In April this year, the Rashtrapati Niwas in Mashobra, Himachal Pradesh, opened its doors to the public, offering a unique glimpse into the past. This 173-year-old heritage property, characterized by its European architectural style, is one of India’s four existing President’s residences.
DHAJJI WALL CONSTRUCTION: A BLEND OF TRADITION AND ELEGANCE
Built in 1850 by the Maharaja of Koti as a single-storey building, the Rashtrapati Niwas showcases the traditional Himachal style of Dhajji wall construction. This unique construction style, featuring braced timber frames, ensures the building remains warm in winter and cool in summer, adding to its historical significance.
NATURE’S SYMPHONY: LUSH GARDENS AND RARE TREES
The estate surrounding Rashtrapati Niwas is a botanical paradise with a sprawling, manicured lawn adorned with some of the most exquisite and rare varieties of flowers and trees. Among the treasures is the European tree, Copper Beech, planted over a century ago by Lord Kitchener. The changing colours of tree leaves with the seasons and the presence of a traditional sundial from the British era add to the natural charm.
HISTORICAL ODYSSEY: FROM THE RETREAT TO RASHTRAPATI NIWAS
Delve into the intriguing history of Rashtrapati Niwas, from its early days when British official William Hay leased the property from the Maharaja in 1860 to its transformation into a double-storey structure by Sir Edward Charles Buck in 1881. In 1895, the ninth Viceroy of Elgin acquired the building, naming it The Retreat, Mashobra, where British officials found respite during their vacations. The transition from a Viceroy Lodge to a presidential residence post-independence is a fascinating story.
A VISITOR’S GUIDE: WHAT TO EXPECT AT RASHTRAPATI NIWAS
If you plan to visit Rashtrapati Niwas, be prepared for stringent security measures. Visitors are required to present a valid government ID, and thorough screening and checks are conducted. Upon entry, a knowledgeable local guide will accompany you through the residence, providing insights into its various facets. Explore the magnificent top floor with private rooms for the President and their family, and discover the historic artefacts, including a black-and-white sketch of the Niwas and archival photographs.
GETTING THERE: TRAVELING TO RASHTRAPATI NIWAS
To reach this historical gem, you can opt for air travel to Jubbarhatti Airport, located approximately 23 kilometres away, followed by a taxi or private car. Alternatively, Kalka Railway Station is the nearest major railway station, and you can continue your journey with a scenic toy train ride to Shimla and then a taxi or local bus to Mashobra. If you prefer to travel by road, follow NH5 from Shimla to reach Mashobra.
VISITING HOURS AND TIPS
Rashtrapati Niwas is open for public tours from 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM, except for Mondays and public holidays. The last entry is allowed until 03:00 PM. When planning your visit, keep these timings in mind and prepare to immerse yourself in the rich history and architectural grandeur of this unique heritage site.