The timeworn churches of Himachal



By:Meetanjali Sood

Churches in Himachal are as old as the British Raj and they made all these tall buildings in small hill stations that were used as their summer retreats.

St. John’s Church also known as St. John’s Church in Wilderness at Forsyth Gunj near Dharamshala was built in the year 1852. The church has been built in neo-gothic architecture and is remembered for its beautiful Belgian stained glass windows which are believed to have been donated by Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Elgin who became the Governor General and Viceroy of India in the year 1861 but he died at Dharamshala two years later and was buried here in the cemetery of St. John’s.

St.John’s Church is one of the oldest churches of North India and is very closely associated to the Church of England. It is one of those structures of the British rule that are still in existence and the British style of architecture can be seen in the entire framework of the church building. This church is said to have survived the cruelty of 1905 earthquake that rocked the entire Kangra region. The only thing that got destroyed in this earthquake was the bell tower but it was later replaced in the year 1915.

The church is at a walk able distance from Mc.Leodganj and a walk through the cover of deodar trees could be a pleasant one. The cemetery of church is basically christian style and Lord Elgin was so much in love with Dharamshala as the place reminded him of Scotland that he had expressed his desire to be buried only here. The entire surroundings of the church are full of treaty and calmness that anybody who comes here is sure to fall in love with the place. Apart from taking part in the routine masses one can also spent evenings by just sitting in the premises of the church and enjoy the beauty of nature. St. John’s Church, which is 161 years old, has got a number of historical facts attached with its existence. The building has been made out of black stone and the terminology has been done as a tribute to John the Baptist. Visit to this place would be incomplete without seeing the memorial of Lord James Bruce, the Governor of Jamaica and Governor General of India and which was made in his memory by his widowed wife Mary Lousia in the year 1863.

Another church located in the backdrop of Himalayas is the 119 years old St.Francis Church in Dalhousie, which has been an inspiration for travelers from all over the world. This catholic church is at a walk able distance from Subhash Chowk and unlike many other churches in north India this one has also been imitated from the Church of England.

Civilians and officers of the town who financed the entire cost of construction constructed St. Francis Church in the year 1894. The foremost attractions of this Victorian architecture style building are the amazing glass designs on the windows and panes and the stone embellishments on the walls. The scenic view goes thoroughly with the church and gives one a feeling of admiration. The church truly bears a resemblance with the British type of architecture and is still maintained and managed by the Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar. There are special services in the church on every Sunday and that could be the main attraction for anyone who comes to this town.

Just right next to Gandhi Chowk, Dalhousie is the oldest church of St. John’s that carries a vast historical significance. This church also has a British style plan and was constructed during the British rule in India by the Protestant missionaries. The place is a treat for historians, tourists, readers and photographers. There is a library right next to the church that has a huge collection of rare books on history and geography of the region. The church is truly a replica model of the Roman Catholic Church of England and was built in the year 1863. Initially there was only a wooden structure where people would come everyday to pray and when John H. Pratt came to Dalhousie in 1863 he conceded the idea of making a permanent stone structure in place of the wooden one. The church has been named after his first name since then and is one of the initial buildings made in Dalhousie town.

The small town of Kasauli holds the perfect example of British architecture as it came into existence in the year 1842. Some British officers made it their homes, as they wanted to avoid the crowded streets of Shimla. The Christ Church was constructed in the year 1853 and was made by the same family who established this small hill station. The Church is about 160 years old and until 1970 was under the organization of the Church of England but is now managed by the bishopric of Amritsar.

The foundation stone of this church was laid on 24th July 1853 and it was then known as the Anglican Church. Right after its construction it started to attract the locals of Kasauli and very soon the church became the Sunday mass hub where families would come together to celebrate different occasions. The Church is unique in its own way as it sets an example of the European architecture. The green slanting roof of the building gives a gothic European feel and huge walls cast modesty. The entire building of Christ Church in bricks and grey stones imitate most of the Anglican Built structures across the country

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