Summer Palace Of Erstwhile Ruler Readies To Mesmerise Colonial Past In 'Queen Of Hills'

(MENAFN- IANS) By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, May 23 (IANS) In a first-of-its-kind, the renovated 143-year-old Bantony Castle, once the summer palace of the erstwhile ruler of Sirmaur province, on Tuesday saw the first light and sound show, a captivating event that combines the rich history of the grand castle and Shimla city with a mesmerising audiovisual experience.
It is likely to be released for ticketed viewing of the visitors from June 1 when the sun goes down, Secretary, Language, Art and Culture Rakesh Kanwar told IANS.
Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, who has a deep emotional bond with the 'Queen of Hills', where he spent his formative years, narrates the light and sound show that will be showcased to the public in English and Hindi with a seating arrangement of 70 for a one-time watch.
The two-storey Bantony Castle, located near Scandal Point on the famous Ridge, is reconstructed in the mock Tudor style, part chalet and crowned with a sloping roof with mini towers.
The building is said to have been designed by TEG Cooper under the watchful eye of Raja Surender Bikram Prakash and before its construction began in 1880 the site had a cottage belonging to Captain A. Gordon which housed army officers.
During the two World Wars, the rulers of Sirmaur allowed the colonial government to use the premises for military purposes.
During the Second World War, it lays the Prisoner of War section attached to All India Radio for handling messages of mostly Italian prisoners interred at Yol near Dharamsala town, some 250 km from here.
Just after Independence, leading English daily The Tribune, which had been based in Lahore, began functioning at Bantony Castle till it shifted to Chandigarh.
Just before the Independence, Bantony passed into the hands of the Maharaja of Darbhanga. In 1957-58, Maharaja Sir Kameshwar Singh of Darbhanga gave the property on rent to the Punjab government, and various wings of initially Punjab and later Himachal Police were based in it for several years.
The Police Officers' mess was also located on its premises.
While still with the police in 1968, the Bantony estate was purchased by the prominent local business family of Ram Krishan and Sons. The state acquired this 19,000 sq m estate and structures in 2017 to create the elaborate complex that Bantony now houses.
The Bantony Castle has now been restored at a cost of about approximately Rs 29 crore and houses a heritage museum, a multipurpose hall and an art and craft centre, all to be opened soon for the public.
In the main building of the castle, a digital museum will be opening shortly which is expected to be innovative, people-oriented and immersive.
The mesmerising 30-minute light and sound show (in separate Hindi and English versions) will captivate the senses from start to finish and describe the journey of various facets of this historical town.
This show is a dramatic retelling of Shimla's story from its foundation to the modern day.
The light and sound show will be the first production to use digital art technology to depict the magnificent history of Shimla through the eye of Bantony Castle right from its foundation at a historical site.
This show, a first for the hilly town, will serve as a major attraction for locals and tourists alike in days to come, adds the government.
Tourism Department officials told IANS, Bantony along with the newly restored British-era Town Hall and Gaiety Theatre, which all lie on the historic Ridge -- an open space just above the Mall -- extending to Grand Hotel in the west and the Lakkar Bazaar in the east, will be a favourite haunt of those out for a stroll to see the Shimla's legacy.
Shimla was the summer capital of the British rulers between 1864 and 1939.
Shimla's history goes beyond British India.
Mahatma Gandhi visited Shimla several times in the days leading to the country's Independence in 1947. On some occasions, leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai accompanied him.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at )


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