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