Friday, April 30, 2010

Himachal predicts all-time high cherry production

Express News Service Tags : season, less rain, no hailstorm the reason Posted: Monday , Apr 26, 2010 at 2319 hrs Shimla:

Figure set to touch a record 900 tonnes; less rain, no hailstorm the reason, say experts

Cherry production in the state is likely to touch an all-time high in the current season and the estimates project that it will be double the quantity produced last year.

Due to favourable weather conditions during March and April, in the absence of hailstorms that used to badly hit the crop earlier, the production is set to touch a record 900-tonne mark. While 25 per cent of the harvest is already out, the season is set to continue till July 15.

“This year is set to get a bumper cherry crop. Orchardists in the apple belt of Kotgarh and Narkanda, who have of late shifted to large-scale cherry production, are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries,” said horticulture department research officer Daulat Ram.

The previous year’s cherry production was 419 tonnes and the figure was 698 tonnes in 2007-08.

Vikram Rawat, an orchardist in Chindi area of Karsog in Mandi district, said: “Several orchardists in Karsog have already started to reap harvests from their rejuvenated orchards. The weather has come as a boon for them.”

Rawat, however, said since the number of people experimenting with cherries is not very high in Karsog, they were facing problems in marketing the produce.

He said the sweet varieties grown in the area did not have a long shelf life. “Many people have, therefore, started shifting to tart varieties, which have a longer shelf life and the produce can wait for some time to be marketed,” sad Rawat.

The tart varieties are, however, yet to catch up with the popularity of sweet varieties that are more liked by Indian consumers.

The higher reaches of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti have now emerged ideal for the cultivation of cherry.

The horticulture department’sestimates say at least 10,000 small and medium-scale farmers in the state have grown cherries on approximately 405 hectares as an alternative crop.

In the traditional apple belt of Shimla district, too, many orchardists have shifted to cherry.

Ramdass Chauhan, an orchardist at Ekantbadi near Matiyana, said: “With cherry, we do not have much problem meeting the required chilling hours, unlike apple. This year, in the absence of required quantity of snowfall, we were skeptical about apple production, but it spelled boon for cherry.”

“As compared to apple that requires 1,200 to 1,600 hours of chilling till March, before flowering, cherry requires less than 700 chilling hours. Of late, the cherry prices have also turned out to be more attractive, selling at Rs 100 to 120 per kg, even with a bumper crop,” said S P Bhardwaj, senior horticulture scientist at the Y S Parmar Horticulture University in Solan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A correspondence Extolling KOTGARH - 1860

A correspondence from The Memoir of George Edward Lynch Cotton, D.D., Bishop of Calcutta, and Metropolitan.

To Mrs. Arnold.

Kotgur, near Simla, September 1860.

. . . The place from which I am now writing is about fifty miles from Simla, on the Thibet road, and therefore quite in the interior of the mountain land. We came here partly because it is a mission station which wants a good deal of organising and stirring up, partly to get a little more knowledge of the Himalayas and health from their breezes, before we go down again into the plains. I have often tried to compare this Himalayan scenery with that of other mountain countries; but the result has been an increased conviction of the proverbial odiousness of comparisons, and a determination to enjoy what is before me without hankering after the unattainable. Doubt- less one may miss here the lakes of Italy, the glacier scenery of the Bernese Oberland, and the peculiar repose, freshness, and mountain streams of Westmoreland. But nowhere have I seen such foliage and vegetation ; the forests are of a grandeur and solemnity which remind me of the effect of a great cathedral, and from any height the enormous scale of the green land- scape, the vast ranges of hill-sides clothed in verdure and rich cultivation, the lines of mountain rising one behind another and terminating with the distant snow, give you the impression of a ' mountain country ' far more than any other scenery, and realise the fact that you are in the loftiest mountain range of the world. On Saturday morning we went up Hawathoo, 11,000 feet high, in this country of course a mere dwarf, but famous for its beautiful view. In the Alps at this height we should have been in the midst of ice and bare rock: here we sat down to a breakfast of coffee and mutton chops! on a greensward covered with potentillas and other flowers un- known to us, but some like anemones and others like China asters, with oaks and pines all around us and the ruins of an old Ghoorka fort to lean our backs against. The lichens and ferns are of great beauty, and the trunks of trees are clothed with the Virginia creeper which now has turned red, just as we have seen it against an old English manor house or a college in Oxford or Cambridge.

