Of Art, Belonging, And Transcending Boundaries

Started in 2015 by Deepika Govind, fashion designer, and Ashish Vohra, founder of jüSTa Hotels & Resorts, Chitrashaala is where artists from all over the world converge to create a unique atmosphere
Thai artist, Sangiam Yarangsee
Thai artist, Sangiam YarangseeTUSHAR

"It is tough not to find inspiration here, surrounded by such serene scape of the mountains," said Nagat Farouk, a textile artist from Egypt, who was part of the week-long artists' residency, called Chitrashaala, being held in Justa Birding, Dharamshala. Her canvas, strikingly vivid, encapsulated the beautiful mix of worlds—of the one she left behind back home and of the one she lived in those five days.

A few canvases down the line, a Thai artist, Sangiam Yarangsee, continued painting in a rhythmical manner, never stopping to converse, but only to glance up at the spectacular view of the mighty and mist-laden Dhauladhar range—a muse to the 47 artists attending Chitrashaala 2024.

Egypt-based textile artist Nagat Farouk
Egypt-based textile artist Nagat Farouk TUSHAR

Held every year, the week-long artists' residency is one of its kind in India, where artists from far and wide come together to celebrate what actually is the true essence of art—a force that transcends differences of manmade boundaries.

Conceived by renowned fashion designer Deepika Govind and founder of jüSTa Hotels & Resorts Ashish Vohra in 2015, Chitrashaala is much more than the manifestation of the duo's love for art. On one of the many walks we took across the beautiful Justa grounds overlooking Little Lhasa, where the artists' incredible works were displayed, Vohra said, "I got the inspiration for Chitrashaala after visiting Shantiniketan, where I met and saw the creations of so many talented artists. Through this initiative, I wanted to give emerging artists a platform and support their work."

Chitrashaala 2024 hosted 47 artists from all over the world, including countries like Egypt and Poland
Chitrashaala 2024 hosted 47 artists from all over the world, including countries like Egypt and PolandTUSHAR

Calcutta-based curator and critic Anirudh Chari has supported and shaped Vohra's vision from the very beginning. Vohra describes Chari as the indispensable reason behind Chitrashaala's success. Chari is credited with bringing all the artists together—few of whom, he tells me, have been a part of multiple editions, while few are attending it for the very first time and are already excited to return for the next one in 2025, set to be hosted in jüSTa Grand View Hotel & Spa, Manali.

While the bonds the artists make here is worth returning for year after year, it is the comfort of belonging that makes them take long journeys to head to whichever jüSTa property the next edition is held at. "The jüSTa hotels are located in great landscapes, making it exciting even for the artists. Every artist here comes from different background and has their own struggles, so I try to create a space where they can let go of those and create art find inspiration, and meet like-minded individuals who they can learn from," says Vohra. He also takes great pride in sharing that these very paintings are the ones that adorn the rooms of all the twenty-four jüSTa properties across India—he said, "All the artwork is so unique, each one tells a story. And, it even brings a smile on the faces of the artists when they see their works displayed proudly across the hotels."

About jüSTa Birding Resort And Spa, Dharamshala

Perched atop a hill away from the main town, the hotel is a sanctuary ensconced in lush greenery. The sprawling property houses 44 rooms that look out to a mesmerising view of the snowclad Dhauladhar Range. Stylishly designed with furnishings in muted colours and wooden interiors, each room imbues warmth. Adding a splash of colour are the unique photographs and art that adorn every wall. The stay is made even more comfortable by the ever-helpful staff, who promptly help with all your requests and dole out recommendations worth checking out. A must-have experience during your stay at the hotel is the experience of relishing the authentic flavours of the Himachali Dham, made expertly by local chefs using ingredients sourced from around.

Located close to the hill station's several must-see attractions, such as the Norbulingka Institute, Himalayan Brew Tea Factory, the Dalai Lama Temple, Church of St. John in the wilderness, and Mall Road, the property makes discovering the town's charm a breezy affair. For bookings, visit https://www.justahotels.com/justa-birding-dharamshala/stay/.

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