Monday, June 9, 2014

Being Second


Lore has it that Bhupinder Singh, king of Patiala, was enamoured of the daughter of Lord Kitchener, British Commander-in-Chief.  The Maharajah, a handsome ladies’ man, made some overture to the young girl.  The place where the incident occurred is known as Scandal Point (on the majestic Mall Road in Shimla) even today.  Bhupinder Singh was duly banished from Shimla.  He went to Chail, another hill at a distance of about 50
A view of the Chail Palace
km from Shimla, and built up his new capital, having conquered the Gurkhas there.  But when he decided to construct his palace on the highest hill with the royal penchant for looking down on Shimla, his former Summer capital, he was faced with another problem.  An ascetic who was living on the prime location of the hill refused to budge and asked the king to build his palace elsewhere.  The king felt rage mounting in him by being pushed to the second place twice in succession: first by the British, now by a native baba.  Babas were powerful, however, even in those days.  Bhupinder Singh built his palace on the second highest hill.  Moreover, he constructed a temple in honour of the Baba which came to be known as Siddh Baba ka Mandir.
In the foyer of the Palace Hotel

Bhupinder Singh’s palace is a star hotel today.  Tourists are allowed to visit it for a gate fee of Rs 100 per head.  Visitors can saunter along the corridors as well as the foyer and a couple of the halls on the ground floor.  They may even have a drink and some food at the “Royal Bar”.  They can walk around the gardens outside but without carrying any food items lest the abundant monkeys be provoked to pounce on the food.

The palace is said to have reverberated with sensuous music and merry-making in the days of the Maharajah.  The grand piano is still on display.  The king also made a grand cricket pitch in Chail, believed to be the highest cricket ground in the world (altitude: 7218 feet).  But the area has now been taken over by the Indian Army and the tourists can have a peep through the grilled gate. 
The Royal Cricket Ground
Two basketball grounds exist on the ground today.  There is also a building which is part of a primary school meant for the children of the armed forces. 

Our driver was not interested in taking us to the Siddh Baba ka Mandir saying, “It’s a small construction which won’t be of any interest to you.  Let’s go to Kali ka Tibba instead.” 


Kali ka Tibba stands atop a very prominent hill, silhouetted against the sun that can hit it from any side.  One can command breathtaking views from any side of the temple.  The Choor Chandni Peak and the Shivalik ranges are visible from there.  The summer sun was like a blazing
Outside the Cricket Ground
furnace when we visited the place.  We didn’t spend much time there due to the heat.  What has happened to the climate at an altitude of over 7000 feet?  We were left wondering.   Has the climate too been pushed to the second place by the harsh destiny that had overtaken the patron king of the hills?

We were consoled, however, looking at the lush green vegetation on most of the hills.  Majestic deodar trees (Himalayan cedar) stood on either side of the road from Shimla to Chail.  There is a remarkable variety of vegetation on the other hills too.  There is hope for the planet, it seemed. 

A view from Kali ka Tibba

11 comments:

  1. Beautiful place with excellent views.

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  2. haven't been to the hills for a long long time... reminds me of shillong...

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    1. The Northeast hills don't usually provide the kind of splendour that the Himachal hills do. Even the Garhwal Himalayas outshine its NE counterparts.

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  3. Replies
    1. Thank you. The Himalayas can give us beautiful images, no doubt.

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  4. Replies
    1. Does it give you royal feelings? :)
      I'm also an admirer of palaces.

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  5. Chail Palace is One of the finest heritage hotels in Himachal Pradesh, The Palace Hotel in Chail sprawls over 75 acres of land. It is counted as one of the most well-known heritage hotels of India. Tourist across the seas comes here to visit the amazing location and for many travelers who prefer to stay at Budget Resorts in Chail.

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