Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

14 September 2010

The powerful, fortress'd house...

Gondhla is a pretty little, topsy-turvy village located on the banks of the River Chandra. About 18 kilometres along the way from Keylong to Manali, crane your neck out from the window of your bus or car, and you will spot this gorgeous fort considerably off the right side of the road.

A rugged pile, you notice the timber-bonded pattern which is typical of Himachal's forts and castles. Penelope Chetwode observed that this structure was common to both sacred as well as secular buildings. Stone and timber alternate in layers in these walls and are held together by clay. Experts say that it is this style which protected the tall edifices from seismic shocks. Apparently, the absence of mortar between the dressed stone, according to Chetwode, allowed the walls the chance to quiver with the quake instead of opposing the earthquake's movements. What a simple, yet ingenuous solution!

Displaying another typical feature of Himachali forts, a wooden gallery runs around the top floor. I am guessing that this would have served the local ruler to conduct public audience, though what he would have actually heard of his people's grievances is anybody's guess! Certainly, the height of this lovely old building inspires a sense of awe. The very act of craning one's neck upwards makes one aware of one's small size in relation to the fortress.
There are wonderful little windows with intricate bars across them. Great for looking out, but impossible to look into. I am sure they would have served the women who lived there well, considering how little airing women of royal families got in those days! The wooden frames of the windows are delicately carved with geometric and floral motifs.

The related page of the Lahaul & Spiti District Administration describes the interiors and its wonderful contents. But the sad fact is that in the middle of 2010, my friend SdS and I found rubble all around the fort, the main door locked with masonry fallen over it. Bits of the little "kharokhas" - the little wooden balconies projecting out of the windows - have crumbled, the wood eaten away by termites and by the ravages of weather. Parts of the roof and the top room are also falling away. It is tragic that this wonderful heritage of our state crumbles away before our eyes and all we can do is mourn its passing.
Through this blog, I appeal to anyone who is reading to suggest a way. If nothing, maybe we should petition the Government to protect this building which is, by sarkari accounts, over four hundred years old.

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