-and-a-half kilometers through thick growth, boulders and narrow goat path. Lodhargarh was built by Raja Ganesh Varman and its earlier name was Ganeshgarh. The four ramparts are intact and stand as witness to time but the inside is all broken and fallen apart. The fort was probably just a small check post or watchtower able to store provisions and water for a small garrison.
24 Km from Hamirpur town and close to the district border of Kangra is the fort of Sujanpur. This place was the capital of Katoch Dynasty and the old fort is worth visiting. Popularly known along with its twin title ‘Tira’, this fort was built by Raja Abhaya Chand of Kangra in 1758. In the early 19th century this was the home of the famous Raja Sansar Chand – renowned patron of the Kangra school of miniature paintings. The fort has a Barahdari Hall’, where Sansar Chand used to hold court, some shrines and excellent wall paintings.
There is a huge ground, where the annual Holi fair is held for 3-4 days, besides being used for sport activities. A Sainik school is also located here. It is also a religious centre. Narbadeshwar, Gauri Shankar and Murli Manohar are the three well known temples in the town. By the waters of the river Beas, the town has a charming setting and the river stretch offers good angling opportunities. This place is suitable for other adventure sports as well, such as angling, rafting and trekking.
The torrential Banganga River deep in the valley forming a formidable sheer and the Kangra fort lurking atop the flat mountain range is a scene that one encounters on nearing Kangra town when you drive from Shimla. A feeling of awe mixed with joy pervades you as you look back in time. The Kangra fort is approximately 3 kilometers from the town and is also known as Nagarkot. The fort is historically significant; its massive size, and the beauty of its structure lend it an added charm. In Shash Fat’h-I-Kangra, it is mentioned as a lofty fort, strong, invincible and with beautiful buildings.
At the entrance is a museum containing some valuable old photographs of the fort prior to the devastating earthquake of 1905 and some exquisite stone sculptures, carvings, idols and other artifacts.
The climb leads through seven gates; en route there are some idols embossed in the walls of the fort; the ramparts open out to the fascinating valleys below and one can recreate the past and glide the corridors of history as one climbs up slowly through cobbled path.
There are three richly carved temples in the vicinity– Lakshmi Narayan temple, the Ambika temple and a Jain temple of Adi Narayan. These have delicately carved patterns and in their decorative and elaborate art they are reminiscent of Meenakshi Madurai complex (Tamil Nadu) or the temples of Orissa.
Guler is a charming little town in Kangra District. Nestling in the lap of the majestic Dhauladhar, it is known for its Haripur fort. Indeed, the massive ramparts of the fort can be seen from Guler railway station. The location of the fort is picturesque and the Banganga giving it protection from three sides looks awe-inspiring from the top. Inside there are some carvings but they have blurred with time. Cunningham and other travelers note in their travel accounts that Haripur was once the cradle of Kangra paintings, and the fort was rich with carvings, sculptures and paintings. The fort was built by Raja Hari Chand of Kangra.
Kotla fort is another heritage monument on the State Highway between Shahpur and Nurpur. Kotla fort stands on an isolated peak, impressively looking around the deep valleys. The fort was built by the Guler Rajas. The road to the fort winds upwards and is not too difficult; the climb going through the dense forest of pine is pleasant. At the main entrance is the Bagulamukhi temple, one of the incarnations of Durga. The idol inside the temple is magnificent. There is also a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh with roundish roof resembling Bengal roof architecture. Inside there is a unique Ganesh idol. The temple has wall paintings on the outer walls.
The deep arches have superb worksmanship, paintings and carvings. One particular wall with three arches and niches standing amid ruins displays a kind of grace and originality that is unique to the fort.
The fort is at present with the archaeological department and efforts are afoot to restore its glory at least partially.
