Where Kangra Miniatures Were Born: A Town Lost to Time

Monumental Neglect: Haripur-Guler’s World-Class Heritage Breathing Its Last

The twin townships of Haripur-Guler in the Dehra subdivision of Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh, are facing monumental neglect. Despite possessing all the necessary elements to become a sought-after tourist destination, these historic sites are witnessing their own deterioration. No official efforts are being made to preserve this small hill town, which once served as the capital of the erstwhile Guler State.

Historical Significance of Haripur-Guler

Haripur, a township in Kangra district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh was founded in 1464 and is situated on the banks of the Beas River. This region is home to the 600-year-old cultural heritage of the Guler Riyasat holds historical significance as the birthplace of the famous Kangra miniature paintings which is in dire need of maintenance and refurbishment to prevent further degradation.

The Cradle of Kangra School of Paintings

Guler town was known as the "Cradle of the Kangra School of Paintings" until the art form's decline at the close of the 19th century. The Guler painting style represents the early phase of Kangra Kalam. In the mid-18th century, Hindu artists trained in the Mughal style sought patronage from the Rajas of Guler in the Kangra Valley. These artists developed a painting style characterized by delicacy and spirituality. The Guler artists' palette featured colours of dawn and rainbows, reflecting their artistic finesse.

Cultural and Artistic Heritage

Haripur-Guler is home to master artist Pandit Seu and his sons, Manaku and Nainsukh, as well as Raja Hari Chand, the founder, and Raja Goverdhan Chand, a renowned patron. Notable figures like Pandit Chanderdhar Guleri and Brijraaj Bhat, known for "Ramras Lahiri" and "Mangal Shatak," have contributed to the rich cultural heritage of this region.

According to legend, Raja Hari Chand of Kangra fell into a well during a hunting expedition and was missing for 22 days. He later established his own capital at Haripur after his wives immolated themselves as per the custom of Sati.

ALSO READ ABOUT: Kangra Paintings

Architectural and Historical Sites

Haripur features a ruined fort built by Raja Hari Chand, the second fort he constructed after the Kangra (Nagarkot) Fort. The region also has caves and temples built by the king, which hold significant heritage and cultural importance but are now left at the mercy of natural elements and damaged infrastructure.

British anthropologist William Dalrymple has referred to this region as the "Florence of Himalayan foothills" on multiple occasions. The walled town of Haripur, situated on the banks of the Baanganga River, features majestic gateways accessed through stairways, albeit in a ruined state, awaiting collapse.

Current State and Challenges

Despite its cultural richness and historical importance, Haripur-Guler is faced with neglect and decay. The town's infrastructural elements, including the fort, caves, and temples, are deteriorating due to lack of maintenance and care. Reports indicate that the town's invaluable heritage is left at the mercy of the elements, with no substantial efforts towards preservation and restoration. The concerned departments appear more interested in erecting new structures rather than preserving these historic monuments.  The region's potential to become a world-class tourist destination with its globally renowned art historicity remains largely unrealized.

Rich Cultural and Religious Significance

"No other place in the entire state has as many temples as Haripur," residents say. The town boasts temples dedicated to numerous deities, highlighting its rich religious significance. As the birthplace of Kangra miniatures, Haripur has a venerable identity recognized worldwide. Historians regard its contributions to art, culture, and literature as rare and invaluable.

Neglected Treasures

William Dalrymple opines, "The magical rise of the School of Miniature Paintings at Haripur was as significant as the Renaissance in Italy." This comparison alone should prompt the government to maintain and preserve these sites. Paintings created here over 200 years from the mid-1700s have been exhibited at prestigious institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, among others across Europe and the US. However, back home, not even a single stone has been raised or repaired in the last hundred years.

Government Apathy

Ironically, successive governments have spent crores of rupees creating new buildings around Pong Lake, which remain unutilized. Yet, no one seems to acknowledge the unique structures in Haripur-Guler, much loved by art connoisseurs worldwide. After the construction of the Pong Dam, a significant part of the town was submerged in the waters of the Maharana Pratap Sagar (Pong reservoir). Despite this, the town still houses several old temples and remarkable city gates with large stone carvings of Hindu deities.


Haripur-Guler, with its rich cultural heritage and historical significance, stands as a testament to the region's storied past. However, neglect and decay threaten to overshadow its invaluable contributions to art, culture, and history. Urgent action is needed to preserve and promote this precious heritage, ensuring that future generations can continue to appreciate the unique legacy of Haripur-Guler. Without immediate action, a treasure trove of history, art, and culture may be lost forever.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post