118 years of Trust Regional vignettes THE TRIBUNE
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Saturday, August 8, 1998



Popular for adventure sports, art works

Chamba offers vast and varied opportunities for adventure and sport.

The Department of Tourism has recently identified a beautiful site at Jot, about 25 km from Chamba town, for hang-gliding. The site is surrounded by dense deodar forests and presents an enthralling view of the green hills of Chamba.

Situated at an altitude of about 6,500 feet, Jot, with its sharp, narrow ridges and deep gorges will be a hang-glider’s paradise. It will be one of the major hang-gliding sport centres of the country as it is going to figure on the international map of hang-gliding sport.

According to the report prepared by the Department of Tourism, the site at Jot will be developed as per the international hang-gliding parameters. The site will have an imposing terminal alongside.

The project would pave the way for the promotion of the tourism industry and attract tourists of varied interests to this region of high alpine meadows and snow-clad peaks.

On the other hand, with the commissioning of the 540-MW Chamera hydroelectric project (stage-I) on the Ravi in Chamba, the Chamera reservoir has become a centre of water sports. Water sports and river rafting involve activities such as canoeing and sailing.

The Bharmour tribal area is also endowed with a rich variety of tourists attractions in the form of trekking, mountaineering, art and culture, fairs and festivals. This area has vast potential for the development of tourism industry.

Apart from the adventure sports, most tourists are drawn towards Chamba’s scenic beauty. High passes at Kalichho, Chobia, Kugti, Jalsu and Quarsi are particularly attractive.

Its ancient temples and places of pilgrimage such as Chowrasi (deities of 84 sidhas), Banni Devi temple (Sarot), Kailing (Kugti), Kartik temple (Kuleth) and, finally, Manimahesh are thronged with a large number of pilgrims from different parts of the country every year. Nearly one lakh pilgrims visit the Manimahesh annually.

Chamba is equally popular for its art. Artists from different fields like embroidery, wood-carving, painting and sculpture have brought laurels to this town. One of the famous art works is the Chamba rumaal. Chamba rumaal involves intricate needlework, deftly done by highly skilled artistes.

It takes at least one month to produce a Chamba rumaal of the normal size. Its cost, however, depends on the size and the work done on it.

According to the annals of the princely state, Raja Bhuri Singh of Chamba presented British officials with Chamba rumaals at darbars held in 1907 and 1911. An embroidered Chamba rumaal is preserved in Victoria Museum in London.

Maheshi Devi was the first to receive National Award for Master Craftsmen in 1965. She was instrumental in imparting intensive training to women in this field and managed to save this subtle art from dying.

The Chamba chappal too continues to enjoy popularity. There was a time when this art was done by a particular community and considered to be an occupational work.

But today it is fast growing into an art. It is now a staple sale item at all the emporia of the Handicrafts and Handloom Department of the state.

The Chamba chappal is preferred more in summer. It is not only comfortable but considered a part of the ensemble on ceremonial occasions.

Attractive patterns in different hues are designed on these chappals while varied motifs fashioned out of various shades of silken fabric are plastered on women’s chappals.

Besides, there are about a dozen national awardees in various fields of fine art from Chamba town alone.

So one can gauge the intensity with which the artists of this small but culturally rich town are engaged to preserve the heritage of their town.

— B.P.

The Chamera reservoir has become a centre of water sports
A specimen of the Chamba rumaal

Wonder of the land is on the wane

THE legendary town of Chamba has a rich heritage in terms of its environmental, aesthetic and urban design quality. It is an embodiment of its king’s farsightedness. Unfortunately, Chamba’s downfall started right after the Independence of our country. The indiscriminate exploitation of open land by public sector agencies either for allotment to private people or for haphazard constructions has resulted in the degradation of the town’s valuable assets. Chamba’s heritage, which comes under the state government as well as the Archaeological Survey of India, is being neglected. Consequently, the wonder of the land is on the wane and losing its sheen.

The edifice of Akhandchandi Palace, a focal point of the historical background of the town, is facing the danger of collapsing due to government’s neglect. It is at present being utilised as a building for Government College. The area below the palace which was once green and open has now been covered with numerous structures that are a real eyesore. The urban managers seem to be undoing the work done in the past. In the past, the town had a well-planned electricity system of its own, a water supply system with sufficient storage capacity and a fire fighting system with more than 100 fire hydrants in different parts. The only thing lacking was a sewer system. The conservancy system was in vogue as in the other parts of the country at that time. The drainage system was quite fine. The drains used to carry fresh water and this water was used by the people for their daily needs. The water carriers, called mashquis used to wash the side drains of the bazaar area everyday to keep them clean. The air was pure and fresh. But now the town’s sanitation is in a poor condition. The sewer system, which was introduced in the seventies, is still incomplete. The entire sewage flows through the open drains which once used to carry fresh water. These drains also carry the town’s garbage. The town has become a sordid slum. The residents were hoping for improvement after Independence but the situation has deteriorated.

The fire hydrants no longer operate. The town has enough water but after a spell of rain the people complain of turbidity in potable water. Civil engineers here appear to have set a target to convert the whole area of the town into a commercial settlement. They okay every building proposal without giving any thought to the planned development of the town. This has given rise to unauthorised encroachments and squalid housing.

Illegal constructions and encroachments are becoming a part of the urban culture, giving a baleful look to Chamba’s scenic splendour. The development plan for the town has not been finalised as yet by the state government and, as a result, there are encroachments galore and shabby wooden structures are all over in the place.

The fate of the famous Chowgan is no better. It is being misused by boozers, dogs and cattle and arrogant sports persons.

Hardly any attempt has been made to maintain its greenery for which it was created by the erstwhile rulers of Chamba.

There is a need to conserve and preserve the glory and grandeur of Chowgan. The Deputy Commissioner of Chamba, Tarun Kapoor, however, says the state government is sending nearly Rs 4 crore for the town’s upkeep, including its sewerage, during the current fiscal year. But even these funds are inadequate to cope with the huge dimensions of the town, he admits.

— B.P.

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