Built in the late 16th century by Raja Basu the Nurpur Fort is massive and sprawling. It spreads across a long flat plateau forming the western end of the ridge and bears signs of great architectural designs. The fort overlooks the Jabhar Khud, a tributary of the Chakki rivulet and the vast valley formed by it. Earlier name of Nurpur was Dhameri, later changed to Nurpur after Empress Nur Jahan who took a fancy to the beautiful valley. Inside, the palace walls, though crumbling, have deep niches, decorative arches and the faint signs of some paintings. The northwest walls of the fort have some deeply carved panels showing animals. Particularly graceful are the bulls in their various actions like pulling a cart, or walking in a file; there are also figures of men, women, children, the kings, gods and goddesses and birds. The overall impact of the fort is one of awe and wonder.
The famous Brij Maharaj temple, inside the fort complex, is dedicated to Lord Krishna and it has a beautiful black stone idol of the Lord. It was brought from Rajasthan during Raja Jagat Singh’s reign. The walls are decorated with exquisite paintings from Indian mythology. Location: 66 Km from Dharamsala; 24 Km from Pathankot.
It is in Kamru village in tehsil Sangla. This fort was founded by fig Dev Puran. It is a five storeyed tower-type fort resting on 55 sq feet stone platform and has a commanding situation. It is a lofty square structure built of dressed stone bound at small intervals with wooden rafters. On the top of the tower there are two wooden verandahs beautifully decorated with wooden carvings. There is also a beautiful carved miniature wooden temple having a gabled roof crowned by a ridgepole.
The enthronement ceremony of the rulers of erstwhile Bushahr state used to be performed in this fort. In a room in the second storey is housed an idol of Kamrakh or Kamakhya Devi. This fort has good collection of artifacts, stone sculptures, and many other antiquities.
Situated on a dominating height in village Labrang the Labrang fort is one of the highest forts in Kinnaur. This fort had eight stories but now only five stories can be seen and the sixth story is half broken. The main fort rests on approximately 25 feet stone base. An iron chain is hanging from the upper story. One end of this chain is fixed with the solid wooden door of the fort. The date of the fort is not known but the local people associate it with the Pandavas.
This fort is very mysterious and attractive because of its location. Is situated on the left bank of the Satluj on a high hillock and very near to the Morang village. The wooden extending beams and wooden pillars of the Verandah of the top floor indicate that there was another floor at the top and now it is totally broken. The entrance door and the doorframes have a few wood carvings.
This fort is situated in the village Sapni, facing the valley. The fort is like a colossal structure comprising of two buildings integrated into one. It has many decorations to show. The main tower is old and it has seven stories and also a Kali temple in the fifth storey. Raja Padam Singh of Rampur built the front portion, which is adjoining the tower, for Rani. This portion has the best woodwork on the main doorframes and on window frames. But rain and cold weather condition of the region have damaged the carvings.
The Naggar castle is a huge timber-bound structure built in the style indigenous to the Western Himalayas, in which huge logs and stones are placed alternately, with the stones bound together by mud. The deodar or spruce beams are placed horizontally and inlaid with stones. The roof is slanting and has icicle-like wooden hangings as decoration. When seen from the valley and the road below it looks like a tall building. But on reaching it, one finds it just at the level of the road. It is built in stages like the step fields of Kullu. At present, it is with HP Tourism and is a Heritage Hotel. From the castle one could see the far off snow-covered peaks, the delightful Beas valley below and the lush green hillsides dotted with orchards. To be in Naggar is to be in a fairy land, so unusual is the entire ambiance of the place.
Lahaul has only one fort, Gondhla. It was built by Raja Ram Singh of Kullu in 1700AD. The Gondhla fort is exclusively built with wood, in the tower type architecture. Just in front is the Chandra River across the valley. The fort is eight storey high with seven storeys having rooms and the eighth story consisting of a wooden verandah running round the edifice. The staircases in the building are partially notched wooden logs. The building has many apartments which can comfortably accommodate more than 100 people. The Gondla Castle has antique artifacts like bows, arrows, quivers, catapults, guns and canons beside age-old costumes, furniture and idols. Another interesting article to be seen in possession of the Thakur is Sharab Raldi, i.e., “the sword of wisdom” (Sharab means wisdom and Raldi means a sword). In Sanskrit it is known as Pragya Kharga. This sword of wisdom has great relevance here because among the Tibetans it is believed that it is the weapon of Lord Manjushri.
In a pleasant and open valley of Pangna a village in Karsog Tehsil of Mandi District stands the Pangna fort. It is a tower-like structure on a fifty foot stone platform overlooking the little village spread on its either side. The seven storied tower-like fort-palaces have an old-world grandeur. It is just 60 feet high and is built in typical hill architecture in which only wood and stone are used. The woodcarvings are decorative and look new and fresh even after so many centuries of wear and tear. In the open courtyard there is a Mahamaya temple.
This fort stands on formidable terrain but it can be trekkers’ delight. Named after Kamlah Baba, a local saint, the fort stands on jagged ranges of Sikandar Dhar. Kamlahgarh contains six forts: Kamlah, Chawki, Chabara, Padampur, Shamsherpur and Narsinghpur. Raja Hari Sen, gauging the significance of the strategic location of Sikandar Dhar started to build the fort around 1625, which his son Suraj Sen completed and fortified.
The fort stands at a height of 4,772 feet and around it there are some villages – Chamba, Naun, Kamlah, Kathed, Shamsherpur, Jamandhar and others. The main entrance to the fort is almost labyrinthine. The fort remained invincible for centuries; but it fell in 1840, into the hands of Bentura, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s general. It was restored to Mandi kings in 1846.
The hill fortress of Jaitak crowns a steep ridge of slate, which rises above the Kiarda Dun. During the war in 1814, the Gurkhas occupied it with a garrison of 2,200 men. The fort is in ruins now, but its location and the remains speak of its erstwhile grandeur.
Known for its Gorkha Training Center has a small fort known as the Gorkha Fort. It is an easy fort to climb as it is on a low hill and has cemented stairs leading to the temple.
The Nauni Fort
The fort at the pinnacle of the hill is simply awe-inspiring. Its massive walls can be seen from a distance. It is not a big fort but it is strong and must have served its purpose as a watch-tower.
Malaun Fort is a Gorkha fort in District Solan but it can best be approached through Bilaspur. Coming from Shimla side, on the Shimla-Bilaspur highway, one could take a diversion one Km. short of Brahmapukhar. This bifurcation is on Deoth-Mailthi-Jamli road. Malaun village is on the Maithi-Lalgarh road and the Malaun Fort is above the village on a high range. Trekking is both exciting and interesting. With huge watch-tower-type structures on two sides, the fort is spread in about 2 Bighas of land. There is a Kali temple in the premises which lends it a kind of soothing touch. Inside the temple a magnificent pedestal in peacock shape adds to the beauty of the simple temple. The idols of Hanuman, Bhairav and other deities and the statue of a tiger are all ancient, of the time of the Raja. Malaun has had a turbulent history. The fort was with the Gorkhas but Sir D. Ochterlony defeated the Gorkhas in a fierce battle at Lohar ghat near Malaun.
The cannons used in the battle were kept at the Malaun fort but have now been brought down to the Gorkha Training Center Museum, Sabathu.
Once, the capital of the princely state of Baghal, Arki has witnessed a good measure of turbulence in this area. Arki became the stronghold of an invading force of Gurkhas during the ‘Gurkha Wars’ that came to an end in 1815-16. About 1850, Raja Kishen Chand had the fort decorated with fine murals executed in the Pahari style. Here is a place packed with history and adorned with fine art.
Within a short driving distance of both Arki and Subathu – and barely an hour away from the Jubbarhatti (Shimla) airport – is the fort of Kuthar. Its oldest sections are 800 years old while the most recent structures are barely eight decades old. This is spread over a large area and fresh-water springs flow within its confines. Close-by is scenic attractions like Kunihar, the Gurkha fort of Subathu and the hill station of Kasauli.
