Shimla, May 24
Steeped in history and witness to several significant events, the 129-year-old Bantony Castle, which also housed The Tribune’s office immediately after the Partition, is all set to become a vibrant cultural centre.
Was Maharaja’s summer palace
- Bantony Castle was the summer palace of the Maharaja of Sirmaur; the main building is constructed in the mock Tudor style
- Before its construction began in 1880, the site had a cottage belonging to Captain A Gordon; it housed army officers
- The building is said to have been designed by TEG Cooper; was later purchased by Darbhanga rulers; rented out to Punjab Govt
- It housed the office of the Himachal police since 1957 before the legal owners got its custody after a long battle in court
Bantony Castle, the erstwhile summer palace of Maharaja Surender Prakash of Sirmaur, has been thrown open to public after it was revamped at a cost of Rs 28 crore. The conservation project was aimed at saving the architectural marvel that is spread over an area of 20,000 sq m with expansive lawns and majestic deodar tress.
It is from this building that The Tribune continued its publication after being forced to shift from Lahore immediately after Independence. Later, The Tribune’s office shifted to Chandigarh.
A half-an-hour light and sound show with narration by actor Anupam Kher will apprise visitors not just of this iconic building, but also of the history of Shimla, which transformed from a non-descript village having 60 houses in 1830 to the summer capital of the British.
The narration also throws lights on several round of talks held in Shimla in the presence of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Sardar Patel and other freedom fighters before Independence.
The building is said to have been designed by TEG Cooper. Before its construction began in 1880, the site had a cottage belonging to Captain A Gordon which housed army officers. The construction was complete in 1895.
The Bantony Castle also housed the Prisoners of War Section during the Second World War. It was attached to the All India Radio, primarily to flash messages of the Italian prisoners. The Maharaja of Sirmaur also allowed the use of Bantony for military purposes during the First and Second World Wars by the British.
The Himachal Pradesh Government had acquired Bantony Castle in January 2016 to convert it into a heritage site and a museum.
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