Travel to Shimla
Shimla is one of the youngest cities in India in terms of the age of inhabitants. About 55% of the population of the town is within the age group of 16- 55 years, while 28% of the people are below the age of 15 years.
Shimla, an erstwhile capital of India, is situated at 31.61°N 77.10°E, in the northwest regions of the Himalayan ranges with an average altitude of 2397.59 meters above sea level.
The town is spread within an area of 35.34 Sq. Km.
The average elevation ranges from 300 m to 2454 m above sea level. The city stretches to about 10 km from east to west with the highest point at Jakhoo hill.
Old Paintings of ShimlaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Shimla is surrounded by seven hills and located on the seven spurs of a ridge. These hills offer a variety of exploring to the visitors. The hills are -
1. Prospect Hill, on which the Kamna Devi temple is located.
2. Summer Hill, where the campus of H.P.University is located.
3. Observatory Hill, where the Indian Institute of Advanced Study is located.
4. Invar arm Hill, where the State Museum is located.
5. Ban-tony Hill, where the Grand Hotel is situated.
6. Jakhoo Hill, which is crowned by the temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
7. Elysium, which holds Auckland House and Longwood and reaches out towards the Bharari spur.
The first four hills are in the western part of Shimla, the next two in central and the last one is in the northwest.
Shimla has a subtropical highland climate which is cool in winters and warm during summers.
The temperature range throughout the year varies from −4 °C to 31 °C. The temperature fluctuates between 19 °C to 28 °C in summer and between −1 °C to 10 °C in winter.
The monthly rainfall is about 15 mm in November to 434 mm in August. The average rainfall is around 145 mm per month during the months of winter and spring, and 175 mm in June, when the monsoon comes.
The total average annual rainfall is 1,575 mm. Due to change in climate, the snowfall in the region takes place in the months of January or early February, instead of in December.
The Satluj is the nearest river about 21 km away from Shimla. The rainwater from the Northern side of Ridge drains into Sutlej River and is carried into The Arabian Sea.
On the other hand, the Southern side drains the water into the Yamuna which ultimately flows into The Bay of Bengal.
The Giri, and the Pabbar rivers, which are the tributaries of the Yamuna, flow through the district of Shimla.
Shimla Falls In Seismic Zone IV. According to official survey reports, even 2% of the buildings will not be able to withstand an earthquake of high intensity. The seams of the town are bursting with residents. The place was only planned for 16,000 residents but now its population is 1,70,0000.
The northern slope of Ridge is continuously sinking. The Grand Hotel west, Lakkar Bazaar is going down. Contrary to the permissible two and a half story buildings, there are alarmingly 187 buildings having more than five floors at Shimla.
The Town Hall built in 1888 is an earthquake-proof building.
One may need a walking stick to walk up the steep hikes of Shimla
The aborigine tribes, namely the Halis, Kolis, Dhaugris, Dagis, Dasa, Kinnars, Khasas, and Kirats were found to inhabit the region from pre-historic times.
The history of Shimla dates back to the times of Indus valley civilization between 2250 BC to 1750 BC.
The Vedic period witnessed the rise of several small republics called "Janapada" which were later on annexed by the mighty Gupta Empire. Later on, when the supremacy of the king Harshavardhana declined, the local chieftains declared independence and divided the region between themselves and several Rajput principalities came into being.
These small States enjoyed independence but had to face the repeated invasions of Delhi Sultanate. Kangra was conquered at the beginning of the 10th century.
Later Timur and Sikander Lodhi annexed the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh and captured several forts. Many hill states acknowledged the suzerainty of the Mughals and started paying regular tributes.
In 1768 The Gurkhas came to power in Nepal and consolidated their martial prowess by territorial expansion. They annexed the areas of Shimla and Sirmour. The Gorkhas laid siege to the Kangra fort by taking the help of rival provincial chiefs. As a result, they defeated Sansar Chand Katoch, the ruler of Kangra, in 1806. But they failed to capture the Kangra fort which later on came under the control of Maharajah Ranjit Singh in 1809, for the help rendered by him to Sansar Chand during Gurkha War.
Being vanquished by the Sikhs, the Gorkhas advanced southwards. In the First Anglo-Sikh War, the British expelled the Sikhs from the plains of the Satluj and got control of the area.
But before the arrival of the British, the Shimla region was ruled by the Nepalese. It was a part of the kingdom of Prithvi Narayan Shah Of Nepal.
During the revolt of 1857, the people and the rulers of the hill states remained inactive and even rendered help to the British.
With the proclamation of Queen Victoria in 1858, the British territories in the hills came to the British Crown and the area was developed by the new rulers.
The first British summer home in Shimla town was built in 1822, by Charles Pratt Kennedy. The Governor-General of Bengal, Lord Amherst (1823 -1828) established a summer camp at Shimla. Sir John Lawrence, the Viceroy of India (1864–1869) decided to move the administration twice a year between Calcutta and Shimla. The First road in Shimla was built in 1828.
Lord Combermere was the first Commander-In-Chief of the British Indian Army to visit Shimla in 1828.
The Viceregal Lodge at Shimla was planned by the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton (1876–1880).
In 1864, Shimla became the summer Capital of the British Government in India. The summer capital of the Punjab province was also moved from Muree (now in Pakistan) to Shimla in 1876.
The British families formed the Simla Society, along with the British soldiers, civil servants, and merchants who moved to Shimla to escape from the scorching hot weather of the plains.