Read it @

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photomontage Kotgarh

© FB Group
- I am from Kotgarh... Need I say more!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cuisine of the OLD Kotgarh Hills

Ever wondered what the people of the Kotgarh Hills ate before dal-chawal-subzi-roti took over. Most ate food which was quite plain and dull but provided high heat and energy to see them through the day of hard work in their fields. The vegetables preparations were almost non existence except for the ubiquitous tubers. The different forms of bread cooked in different styles formed staple with rice and milk based products and a few homegrown pulses and cereals were also used in some main course preparation. Meat was always a luxury as one had to loose his livestock for dinner nonetheless the people of the hills ate sheep, goats and lamb.

Enter any Kotgarh kitchen (rasoi) today; the traditionally chulla (fed by forest wood) has made way for more convenient and modern ovens, microwave, and LPG fed stoves. The layout and the utility have also changed with time. Most of the fare has been renegaded to special occasions primarily because of the availability and affordability of the seasonal vegetables, pulses and cereals. Today an average kitchen churns out all sorts of meat, lentil and cereal preparations.

I have put together a list of dishes and preparations from the Hills. Some of them have been long forgotten but some still retain their popularity.

Baturu - Leavened bread cooked on a griddle
Lauta - Wheat flour pancake (thin and soft)
Patanda - Wheat pancake (large and thick)
Chalaudhi - Unleavened maize bread cooked on a griddle
Seegdi - Leavened bread with stuffing - steamed
Zarigra - Like seegdi of Barley (smaller in size)
Panigri - Stuffed dumplings bread - poached
Bathodi - Unleavened Millet bread
Kadraudi -
Mashroudi - Unleavened black gram (urdh) bread
Pakain - Wheat flour leavened bread - fried

Main Course:
Baadi - water+ghee+ salt or sugar +wheat+ cook
Gadani - water + Jagger + wheat
Khatta - curd accumulated in a clay urn over time and whey discarded each day; cooked with spices
Bada - black gram fried dumpling
Churah - buckwheat flour sweet fried bread
Sanshe - suju or maida pancakes (sun dried) and fried
Khobdru - atta dumpling
Katrari - rice + lassi (cook)
Aaalo le bhazi
Indra - kolth + aloo
Dhandra - arbi leaves
Lapphi - coarsely ground maize + roasted millet = cooked (accompanied my chas)
Daauna - wheat flour+maize flour bread stuffed with jaggery etc and cooked in warm ash/amber (It was a favorite with the folks who had to wait for their turn at the gharat) and another favorite delight was roasted potato (bhozena adho) - roasted in the warm ash.
Sattu - grounded rosted dried corn or barley dried accompanied by buttermilk

Non-Veg Delicacies

Meenz bedhau- (fat of goat/meat used for stuffing in seedgi)
Tongra shooruo - soup of animal totters
Bhozena shkar - meat roasted in warm ash and amber (viz. chalza-liver, buktu-heart, bhash-lungs)
(-------------- )- Sheep/Goat intestines stuffed with blood (palach) and wheat flour mixed with spices and boiled (just like blood sausages)
Dalkhi - stewed meat

Pudina Chutney
Delle ke Chutney (apricot kernel)
Till ke Chutney
Chas (buttermilk)

Sweet Dishes:
Meetha bhat (branz)
Seera - sweet dish cooked in ghee from the extract of the wheat grain (endosperm)
Atta Halwa - ghee+atta+Jaggery

