Having a great number of the British colonial era (colonial era 1615 A.D. to 1947 A.D.) heritage buildings, Shimla, which is lovingly called the ‘Queen of the Hills’, is a must a visit for the enjoyment of the tour once at least in one’s life. The Bantony Estate (Bantony Castle, and Bantony Cottage) is the main one of the heritage properties of this charming hill station.
Bantony Estate (Bantony Castle, and Bantony Cottage)
Consisting of two grand private heritage buildings, namely the Bantony Castle, and the Bantony Cottage, the perishing Bantony Estate, which is situated in the heritage zone of the hill town of Shimla, is a fine example of the magnificent heritage building architecture of the British colonial era. Previously used as the summer palace of the former Maharaja of Sirmaur named Sir Amar Prakash Bahadur, this charming estate was lent by the Maharaja as gesture to display his complete faithfulness for the sake of the British rule. Until the end of the wars, this breathtaking estate was used as a Military Works Office.
Until 1880 AD before its erection, this site owned a small rickety cottage only that was related to Captain A Gordon, had some officers of the army.
Kali Bari Road, the Mall Road, near Scandal Point on the Famous Ridge, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh-171001
The architectural style of the Bantony Castle like the other historic colonial British era heritage buildings of the hill town of Shimla is part mock-Tudor and part chalet, crowned with mini towers and sloping roofs. The present Estate, which was erected in somewhat eclectic part mock – Tudor, part chalet and crowned with sloping roofs with mini towers, was obtained by the Maharaja of Sirmaur. The architect of this charming estate is believed to be T.E.G. Cooper.
The original gate of this heritage building, which was cast in the Nahan Foundry, was built in 1902-03 A.D. In front of the Estate, the coat of arms of the Maharaja can still be observed on the cast iron railing. In approx 1972 A.D., the RSS activists destroyed this charming railing to display their protest against anything that reminded them of the British rule, being a little aware that the coat of arms was really related to the Maharaja of Sirmaur and not of the British Empire. To remove the Lion Crests of British Empire from the Electric Lamp Posts, the Municpal Corporation, and Electricity Board were also forced by them.
Present Condition of Bantony Estate
Now being in an advanced condition of decay, the castle building, which had been the headquarters of the state police since 1957 A.D., was formally vacated approx three years back after a suit of the court.
For a long time, the Bantony Cottage was also used by the Employment Exchange, who abandoned it only when it came to be really dangerous to life.
The Government of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is planning to convert the Bantony Castle into a city museum and the spot of the recreational activity for the public. For undertaking the social impact assessment of the prime heritage property, the Department of Language, Art and Culture has issued a notification as the owners of the Bantony Estate are reluctant to part with the major portions of this Estate.
In spite of being in a miserable condition and really on the verge of decay, the complex of this double storied wooden heritage building owns the charming lawns can be set to excellent use due to its suitable location in the center of the hill town of Shimla. For developing this place as a culturally enriched hub, the state government is planning to establish a museum and provide facilities for the development of culture and art. During the past 45 years, the successive governments of this mountainous state had made four unsuccessful efforts to obtain this heritage building in 1968 A.D., 1975 A.D., 1986 A.D. and 2004 A.D.
The notification mentions that that the area of only 3,874sq m, which spreads along the Kali Bari Road, will be acquired while the whole sprawling property of the Bantony Estate spreads over the area of 19,436sq m between Circular Road and the Mall Road. As per 72 years aged Vishwanath Sood, one of the 10 co-owners of the Bantony Estate, “I want to sell the whole property after holding consultation with the state government, but not selective parts like the major parts, comprising the structure and the top lawns.” Ahead, he abundantly clarified that he would seek legal support in case of the acquiring of the only selective portions of the Estate.
For the growth of art, tourism, and the conservation of a heritage estate, only the front portion of this heritage estate was being acquired. As this heritage estate had the estimation of its value of 12 Crore Rupees in 2004-05 A.D., its owners had been opposing the acquisition and with the castle in a green heritage area where there is a ban on any type of construction and the expansive lawns and prime location of this heritage property could fetch several Crores of Rupees.
Some residents of Shimla suggested that the whole money, which was to be spent for purchasing this heritage state for the establishment of the heritage museum, should have been spent on the improvement of roads and the lighting system in the hill town of Shimla. They also said that the environmental concerns should also be taken seriously.
Final Successful Attempt
On the 4th of January (Wednesday), 2017 A.D., the state government of Himachal Pradesh, which took a firm historic decision for the acquisition of the whole Bantony Estate by accepting the recommendations of negotiation committee, also approved the payment of INR 27.84 Crores for all the more than a dozen co-land owners of the whole property.
As per the statement of Mr. Virbhadra Singh, the honorable chief minister of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, “The old building of the Bantony Castle would be renovated and a world class city heritage museum and a cultural center would be established there. Besides this, a recreational park with a restaurant would also be set up in the complex of this heritage estate in order to develop this estate as a great point of interest for both the tourists and locals. The decision has been taken to refurbish, conserve and suitably renovate the existing heritage buildings along with retaining its original glory.
On the lines of ‘Delhi Haat’, the proposed cultural complex will display geological, historical, archaeological, cultural, archival, artistic, literary and biodiversity treasure of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh in order to make itself as the hub of tourism activities, in addition to the preservation and conservation of the heritage estates for the prosperity.
As per the official, the state government has also made the proposal for acquiring the Dicksy Hotel and a private Hotel situated in Chhota Shimla.
Finally, if can be said that the Bantony Estate, which is a fine example of the heritage properties of the colonial British era, is a must visit during the tour of Shimla. If you are also willing to pay a visit to this magnificent specimen of fine architecture during colonial British India, you can book Shimla tour packages from mumbai. All of these holiday packages, which are available at reasonable prices, can also be customized as per the requirement of the clients. For getting more information about the tour packages.
You can also visit us online at: www.himachal-tours.com . So, you must pay a visit to this charming heritage estate once in your life during the tour of the charming hill town of Shimla. I hope that the sightseeing of this breathtaking building would be worth remembering till all the life long.