Ritanjali Hastir, December, 2015, Shimla
“To maintain the spirit of heritage, it is very important to use the place for the purpose for which it was actually built”, says Kanwar Ratanjit.
It is said, “For every picture you take a moment in time is remembered. A family’s heritage is its personal journey through history. Memories will fade making the written word priceless. In every family someone must take time to preserve its past. Looking at the past can strengthen who you are today. Yesterday is gone, but the memories are cherished through photos and journals” and the same statement can be easily co-related to Kanwar Ratanjit Singh, owner of ‘Chapslee Estate’, one of the oldest houses of Shimla City.
“Originally the house was built by Dr. Blake, a surgeon in the East India Company in 1828, and Lord Auckland’s nephew W. Osborne purchased it in 1836. During that time ‘Chapslee’ served as the ‘Secretary’s Lodge’.
Currently ‘Chapslee’ belongs to Kanwar Ratanjit Singh, grandson of Rajah Charanjit Singh who had purchased the house in 1938 and later it became the summer residence of the Kapurthala royals. Ratanjit who has made ‘Chapslee’ his permanent home, was born in the house itself and while reflecting on the years gone by he said, “Sir Arthur Milford who purchased this house in 1896, expanded the house all around while retaining the original house. After the death of his widow in 1928, the property was left to some relative of their, who was in England and from him his grandfather purchased this house”.
“My grandfather refurnished the house and since 1940, there has been no change in the house. I feel to keep and maintain the spirit of a heritage property the way it is, it is very important to use the place for the purpose for which it was actually built. It was suppose to be a house to it should be used as a house only”, says, Ratanjit.
“I am very particular about my house and since the entire place is furnished with antiques, some dating to more than 100 years old, may that be — wallpaper, tables, show pieces, bed sheets, the red colour glass chandler or any other thing to name, I have not made access to my place that easy. With time, in 1976, I converted my house into the first Heritage Hotel in India. I do not like to admit any Tom, Dick or Harry as my guest as only people who care to preserve heritage and understand its value can realize what he/she has experienced during their stay in the house. I spend time with my guests”, he further shared.
Ratanjit is available in Shimla to welcome his guests from March to December and after that he takes a trip off with his wife. The house remains close for three months and he does not entertain any guest after that as Ratanjit says, “I have personally trained my domestic staff and only they are allowed to do the errand job but during these three months no one else is allowed inside the house”.
The house has a television in the sitting room where guests can enjoy along with a library, which consists of rare collection of books, though most of the time are kept under lock and key but on request are allowed to flip through their pages. The library also has a bridge table. The modern facilities like telephone and internet are available in the office but not inside the home.
While stepping into the house one is definitely transported to the royal times where it is not just the interior decoration that fascinates and captivates your senses but even the royal treatment by Ratanjit that makes one’s trip worthwhile. It was not wrong to say that ‘Chapslee’ is truly a place worth visiting before one dies as it has also been included in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die – A 2003 Travel Book by Patricia Schultz.
- October 1, 1838- Chapslee was the venue where the ‘Simlah Manifesto’ declaring war with Afghanistan was signed.
- Sir Courtney Ilbert, on whose name the famous ‘Ilbert Bill’ was named also once resided here.
- After exact 100 years of signing of ‘Manifesto’ Chapslee was purchased by Rajah Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala.
- School was started in 1973.
- 1976 it became the first heritage hotel of India.
- Also included in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, a 2003 travel book by Patricia Schultz.
- Drawing room picture on the front cover page of book ‘Maharajas’ Palaces’.