When we use the phrase “har ghar kuchh kehta hai”, a novel concept adopted by the Himachal government in promoting heritage properties of Shimla town, we often associate them with the Britisher’s rule, rich in history with facts, photographs and antiques dating back to that period. And when we talk about royalty we are equally impressed by the grandeur and imperial finesse with which they once lived in or are still living. One such architectural marvel is the Jubbal Palace, residence of HH Raja Rana Yogendra Chandra and Rani Sudha Kumari, about 92 kms from Shimla taking approximately four hours to reach via Theog, Kotkhai and Khara Patther. The setting is just picture perfect, with River Bishkalti on one side and the Kuper peak as the backdrop.
Once described in the Imperial Gazetteer of India as being “built in partially Chinese style, the lower portion consisting of masonry, while the upper half is ringed round with wooden galleries capped by overhanging eaves. The Palace is remarkable for the enormous masses of deodar timber used in its construction”. Rightly said, as when you walk through the Durbar Hall or the Indian style baithak your steps are arrested by the massive paneling work done on the ceilings, the intricate woodwork, carved bordered facades, Persian carpets and antiques all around the rooms are enough to give you a royal feel. The Durbar Hall has these carved jharokhas on the upper floor, then used by women to watch the proceedings below or the royal functions which were held during those days, were initially built by a women craftsmen from Chaupal and even till date they remain as pristine as ever. As royalty would have it, there were different drawing rooms for both men and women and as Raja Yogendra Chandra adds, “even Raja and Rani had separate bedrooms connected with a spiral staircase”. Family heirlooms which can be seen are quivers and arrows, family portraits, pieces of art and ivory inlaid peacock chairs. The stunning display of ancient artilleries ranging from cannons, swords to muskets and shield will just tickle your senses and give you a feeling of being a warrior. The fireplaces add an old charm to the Palace which has a collection of Kangra paintings on the Radha Krishna theme hung over them.
The old structure was brought down in 1935 and what stands now is a mix of Gothic, Art Deco and local architecture. An interesting anecdote Sudha Kumari states “It was decided that a new Capital would be built for administrative purposes, which would have a new Palace, a tehsil, a prison and an armoury and Old Jubbal would only be used for religious functions and on these grounds a pujan was performed during which as a ritual a chicken was sacrificed. The place where this chicken would land would be earmarked as the new location of the Palace. The bird landed on a small hill formerly known as Deora, now Jubbal, where construction began”.
Despite the fact that a French architect was hired to do the initial structure but Rani Sudha, soon after marriage in 1960, involved herself with the construction of the Palace and personally saw to it that the esthetics of the place was maintained. The modern wing of the Palace exhibits an inquisitive blend of Indo and European styles. Even after the Sheesh Mahal and three other buildings in the Palace complex were burnt down on 29th October 1969, she ensured that same style was adopted while reconstructing the building. The Sheesh Mahal was adorned with large framed mirrors with all modern facilities, the construction of which was started by Raja Sir Bhagat Chandra of Jubbal in 1911 and was completed in 1918. Whereas the present Palace was built by his son Raja Digvijai Chandra and the construction was started in 1935. Raja Yogendra Chandra, adds “construction of buildings, prior to the making of Sheeh Mahal during those days, was done without using any iron nails as only wooden pegs were used to hold the structure. Layers were made of stone and wooden beams which held the structure firmly and resistant to earthquakes or tremors. While undertaking construction of the new sections these concepts were kept in mind”.
The entrance of the Palace opens into the central courtyard where a temple stands tall with a Pagoda style roof and a unique feature as lead has been used in its construction. Nestled behind the temple tower is the oldest wing of the Palace built in Pahari-style with alternate courses of dressed stone and wooden beams. There are numerous numbers of bedrooms with attached bathrooms, built around the courtyard, furnished with Persian carpets, amazing accessories and beautifully carved furniture. The umpteen number of artifacts and family treasures discovered in the old wing of the Palace have been restored and displayed all over the Palace by Sudha, who spends nearly four months in a year at Jubbal.
Rani Sudha says, “a section of the property was opened to guests but since the courtyard was common and our private quarters were in the same area we felt that our privacy was being disturbed. In spite of the fact that we were overbooked, we decided to close the property for guests just after a month. Communication too was a huge problem due to bad road conditions”.
Admiringly Yogendra Chandra says, that the upkeep and maintenance of the Palace is credited to my wife and son who look after the place as its fresh paintwork, polished woodwork round the clock, sparkling windowpanes and glistering balconies are a thing to fathom. The upcoming library section is a welcome addition to their Palace as it holds a treasure of books collected over a period of time.
Rani Sudha reminisces and ends on a note on how Jubbal earned its name, “one day a person was seen digging and planting seeds, and second day a joob (evergreen grass) came up, or dhub, used on auspicious occasions, and he called it as a good omen saying that there would be everlasting greenery and prosperity, and the Raja, who was then staying in Raika, near Hatkoti, should build his Palace here. Hence, this place earned its name as Jubbal”.