Every town has its own character. The roots of this character can be traced
in the history of the particular town. The history of any place has different phases.
The hill town of Dalhousie in Western Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh being only one hundred
and fifty years old, has just four major phases in its history.
The first phase was when the area was a virgin forest covered hills. Shephards must have
visited this area at times and perhaps rural people went trekking through the forest area.
Some times the Rajas and chieftains with their men came and hunted there. The hills and
the forests of alpine beauty at this place do not seem to have any human settlement worth
Flora and fauna flourished in abundance. We dont find the remains any ancient
temples or for tresses here. The second phase in the history of this area began with the
coming of the British.
The British people who first saw this place undoubted by was struck by the similarity of
this area with European hilly region and had a great liking for this area.
Dalhousie was built up by the British to be a home away from their home, so many miles
away. This sanctuary of Europeans was developed in the style of an English town. They
setup institutions to satisfy their own needs and built the road from Pathankot for
communication. Dalhousie town in victorian and Edwardain times must have looked distinctly
like any provincial British town complete with ladies wearing long gowns and men in long
coats and top hats.
British army officers must have found this place quite homely and easy to adjust with. The
social life of these European residents of Dalhousie and the cantonment area was naturally
confined to their own community except when some missionaries approached local hill people
to involve them in their institutions of welfare with the purpose of spreading
The British residents of this area thought that the sun will never set on the British
Empire and their days of holding the position of the ruling class will continue.
They must have thought that the natives will go on serving them as
Chowkidars, Khansamas, Coolies and ayas.
Little did they imagine that the established British empire would crumble with
the turn of the wheel of time. A new destiny dawned over India with the independence and
the third phase of this town started in an independent land. Dalhousie though situated in
the hills was still joined to Punjab. Real development of these hill area began with the
creation of Himachal state. This is the fourth phases in the history of Dalhousie. Today
Himachal is one of the fastest developing states of India and the people oriented
development projects in Himachal have made life easier for the hill people.
In todays Dalhousie the memories of British Raj remain only through a few churches, the
cemetery and a few old buildings. The Club House, that was the community center of
Europeans and army officers remain.
Indians have taken over Dalhousie completely and have Indianized the area. In the history
of Dalhousie, the names of prominent Indians such as Rabindranath Tagore, Subhash Chandra
Bose, Sardar Ajit Singh, Raizada Hansraj are much more important than he name of any
British person including Lord Dalhousie, who never visited this place even.
It has become a tourist center where people come on holidays and school and college
students come on excursions.
The hills in areas undisturbed by man, are still covered by wild flowers in spring and by
snow in Winter as they were before man set his foot on these hills.
From the heritage aspect, Dalhousie town is entirely different from Chamba or other old
Himachal towns, where ancient temples, fudal fortresses and other architectural remains
speak of ancient history. This relative young settlement from the heritage point of view,
has much to say about the life, and values at the time of the British rule, that is just a
distant echo today.
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