The Chapslee Tapisserie

The Chapslee vision is akin to a tapisserie (tapestry) which is entirely hand woven, and is resplendent for its intricate and delicate pattern. Its underlying theme is that of self-preservation, a yearning to survive and the adaptation to change. Its substance is woven through a narrative of interlaced threads that collaborate with each other as ‘warp’, and ‘weft’ and ‘a pick’. Eventually, what breathes life into this fabric is the heart and soul that has embodied its making and continues to inspire its keeping. The Chapslee Tapisserie is only as glorious as the labour of love of the “persons” who have enriched it along the way, and the “people” that preserve it each day.

The Theme

Preservation of a Legacy; Enduring of Tradition; The Will to survive; The yearning to stay relevant.

“There is nothing permanent except change”

Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (c. 535 BCE-c. 475 BCE).

When Raja Charanjit Singh purchased Chapslee in 1938, Simla was the centre of power and British Imperialism was the order of the day. With Independence, everything changed. The balance of power, priorities, perspectives, economics. Shimla was no longer the cynosure of all eyes nor was it the seat of authority. In this sea of change, many families perished, many ancestral homes were put on the market and many more just fell by the wayside to rack and ruin. But family values, traditions, and the ancestral legacy “must endure” ruled our Patriarch and so we set foot on a road less travelled. However, the severest storms were yet to come. With Himachal getting statehood and Shimla becoming its capital, acquisition of Chapslee by the Government became an immediate threat. Even with Reggie and Pronoti permanently relocating to Shimla to protect their family heritage, the challenge of maintaining and preserving a 150 year old property loomed larger than life. ‘Adapt to change or perish’ was the clarion call. Staying committed to principles and core values, but being flexible in approach was the only way this ancestral legacy could survive and more importantly, remain relevant.

The Narrative

The Warp & the Weft & A Pick- Independent Threads so Entwined.

  1. The Warp: Chapslee Hotel - Conservation, preservation and a labour of love

This was the ultimate goal. The preservation of the family legacy. The maintenance of an ancestral home and a piece of history. The showcasing of a way of life; An era of gracious living. And so Reggie, the mentor and master of The Chapslee Experience, started Chapslee Hotel in 1976, which although registered as the 8th heritage hotel in India, was an exclusive home which he and Pronoti would share with their guests. This entire website speaks of Reggie’s, passion and hence it is left for the reader to judge the success of these endeavours.

  1. The Weft: Chapslee School - Social responsibility.

An Illustrious family, an ancestral heritage, a life of entitlement. After independence, the eradication of poverty, illiteracy, social and economic backwardness for a young nation became the need of the hour. Thus it was only in the fitness of things that those who hitherto enjoyed a life of privilege should give back to society and contribute to the scheme of nation building. And what better way than by providing quality education and lighting the lamp of knowledge in children who were the agents of change.

Thus in 1973, only 2 years after the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being, Pronoti Singh decided to open Chapslee School in the premises of Chapslee Estate with just 3 children in two little rooms. Slowly and steadily as numbers increased, the old godowns and basements were converted into classrooms, the tennis court into a playground and soon the school began to grow from strength to strength. More importantly it was done in a manner that the premises of the house/hotel and the school remained independent and did not impinge on each other.

Given the key location location that Chapslee commands in the capital city of Shimla, the property could well have been put to far more lucrative use in terms of commercial space for offices, shops, eateries, or even residential units. Instead, the family resolved to hand over prime land to The Chapslee Educational Society for the expansion of Chapslee School with the income earned to be ploughed back entirely into the institution for its betterment and growth. In their view, this was the most befitting tribute to the family name and it’s age old legacy.

In the years that followed Chapslee School grew by leaps and bounds and needed more space. By this time Pronoti had inherited Northwood Estate from Mrs Hermoine Montagu where the campus of the senior school was set up. And so the school became a full-fledged educational institution from Kindergarten to Class XII. Reggie had already stepped in as Administrator while Pronoti continued to be the guiding light as Principal and later Director of the School.

As we speak today, Chapslee School, with the Junior School at Chapslee and the Senior School at Northwood, is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Shimla. Established with the aim of providing affordable, quality and value based education it has over 1100 students and provides employment to nearly 75 teaching, administrative and subordinate staff.

Needless to say, the children of all the staff employed by Chapslee Hotel are provided free education at Chapslee School.

  1. A Pick: The Naina Devi Foundation: A story of empowerment

What better single thread or ‘Pick’ to weave into the Chapslee Tapisserie than the story of Reggie’s mother Nilina, known to the world as Naina Devi, a doyen of Indian Classical music in the genre of Thumri, Dadra and Ghazal, awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India for her contribution to music.

She was born Nilina Sen, into an aristocratic family of Bengal whose patriarch was the famous Brahmo social reformer Keshab Chandra Sen. She had her early training in Hindustani Classical Music but when she was wedded into the royal family of Kapurthala as Rajkumar Rani Nilina Ripjit Singh, her life changed dramatically as she moved to her new home at Chapslee where the duties of the royal household and the demands of conservative protocol defined her space.

When she was widowed at an early age, she once again sought refuge in the world of music and out of her personal strife was born NAINA DEVI. She took to music at a time when the idea of a woman from a respectable family, let alone royalty, performing in public was unheard of. Not only did she take society head on she spent the rest of her life supporting poor and ailing musicians and especially women who were the greatest repositories of this genre but were considered socially untouchable. Apart from being an accomplished artist she was a benefactor and a devoted patron for which she expended all the energy and resources at her disposal.

After her demise in 1993, the family has set up the Naina Devi Foundation, to honour her memory and keep her legacy alive. In that spirit, the Foundation provides medical insurance to ailing and needy musicians and has regularly held festivals of classical music and workshops at Delhi as well as evenings of classical music at Chapslee for the people of Shimla. Furthermore, Chapslee School holds an annual talent contest for all school children of Shimla to encourage and inculcate a love for Classical music in our youth.

The Heart And Soul

The Chapslee Experience has been driven by the vision of Raja Charanjit Singh and the dedication and perseverance of Reggie and Pronoti but behind our limited success is a community which has kept it going and preserves it from day to day. Our staff is our greatest asset and our source of strength, be it those in the house or the office. They have been with us for many years and are an integral part of the Chapslee community. Having been trained personally by Reggie they serve with utmost dedication. It our immense fortune that we have a set of people who take as much pride and pleasure in serving our guests and in the idea of the ‘Chapslee Experience’, as does the family. One common refrain of all our guests has been the exemplary conduct of the staff, the service par excellence, their willingness to please. Without them the glorious sheen of the Chapslee Tapisserie would fade into oblivion.

Last but not the least is our ensemble of ‘little people’ and our canine companions, who never fail to bring a smile to one’s lips!


Elysium Hill, Lakkar Bazar,
Shimla-171001(H.P.) India
Phone: 91-177-2658663/2802542
Mob./Whatsapp: +91-9816644202