Dalhousie in its present shape was founded in 1850’s when the British acquired five hills from the ruler of the Chamba State for developing the area as a sanatorium. The project originated with Lt. Col. Napier, then Chief Engineer of Punjab; (‘afterwards Lord Napier of Magdala”). In 1851 a spot where the Dayan Kund Ridge breaks in to spurs was selected for the project and Kathalagh was identified for the construction of Convalescent Depot. Dr. Clemenger of the 49th Native infantry was deputed to make necessary observations on the site. In 1853 the five hills of Kathalagh, Potreyn, Terah (now called Moti Tibba by the locals), Bakrota and Bhangora were acquired by the Govt. of India from his Highness the Raja of Chamba who was allowed a reeducation of Rs. 2000 from the annual tribute of Rs. 12,000 paid by him. Since the estate was founded in the time of Lord Dalhousie the sanatorium was recommended to be called “Dalhousie” by Sir Donald McLeod.
In the year 1866 more land was required in Bahloon and Bakloh hills for the construction of barracks of the Convalescent Depot and as Cantonment for the 4th Gorkhas respectively. For these two portions of the Chamba State, a further deduction of Rs. 5000 a year was made from the tribute payable by the Chamba Raja. With the expansion of the estate which started during the British raj, the whole area has come to be known as Dalhousie. After acquisition in 1850s Dalhousie was a made a part of Kangra district of Punjab state. Later it was transferred to the Gurdaspur district in August 1861. Only after recorganisation of the states, Dalhousie became a part of Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh on Ist Nov., 1966.
Unlike several other hill stations of Himachal Pradesh, Dalhousie isfavourite among those who seek solitude and restfulness. Off late some aggression of Punjab can be seen in the behavior of tourists who take a Maruti hop from Ludhiana, Jalandhar and other parts of Punjab to this serene and quiet hill station. However, their uproarious laughter, loud manners, singing and bhangra dancing remain far from creating any sort of law and order situation. The place is remarkably crime free.
The greatest activity in Dalhousie is on and around the three level Malls which were laid in the early 1860s for promenades, carriages, horses, dandies, etc. these roads and the steeper by-lanes which connect them to the bus-stand are still the arteries of the town. The Malls around Moti Tibba and Potreyn hills are the most popular among the tourists as the two are level and most of the business activity and hotels are around them. Gandhi Chowk, Upper bazaar. Subhash chowk, Catholic church of St. Frances, Sadar bazaar and the Convent founded by an Order of Belgium nuns and their Sacred Heart School are on these two malls. Dalhousie’s third and highest mall was built around the upper Bakrota hill nearly a 1000 feet above the G.P.O. (Gandhi Chowk). This mall was the favourite of Dr. Hutchison: “of these Upper Bakrota mall is finest and the longest being fully 3 miles round and from it extensive views are obtained of the low hills and figure of eight walk on the two malls encircling Moti Tibba and Potreyn hills is very pleasant and popular among local people and tourists.
An ardent admirer of the scenic beauty of Dalhousie Dr. Hutchison would like a visitor to stand on Dayan Kund at 9000 feet where the magnificent panorama greets the beholder. He writes, “ Facing south-west the Kalatop spur is on the right with the Dalhousie hills, Bakrota, Terah, Porain and Kathalag – stretching away towards the Ravi. Bakloh is seen at a greater distance on the left and beyond are the ridges and valleys of the Siwaliks, running parallel to one another and losing in distinctness as they recede towards the plains. Far in the distance is the outermost ridge, with the cut near its extremity to allow the Chakki to flow in to the Beas. Near this is Pathankot, with Shahpur a little farther to the north-west, on the Ravi.Within the siwalik area two wide river beds are seen running parallel, the one to the east being the Chakki and that to the west, the Ravi. East of the Chakki are the siwalik hills round about Nurpur; and across the Ravi, to the west, the same ridges and valleys, stretch away in the direction of Jammu.
On a clear day three atleast of the great Punjab rivers are visible glittering in the sunshine and losing themselves in the plains beyond, which seems to melt away into infinite space. These are the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi, even the Chenab may sometimes be seen.
Turning to the north the gaze rests on an amphitheater of lofty ranges, with foreground of mountain and valley, forest, gorge and stream. Closing in the horizon to the west and the north-west are the rounded summits of the Kund Kapalas and Daganidhar, which in summer are entirely free of snow. Beyond them are Bhadrawa and Balesa in Jammu. To the north and north-east the snowy pinnacles of the mid-himalaya or Pangi range stretch out in majestic array, many of them rising to an altitude of 18,000 and 19,000 feet. Beyond them are Pangi and Lahaul. Towering up from behind them are two lofty peaks, covered with snow, one slightly rounded and the other pointed and precipitous, which among Europeans are known as the Bridge and the Bridegroom. These are in the Gurdhar range in Pangi, and are about 21,000 feet in height, being the highest peaks in Chamba state. Far to the south-east the eye can trace the line of the Dhauladhar till the ranges is lost in a mighty maze of snowy mountains, chief among which is the Kailas at whose base rest the sacred lake of Manimahesh.”
As Shimla finds its focus in the mall, in Dalhousie action gravitates in the evening to the G.P.O. which presents a riot of colours and activity. Sometimes it even becomes difficult to surge ahead without jostling and elbowing. Most of the good eateries and handicraft emporia, hotels and of course the ever attractive Tibetan market are all around the G.P.O. There is a library and a reading room at the G.P.O. for the convenience of the tourists.The Post Office is also located at the G.P.O. It remains open from 10a.m. to 5 p.m. Conversion of currency is possible at Punjab National Bank. The business hours in the Bank are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dalhousie has a number of period buildings. Most of them are occupied by state Government offices officials. Jandrighat, the summer palace of the Raja of Chamba is a well maintained edifice.There are a number of good public schools in Dalhousie. The best is the Sacred Heart School of the Belgium nuns. Besides there are another half a dozen schools which attract the wards of the affluent and well to do families from India and abroad.
Even during the pre-partition days, Dalhousie attracted large number of tourists. Some of the distinguished personalities like Ravinder Nath Tagore, Subhash chander Bose and Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru visited Dalhousie in their formative period to immerse themselves in the leisurely quiet of this hill station. The calm and compose walks of the thick forests stirred the poet in Ravinder Nath Tagore. Some of his early poems are set against the backdrop of Dalhousie. Sardar Ajeet Singh, chacha of Sardar Bhagat Singh and a freedom fighter himself came to rest his tired limbs in Dalhousie and he breathed his last just before declaration of India’s Independence on 15th August, 1947. There is a samadhi in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh at Panchpula which is a place frequented by every tourist.
Pt. Nehru visited Dalhousie in 1925 and Subhash Chander Bose convalesced in Kynance near the Post-Office for about seven months in 1937. Dalhousie Centenary Celebrations were held in August, 1954. Late Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister presiding over the occasion, drew the attention of government and people of India for rehabilitation of this beautiful hill station. He said,”One of the finest hill station in is Dalhousie from the beauty point of view, climate and agreeable surroundings. It is not a flashy hill station like some other and there are few amusements there… for my part, I would rather go to Dalhousie than almost any hill station in India, Kashmir apart…
ACCESS : Dalhousie is 485 km by road from Delhi and 52 km from Chamba. The closest railhead is Pathankot, 80 km away. The airport at Gaggal in Kangra is at a distance of 135 km . Taxis and buses are easily available from these places.
CLIMATE : In winter, the temperature can drop to freezing point when heavy woolens are required. The summer temperature are mild and light woolens / cottons are recommended.