29th March 2021


Historical promience of Palampur: Tea Gardens and Beyond

Nestled in a verdant expanse of pine forests, cradled by the Dhauladhar mountains, rolling hills playing with lovely valleys as the streams and rivers bubble with joy, aromatic tea slopes looking at them, eponymous to the land full of water, Palampur in Kangra district is an ancient town, as old as it is beautiful. Little wonder that it was preferred by wave after wave of settlers from prehistoric times to the shepherds from Rajasthan, the Gaddis, from artists such as the revered Sobha Singh who made Andretta his home to the recent wave of Tibetan settlers headed by none other than the Dalai Lama himself.
Although now famous among the travellers, not many know of the rich history of the Kangra region. Here we explore particularly the history and landmark events and personalities of Palampur. At Rakkh Resort in Palampur, we are proud of history, culture and heritage, wanting to showcase it to the world. This is one humble attempt at it.

painting of a botanist who used to live near our resort in dharamshala

Palampur is an important town located in Kangra Valley, a popular hill station amongst holidaymakers, many of who love Rakkh Resort in Palampur for its 360 Degree offering, including adventure, relaxation, cultural immersions and culinary indulgence. Palampur was once a part of the Jalandhar kingdom.
The town of Palampur itself came into existence when Dr William Jameson (shown above), Superintendent of Botanical Gardens, introduced the tea bush from Almora in 1849. The British were in search of locations in India where they could grow the Chinese Tea owing to the volatile political situation in China.

The tea bush introduced from China thrived at Palampur and so did the town. Thus becoming a focus of the European tea estate owners. One important exception to this was the famous Wah Tea Estate, owned by Nawab Muhammad Hayat Khan of Wah Kingdome, now in Pakistan and his descendants, until 1947. Since then, the Kangra tea of Palampur has been known internationally. But let us have a closer look at the tea gardens that flank the mountains all around Rakkh Resort in Palampur.

After Dr Jameson successfully cultivated tea at Palampur, the tea estates grew in success, profit and popularity from the 1850s onwards. A labour-intensive enterprise, this motivated more and more immigrants from all over the state and beyond to settle in Palampur. Not just labourers, but engineers, botanists, experts in tea growing and processing also made Palampur their home. The rapid growth of Palampur prompted its elevation as Tehsil Headquarters from Bhawarna previously. One of the notable settlement of immigrants is that of Nepali Gurkhas at Tota Rani, giving it the title of Little Nepal. 

The growing wealth and population with tastes and needs beyond just simple survival prompted the authorities to vastly improve the infrastructure building schools, colleges and hospitals. St Paul’s Senior Secondary School at Palampur built then still stands tall, educating generations of Himachali students.
When the earth shook, shattering many dreams…

tea garden near our resort in dharamshala

When the earth shook, shattering many dreams…
In 1905, a massive earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale left a trail of destruction in its wake. The ensuing landslides destroyed most of the tea gardens which were washed away in a torrent of flowing mud. Within a few minutes, once verdant slopes stood bald and barren. Post this, a period of lull followed with no growth or development with even reverse migration. But the authorities woke up to the challenge and started other development activities building not just offices, schools and church but also a major hydro-power project at Joginder Nagar in 1927. Soon the railways followed opening up new avenues of industry and development.

Palampur gained enough prominence for even the first prime minister of independent India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to have visited Palampur in 1941 when it was still British India. There is a Nehru Chowk in Palampur to commemorate this event.

Post-independence, India was infused with new energy, a renewed youth of an ancient country. This translated into a vigour in the art world with many landmark artists and art schools mushrooming all over the country. One such important artist who has come to define the art heritage of Kangra greatly after the miniature paintings of Kangra , Sardar Sobha Singh, a well known contemporary painter in 1947 moved from Punjab to an idyllic village of Andretta, his muse for the rest of his life. A museum and his home still exist here giving us a peek into his life and works. His rendition of Sikh gurus has come to define their visuals. An Irish actor and playwright, Norah Richards settled in Andretta too making it the hub of art, music, poetry and interestingly pottery. Even today the pottery school at Andretta in Palampur is the go-to place for clay aficionados.

institute near our resort in dharamshala

Not just the world of art but the world of science also made its impact felt at Palampur, with the setting up of CSIR Institue of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, known for its pioneering work in rejuvenating water resources in Meghalaya and the Horticultral Research Center recently in news for helping farmers in Spiti valley to grow Asafoetida, a major cash crop which is going to bring a new wave of prosperity to this frontier region.

Over the years, all this and the salubrious weather of Palampur has attracted millions of travellers to Kangra. Responsible and sustainable tourism ventures such as Rakkh Resort in Palampur are instrumental in showcasing the region true spirit, conserving, preserving and showcasing the rich heritage of this region.

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Ghamrota Village Post Office Ballah ,Tehsil Palampur, District Kangra, Jiun, Himachal Pradesh 176061