On a heritage trail

 On a heritage trail

A trip from Ramgarh in Haryana to Garli in Himachal Pradesh. Two very different heritage mansions are there. It’s only 14km from Chandigarh. But Ramgarh is a world away from Le Corbusier’s meticulously planned city. And ramgarh Heritage is an over 300-year-old fortified mansion.

There is a mini-heritage home tour. It would take you to Ramgarh in Panchkula, Haryana, and Garli Village in Himachal’s kangra Valley. The first stop was at Ramgarh Heritage. Jaideep Singh Chandail has striven here to create an old world atmosphere with artefacts and mementos from a regal past.

Step into the lobby and all around a re handpainted murals, brass and silverware and the occasional framed letter. Huge metal gagars, or water pots, are at the centre of the chequered-floor courtyard. Each of the 26 rooms has stained glass windows, mughal paintings and retro furniture. They make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

The chandails, incidentally, are a branch of the chandel Rajputs who ruled central India between the 13th and 19th centuries. The family came to ramgarh in the  17th century.

Originally called The Quila, the Chandail family painfully restored the crumbling building and rechristened it Ramgarh Heritage.

Our stay unfolded with a heritage walk to the nearby village followed by a Yoga session back at the property. Invigorated, you can plunge into a cooking class which unveiled some of the Chandail family’s culinary expertise.

The family’s own recipes are a complex and delicious blend of Rajasthani and local Punjabi delicacies. The star dish is the 21 masalon ka raan. It has also been nicknamed the 21-Gun Salute. This leg of lamb has as many as 21 different spices, poppy seeds and dry fruits.

We enjoyed some of the popular dishes (including the pickles) at Diwan-Khana, a multi-cuisine restaurant that’s open to in-house guest as well as welk-in clients. The gaddi, on which the erstwhile rulers sat, still exists.

We hit the road the following morning and headed for Garli, 180km away. A picturesque village surrounded by wooded hills, it has breathtaking views of the Himalways. Garli also has several mansions that are nothing short of architectural marvels. No surprise then that it has been declared a heritage village by the Himachal government.

We checked in at Chateau Garli, one of the largest of the mansions. Built a bit like a French chateau, the property impressed us with its cobbled stone walkways, stained glass windows and round balconies. While antique furniture fills the rooms, there’s wooden flooring and even mud-plastered floors.

But garli’s a village with an unusual, almost tragic history. The name Garli comes from garal, which locally means poison or snake-in-fested. The Village is said to have been established by the Suds, merchant community, in the early 19th century. It flourished during the colonial era but vanished off-the –map suddenly before resurfacing a few years ago. Flourishing businessmen ran into debt and had to vacate their mansions, spiraling Garli into decline.

Garli’s return to fame – and fortune – has been because of its architectural treasures. We went on sightseeing and stopped at ‘Santri-waali Kothi’, which had two sculptures of sentinels standing atop the house to guard it. Another haveli is called the ‘Einto-waali KOthi’ on Western lines.

The Pong Dam is not far away. And then to a well-preserved wetland for birdwatching is a pleasant picnic spot. At the Dada Siba Temple has its beautiful Krishna murals. And at the end of the day. one is to gasp at a stunning sunset at the Beas river. Some 35km away is the Masroor’s rock-cut temple. It is also known as the Himalayan Pyramids, with idols of Ram and Sita.

October to March is the best time to explore Garli. It’s a relatively easy trip that throws in architectural beauty and nature at its very best.

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