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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: May 12, 2018, 12:03 AM; last updated: May 12, 2018, 12:03 AM (IST)

Crafts of Himachal at old Sirmour Palace

The property will soon be the venue of an Urban Museum, and the backof a Sound and Light show
Crafts of Himachal at old Sirmour Palace
The Bantony Castle building in Shimla. Photo: Amit Kanwar

Shailja Khanna

The abandoned Bantony estate, constructed in 1880, that overlooks the Mall road in Shimla is going to be a hub of activity after decades of neglect. The estate, which comprises three buildings – Bantony, the old abandoned hospital nearby, and the derelict employment exchange building now have new owners. Once the palace of the rulers of Sirmour, the property was bought by a rich merchant from Shimla, Lehnu Mal Bishan Mal, who had a shop near Scandal Point. Sadly, the beautiful building has not been used for several decades, being jointly owned by more than 10 owners. The HP government bought the property some two years ago, and after renovations, it will soon be the venue of an Urban Museum, and the backdrop of a Sound and Light show.

But all this will be in the future; for now the property is going to be the venue of a unique initiative by the Department of Language Art and Culture (LAC), the Shilp Gram. Launched under the initiative entitled “Aaj Purani Rahon Se” (APURSE), Shilp Gram will be a unique celebration of Himachali culture and crafts. With around 50 stalls selling various Himachali object d art, textiles, cane ware and much more, the event will also promote Himachali music and offer authentic Himachali cuisine. The open-air amphitheatre near the Gaiety Theatre on the Ridge will be the venue for traditional Himachali folk music. 

Deputy Director, LAC, Rakesh Korla was enthusiastic about the varied items — “we will be showcasing items from Tibetan-painted “tankhas” to key chains with a Himachali theme,” he said. “These will represent the traditional arts and crafts of the State, many of which are now becoming rare”.

Amongst the more unique wares on offer will be prints of the rare Roerich paintings from the Roerich centre in Naggar. Dr Chauhan confirmed that this would be the first time that these paintings would be available for sale. Both the iconic Nicholas and his son Svetoslav were prolific painters of the Himalayas, and sights in Himachal and their paintings are housed in the museum in Naggar, a unique Russian Himachali collaboration. 

Another interesting buy will be cane ware from Kangra. Old timers recall how solid the baskets bought from Kangra used to be – 30 years of wear and tear still has them going strong! Carpets from Lahaul Spiti are another interesting item on offer. 

An interesting innovation is to keep the commercial angle in mind by having a few hours exclusively devoted to business interaction between potential buyers and artisans, who are coming to Shimla from the remote interiors, from all 12 Himachal districts.

The fair will be held from May 17 to May 22, 2018, and will be inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. 

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