A walk through the Sleeping Beauty Trail

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This walk has the ability to leave you spellbound with its beauty. Sleeping Beauty, the place is called Bharari. Here you will see a number of old houses, forest and a few villages. Some new constructions on the way might irritate you but a visit to a small wooden temple that is a marvelous example of hill architecture is an attraction for many. Some possibility is there of coming across wildlife in the area, but generally the laughter of school children, gossip from village shops, chirping birds and people chatting in some old houses will attract your attraction during the walk.

The walk takes off at Lakkar Bazaar one of the main markets of Shimla where most of the shops sell inexpensive mementos, handmade items such as small paintings, wooden toys, table mats, fruit trays, service trays, wooden idols of gods and goddesses, key rings, wall hangings, copies of paintings, lamp shades, walking sticks and so on. In the forenoon when you start your walk you can see a few shopkeepers preparing to open their shops. It is busy in the morning as most of the people living towards Longwood, Shankli and Sanjauli, walk through this bazaar to reach their offices. A melodious sound of chanting of prayers comes from a school building. The first building in this area is the ‘Regal’ building to your left. This red structure has a number of shops, a Roller Skating Rink and a school with the same name. This was originally known as the Theater of Prince of Wales and was built in 1925 by a German engineer Flexivon Goldstein. Keeping in view the fragile geological strata of Shimla hills, the building was made to stand on nicely shaped pillars filled with pure lead. The lead was filled from the solid base of rocks. Further ahead about 150m a bifurcation decent to the left towards Elysium hill. Walk on this wide lane, enjoying the view of Elysium Hill to the North. After passing through a couple of memento shops a narrow lane branches off to the right.

This lane takes you to a recently constructed iron bridge just next to a tiny vegetable shop.  Walk across the bridge and on your right there is a house called Belvedere. This has once been the residence of Mr. Jacob – the mysterious man who sold the famous ‘Jacob Diamond’ to the Nizam of Hyderabad. The diamond is still placed in the museum of the Nizam which displays his treasure in Hyderabad. It was several years after the death of his father that the last Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, found the Jacob Diamond in the toe of his father’s shoe at Chowmahalla Palace.  The uncut diamond is believed to have been over 400 carats (80 g) in weight. Nevertheless, the Nizam still showed little interest in the diamond and for many years it was used as a paper weight by the last Nizam. This continued until the diamond’s true value was realized and it was stored away as another of Nizam’s treasures.

The lane joins the main road near the gates of ‘Chapslee’ and ‘Auckland’. Both are schools now but were originally built by Dr. Blake, a senior Surgeon in East India Company. In 1836, they were sold to Lord Aucklandwho named the larger house as ‘Auckland House’ and the smaller was called ‘Secretary’s Lodge’. Exactly after 100 years of issuance of the Spanish Semlah Manifesto that was issued from here for Afghan war in 1838, it became the property of Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala. And now it is with his son Kunwar Ratanjit Singh, who has converted the old house into a six room hotel and takes very good care of his clients. A part of ‘Chapslee’ is now a school which is owned and managed by Mr. Singh and his wife Mrs. Purnooti Singh.

In 1868, Auckland 98 was purchased by Mrs. Mackinnon to be used as a school for girls. In 1920, the original building was completely demolished and the present one built in its place. It is still a school for girls of Shimla. There are a few more houses in the vicinity such as ‘Kendal Lodge’, ‘Holm Croft’ and ‘Elysium Cottage’. Further on at Longwood, a number of Shimla’s residents and some girls from a Woman’s College called RajkiyaKanyaMahaVidyalaya better known as RKMV wait for local buses. The old building of the college which was once called Elysium Hotel is another excellent example of ‘dhajji’ style of architecture.

Thereafter a bifurcation uphill to the left to Bharari. At Longwood’s curve there are a small tea shop and a telephone booth. Two roads from this point turn to the left like two arms that embrace the hill on which Sterling Castle is situated. Both the roads meet at Harvington.

Sterling Castle has the most magnificent commanding view on all sides. As per the diary of Miss Eden in 1838, ‘A bleak house that nobody will live in and that in general is struck by lightning once a year – but then it is close by, and they are preparing for a ball @The Aides – de Camp are about as much trouble to me as grown up sons. One remarked that, ‘those two little windows in the gable end of Sterling Castle look well, and when two little female forms are leaning out of them, nothing could appear more interesting. . . .I met that sedate Captain P. the other day carrying a little nosegay to Sterling Castle, which looked suspicious. He followed me into my room after breakfast and thought it right to mention that he had proposed to Miss S. . . . P. is quite altered since she has been engaged, and will talk and joke and dance in the most debonair manner. He danced three times with the same lady, but got up early next morning to write an account of himself to his ‘Clarissa’ at Sterling Castle’.

Originally in 1838 it belonged to Mr. Sterling, so it carries his name. The residential area here is called Longwood as it derives its name from an old house with the same name. Here lived Mrs. Huksbee, the funniest character in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Plain Tales from the Hills’.

Just to avoid the repetition on the topic of architecture take, the uphill road to enjoy some extremely beautiful views of snow clad peaks to the North. On your right down in the valley there are a number of villages on the hills. Across the valley there is Mahasu Ridge on which you can see Mashobra and Naldehra, the two famous picnic spots of Shimla. The road encircles the hill and joins its other arm at the other end at Harvington and leads further. The landmark here is a huge water tank installed by the government that meets the water needs of the area. This used to be an ice-pit that was used to refrigerate the drinks before electric refrigerators were invented. The snow was collected in these pits and with its own pressure it turned into ice and was used for the purpose throughout the year. From here on the hillside is covered with Oak and Rhododendron trees.

Continue and keep walking, along the railing, the road descends towards Bharari 100 Bazaar. Here are a number of old houses and the first house that was built by the British was ‘BrancePeth’ which is now a private school called Laureate Public School. Some others are ‘Northwood’, ‘Nanak Kuti’, ‘Groombridge’, ‘Cloverly’ and ‘Peters Field’. There is wild life around here such as wild boars, leopards, hyenas and other Himalayan wild animals and many times people of the areas have been attacked by them. 

Bharari used to be a sleepy village in the vicinity of Shimla but in the last a few years it has seen much development. The primary school was set up here by the government much before the new construction started. There is a small market with some old crumbling structures but on the slopes of Bharari, a number of new concrete structures are coming up. At present there is a private school, a hotel, a temple and many residential high rising buildings.

In the center of Bharari bazaar a lane bifurcates. To left it descends to the main road from where you have an option to catch a bus or walk in order to return to Shimla. To your right it goes past a few shops that sell items of daily need. Immediately after it climbs through some of the newly constructed multilevel buildings and then near a electric pole a trail rips off to the left to lead you to a temple of Goddess Kali commonly known as ‘PadhaiMandir’ on the top of the hill. After a hundred meters or so there is another bifurcation. Take right and enter the forest. The view of Shimla Ridge to your left is very pretty. Follow this forest trail and I am sure that you would love to spend some more time here with your camera.

A kilometer’s walk and a narrow trail to your right take you to the temple and ten meters ahead another narrow trail to your right brings you to the main road. Follow the road to your left to Dudli and past this old village having a number of newly constructed multi-level buildings a broad trail brings you down to Bromley Estate commonly known as DC kiKothi. The trail ends at another road below it and anthen turn left to walk through the forested road for one hundred meters. The old house lies below this road. This is another building built during the British Raj and is another example of old ‘Dhajii’ style of architecture. Felexivon Goldstein, who had designed the building of Theater of Prince of Wales, was the first owner of this place. He had obtained the estate from the Rana of Koti, started a piggery and planted some fruit trees. After independence it came into the hands of Mr. P. C. Multani, the then Deputy Commissioner of Shimla. He spent a long part of his life in this house and then moved to Chandigarh where he died a few years ago. His son Colonel S.S. Multani tried to convert this into a resort but did not succeed.

Beyond this estate there are two village houses where families of two Thakur brothers live happily. A temple is located beyond their houses and is set in the middle of the forest. It is a tiny structure made of wood and its roof is covered with local tiles. The structure is nearly 300 years old and is opened during the Navratras – the nine day festival in April and October.

Follow this road till you see a narrow trail branching off towards your left. This is the approach to Bromley Estate. Near the temple a narrow trail can bring you to the main road above Bromley Estate where are located some huts with a tin shed that was once used by Multanis to park their jeep. To your right a steep ascent from here takes to a Fair Price Shop from where the road automatically turns left and then leads to a narrow crossing. You may choose to continue your walk for other 3 kilometers to Shimla or catch a bus that brings you to the Lakkar Bazaar bus stand.

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