Chapslee – Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India
In a Former Summer Capital, a Relic of the Raj
In the 19th century, the British may have ruled India, but the real arbiter of day-to-day life, even for them, was the heat, which Kipling called “the central fact of India.” To carry on business during the summer months, British officials would take to the northern hills of Simla, where melting snows kept the temperature tolerable and Victorian architecture, gardens, and entertainment re-created the sceptered isle they’d left behind.
Chapslee, a stately, decidedly British ivory-colored manor house, was built in 1835, in the lap of the Himalayas at 7,000 feet. From the start, it offered the kind of princely living and grand hospitality demanded by the sahibs of yore and still found today, and a decor of Gobelin tapestries, Venetian chandeliers, Persian carpets, and an imposing portrait of the present owner’s great-grandfather, the former maharaja of the state of Kapurthala.
Today, Simla is one of India’s most venerated British-built hill stations, and provides an imperial starting point for visitors exploring one of India’s most beautiful states, Himachal Pradesh, a rural landscape dotted with remote Hindu and Buddhist temples and communities whose ceremonies, fairs, and festivals liven the summer months.