Chail was essentially a sleepy little mountain village set in a beautiful locale till the 19th century.
Its transformation began in 1893, when the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala decided to create a new summer
capital which would be 'better' than Shimla; all this for a bruised ego, after he was banished from Shimla for
eloping with Lord Kitchner's daughter. Lord Kitchner just happened to be the Commander-in-Chief of the British
Indian Army at that time.
The present Chail is spread over an area of 72 acres on three adjacent hills-the Rajgarh Hill where the Palace is built,
the Pandava Hill where the old Residency 'Snow View' is located and where the British Resident lived, and finally the
Siddh Tibba, where the temple of Baba Sidhnath is located at a height of 2226 ft.
The British Resident stayed at another beautiful building called ‘Snow View’, this is with the Indian Army these days.
Nestling in the shelter of virgin forests which cover many untrodden hills, Chail is a tiny resort in the Shiwalik region of
Himachal Pradesh and has interesting history; The British Government annexed Chail from the Gurkha General Amar Singh in 1814,
along with Shimla Hills. Later, the British Government gifted Chail, a quiet hamlet, part of the erstwhile Keonthal estate,
to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh.
Originally, it was a part of Keonthal State. Then it came under the sway of the Gorkha warrior Amar Singh.
Finally it became a royal resort and summer seat of Maharaja of Patiala. The story behind the rise of Chail as the
summer seat of Patiala state is quite interesting.
The year was 1891. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala incurred the wrath of the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener,
who banned his entry into the British summer Capital of Shimla. Enraged, the Maharaja resolved to build himself a new
summer Capital better than Shimla. The British Government had already gifted him Chail.
With the majestic snow-capped Shivalik peaks in the background and the beautiful orchards and sylvan pine valleys
around reminding one of the many wonders of nature, Chail is sure to cast a spell.
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh developed the highest cricket field in the world in Chail.
Well-kept and scrupulously maintained, more than the excitement of the game, the pitch offers a picturesque
view of the surroundings, with tall forest trees all around it. Chail has everything that Shimla doesn't.
The proud ruler made sure that Chail matched Shimla in every respect.
Located on a spur, on a clear day, Chail offers a magnificent and splendid view of the valley.
It is an out-of-this-world experience to look down and see the River Sutlej winding its way between the mountains,
overlooking at the same time both Kasauli and Shimla (45 km) further via Kufri. It is an even more splendid view in
the night, with the distant lights of the surroundings creating its own magic pattern on the horizon.
One has to see to believe what poets and writers have been describing the Himalayas as since time immemorial.
One is awestruck to see the massive Himalayan ranges, their snow-capped peaks spectacularly gleaming in the sun.
It is definitely an out-of-this-world sight and one can spend hours and hours together, admiring the magic it creates
in the mind. The snow remains there until the beginning of the spring when the flowers come out in full bloom.
This is the time when the meadows are filled with hyacinth and celandine, while the carmine and rhododendron trees
are surrounded by solemn forests of deodar and towering pine trees.
A must see in this place is the palace of the maharaja. Built on three hills, the palace is on Rajgarh Hill,
while the Residency Snow View, which was occupied once upon a time by the British Resident, is on Pandhewa Hill.
On the third hill, Sabba Tibba, is the township of Chail. The maharaja had planned this palace as a retreat,
replete with all necessary things he'd need for relaxation, and therefore, he built hunting and fishing lodges,
which are open to the public.
If your imagination of a hill station is that of a shopping street, many tourist sightseeing spots and a place teeming with tourists, then maybe Chail is not the ideal spot for you.
However, if you are looking for something different and peaceful then head to this laidback hill-town in Himachal Pradesh and explore the wonders of nature.
Chail has a very interesting history. In 1891, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala incurred the rage of Lord Kitchener, the then commander-in-chief after he eloped with the latter’s daughter. He was banished from entering the summer capital of the Raj, Shimla. This enraged the Maharaja and he built his summer capital at Chaamitabha boseil, a little village close to Shimla, which ironically was gifted to him by the British earlier.
Surrounded by lush forests with a commanding view of the snow-capped Himalayas, he rebuilt the city and a wonderful palace for himself. The picturesque resort located amidst scented forests of chir pine and gigantic deodars is now a heritage hotel run by the HP Tourism. You can take long quiet walks in the lap of nature almost in any direction from Chail with the sounds of gushing winds and chirping birds as company.
Chail is built on three hills, the palace is on Rajgarh Hill, the Residency Snow View once occupied by British resident is on Pandhewa Hill and on the third hill Sadh Tiba where Chail is situated. Overlooking Satluj Valley, Shimla and Kasauli are also visible from here on a clear day and during the night.
Just before hitting Chail, a board gives direction to the Cricket Ground and the Sidh Baba temple which actually are the only two places to see in Chail. For those who want to blend some sightseeing, one can go to Shimla (49 km) and Kufri (25 km).
The world’s highest cricket ground at a height of 2,444m is three km from the market, and within the field there are basketball court and football goal posts. It is presently used by the students of the Chail Military School.
The market is located on a flat stretch below where there are a few provision stores, some restaurants more in the nature of dhabas, a bank, a post office and also the bus and the taxi stand. It is basically a one street town. The language spoken there has a typical Punjabi flavour and the local residents are very good-looking.
The Sidh Baba temple can be visited on way back from the cricket ground. The route is absolutely infested with monkeys, so be careful. There is also a Kali Mata temple about 6km from Chail in a nearby hill. The view of the valley from there is awesome. Do not miss out on visiting the Gurudwara Sahib on the steep road behind the taxi stand. It was set up in 1907 and has an unusual church-like structure with exquisite wooden ceiling.
During spring-summer, the rhododendrons are in full bloom and the bright orange hues are a treat to the eyes. So pack your bags and do visit Chail this summer.