Devri Khaneti Fort-Palace
Khaneti, a small and secluded village, with the landscape replete with apple orchards, has a palace built on a rock. It is about 500 years old and over the centuries has been renovated and added to, that speaks for its different portions looking different. Route: diversion to Devri Khaneti from Kotkhai.
Rashtrapati Niwas is a palatial building built near Summer Hill. Outside, it has sprawling lawns, a well-laid out garden, ancient trees and exotic flowers, inside it has wooden paneling with Burma teak. It is resplendent with India’s colonial history.
One of the largest monuments, Rang Mahal is located in Surara Mohalla. The foundation of Rang Mahal was laid by Raja Umed Sing (1748-1764). The superstructure of Rang Mahal, which is in brick, belongs to a later date with its southern portion built around 1860 by Raj Sri Singh. The architecture of Rang Mahal is an amalgam of Mughal and British styles. This palace was the residence for a branch of the ruling family. Its fort like looks justifies its use as royal granary and treasury which is on its western side.
Once the palace must have hummed with the activity of busy servant and the frolics of the royal blood but now under the aegis of Handicrafts Department of the State Government, most of the rooms of this palace are being used as work-shops for making shoes, chapples and rumals. A number of decorative and colorful wall paintings have been removed and taken to National Museum of Delhi.
Some of the wall paintings and richly painted doors of the palace can be seen preserved in the Bhuri Singh Museum of Chamba.
Akhand Chandi Palace
The Chamba Palace known as Akhand Chandi Palace is a prominent structure overlooking the famous Chamba Chaugan. Constructed during Raja Umed Singh’s reign between 1748-1764. The palace is sprawling and it has some delicately carved doors, balustrades and window frames and intricate wood and glass work, It is a colonial type building. The huge hall, once the Darbar Hall, also called Marshal Hall was built in 1879 by Capt. Marshal and the lamina Mahal was added in the reign of Raja Bhuri Singh.
This beautiful colonial style palace at Jandrighat near Dalhousie is a typical European double-storeyed bungalow, built in 1870-71 by Raja Gopal Singh. It stands amid a thick pine grove. A beautifully laid garden makes the entrance to the bungalow decorative. It has some antique paintings and other decoration pieces.
The famous Sultanpur Palace, called Rupi Palace is located in Kullu. The Palace is newly built in the vicinity of the old palace which was damaged in an earthquake. The famous Raghunathji temple stands nearby. The entrance to the palace itself has a magnificent look with huge gates of huge wooden logs and the supervising presence of Lord Ganesha. The architecture is simple with a mixture of Pahari and colonial styles. The inside is impressive and there are some wall paintings that are still fresh-looking. Since it is the private residence of the erstwhile ruling family, one needs to contact the family to see the palace.
At present, part of the palace has been converted into a Heritage Hotel and is named Raj Mahal Hotel. It is built like the colonial manor house and has an impressive facade. The inside is decorated with exquisite period furniture, ancient wall hangings, paintings, photographs and swords and shields. Being there one breathes history.
In 1527, when Raja Ajbar Sen set up his capital in Mandi he erected a palace with four towers. It was called Chawki. Later rulers added to the main structure. Moorscraft crossed Mandi in the mid-19th century, he described the palace thus: ‘The town is situated in the angle between the Beas and Suketi rivers. The most conspicuous object is the palace of the Raja, which stands in the southern part of the town, and presents a number of tall, white buildings, with roofs of blue slate, concave like those of Chinese pagodas.
It is currently the residence of the members of the erstwhile ruling family. The Palace faces the Chaugan. The facade is massive and intricately painted.
Another palace is Ran Vijay Palace. The palace is spread lengthwise and with lawns and fountains, trees and flowerbeds it is almost like any European mansion. It has four huge drawing rooms which were used according to the status of the guests. At the back of this palace is the ancient tree where, it is said, Baba Banwari Das sat in meditation when Raja Karam Prakash saw him. The Palace complex contains four temples. The Shiva temple once had exquisite paintings on its outer walls which are blurred now with time and disuse.