The Viceregal Lodge, the Auckland House, the Christ Church, the Gorton Castle, the Shimla Town Hall and the Gaiety theater are some of the best buildings constructed by the British rulers in Shimla, in Tudor and Gothic style of architecture.
On 25th January 1971, Shimla became the capital of Himachal Pradesh, the 18th State of the Republic of India.
Old and Rare Photographs of ShimlaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Places of Interest
There are several places of interest at Shimla.
1. The Mall is the main shopping and strolling area of Shimla having several restaurants, bars, clubs, tourist offices, banks, the famous Gaiety Theater etc. The Mall was actually called the ‘Thandi Sarak’ or Cool Road during the British era as the road was then and is still surrounded by the thick deodar trees.
2. Jutogh at a distance of 8 km from Shimla is an army cantonment area.
3. The Jakhu Hill is about 2 km from The Mall. This highest peak offers a panoramic view. An old temple of Lord Hanuman is situated at the top of the Hill. The believers say that the footprints of Lord Hanuman are still there in the temple. The recently built 33 m tall statue of Hanuman at 2,591 m above sea level has surpassed the statue of the Christ Redeemer (Rio de Janerio), to stand at such a high altitude.
4. The Summer Hill, at a distance of 5 km from The Mall is a lovely place. The view from the railway station situated here is breathtaking. During the visits to Shimla, Mahatma Gandhi often stayed here after his first visit to Shimla on 11th May, 1921. The Himachal Pradesh University is also situated here.
5. Tara Devi temple, dedicated to the goddess of stars on the top of the hill is about 11 km from Shimla. The headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides is located here.
6. The Annandale known as the playground of Shimla is about 3 km from The Mall and is a favorite picnic spot. The cricket and polo are also played here. The Durand Football Tournament Was Held at Annandale Ground In 1888.
7. Junga, a former royal retreat of an erstwhile state of Keonthal is about 26 km from Shimla.
8. The Anand Vilas is a temple of all Faiths and is located midway between Shimla and Junga. A school named "Art is Values" is situated here, where the students come from all over the India.
9. Mashobra is 13 km from Shimla, and is a famous for the annual Sipi fair held in June.
10. Chharabra is a tourist place and a picnic spot en route to Kufri. Priyanka Gandhi, the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India is building her house at Chharabra.
11. Chail an erstwhile summer capital of the Maharaja of Patiala, and is known for military school and the highest cricket ground in the world.
12. Tattapani is known for hot sulfur water springs. But these springs have now drowned in the waters of Kol dam.
Shimla is famous for several historical buildings.
1. The Christ Church, the second oldest church in north India, is situated on the Ridge. The stained glass windows in the interior of the church are beautiful.
2. Buddhist Monastery- The famous Jonang Takten Phuntsok Choeling monastery in Sanjauli is unique in India. There is only one such monastery in Tibet that teaches the monks the practice of Kalachakra. The Shimla Convention Is more than a century old. The Tibetans still live in exile in India.
3. State Museum- It was opened in 1974, is an art gallery showing the cultural heritage of the state, like the collection of antique miniature Pahari paintings, coins, stone and wooden sculptures, bronzes, costumes, wood carvings, textiles and ornaments found in the area.
4. Viceregal Lodge- It was built as a residence for Indian Viceroy Lord Dufferin in 1884 and now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. It is a beautiful place to visit. The building had a power supply way back in 1888.
5. Peterhof Building- The trial of Nathuram Godse who killed Mahatma Gandhi took place at Peterhoff building which is now a Peterhoff Hotel. The building was the residence for seven Viceroys and the location for the Punjab High Court.
6. Rothney Castle- A.O. Hume the founder of Indian National Congress Lived at ‘Rothney Castle’ in Shimla
7. Bishop Cotton School- This School was opened in 1863. It is one of the oldest boarding schools in Asia. There is a closed door in the building in the untoward memory of the partition of India in 1947. It was the same door from where 100 Muslims students left at the time of partition.
8. Auckland House School- This is the only Girl School in India which has introduced Scuba Diving for the students.
Birthplace of Indian Film Actors and Artists
Shimla is the birthplace of Anupam Kher, Prem Chopra, Balraj Sahni, and Priya Rajvansh
The Houlme is the birthplace of Amrita Shergill. She was one of the most well-known artists of India. The house also has a studio that her father very lovingly constructed for her.
Sports and Adventure Sports
Shimla is famous for sports and adventure sports.
Shimla Hosts The MTB Himalaya, The Biggest Mountain Biking Race In South East Asia.
Skiing and Winter Sports
Kufri about 16 km from Shimla is famous for winter sports. There is a zoo at Kufri.
Shimla has the only natural ice skating rink in entire South Asia.
Naldehra is about 22 km from Shimla, with a nine-hole golf course with a beautiful landscape.
White Water Rafting
Tatapani is famous for white water rafting on river Sutlej
The Kalka-Shimla Railway Trek
The marvelous engineering feat, known as the "British Jewel of the Orient", in the form of the railway track was constructed up to Shimla in 1906.
This track consists of more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels. The UNESCO declared this track as a World Heritage site in 2008.
Firsts in Shimla
The first newspaper published in 1848 from Shimla was “Simla Akhbaar”. It was run by the Muslim community but was soon shut down by the British government.
A butchery run by Messer’s Barret & Co was the first shop opened in Shimla.
© 2013 Sanjay Sharma