A Beauty Frozen inTime

Written by Arati Thapa 13 Jun 2016
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Located in Garli, the beautiful heritage Chateau Garli in the valley of Kangra, Himachal Pradesh makes you take a step back with its romantic beauty.

The Chateau Garli stands like a shining star amidst the story of 25 abandoned houses that dots the village of Garli in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. The owner of the place and spearheading tourism here is Yatish Sud, no stranger in bringing alive a place that was abandoned for more than 95 years by his ancestors. The Chalets, Naldhera that he owns in Shimla is a case in point and that brings us to the foundation of the story why these beautiful houses were abandoned for so many years. But let’s talk more about that later.

            The Chateau by night

The Chateau Garli located in the foothills of Dhauladhar Mountains is beautiful, like an oasis in the village and is all set to receive and welcome a stream of guests looking for a new destination to explore. More importantly it fits a wedding destination. The Chateau has 19 rooms which makes it perfect for an intimate wedding setting. The very first look at it screams “romantic”.  It’s primed and prepped with modern amenities including a brand new pool and an active firewood kitchen right next to it. At night the Chateau illuminates like a fairy tale castle. For those who are looking at dreamy wedding away from the madding city life and privacy the rustic simplicity of the place is beautiful. Besides the temples and shrines located here - some of which are detailed with exquisite Kangra work hand paintings can be such a draw during the weddings especially with the family.

The Chateau, freshly painted in yellow and blue, with red roof laced with carved wood and white paintings is also a perfect place for a pre-wedding shoot. From its entrance to the narrow wooden staircase leading to a room with a burst of coloured  glass windows, to the balcony that gives you a clear view of the swimming pool flashing with coloured lights at night, everything seduces you for a romantic shoot.

The rooms inside have colour themes with matching decadant coloured chandeliers, historical artifacts and pictures of the old era that make a picture perfect setting for a photo shoot. Interestingly, my carved wooden poster bed had cute little Ganeshas on its two head posts. 

Inside the chateau a corridor with coloured window panes

The food (Indian with a mix of desi Chinese) is tasty and served with homely hospitality. I especially recommend all their mutton dishes, dip into the delicious mutton gravy with firewood cooked rotis and buttery naans and you will find yourself in heaven. Forget about the calories at that moment and just dig in.

In September 2012, Sud’s son Amish spent a week in Garli visiting the mansion built by his great grandfather Lala Mela Ram Sud, that none of the family had visited during the last 20 years. He returned bubbling with ideas with the heritage and history that lay hidden in the valley.  And the idea of the Chateau was born following which the Sud family got into the restoration with the same passion that they built The Chalets Naldhera in Shimla.

It was in Garli, the enterprising merchant Sood community settled in their mansions as did Amish’s great grandfather, giving it an infrastructure to sustain an active community lifestyle in the early 19th century. It was also according to Yatish Sud quite a playground for the merchants who discreetly tucked away a wife or two here.

The Rock Cut monolithiic sculptures of Masrur

According to legends a wronged woman laid a curse in this economically bustling village after which it saw downfall in its prosperity. The Sood merchants began abandoning their magnificent mansions and never returned. Therefore these houses lay decaying for little less than a century. These abandoned buildings are stunning to say the least and is visible in every turn you take on the maze of narrow pedestrian streets.

Apart from the Chateau Garli there’s also the newly restored Naurang  Yatri Niwas by Atul Lal and his wife Ira, an inheritance the couple almost lost to vandalizing elements. It has 6 twin bedrooms, a V.I.P room and a dormitory housing seven beds.

Garli is a sleepy hamlet, almost suspended in time. As the promotional pamphlet states even the news of an event or a guest arriving is announced through the barber here. There are no restaurants or pubs but plenty of nature, history and heritage to occupy you during your stay here.  There is the warm hospitality of the villagers who nod and wish you while you take a walk through the village. There is peace, quiet and a clean air that is rare in the cities.

 

One of the highlights of the trip was the jungle safari that we took in the middle of the night. And though we were not lucky enough to sight the animals, the thrill of being in an open jeep driven by Yatish himself more than made it up.

I was invited to this enchanting place as part of a group of journalists for a stay experiential. We drove for three hours from Chandigarh after staying for a night at the beautiful Ramgarh Heritage of which I will talk about in my next post.

 One of the abandoned houses found here

 

       5  GARLI MUST - DOS

  1. Take an early morning walk in the perfect Indian village where time stands still.
  2. Make a trip to the intriguing Monolithic Rock-Cut Masrur temple, said to have been made in a night by the Pandavas in exile according to the locals.
  3. Visit the 25 abandoned houses with architecture influenced by the Colonial, Islamic, Rajuput and the Kangra and be intrigued by its beauty and wonder about who lived there.
  4. Visit the temples, it’s a pious village peppered with temples and shrines. The Kalesar temple among them is known as the Chota Kashi and is 8 km away.
  5. Take a picnic basket to the Pong Dam and munch on the goodies as you survey the vastness, natural beauty and take in the quietness of the place.

 www.chateaugarli.com

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