Chail is a small hill station, famous as much for its highest cricket ground and military school as for its Palace, now turned into HPTDC Palace Hotel. The Palace is uniquely European in its architectural beauty; it is like a mansion and has splendid cottages. Constructed by the Maharaja Patiala as his summer residence, the Chail Palace is a favorite tourist destination.
Dhami, in District Shimla was a small principality. Dhami is a neat little village and has a small palace about 2 Km from the bazar in Halog. It is built in typical hill style. – According to Mark Brentnall it is ‘evocative of a Bram-Stocker novel than a Raja’s home’
Kotkhai has a sturdy, typically indigenous and unmistakably prominent palace. The palace can be seen en route to Jubbal. It stands on a narrow spur formed by two rivulets that run on three sides. The palace is outstandingly situated, thus dwarfing the surrounding houses by its sheer grandeur.
Jubbal, a picturesque valley (and its equally picturesque sprawling palace) is one of the prosperous areas of present-day Himachal Pradesh being an apple pocket. The present palace is an impressive structure. The main entrance to the palace is through a massive wooden door, about 18 ft high and 7 ft. wide. It is covered with copper and studded with coins — a practice much prevalent in the Pradesh. Old furniture and other artifacts and a rich library with a choice collection of Sanskrit and Persian books are some of its other attractions besides the beauty of the palace.
The Palace at Arki
Arki, a small tehsil town of Solan District, was the capital of Baghal state. Its palace commands attention for its location and the beauty of its simple architecture. Rich frescos that rank only next to those of Nurpur and Kangra are the pride of this Palace. The Diwan Khana is tiny, probably not more than 30 feet by 20 feet but within this space the painters have worked wonders. The arches have scenes of European towns, ports, Goa port and also scenes from civil life and military formations. There are floral designs in green, red and gold and the motifs are rich. There are also scenes from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, figures of gods and goddesses, episodes like Kalia-mardan, Kamdev’s arrows aimed at Lord Shiva and various other themes from mythology. These paintings were executed by Raja Kishen Chand in 1850.
The former state of Keonthal is popularly known as Junga after its capital. Just 18 Km from Shimla, Keonthal was an important princely state of the area. It has two Palaces —the old Palace, now abandoned and the new palace called Chaurni Palace where the present incumbents live.
Bhajji State – The Palace at Sunni
En route to Karsog valley, Sunni is on the bank of Satluj river and near Tattapani — the hot sulphur springs. Distance from Shimla is 50 Km. The palace is like the pyramid with the sprawling wide base and the two smaller upper storeys. The roof is colonial with cones and frills and turrets. It is a combination of the Pahari and the colonial styles.
Also known as the Rampur Palace, it is well maintained palaces of the area. It is huge, with well laid out gardens, rich wealth of trees and the ambiance of serenity around. The most fascinating aspect of the palace is its neatness and the architectural variety. It has both the European design and the Indian impact. The structure is wooden and the galleries, the stylish conical roof and the white painted eaves that look like pearls hanging from the roof are typically colonial. The front door is white and the Belgium glass work is beautiful. Inside, the palace has unmatched glasswork, stained glass windows of different colors and fine woodwork. The palace was built in 1917 during the time of Raja Padam Dev Singh and is rightly called Padam Palace. It houses a rich library. Since it is the private residence of Shri Virbhadra Singh, it is not possible to visit it without permission.
The Palace at Sarahan (Shanti Kunj)
Sarahan, which used to be the seat of the Rampur Bushahr kings, is just 40 kilometers from Rampur. Famous for its magnificent Bhima Kali temple which is a tower-like structure displaying the Pahari style of architecture.
Strategically placed at the foothills of the Himalayas, Nalagarh was the capital of the state of Hindur. This area witnessed some fierce fighting during the ‘Gurkha Wars’ in the first quarter of the 19th century. Spread over considerable acreage, the fort and the palace of Nalagarh have a series of structures that are mostly built in the Mughal style of architecture. These have been exhaustively renovated and are now a quality heritage resort.
