Bantony Castle, an iconic colonial building of Shimla, HP is restored and now sporting a new look.

Bantony Castle, Shimla, HP.

Glad that the 143-year-old British-era landmark building in Shimla  Bantony Castle is standing majestically now having been restored recently. The Rs. 29 year restoration work cheered up  historians and heritage lovers because it has been resurrected from the ashes and debris.  The new light and sound show is a major attraction and once in a dilapidated condition almost crumbling, now the irresistible  British monument  sports a new look and dazzles in the  glittering lights. 

Bantony Castle is the third iconic building in Shimla that has undergone restoration. The other sites include   the 144-year-old Gaiety Theatre, a heritage cultural centre, and Shimla Town Hall with impressive architecture.

before restoration Bantony Castle, Shimla, HP.

Above image:  The 19th CE Bantony Castle is  perched on a Ridge near Grand hotel building and overlooks downtown Shimla; image before restoration...................... 

Bantony Castle, once the summer palace of the Maharajah of Sirmaur, was built in the 19th century and is on the  Kalibari road, near Shimla’s iconic Scandal Point.  For many years, under  litigation  the beautiful building was in a state of neglect and was prone to Shimla's  famous winter fire which consumed or damaged many iconic buildings. 

.Lord William Bentinck

Above image:  Gov. General Lord William Bentinck (September 1774- June 1839); His tenure  saw introduction of many  social reforms  such as the Abolition of Sati in 1829, Suppression of Thugi, and Suppression of Infanticide, etc...........

Shimla was once s nondescript village in 1830 and the congenial weather on the hill was suitable for the sanatorium for the British troops. The East India company rule found a favorite site in Shimla to make it the summer capital as the heat on the plains was unbearable for the Europeans. Since that period the  the landscape of this hill station had changed. The unexplored wooded areas near by made it more attractive for the other British to move up hill. 

 Bantony Castle located on the Batony hill  boasts of a fine architecture. Named after  Lord William Bentinck, the former Governor-General of India,  the architect was  TEG Cooper who designed it in accordance with the wish of the ruler  Raja Surendra Bikram Prakash- the king of Sirmaur from 1898 until his death in 1911. This two-story main structure was built in the mock Tudor Style (native to England), part chalet and crowned with a sloping roof with mini towers.

Post independence the government wanted to take over the building and was in a  maze of legal tangle for a long period between the owner and the state. Successive governments  had failed to restore the building beginning in 1968. In 1971, Himachal Pradesh  was carved out from the old state into a new one with Shimla as the capital. Since then the ruling governments  had made a futile attempt to restore the iconic building because of court litigation.   At last it was in 2016, six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, put an end to the road block and cleared its acquisition  by paying  Rs 27 crore to its private owners. The 12 year uncertainty over the site finally ended.  The restoration  was funded  by the Asian Development Bank (ADB project).

Earlier  in the site where the construction of Gorton Castle began in 1880, there used to be a cottage belonging to Captain A Gordon, which housed Army officers.  The rulers of Sirmaur allowed the colonial government to use the premises for military purposes during the tumultuous two world wars .During World War II here functioned the POW section attached to the All India Radio for handling messages of mostly Italian prisoners interned at Yol, near Dharamshala.  Yet another historical fact is the Lahore based The Tribune news paper, had a stint here before finally moved over to  Chandigarh, now in East Punjab. 

Just before India's  Independence, the Maharaja of Darbhanga -Sir Kameshwar Singh  after acquiring Bantony in  1957-58,  rented it out  to the Punjab government. Various Police department of the  Punjab Police, and later the Himachal Police, used Bantony  for several years. 

A prominent local business family of Ram Krishan & Sons bought the property when Bantony housed the police department. Though the police department vacated the premises in 1999-2000 the government was unable to purchase the property.  

Thanks to the  persistent efforts made by CM Singh that enabled o e the government to transform the iconic building into a centre of art and culture. The Himachal government purchased   this 19,436-square metre estate and the structures in 2016-2017 to make Bantony a complex for public use. 

The site once restored will house a heritage museum  to  promote traditional handicrafts of the state, and also popularise local cuisines, all under one roof. The proposal will include  a multipurpose hall, the art and craft centre and the 30 minute light and sound show (both in Hindi and English) in an area of about 3,700 sq metre. It will have two open air theaters. 

 Proposals are  afoot to include historical events that the castle and Shimla bore witness - a sort of run-up till India's  freedom including WWII   and how Shimla was transformed in to the summer capital of the Raj and how the government shifted the entire office from Delhi to the hill. Bantony Castle will be a new tourist attraction for the locals and international tourists as it is the legacy of colonial rule.  From the hill the Raj  officials took various  crucial decisions till India became an independent country.