Wild Ingredients:
Kungshi (Nettle) - used as stuffing (bedho) or for broth and as veg
Balaltu (Field grass) - used for veg
Rachi (Wild mushroom - Chanterelle)
Chauen (Morels)
Lengude (Fiddlehead Fern)
Chaulai (Amaranth)

(I have tried my best to get the name and ingredients right. I would build and fix the recipes in due course. In case correction need to be made please drop a mail at

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Photographic print & Lithograph - Kotgarh/Narkanda

From the archives of British Library :

Photographer: Bourne, Samuel Medium: Photographic print Date: 1860

View of the dak bungalow overlooking the smaller village houses at Narkunda, from the Elgin Collection: 'Spring Tours 1894-98'. This is a late print of a Samuel Bourne photograph, Bourne's original negative number (1426) has been scratched out and replaced by a later reference. Narkanda is a small village situated high in the Himalayan Mountains. The bungalow in this view provided accommodation for travellers on the old Hindustan-Tibet caravan route. Narkanda has awe-inspiring views of the snowy peaks as it is located on the ridge of the last watershed before the Himalayan range. Below Narkanda, to the north is the Sutlej Valley and beyond it is the snowy massif. The ridge on which Narkanda stands is the watershed between the Sutlej on the north and the Giri river. The sleepy town of Narkanda sits astride the watershed between the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.

Photographer: Bourne, Samuel Medium: Photographic print Date: 1863

Photograph of a view on the road to Narkanda, Himalayas from the 'Strachey Collection of Indian Views', taken by Samuel Bourne in 1863. Samuel Bourne, the bank clerk and amateur photographer arrived in India in 1863 during the early years of commercial photography. Photographs taken during three expeditions to Kashmir and the Himalayas between 1863 and 1866 demonstrate his ability to combine technical skill and artistic vision. These views display a compositional elegance which appealed to Victorian notions of the ‘picturesque’; strategically framed landscapes of rugged mountain scenery, forests, rivers, lakes and rural dwellings. What gives Narkanda its awe-inspiring view of the snowy peaks is the fact that it is located on the ridge of the last watershed before the Himalayan range. Below Narkanda, to the north is the Sutlej Valley and beyond it is the snowy massif. The ridge on which Narkanda stands is the watershed between the Sutlej on the north and the Giri river. The sleepy town of Narkanda sits astride the watershed between the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.

Artist: Scott, Mrs WLL Medium: Lithograph Date: 1852

This lithograph was made from plate 14 of 'Views in the Himalayas' by Mrs WLL Scott. It was sketched from the verandah of the staging bungalow at Kotgarh in the Himalayas, at sunset. In the middle distance is the village of Kumarsain, and on a high hill behind is the Ramgarh Fort of Kulu. Providing background are the Kangra mountains and the snow ranges of the High Himalayas.

Mrs Scott wrote of the light in the mountains, which changed hourly and transformed the appearance of the region radically. She confessed to finding it difficult to convey the beauty of these changes on paper.

Artist: Scott, Mrs WLL Medium: Lithograph Date: 1852

This lithograph is taken from plate 13 of 'Views in the Himalayas' by Mrs WLL Scott. In 1850 Scott sketched this view at sunset at the staging bungalow in Kotargh. She wrote that the mission here was run by a German sent by the Chuch Missionary Society. There had been initial mutterings about him "taking his hire when his labours were so unfruitful, but he has lately had such good cause to be satisfied and thankful, that he has requested of the Society a fellow-labourer to assist him." The river Sutlej runs between the hills in the two nearest ranges.

In the early 20th century, an American missionary imported apple seeds to Kotgarh and today Himachal Pradesh is a renowned apple-growing region of India, with Kotgarh at the heart of its orchards.

St Mary Church and the Gorton Mission School Kotgarh

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Legacy to cherish The CMS church in Kotgarh stands as a symbol of the early missionary work in Himachal Pradesh. Though the town does not reflect strong Christian characteristics, the legacy is depicted in the church and the school, says Manpreet Kaur

KOTGARH, a small hamlet in the state of Himachal Pradesh, is around 10 km from Narkanda. Surrounded by the Himalayas, the town is famous for its apples, but a less known fact is that Kotgarh was one of the earliest mission stations of North India, the history of which is gathering dust in the mission archives. A visit to the place rekindled my interest on this neglected topic.