Low rolling hills crisscrossed by narrow fast-flowing streams, scores of tiny hamlets, lush tea gardens and paddy fields with the backdrop of the majestic Dhauladhar Mountains – all combine to make Kangra one of Himachal’s most beautiful tracts. Here, built in 1931, by the 27-year old ruler of Bahawalpur, Nawab Sadiq Mohammed Khan Bahadur is Al Hilal (literally the Land of the crescent moon), now called Taragarh after Maharani Tara Devi, of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, who became its subsequent owner. Now a heritage hotel, this is a splendid art-deco mansion set amidst large grounds. Memorabilia of past adorn its elegantly appointed rooms while the grounds host a ‘jungle camp’.
Hotel Naggar Castle
With hewn stone neatly packed in a horizontal mesh of timber sleepers, this medieval castle was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu around 1460. Perched high on a cliff, this was the stronghold of the rulers of Kullu for over two centuries till they moved down the valley. The hotel overlooks the Kullu valley and apart from the spectacular view and superb locale, this has the flavour of authentic western Himalayan architecture.
Hotel Rajmahal Palace
A manor built in the colonial style-and still owned by the former ruling house of Mandi the hotel lies partially concealed from view by other buildings. With corridors lined with arms and portraits, its interior echoes another age. Striking pieces of ornate furniture appear at every turn and fill every nook and corner of the palace.
The Holme is perhaps a place with greater ‘heritage’ than many there situated, at Summerhill in Shimla. This colonial bungalow was the one-time residence of the celebrated artist Amrita Sher-Gill where she painted.
Hotel Chail Palace
The little ‘hill station’ of Chail came into being when Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Chail Palace Patiala was banished from Shimla, the ‘summer capital’ of British India, after a dalliance with the Commander-in-Chief’s daughter in the late 19th century. Facing Shimla-at Chail-the smarting Maharaja decided to build his own ‘summer capital’. A splendid mansion surrounded by picturesque cottages soon took shape. Chail is encircled by forests of ‘deodar’—Himalayan cedar-trees and has splendid views on all sides. In 1972, the property set in about 75 acres of land—including orchards, tennis courts and cottages—passed into the hands of Himachal Tourism, and are now run as a popular Heritage Hotel and a full-fledged destination resort.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, at the site of the Cecil, towards the western stretch of Shimla’s elegant Mall, stood the small ‘Tendril Cottage’. Its most famous The Cecil occupant for a ‘season’ in 1885 was the writer Rudyard Kipling. The estate went on to provide the location of the Cecil – which since its creation in 1902, has been a major focus of Shimla’s social life. As a guest clerk, it was here that the well-known hotelier, M.S. Oberoi started his remarkable career. The hotel which has hosted variety of dignitaries over the years has recently been exhaustively renovated. Warm woodwork is set-off by elegant furniture and furnishings. There is a full range of suites, rooms and facilities that are comparable with the best in the world. The hotel has the coveted classification of ‘Heritage Grand’.
Towards Shimla’s eastern section called ‘Chhotta’ – small – Shimla, is this refurbished bungalow. With an excellent view of the peak of ‘Choor Chandni’ – that poetically translates as ‘the mountain of the silver bangle’, Springfield was the residence of the former chiefs of Sheikupura.
The Oberoi Clarkes
Towards the eastern end of Shimla’s Mall, where the row of shops ends, is the Clarkes. It’s neat Tudor- framed structure with window boxes, started life in the early part of the 20th century as the Carlton. In the 1920s, the hotel was taken over by Ernest Clarke and named after him. While over the years, major modifications have gone into the structure, it retains the character and warmth of an English country inn.
