Garli in Himachal Pradesh
Had I not had an opportunity to stay at Chateau Garli, 100-year-old heritage home built by Lala Mela Ram Sud, I would have never discovered this gem of a place called Garli. Far away from the maddening crowd of the city, this soulful and colorful hamlet has to be one of my best finds of 2017 along with Wellington in Tamil Nadu and Pangot in Uttarakhand.
Situated in the Kangra Valley, overlooking the grand Dhauladhar mountain range, the beauty and wealth of this village was such that until the 1930’s, Garli was called the Switzerland of India. The elegant havelis, mansions, brick houses and Italianate buildings of the village are nothing less than a visual treat for architect and history enthusiasts. Garli has an approximate population of 2000, and boasts of many schools, a hospital, water systems and much more which were established almost 100 years ago. Largely, a pious society and generous peppering of temples, Garli is believed to be the land of Gods. The history tells me that the location of the village was carefully chosen where it received the astral influences of three shakti temples in the neighborhood- Chintpurni, Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari.
Garli, a part of the heritage zone of Pragpur in the state of Himachal Pradesh is a living heritage where every house has an age-old legendary story, where history speaks about its initial inhabitants ‘Soods’ (some write it as ‘Sud‘), where timber merchants lived and thrived, where architectural marvels leave you spellbound and where you unearth interesting stories at every turn of the cobbled streets. At first, you might ignore it as a sleepy village but as you delve into it closely, you are bound to be impressed with its simplicity, authenticity and creativity.
Melaram’s Kothi aka Chateau Garli
As I savor a special copy of the map of the village, I am reminded of one of the most memorable heritage walks that I was party to in Garli. As I trail the path with memories and pictures from the day, every house along the street looks familiar. I enthusiastically spot out Peerewalan, Banta residence, Sarai, Bhagwan Niwas, Melaram’s residence, Santri wali kothi, Naurang Yatri Niwas, Hidden house, Mystery house, the house with brick jaali and many more overwhelming varieties of buildings. You may be wondering what are these peculiar names about. These happen to be some of the most fascinating heritage houses of the village and they have been nicknamed after their most attractive features. The style of architecture, every door and window got me truly fascinated. I was surprised to learn that the styles vary from Colonial, Kangra, Islamic, and even Rajput and Portuguese.
I was in love with ‘Santri wali Kothi’, the moment I saw it in its galore. Two model of Santris (guards) stand tall on the top and make the house look absolutely stunning. What saddened me was the state and the fate of the house. I was told that the owners are having a family feud over the possession. Not just it, many other houses of the village have similar stories to tell. The mystery house stands in a dilapidated state and yet it inspires. The other pretty ones need restoration. But among all, there in the center, stands Melaram’s residence which owns a hand pump by its side and is known for serving water to the villagers for decades. The owners have revived the charms of this ancestral property and after refurbishment, it spells magic as Chateau Garli.
It always feels nice to visit such places that make you feel at home!
I had the pleasure to visit Garli and stay in the most stylish house of the village. Standing tall and elegant, shiny and sauve, bright and beautiful, CHATEAU GARLI, a 100-year-old heritage home built by Lala Mela Ram Sud, now restored by the Sud family. The calm and rustic ambiance of the village goes in complete harmony with the contemporary amenities of the rooms and services in the house. The aesthetically designed guest rooms are truly unique in layout. The culinary delights are simply mouth-watering. And the swimming pool is one of the most enticing features of the newer portion. For the first two days, it was hard for me to accept the fact that I was living in a village and yet I had everything at my disposal.
Chateau Garli is the fruit of love and passion for the revival of history and heritage. The well-traveled owner and his children could have easily chosen any other place to set up a hotel but the fact that they decided to revive their own ancestral property earns them a lot of respect. I really liked the commitment they have shown towards making it one of its kinds. The charms of the house have been held in their true state. While the antiques, the Belgian mirrors, the old collections of pictures and portraits makes its endearing, the new portion of the house gives you an impression of a church in Goa or Pondicherry. To me, it looked like a small castle in a far far land in Europe. The vibrant glasses on the outside of the house and their reflections in the swimming pool celebrate Diwali almost every night. Every spec of the house has been beautifully crafted and leaves you aching for more. The hand painted walls are done to absolute perfection. Last but not the least, the vibrant colors used in the building lend cheerfulness to the entire village.
Garli is for people who are unconventional travelers and have an inclination to discover and experience rural India. But I must insist that this hamlet can easily be a model town, a village lifestyle in its true sense including its planning, people, arts & crafts – and especially those who want to study architecture, town planning, anthropology, culture and art. In fact people with roots in Garli, especially the Sud clan, have a great attachment with the village. I am glad some of them are investing in their properties with the desire to save their heritage. Chateau Garli, sets a perfect example.
Long, long years ago, a lady had cursed the village that none will progress in the village and people will be forced to leave it. Also the legends go that the men of this village had two wives. But now it doesn’t hold true. One can always go to Garli and be lost in its raw and rustic beauty. Chateau Garli happens to be one beautiful reason to get acquainted with the village and explore Kangra valley. While I was there, I also had a chance to visit the Kangra fort and Mashroor rock cut temple which have to be on every itinerary. (My next blog will talk about them in detail)
A quick summary of my trip!
One morning I ditched the mundane routine of the capital and took a ‘Delhi to Chandigarh Shatabdi’. A road trip of three hours towards Garli crossing the Bhakra Nangal Dam followed next. I was pleasantly surprised at how quick the journey was from Chandigarh to Garli – with no tortuous bends to navigate. And by evening I was already there to unwind and enjoy the beauty of the environs at Garli. Trust me, I was in love with the village but only after I was in awe of Chateau Garli.