|Dalhousie Hills :The Shining Crown of Dhauladhar
Colonisation and ‘decolonisation’ both appear in
their candid best at
the Post Office square
of Dalhousie hills in
saga walks back to a
time when this
unknown lap of
Himalaya was converted
into a hill
retreat by British
rulers who named it
after a man who can
be counted as the
architect of British
rule in India, the
removed the cavern
from her face in independent
two major roads of the
same hill station were
renamed after two
great sons of the
country who forced
Brits to leave this
shore after almost 200 years.
Dalhousie that was once in undivided
Punjab and now in Himachal Pradesh was
the hilltop that our colonial rulers wanted
to immortalise by naming it after Lord
Dalhousie who can claim enormous credit
of giving East India Company a huge political
power by his military skill and sharp
diplomatic vibes. No wonder that as soon
as Punjab was annexed to East India
Company in 1849 Brits wasted no time to
display their respect to this man by naming
this small heaven after him.
It was some sort of a signal that
announced India’s enslavement to a power
that unquestionably ruled the world till
end of 1945.Today, years after the abolishment
of British rule in India, the same hilltop
contains the same old name. but its two
main squares are now named after two
icons of India who gave Brits many sleepless
nights in last thirty years of their presence
in the country. Once, which was Post
office square of the town is now Gandhi
chowk named after Mahatma Gandhi,
while other end of the town where St.
Francis church stands in old Charring Cross is now called
Subhash chowk named after Netaji Subhash Bose.
After reaching Dalhousie I took a walk from Gandhi chowk to
Subhash chowk taking a path enveloped under the shadow of
tall pine trees. The cool feeling of walking in a hill station was
perfectly getting supplemented with a feel of heritage walk as I
passed relics of various colonial structures. Their presence is so
strong that soon it was evident that Brits might have long gone
but like every hill station of India till now their footprints are
The small colonial houses with their European formation,
century old churches, colonial British clubs, heritage hotels,
cemetery and tea rooms all are still there, though many of those
are now in dilapidated condition. Some structures are crumbling
and will be grounded in the next few years.
This legacy of Raj is only a part to describe Dalhousie as there
is one thing which has not changed over the course of history.
That is the breathtaking view of Himalayas from here.The peerless
panorama of Dhauladhar range of Himalayas under the
shadow of peak Manimahesh, the real magnet that once
attracted our foreign rulers to this place still rules the vast horizon
with equal command in silence. The serenity and solitude of
Dalhousie with the stroke of history soon conquered me from all
sides. My long walk from Gandhi Chowk to Subhash Chowk was not disturbed like
the political relation of these two great leaders. It was charming and
in every way. I found Gandhi chowk little messy and congested. Now crowded
with unplanned expansion of shops and buildings, the old Post office
holds the touch of Raj.
The Dalhousie Hotel and Café, a heritage hotel, some decayed colonial building
and Dalhousie club once only meant for whites still rule the area.
Many of its old
buildings are unused for years were giving me a clear testimonial fact that
Dalhousie badly suffered the pangs of partition of India in1947 after which its
rich patrons, mostly from Lahore, gradually got detached with it.
Soon an exhausted me settled myself on a wooden bench near Dalhousie Hotel
and tried to refresh myself with a cup of coffee from a road side
shop. There are
plethora of eating joint selling momos and chowmein here. However to
keep a balance
with real history of the place, I prefer coffee over everything.
As the aroma of coffee started wafting,
I had a feel of getting pushed to a
time way back in when Brits came
and fell in love with this place. With
their occupancy, soon development
came fast along with wealthy
landowners of Punjab andRajasthan
many of whom made it their second
When Shimla as a summer capital
was booming, Dalhousie was softly
awakening to become a wonderful
sanatorium for British soldiers and
civilians. It attracted people like
Rabindranath Tagore, Rudyard
Kipling and Netaji Subhash Chandra
Bose, who had a long and strong association
with this place.
Finishing my cup of coffee I quickly
took a walk to find the building
named Hotel Meher’s which was the
abode of Netaji Bose for many months
in 1937. It was a delight to see that it
is still running as a heritage hotel.
