125- year-old cas­tle comes alive in Shimla, cour­tesy HP ar­ti­sans

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - REGION - Gau­rav Bisht

SHIMLA: Once the sum­mer re­treat for Ma­haraja of Sir­maur, the 125year-old Bantony Es­tate, which houses a cas­tle in state's cap­i­tal Shimla, came alive on Thurs­day with ar­ti­sans from all over the state gath­er­ing at the Bri­tish-era build­ing’s sprawl­ing lawns to ex­hibit their crafts­man­ship.

The build­ing that had been in di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion for the past two decades was fi­nally ac­quired by the gov­ern­ment in Feb­ru­ary this year. Gov­ern­ment had also proposed to set up a mu­seum to show­case the his­tor­i­cal, ge­o­log­i­cal, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal, archival, lit­er­ary, cul­tural, artis­tic and bio­di­ver­sity trea­sure of Hi­machal here. “Bantony Cas­tle will be ren­o­vated at a cost of ₹25 crore in or­der to de­velop it as a ma­jor tourist hub,” said chief min­is­ter Jai Ram Thakur, while in­au­gu­rat­ing the five-day long statelevel Gram Shilp Mela which was or­gan­ised by the state lan­guage, art and cul­ture depart­ment here on Thurs­day.

Jai Ram un­folded his gov­ern­ment’s plans to ren­o­vate the Bantony Cas­tle that also served as the po­lice head­quar­ters af­ter in­de­pen­dence. "This en­tire com­plex will be de­vel­oped in such a way that it not only serves as a tourist spot, but also a cen­tre of rich cul­tural di­ver­sity of the state,” he added.

Bantony Es­tate is spread in around 20,000 square me­tre area be­tween Cir­cu­lar Road and Mall Road of the state cap­i­tal. At present, the dou­ble-storey build­ing that is con­structed in mock­tu­dor style, part chalet and crowned with slop­ing roofs with mini-tow­ers, is in di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion.

Gov­ern­ment had first tried to ac­quire the prop­erty in 1968, then in 1975, 1986, 2004 and 2013. For­mer chief min­is­ter Virb­hadra Singh, soon af­ter tak­ing over reins of state in De­cem­ber 2012, had ini­ti­ated move to ac­quire the Bantony Cas­tle. In the mean­time, own­ers had de­cided to sell the prop­erty to a Uk-based busi­ness­man for ₹45 crore in 2010 but the deal did not ma­te­ri­alise.


Ma­haraja of Sir­maur, Amar Prakash Ba­hadur, had lent this es­tate as a ges­ture to show his thor­ough faith­ful­ness to the cause of Bri­tish Em­pire.

The es­tate was used as the of­fice of mil­i­tary until the end of wars. The build­ing lies in the town’s her­itage zone. Be­fore its con­struc­tion in 1880, the site had a small cot­tage that be­longed to Cap­tain A Gor­don, which housed some army of­fi­cers.

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