Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Historical Anglican Church St. John's in the Wilderness, McLeod Ganj, HP and the grave of Lord Elgin

St.John's wilderness Mcleodganj Flickr
St.John's wilderness Mcleodganj.easyvivek.wordpress.com
McLeod Ganj  is a small hilly town in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, northern India  and is famous for the Anglican church of St. John’s in the Wilderness  at an elevation of  of 5742 feet above mean sea level at Forsyth Gunj. This church is located in a serene wooded area surrounded by  tall pine and coniferous trees all around the courtyard of the church. This old church is  close to the Bus station and is  at a walkable  distance from McLeod Ganj. Lots of visitors come to this picturesque place and spend time near the church. This quiet place gives them relaxation and peace of mind. A visit to the church  has an added advantage because it will give them spiritual exuberance.

This and other surrounding places experienced a powerful earthquake in 1905 called Kangra earthquake, and considering the enormity of damages and casualty that was about 19800 people, amazingly the church withstood the tremors and after-shock waves. The church was left untouched in the quake except the bell tower which was destroyed.


Built in 1852 AD,  the Church is made of locally available stone and the style of design is European - Gothic. The interior and exterior walls of the church are  characteristic of exposed stones  with neatly placed  Belgian stained glass windows  that enhance the beauty and glory of this church in an isolated mountainous place. The tourists who have been to this  church are fascinated by these old uniquely styled stained-glass windows - a legacy of the British. An interesting fact that emerges from this church is it was in this graveyard "Lord Elgin' was buried
after his death. These stained-glass windows were donated by Lady Elgin -  Mary Louisa Lambton since the church graveyard became the final resting place of her beloved husband  far away from his home in England.

St.John's wilderness Mcleodganj Tripoto
The other attractive features of this church are the finely polished wood  of the altar railing and the age-old brass  oil lamps that are not in use, however,  they are modified to hold electric lights. The church has a huge bell in a cage which is just a few meters away from the entrance of the church. This  bell cast by by Mears and Stainbank  and brought from England was fixed in 1915 outside the compound..

Stained glasses donated by Mrs. Elgin.TripAdvisor
Stained glasses donated by Mrs. Elgin.rpranavbhasin.com
The graveyard whose other side  overlooks the town of  McLeod Ganj is close to the entrance gate. Here there are numerous graves, particularly of those British people who died in the devastating earthquake. Many of the graves  carry a short description of how the person died. Among the graves, the  elaborate stone memorial, close to the church, draws the attention of the visitors.  It is built over the  mortal remains of British Viceroy, Lord Elgin who died at Dharamsala in 1863 AD. Lord Elgin  oversaw the creation of responsible government of Canada where he served as the Governor General.  In 1860, during the Second Opium War in China, angered by  the torture and execution of almost twenty European and Indian prisoners, he took the extreme step of ordering 
the destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, a treasure house of architectural wonder with immeasurable collections of artworks and historic antiques, thus inflicting invaluable loss of cultural heritage  In 1861 he became the Governor general and Viceroy and  within less than two  years after his arrival in India he died on 20 November 1863 of a heart attack while crossing a swinging rope and wood bridge over the river Chadly, the lap between Kullu and Lahul near Dharamshala and the long strenuous journey was too much for his age.  The walking path in the church compound has the symbol of a Cross. It is  artistically made of colored stones that give extra attraction and is noticeable in four to five places along the path.

Grave of lord Elgin. en.wikipedia.org/
 Above images: Grave memorial of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, Viceroy of India (1862–1863) at St. John's  church of wilderness, Mc Leod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh; he was the first to use Peterhoff, Shimla as the official residence of the Viceroy. He died in 1863 ................. 

The church is open only on Sundays for Services that are held in English - 10 am and Hindi - 11 am. Monday through Saturday the church is closed. As this church happens to be a monument of historical value recognized by the Indian government, the government itself  has provided round the clock security to keep the trespassers and anti-social elements away from the Church. It comes under the Church of North India.

The colonial church of St John’s in the Wilderness, McLeod Ganj is a fascinating English heritage site that reminds the Indians of their perpetual link with the British who once ruled this ancient land of different castes, color, creed and  religions. The visitors to this wonderful church can not set aside its relevance to the present time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._John_in_the_Wilderness_Church
http://thelandofwanderlust.com/st-johns-in-the-wilderness-mcleod-ganj-himachal-pradesh/

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