Mystery of Rajpur Kaanch Ghar
The other day while having a heritage walk at Rajpur, led by Ms. Reenu Paul under the aegis of 'Been There Doon That?' we visited the Christian Retreat and Study Centre (CRSC). It was founded by in 1954 by Reverend James Payne Alter, father of Tom Alter. There is a peepal tree, standing tall and handsome at its entrance planted by Mahatma Gandhi. I was quite intrigued by the old heritage building and wanted to know more about it as I could sense that it was not an ordinary place. I was told that earlier it housed 'Shakti Ashram', founded to inculcate moral values and traditional culture to the youth of this country which was under the British rule that time. I was also told that it was also called 'Kaanch Ghar' or Glass House earlier. After coming home I searched the internet and some very interesting facts came out.
The earlier history of the property is not known but it is said that it belonged to Austrian Glass manufacturer in later half of nineteenth century. Later it was with the Salvation Army. Dr. Keshava Deva Shastri purchased it in around 1920’s as he came to Dehradun in 1919. Sadhu T.L. Vaswani founded the 'Shakti Ashram' in 1926 at Rajpur in co-operation with Pt. Keshava Deva Shastri, MD. Prominent persons like Pt. Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Kriplani, Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta, Dr. Horwitz visited the Ashram. Mahatma Gandhi during his third visit to Dehardun planted a peepal sapling in the honour of Dr. Shastri on 17 October 1929. In 1941 Dr. Durga Prasad Pandey founded the 'Manava Bharati' Institution. The Manava Bharati school was here from 1942 to 1948. Later it was relocated to ‘Dumbarni' Mussoorie. Christian Retreat & Study Centre purchased it from sister in law of Dr. Shastri in 1954.
Some pieces of the puzzle were already at place, but the mystery of 'Kaanch Ghar' remained. Then one fine day, I stumbled upon a piece of post-card belonging to 'Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway'. It was basically a 'notice of arrival' send to persons by the railway department whose consignment has arrived. Railways came to Dehradun in 1900 and the postcard, dated 18 Aug 1903 was sent to the "Manager, Himalaya Glass Works, Rajpore" asking him to collect his parcel which has arrived from Howrah by remitting amount of Rs. 1/- and 6 annas. I was startled by my discovery. The hobby of philately which I keenly pursue has helped me in unravelling the mystery of 'Kaanch Ghar'. It was basically a glass factory by the name of 'Himalaya Glass Works'. Philately or stamp collecting is a highly educative and informative hobby. It is not just another hobby, because the old letters and covers are small windows through which one can peep into the history and heritage of one's city.