The compound of the missionary school (right); and the CMS church,  which stands out for its Gothic architecture
The compound of the missionary school (right); and the CMS church, which stands out for its Gothic architecture

Kotgarh, in the 19th century, was a part of the province of Punjab. Going back to the early establishments of mission centres, the Presbyterians from America led by Rev John C. Lowrie were among the early missions to establish their headquarters in Punjab at Ludhiana in 1834. But after a decade in 1844, it was Church Missionary Society (CMS) from England that opened its centre at Kotgarh. It became a mission station along with Simla, Kangra and Dharamsala. Kotgarh was ideally situated in terms of Christianisation.

To comment on the impact it would have, Robert Clarke, a pioneer of CMS — when he came to Kotgarh after almost 40 years of its establishment — called it as a mission on a hill "to give light to the whole country between China and the plains."

Kotgarh grew with references like these, and by the early 20th century, the field work as described by Rev HFT Beutel comprised an area of about 2000 sq miles. In 1911, there were around seven male native Christian agents.

Kotgarh was not alien to the British establishment at the time of the ecclesiastical invasion. It had already become a station of the British army during the 1814-1816 Gorkha war. A two-storey building was erected to serve as British officers’ mess. In the coming years, the British army withdrew from Kotgarh. Some time later the missionary spirit took root. CMS at Kotgarh worked in close connection with the Berlin Ladies’ Society. Unfortunately, I couldn’t trace any literature on the latter society with regard to their activity in Kotgarh.

What draws attention while one visits the place is a church that stands in the middle of the town. Built in 1872, the CMS church is near the Army mess. Set in the rugged mountainous site, it stands out as an example of the Gothic architecture. The church, a not-so-tall building, has an apse and a tower bell. The front window has a painting of Christ. The exterior is a combination of austerity and simplicity. It was used for daily morning and evening services.

The church — now filled with mature shrubs and apple trees in its backyard — enhances the settings of what is one of the historic buildings of early mission work. Along side the church, a school was opened, and was named after Gorton, a distinguished servant in Simla. Later, it came under the mission control. The school grew gradually, and in 1886 it could boast of a substantial figure of students studying here — 13 boys and two girls.

Interestingly, some medical work was carried at Kotgarh, too. A hospital that comprised only four beds was highly beneficial to the natives and the mission societies alike. Though the hospital was not a missionary enterprise, the latter through its "care and cure" policy spread the message of gospel to the patients. They believed it would facilitate conversions .The mission reports do throw light on incidents that showed interest of the indigenous population towards Christianity.

For instance, a Brahmin, who brought his son for treatment, expressed a desire to learn about Christ. Similarly, a young man in government service with a small salary regularly gave one Re 1 a month as a thank offering for the benefit derived at the mission school. Such descriptions were pronounced but baptism was rare. There are no figures available that tell the exact statistics of the indigenous Christians of that time.

Kotgarh, with its picturesque location, soon became a summer retreat for the missionaries in the plains. Books written during the early 19th century have travelling experiences of missionaries on ponies. Dr Brown of Women’s Christian Medical College and Hospital from Ludhiana was a regular visitor who spent her early summer holidays here. A stay at Kotgarh for her meant time for learning a language like Urdu. Despite the Christian credentials of the place, Kotgarh witnessed a partial process in the spread of Christianity.

Towards the later decades of the 20th century, there was little impetus of mission work here. From this standpoint, ironically, when Samuel Stokes settled in this part of the country, he found his missionary image "unsatisfactory," and became a Hindu to establish a rapport with Indians.

Presently, Kotgarh does not reflect strong Christian characteristics. However, the legacy of the missionaries is depicted in the domain of the church and the school.