However many new age historians
think that Bose, during his stay in
Dalhousie, mostly stayed in Kynance
Cottage owned by Dr Dharamveer. His
stay in this hotel was not that along as
it is believed.
It will be worth mentioning that in
early morning while scaling up to Dalhousie from Dharamashala I first took a
turn 10 km before to visit Chamera lake, also known as Bhadrakali
lake. is a place
that no one can give a miss. Created as a culmination of Chamera hydropower
dam project that impounds river Ravi this green lake is a feast to
every eye. With
blue sky above that borders snow capped mountains and green forests on its bank,
the lake adds to the scenic splendour. I quickly got on to a boat that
took me near
a point from where a part of Manimahesh peak was visible.
By 4 pm I returned to Gandhi chowk and entered St. John’s church, the oldest
church of the town. Built in typical Romanesque lines in 1863 on the initiative
taken by one Reverend John Henry Pratt, this church features almost all vintage
picture of Dalhousie. Small yet beautiful, this church houses excellent stained
glass illustrating Jesus with St John and St Peter.
From there I reached Subhash Chowk. The huge statue of the leader dons the
area and behind that on a small hilltop stands St. Francis church. Built in 1894
the wooden roof church is bigger but not that well maintained. However the iron
bell on the tower impressed me with its gigantic presence. The
heritage look of the
church is excellent.
A little disappointed at not finding enough photo opportunity, I returned to
hotel and from there got to see the golden sun slowly sinking inside
of rocky terrain
of Himalaya – it is sunset time.The theatre above the cloud was
to host a magical riot of colours beaming from a setting sun.
My first day at Dalhousie ended on an unforgettable note..
Next morning I finished my breakfast as early as possible to take a walk towards
mall. Suddenly on my leftsomething grabbed my eyes forfew seconds
before I realized
fully that the day was clear and I was lucky to see massive range of
Dhauladhar. I was rooted to the spot. The scenic beauty captured my soul, and I
was unable to tear my eyes away from the spectacular view. It was hard
for few moments that a vast and compact amalgamation of snow peaks were
silently watching me from a close distance.
Since it was summer time, the snow had started melting exposing the brown
rocky peaks that were dotted with blue and white. The prize catch of
panorama was no doubt a full and clear view of Mt Manimahesh the highest peak
of the range.
Now it was the time to enjoy another side of the range. My cab driver took me
10 km away to a place named Lakkar Mandi and from there another 3 km inside
of the reserve forest finally took me to the Kalatop a point inside of
From here I could spot the mind blowing Himalayan range. The Kalatop is a flat
surface on hill top where an iconic colonial forest bungalow still stands.
It is often seen in many Hindi movies. Known as the Switzerland of India
Kalatop is just a piece of heaven cut apart from the maddening crowd of Gandhi
chowk. Kalatop is surrounded by a 47 sq km wildlife sanctuary named
sanctuary where wildlife like deer, Himalayan black bear, leopard are frequently
spotted. In afternoon my driver took me to upper Bakrota loop from where
I got to see another splendid view.
Here stands a century old posh cottage named Snowdon, where in 1873, a
twelve years old Rabindranath Tagore spent many days with his father. It is
believed that here he wrote his first poem and every evening he used
to sing songs
to his father. In this dense solitude it is believed that Tagore got
his inspiration for
a world with profound peace under the shadow of mother-nature that in future
gradually shaped into his iconic University Viswa Bharati in Bengal.
Next morning was parting time and I prepared myself to bid adieu to Dalhousie.
While passing over its newly built roads which are nicely decorated with hanging
flower pots I again failed to control my temptation to look over the
horizon to witness
the silent sentinel named Himalaya.
Travel Logistics :
Dalhousie is 485 km from Delhi & 188 km from Amritsar.
Nearest railway station is Pathankot from where by road it is 80 km – a 3 hours
Nearest airport is Amritsar.
Plenty of hotels in all ranges – plethora of heritage hotels.
HPTDC runs hotel like Mani Mahesh is one of the best located.You can book it
Khajiar, 22 kms away is a beautiful place.
This article was published in The Hitavada on 13th November 2016
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