Subathu – An Imperial Legacy of Himachal Pradesh

Chitto Mithho Cafe, Subathu

Subathu is a small town in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. It is also known as Spatu and on the surface; it’s just another town of the tiny hilly state. However, viagra sale if you dig deep, ask and roam around, you will realize that Subathu is not just a small town but it is much more than that.

The Kuthar Palace, the Army Cantonment, and buildings from the British era; they have all some stories to share.

 Click to see Kuthar Palace Photos 

Established as a cantonment after the British dislodged the Gurkhas from the hills in the early part of 19th century, Subahtu is still a memorabilia treasure house of these fierce fighters. Only 22 kilometers from the main Shimla–Kalka highway from Solan, Subahtu still retains the charm of an old hill cantonment the purpose for which it was built by the colonial rulers.

However some trace the origins of town’s name to legendary Mahabratha days when King Subahu the ruler of Kuninda kingdom had made this place his capital. Others attribute it to more recent times and say Subahtu comes from Subbah Tum meaning residency of the governor in Gurkhali. Still others claim that the name has come out of Subha Thor meaning the place where one stopped for breakfast (while enroute to Shimla).

Chitto Mithho Cafe, Subathu
Army Cantonment Cafe, Subathu

Prior to the British having made forays into the Simla hills in 1814-15 the region under Gurkha rule headed by Amar Singh Thapa had established a chain of forts to control the area and Subahtu had one such fort. Stationing the 14 Gurkha training center at Subahtu in 1960 instead of Dehra Dun was perhaps the most befitting tribute to these hardy fighters. A museum displaying the heroic exploits of the Subahtu gurkhas houses souvenirs brought home as trophies by the regiments. A Subahtu Gurkha regiment that crushed the Boxer rebellion in China and marched through Peking in 1900 brought home two stones removed from the Great Wall of China as a trophy.

Among Victoria crosses other medallions, guns swords and other armory these stones are prominently displayed at the museum. After decisively defeating Amar Singh Thapa at Malaun fort near Nalagarh, the British established the Subahtu cantonment in May 1815.  The Nuseree Regiment, formed out of the defeated Nepalese army soldiers was the first unit to stationed in the new cantonment.

In the days when the Hindustan-Tibet road had not been constructed to get to Shimla one had to take the bridle path that started of a Kalka, passed through Kasauli, Kakkarhatti, Subahtu, Haripur and Syri. Startegic location and the relatiely cool climate attracted the British rulers during the summer months. The earlier Gurkha forts giving way to chain of British cantonments at Kasauli, Dagashai and Juthog for governing the area. With a sizeable population coming to reside in these military garrisons traders, contractors and builders out to make a fortune from nearby towns of the plains came to settle at Subahtu.

In its hey days Subahtu became a center for Indo-Tibetan trade, with Kinnauri and Tibetan wool and Pashmina being in great demand. Lieutenant Ross stationed at Subahtu in 1818 was appointed the first political overseer of the area. Three years later Captain Charles Praft Kennedy who succeeded Ross built the Durbar Hall which came to be called the Kennedy house. From Subahtu, Kennedy moved to Shimla and also responsible for laying the foundation of the town that was to become the summer capital of British India.

Prior to Shimla having gained prominence, for the visit of viceroy Lord William Bentick to Subahtu in the year 1829, a Viceregal lodge along with twenty other odd buildings were constructed. This indolent township perched on a 4000 foot high ridge with a panoramic view of the Indo-Gangetic plains before you has made another contribution that has transformed the hill-economy.

The American Presbyterian Church opened its Subahtu branch in 1837. By the turn of the century the leprosy home run by missionary Dr Marcus Bradford Carlton attracted many converts and American missionaries. And one of them who headed out straight for Subahtu from Philadelphia in January 1904 was Samuel Evans Stokes. For missionary work Stokes ventured into Kotgarh in the Shimla hills that was then directly administered by the British.

Zeal of a converted Satyanand Stokes, who eventually settled down at Kotgarh, painstakingly introduced the commercial varieties of apple that has helped to usher economic prosperity in the hill areas of the state. With the rise of Shimla as a summer destination of the British rulers the hill cantonments including Subahtu began to lose prominence. So long as the bridle path to Shimla passed through Subahtu it did retain its importance but with the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road in 1856 the cantonment began to fade into history. By the time the Kalka-Shimla railway line was commissioned in 1905, Subahtu fate as a commercial center was sealed.

In a Subahtu cemetery lie buried Henry Lawrence, the founder of reputed Lawrence School, Sanawar, his wife Honoria and their six year old daughter Litishia. While Sanawar School is among the premier institutions of the country today, Subahtu beckons the connoisseur traveler to appreciate a journey into the past where the imperial legacy is still vivid.



  1. Nishant Jha

    Great read this! thanks for the detailed description of Subathu…


  2. Ray Nathan

    In 1942 I was located in Sabathu, then a refugee camp for people from the conflict in Burma. I remember it fondly. Unfortunately there appears to have been so much development since. I recognize the school ground. It was the Parade Ground when I was there !

  3. uday

    I got a chance to visit subathu. Its an amazing place in the lap of shivalik range of Himalayas. The cool weather here takes you to nearer to nature. The peace here is very satisfying. Military presence is very much visible. Tourist, specially indians should come here for a peaceful time.

  4. Akash Gurung

    I would like to inform every readers a little more about the SUBATHU…..but first would like to thank Mr.Goel Tarun who has published this post with it’s background history behind this city.I think the description is not enough if the reason is not mentioned why SUBATHU is popular not only in Himachal but also in India. SUBATHU is popular because it is mostly known as a Gurkha Training Centre (Army) which was established after the British left India and I think because of training centre the local people are surviving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *