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Iconic President’s Retreat in Shimla hills being thrown open to public in booster shot for tourism

The Retreat-- Rashtrapati ‘s summer holiday resort at Chharabra, 14 km from Shimla.

In another shot in the arm for Himachal tourism, President Droupadi Murmu has decided to throw open the majestic Rashtrapati ‘s summer Retreat in the scenic surroundings at Chharabra near Shimla to the public from April 23.

The President of India is expected to arrive in Shimla to attend some official engagements and is expected to formally declare the iconic 173-year old majestic building, located at the most protected high security area because he did not come with permission from the Rashtrapati’s secretariat, New Delhi.

property opened to the public.

At a meeting chaired by Additional Secretary to the President, Rakesh Gupta and attended by senior state government officials here on Friday modalities for regulating the public /tourists movements to the place were finalised.

The visitors will be able to visit the Retreat on a nominal fee of Rs. 50 per person for Indian Nationals and Rs. 250 per person for foreign Nationals throughout the year except on Monday’s and other government holidays and also during the President’s stay. The visit will be free for school children of government schools till June 30, 2023.

The key attractions for the tourists will be the main building, enabling the glimpses into the life of the Presidents, official dining halls and artifacts. Apart from this the lush green lawns, majestic deodars and landscapes with a wide range of attractions like curated tulips and other flower beds will be an added attraction.

Also, the nature trails and the orchards at Rashtrapati Niwas will be open for the visitors and adventure enthusiasts. The general public will start visiting the President Niwas, from April 23 and can also book online from  April 15 2023 onwards through the official website of the Rashtrapati Bhavan https://visit.rashtrapatibhavan.gov.in

This is being done on the same lines as Rashtrapati Nilayam (Niwas), Hyderabad and the President’s House, New Delhi, have already been open to the general public and are awitnessing  huge footfall, said a spokesman of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi

For the convenience of tourists, the Rashtrapati Niwas, Mashobra will provide a cloakroom, wheelchair access, a cafe, a souvenir store, restrooms, water dispensers across campus, guided tours with scholar guides and a first aid set up.

As per history of the place, the Retreat building was originally constructed by the then Medical Superintendent of Simla (earlier name) whose name is not known .

The Retreat was taken on lease from Raja of Koti by Lord William Hay. The local population used to call it as “Larty Sahib Ki Kothi”, i.e. house of Mr. Larty, as Lord William Hay was named by locals.

The lease of the Retreat was then taken by Sir William Mansfield, Commander-in-Chief, and then By Sir Edward Buck in 1881. In 1896, Raja of Koti used his right of preemption and took possession of the estate.

Thereafter the Retreat was consigned to the government on permanent lease by Raja of Koti. The Earl of Elgin was the first Viceroy of India to have used the Retreat as a Viceregal residence. Lord Elgin secured use of the Retreat for future viceroys and constantly spent his weekends there.

The Retreat also has interesting story related to former President Ram Nath Kovind when he was not allowed to stay in the building on arriving in Shimla for a holiday in 2017—less than a month before, his name was cleared for being President. He was Governor of Bihar at the time and a guest of Himachal Governor Archaya Devvrat—Now Governor of Gujarat

A few days later, he became the President of India and eventually the custodian of the heritage property. He later visited the place and stayed during summer vacations during his term as President of India.

The incident still remains in the memory of media professionals in Shimla, who had highlighted the incident in June 2017.