Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Not many of us are fortunate to choose a place for the final destination. But here is one Lord Elgin resting in peace with a glorious view of the snowy range towering above and the wide aspect of the hills and plains below. The second Viceroy of India, James Bruce was the eight Earl of Elgin. Before he came to India he was the former Governor General of Canada, Governor of Jamaica and High Commissioner of China. He was so affectionate with this place that he sent back three Dharamsala Deodar trees to his family at Edinburgh, Broomhall house where they still grow today.
St. John’s church was built in 1852 to serve the British troops and their families stationed at Dharamsala. It remains one of the finest Anglican churches in Himachal Pradesh. James Bruce was buried in this Church ground under the supervision of lady Elgin way back in 1863.
The church suffered extensive damage from the deadly Kangra earthquake on 4th April 1905, during which the upper part of the building including its spire and roof were reduced to rubble. An appeal for funds to rebuild the church appeared in the British newspaper, “The Times” in June 1911 which stated; “The station church of St John in the wilderness is still in ruins, although temples throughout the district have been rebuilt.” This is a classic example of the reluctance of the British towards its own army.
The localities are not much fond of this place since it is associated with an inglorious British rule and their soldiers. However, we decided to stop here for a while on our way to Mcleodgunj from Dharamsala. Our driver tried to convince us about the presence of evil spirits all around and warned us of dire consequences if we stepped in. That obviously magnified our curiosity as we entered St John’s.
Spirit we found in abundance, but those were associated with our soul, gently healing our mind with the purity of pines and deodars all around.
Indian army has taken over this place from their British counterparts and now maintains as a memento of the British rule in India. A Century-old Belgium-make decorative stained glasses were donated by Lady Elgin. They depict Jesus and John the Baptist, from whom the church takes its name.