Hotel Ros Common and Hotel Alasia
The small town of Kasauli has an enormous amount of ‘character’. Attractive cottages with gables set in neat gardens, narrow cobbled paths shaded by oak, pine and massive horse- chestnut trees, make it picture-perfect. In this quaint town, there are two properties that hold a considerable measure of what is nostalgically called ‘old world charm’. Himachal Tourism’s Hotel Ros Common is a modified bungalow, while the Alasia dates back several decades as a hotel.
Hotel Woodville Palace
Backed by a hillside covered with trees of tall Himalayan cedar – the fabled ‘deodar’ – Woodville is a stately art-deco mansion. From 1865 to 1881, the site held the residence of the British Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army. In 1938, Raja Sir Bhagat Chandra of Jubbal had the old house removed and in its place, the present structure was created by a body of Pathan and Chinese workmen. The terraced lawns and a facade bearded with trimmed Virginia vines is complemented by an evocative interior – complete with select objects d’ art, hunting trophies and even signed photographs of Hollywood’s ‘golden age’ stars.
Set amidst beautiful surroundings, the war memorial is built near the entry point to Dharamshala to commemorate the memory of those who fought valiantly for the defense of the motherland. Three huge panels of black marble are etched with the names of those martyrs who laid down their lives guarding the motherland in the operations of 1947-48, 1962, 1965, 1971 and in various peacekeeping missions, bearing testimony to their supreme sacrifices.
Divine Himalayan Art & Craft Museum: Mundaghat
This museum is situated at Mundaghat, 07 Km from Kufri, district Shimla. The museum is in 2000 square feet area and contains rare driftwood pieces, fungus items, Mushroom items, natural material of earth, traditional and other things of 100 to 200 years old from Himachal Pradesh.
Bhuri Singh Museum
Bhuri Singh Museum at Chamba opened formally on 14-09-1908, it is named after Raja Bhuri Singh who ruled Chamba from 1904 to 1919. Bhuri Singh donated his family collection of paintings to the museum. The idea to open a public museum came from J. Ph. Vogel, an eminent Indologist who was serving A.S.I. and who through an intensive exploration had discovered, read and analyzed old inscriptions dispersed far and wide in the territory of Chamba state. These inscriptions mostly in Sarda script shed important light on the medieval history of Chamba. The parasites of Sarahan, Devi-ri-kothi and mul Kihar are now preserved in the museum.
Paintings of Bhagwat Purana and Ramayana in peculiar style are inspired by Basohli idiom of painting whereas Krishna, Sudama, Rukmini vivah and Usha-Anirudh and portraits in prime Guler-Kangra style were executed by the artists who were patronized by the Chamba rulers. The embroidered Chamba-Rumals are related in style since their drawings were made by pahari painters through the embroidery was done by the household ladies.
Besides these major items of collections, there are coins, hill jewelry and costumes- both traditional and royal, arms and armor, musical instruments and various decorative objects.
The old museum building which merged well with the landscape of Chamba was pulled down and the present concrete monolith was inaugurated in 1975. The museum remains open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM throughout the year except on Monday and other gazetted holidays.
The State Museum lies atop Mount Pleasant in a house called ‘Inverarm’. It has a rich display of the state’s cultural, artistic and archaeological heritage, ancient historical sculptors and paintings of Himachal Pradesh. Visiting hours are between 10 AM to 5 PM. The museum is closed on Monday and gazetted holidays.
Suketi Fossil Park
Suketi Fossil Park displays life-size fiberglass model of pre-historic animals whose fossil, skeletons were unearthed here. The park is first of its kind in Asia to be developed at the actual site where fossils were discovered. At a distance of 21 Km from Nahan, the Suketi Fossil Park is located on the bank of Markanda river and is approachable by a link road 4 Km from Kala-Amb from Haryana. Located on upper and middle Shiwaliks, consisting mainly of soft sandstone and clay rocks, the park at present has six sets of life-size models of Stegodonganesa (extinct grand elephant) Sivatherium, Hexaprotodon-Sivalensis (hippopotamus with six incisors), Colosschelys Atlas (giant land tortoise and chelonian), Paramachaerdus (Sabre-Toothed Tiger) and Crocodilia the animals which once thrived in the region.
The Shiwalik formations contain one of the world’s richest collections of mammalian fossils. From a study of these fossils, it has been possible for the paleontologists to probe into the mysteries of the evolution of prehistoric life and the climate and environment of these periods which go back to Jurassic era, nearly 8.5 million years ago. The Shiwalik deposits are unsurpassed in the world for the richness of the fauna they entomb.
The other major attraction is the Museum which contains various fossils, models, charts and paintings relating to the various aspects of plants and animals life of the past and present in Shiwalik range.
Indian Institute of Advanced Studies
IIAS is housed in the former Visceral Lodge. Built-in 1988 this is a spectacular English renaissance-inspired grey-stone structure with superb Burma teak woodwork on the interiors. It is surrounded by magnificent grounds and also has a small museum.
It is a palatial building built near Summer Hill. Outside, it has sprawling lawns, a well laid out garden, ancient trees and exotic flowers, inside it has wooden paneling with Burma teak. It is resplendent with India’s colonial history.
Bhalku Railway Museum
Dedicated to Baba Bhalku, the Bhalku Railway museum is located near the old Bus stand. Of all the tales told about the Kalka Shimla railway line, there is perhaps none as fascinating as that of Bhalku, a common labourer who worked on the track. The Kalka-Shimla Railway line is supposed to have been built on exactly the trace ‘revealed’ by Bhalku.
The museum has an interesting lost property register of 1930. The register has details of the lost items like bags, umbrellas, caps and coats left in the waiting rooms of the station or the train. The museum also has on display several items and parts used in the trains dating back to early 20th century. An interesting collection of cutlery and fine glassware, including wine glasses and vases, are also on display. There are antique wooden easy chairs, which were placed in the rest rooms at the various stations, and wall clocks made in England.
The museum also showcases some of the seals and labels worn by porters and other staff. There are also steam locomotive headlights, brass lamps, lanterns and ticket punching machines. A rail liner used on the track and dated 1899 is amongst the oldest objects in the museum. There are also rare old photographs of the rail line, stations and the tunnels en-route.
The museum is open to visitors from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm on all days, except Mondays.
Shimla Heritage Museum
Situated at U.S. Club the Shimla Heritage Museum provides a glimpse of heritage buildings of the British Raj. The museum is based on “Har Ghar Kuchh Kehta Hai” (Every house tells a story). Sketches, paintings and pictures of historical buildings of British Raj are displayed.
Army Heritage Museum, Annandale
Located near the serene environs of Annandale ground the Army Heritage Museum was established by the Army Training Command in 2006 to commemorate Himachal’s long-lasting association with the Army. The museum is a repository of the Army’s Heritage and traditions and a source of inspiration for future generations. It is about 5 km from the old Shimla Bus stand, taxis can also be hired to reach Annandale.
The museum is open on all days except Mondays & Gazetted Holidays. Entry is free.
Kalka Shimla Heritage Railway
The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96-Km long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century. It has got itself in the list of world heritage sites in India by UNESCO.
Great Himalayan National Park
Joining the league of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2014, the Great Himalayan National Park, with an area of 754 sq. Km. is located in Kullu District and has the representative area of temperate and alpine forests of Himachal. Vast areas of alpine pastures and glaciers cap this park. The area has many important wildlife species of Western Himalayas, like Musk deer, Brown bear, Goral, Thar, Leopard, Snow leopard, Bharal, Serow, Monal, Kalij, Koklas, Cheer, Tragopan, Snow cock etc. Trekking of Rakti-Sar, origin of Sainj river and camping in alpine pastures is unforgettable. Similar is the trekking route to Tirath the origin of Tirthan river. Visitors can contact Director, Great Himalayan National Park at Shamshi or Range Officer wildlife at Sainj or Range Officer Wild Life at Sai Ropa (Banjar) for assistance and guidance. Camping equipment and guides are provided by the Forests Department.