Andretta – Where Mountains And Men Meet

When men and mountains meet, great events happen –  jostling in the streets leads us nowhere.                

  – Anonymous 

Mountains and hills have inspired many to turn into artists. The quaintness and calmness of hill stations has been a constant source of exploration and discovery of artistic excellence by many artists, poets and writers.

‘Andretta ‘ is one such serene and placid hamlet in the Kangra valley of Himachal. 

Surrounded by the snow-capped mighty Dhauladhar mountains with breathtaking view of the tea gardens,  Andretta is a pearl, embedded in a shell scattered in the wilderness of Himachal. It is like an oasis encompassing within itself the beauty, mystique, and lively manifestation of the hills.

This  quiet and dreamy village is small yet it has acted as a nucleus to many power packed performers and performances of artistic genius.

Photo by Anjali Sharma

Succinctly captivating this quiet village has inspired many. It shot into prominence when Norah Richards, an Irish lady settled here in 1920 and started her rural theatre, to attract and connect with the masses. She conducted various performances at her open air theatre, near her abode ‘Chameli Niwas’, constructed most with mud, stone and bamboo.

Her great liking and connect with rural life through her works earned her the title of ‘ Nani of Punjabi theatre ‘

Her legacy and heritage is still carried forward through various performances in a week long theatre festival, conducted by the students of Punjab University .

Another connoisseur of art fascinated by the sanctity and simplicity of this place who made Andretta his abode in the year 1948 was Padam Shri Sardar Sobha Singh.

His portraits on the Sikh Gurus is one the most loved and majestic pieces of art till date. 

His depiction of the Kangra-bride through his paintings has not only connected him with the locals but has been appreciated and applauded all over the globe. 

Another artist who was mesmerised by the beauty of hills was Padam Shri Sardar Gurucharan Singh . Under the magical  spell of enchanting  Andretta , he started his pottery classes on a small piece of land offered to him by Ms.Norah Richards.

Today Andretta pottery, Chameli Niwas( Norah ‘s abode) and Sardar Sobha Singh’s art gallery , which has a beautiful line engraved on it , saying “ Grow more Good” , have all become a landmark in bringing Andretta on the world map to recognition.

These artists made hills their home to propagate their art and not commercialise it.

The unique blend of Art and Nature has made a huge  impact on the lives and works of many artists. Andretta is one such  place ,a mystical gem, hidden in the lap of nature and surround by the inspiring and intriguing hills, which connects us more and more to the Mother Earth.

Mountains, trees, array of colours, streams of gushing waters, the chirruping birds all have been converted in some form or other in the work of art by the  artists like these.

Be it a canvas , sculpture or piece of crockery, all the artists have manipulated nature in good sense.

The mystic and serene beauty of Andretta has worked at multiple levels for these artists.

Their art forms have truly depicted the relation between an artist and the earth.

The mud theatre built by Ms Norah Richards is an apt example of permanence through impermanence.

Her grave near the theatre is all about the ultimate fate of mortal beings, but her contributions amidst the nature in the form of an art theatre has made ordinary more noticeable and immortalised her.

The remotest corners have truly become extraordinary as her open theatre reconnects you to the inherent beauty of the nature and develops a deeper bond.

Brushes , Clay, mud , water and natural colours provided by nature has  helped these artists connect and present the hills in a better way. 

A deeper bond is made when art and artists paint various landscapes without any restrictions or boundaries. The hues and shades are not limited but flow naturally.

Their work is free like a flowing river . The simple, rustic and ephemeral works by these artists have given birth and shape to many beautiful thoughts . 

Andretta pottery is one such example , where through the work of art , you can form, balance, mould and remould your thoughts in the pristine climes of this unadulterated beauty.

Andretta is truly an artists abode and a rural retreat. Where one can grow more good. 

It is not just pleasing to the eye but the message generated through the various art forms by the eminent artists truly portrays a deep connect between the hills and the outcome of its influence on their works.

Anjali, with a masters in English is a teacher on a sabbatical, loves travelling and spending time in the lap of nature, observing its bounties and being thankful to the hills.

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