homepage1.jpg (19349 bytes)

dalhousie.jpg (14616 bytes)
This web site is a part of the heritage project taken up
by Prabal Pramanik’s Academy of Arts

Bhamlada, Bhatwan, Punjab-145 022, India
Web site :
e-mail : prabalpramanik@yahoo.co.uk

homepage2.jpg (23961 bytes)

Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh in India is a town established by the British for their own interests only during the colonial times. This hill area has an Alpine climate (altitude is 6000ft to 7500ft)
This place was situated in the ancient kingdom of Chamba and was a secluded place with virgin forests when the British first came here.
When British officers got to know about this charming forest of Oak and Deodar pine in a setting of Alpine beauty, they informed their higher authorities to pressurize the state of Chamba to allow them to occupy in 1850 this area and build a settlement here in 1851.
Maharaja Shri Singh was the King of Chamba state at that time, and he knew that it, would not be possible to resist the pressure of the British. So he allowed the British to make a settlement there and in return he had a substantial amount lessened from the amount of taxes that the kingdom of Chamba was paying the British Raj. In 1853 the sanatorium was sanctioned.
The British army built a sanatorium for convalescent British troops. A British officer, Lt. Colonel Napier who later became known as “lord Napier” was the person who took the main initiative in the work to acquire this large tract of land.
“In 1851 the State authorities were approached by Government with a view to the establishment of a Sanatorium for Europeans within the territory, and every facility was given for this purpose. A site was selected on the western extremity of the Dhaula Dhar by the late Lord Napier of Magdala. then Colonel Napier. After the necessary observations as to climate had been made, Government sanction was given, in A.D. 1853, to the transfer of certain plateaux from the Chamba State, viz., Katalagh, Potrain, Terah, Bakrota and Bhangor, in consideration of which a reduction of Es. 2,000 was made in the amount of the tribute annually payable by the State. On the recommendation of the late Sir Donald MacLeod the new Sanatorium was named Dalhousie. In A.D. 1866 the Balun plateau was also taken over for a Convalescent Depot for European troops, and at the same time the Bakloh plateau was transferred for a Gurkha Cantonment. For these a further reduction of Es. 5,000 was made in the tribute. More transfers of land to Government have taken place since then, with a relative reduction in the annual tribute.” - (History of the Punjab Hill States by Hutchison & Vogel)

To please the higher authorities Sir Donald Mcleod named the new settlement “Dalhousie” after “Lord Dalhousie” the chief representative of British rule in India at that time.
Actually “Lord Dalhousie” never cared to come to Dalhousie. Since the town was founded by the British, the architecture of Dalhousie of British style, giving the town an English flavour. The Alpine climate combined with trees and wild flowers usually found in Europe, with state roofed stone and wood buildings made in the style of 19th century Europe must have appealed to the British people with a nostalgic memory of their homeland.
To secure their settlement the British people built a cantonment for Gorkha soldiers who worked under them at Bakloh.
The town of Dalhousie was built with the thought of the convenience of the British. There was no thought about the development or progress of the common “native” hill people in the psyche of the British rulers.
The typical colonial attitude of the British from the occupying rulers pont of view was evident here as in other parts of India during the British rule.
British officer did the planning but the labourers for the hard work of building the town came from the hamlets around Dalhousie.
The villagers who worked for the British “Sahibs” were very poor and deprived of many basic needs of life. The photographs of ill clad hill people often in tatters and with bare feet, swollen and cracked, working for the British contrast vividly against the plump well dressed British who wanted all available luxuries of life.
The Christian missionaries who came and lived in the settlement generally did “conditional social work” when it suited them for the cause of spreading their religion.
The spread of the religious activities of their community was much more important to them than the preservation of traditional hill culture and heritage.
The people who provided and maintained the physical base of the civilization are often neglected and taken for granted when the socio-historical aspect of any civilization is recorded and presented.
I present social anthropology and history from my own view point and according to my own values.
Horses and “dandis” carried by porters to carry people provided the main transport system.
Carts and mules were the main goods carriers. Dhar, Dunera and Bakloh were main halting points on the way to Dalhousie from Pathankot.
The journey took two to three days. I have heard from an local old man that there were carts that were drawn by human beings too. I also heard that the “Sahibs” who traveled on there human drawn carts. Sometimes whipped the pullers if they could not pull fast enough.
Entire colonial system under British imperialism was based on pressurization of human resources of India for the convenience of the foreign rulers and for the interests of their own people.
The general view point of the British people who came to Dalhousie during the colonial days was no different.
The British army and other people of the settlement needed supplies. So few traders from the lowland came and established supply stores at Dalhousie and nearby. In 1895 the first hotel named the Bulls head was built.
In the first half of twentieth century, a regular flow of tourists from other parts of India started visiting Dalhousie and more hotels and guest houses were built there.
The British officers built a club house at Dalhousie on 1895. The “club” was necessary as a community meeting place for British a society and also for their recreations.
The cantonment of British regiments was established in Balun. Balun has been known as cantonment area ever since. In 1868 the sanatorium was established at Balun.
There is market Balun and most probably a market existed there since long ago.
The educated Europeans loved books, so the culture of and keeping books and maintaining home libraries came with them to Himachal Pradesh.
Drawing room culture, and club culture also came with the Europeans. Modern Indian society in Dalhousie and elsewhere in India has greatly influenced by European culture. Life in “Dalhousie” town in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries give clear examples of the introduction of western lifestyle amongst wealthy their sections of Indian society.
At that time, Dalhousie was one of the hill towns where the introduction of western values and lifestyle started influencing the social setup.
Wealthy sections of Indian society were influenced directly by many aspect of European life style. These social aspect made “old Dalhousie” an absolutely different place to live in than other places in Chamba district.
The climate of Dalhousie is like the climate of Alpine area of Europe. Many alpine flowers bloom there and the forests of pine and oak make the place even more like Europe. Sunlight has a soft mellowness that we find in Europe and we find many birds that we find in Europe.
A town built in old English way in this climate must have seemed very homely to British soldiers and officers coming from the dusty hot plains.
No wonder Col. Napier found the place so appealing to build a sanitariums for British soldiers. The climate of Dalhousie in 19th and early 20th centuries was considerably much colder and in winter the snow lay much deeper.
The community in Dalhousie was snow bound in winter in the town, as it must have been impossible to keep the uncovered cart road in operative condition except for hill porters in winter.
We must remember, that there was no electricity and many more bears and leopards than there are now. Days were short in Winter and the darkness of night came early.
Coming of the mail bag must have been a big event long awaited occasion. The British residents of Dalhousie managed to communicate through letters to when the postal system became operative at Dalhousie in 1863.
There were some hotels in Dalhousie from the British times as some European and well to do Indians came as tourists even then. The lure of the mist covered magical forests of Dalhousie had drawn visitors ever since the settlement was established there.
Hotels, guest houses operated in this hill town for the tourists who came mostly in season, and for the few in off seasons too. The trouble in Kashmir increased the flow of tourists to Dalhousie.
Prabal Pramanik


Social structure in old Dalhousie town

Any society at any given time has different tiers or sections. Even in societies that claim to be “classless” class distinction exists. The different sections of the society at any place of human habitation exist at the same time with their individual sets of values and standards of living.
In Dalhousie town, high ranking British army officers and British officials enjoyed the maximum amount of privilege and power. It is quite evident that these officers were quite particular about their duties but were arrogant with their set values biased with the concept of power.
These people considered themselves the cream of the society and were served by hordes of servants, who were looked down upon as low class “native” minions. Undoubtedly the discipline of the British officers helped to build this hill town on the forest covered hills, but they failed to integrate themselves in this area.
Next in social tier came the low ranking officers and Indian businessmen who opened shops and establishments to supply the British army and the well to do residents of the town.
These people enjoyed comfortable lives. Some of the Indian tradesmen were quite wealthy and enjoyed many luxurious of life, though basically their way of life was of Indian Style.
European missionaries who built up churches and conducted services for the Christians community has important position amount the European community and established schools for children of the European community. Their work involved some important social service but they looked down upon Indian culture and religions as their main aim was to spread Christianity with missionary zeal.
The soldiers lived in the cantonment area and were subjected to strict discipline generally by the officers.
The last in the social gradation came the serving people. Though these people were considered “native minions” by the European community, the local laborers who served the town by providing the physical support vital for day to day work formed the base for the development of this town.
Although underestimated and largely uncaredfor, these poor people who lived in scattered villages around Dalhousie, and in Dalhousie as serving people, formed a large part of the population of this area.
All the transportation system was dependent on manual labour in those days, and the hill people who naturally moved near the new town in the hope of earning some money maintained that lifeline of communication by working as porters, “dandi” or sedan chair bearers, muleteers and took care of the ponnies and pack horses for carriage.
The photographs of there poor people show hardened but undernourished people in tattered clothes and often without shoes. They laboured to provide their masters with eggs, chicken fresh vegetables and milk from the villages and did every sort of minion work.
They could not dream of giving their children the benefits of higher education. Just two meals a day was all they could hope for and that too at times became difficult to procure for themselves and for their families.
The European masters did not have that system of “Chuachut” or untouchability that “high caste” Indian masters often had.
There was a great psychological difference between the hill folk serving as servents and the free tribal shepherds roaming freely with his flock. Folk art, folk dance and folk music develops best amongst free people. Arts do not develop so well amongst people in restraint of servitude.
They had their own set of values that were radically different from the values of the privileged classes of the society.
These values were formed in the school of adversity and penury. Yet, they were the children of the soil, and their descendants sustained when the age of the “foreign masters” came to an end.
Prabal Pramanik


old26.jpg (28528 bytes)    old27.jpg (31456 bytes)


old28.jpg (30585 bytes)    old29.jpg (40370 bytes)



old1.jpg (38354 bytes)

old2.jpg (24847 bytes)

old3.jpg (37692 bytes)

old6.jpg (32641 bytes)

old7.jpg (25942 bytes)

old8.jpg (26811 bytes)

old10.jpg (26150 bytes)

old11.jpg (27888 bytes)

old12.jpg (28793 bytes)

old13.jpg (30162 bytes)

old14.jpg (27460 bytes)

old22.jpg (26548 bytes)

old23.jpg (32875 bytes)

old24.jpg (37762 bytes)

old25.jpg (26856 bytes)


Web design by Arup Chandra
Multimedia Studio, Bhamlada, Bhatwan, Punjab 145 022, India
Pictures and text copyright reserved by Prabal Pramanik