Arts and Ideas - Shimla


Places and Monuments

   As compared to the other towns inhabited by the British, which were already in existence and were taken over by them, the town of Shimla was a British creation on a village site known to the Indian villagers as Shimla, derived from Shyamala i.e., the Dark Woman, after the Goddess Kali, whose temple stood on a hill nearby. The British named it Simla - today, both the nomenclatures are in use. Its cool climate, the high point at more than 7,000 ft facilitating observation of the surrounding landscape and its inaccessibility made it an ideal capital site for the British. Although often referred to as the Summer Capital of the British India, Shimla acted as the power centre of the British Raj from April to November; becoming inhabitable only between December to March, when it became too cold to stay there, thus forcing the Viceroy and his retinue to leave for Calcutta first and later, to Delhi, when they shifted their base to Delhi. In this sense, Shimla was the De Facto capital of the British rulers since its inception in the beginning of the 19th century till 1947; Calcutta and later Delhi, being the Winter Capitals! 

   The British cottages were built at Shimla by the British army officers on the hill slopes since the early decades of the 19th century. Soon, its populariy grew amongst the British officers coming to India and in 1922, Charles Pratt Kennedy, a civil servant, built a summer home there. The power base was the Summer Hill, where Peterhoff served as the Viceregal residence till 1888, when the new Viceregal Lodge was built on the Observatory Hill in the Summer Hill area in the time of Lord Dufferin. The Mall on the Ridge served as the commercial hubb, accessible only to the Europeans and for some time, to the Indian Princes. On the slopes of the hills, the cottages of the various personnel were built, from where they climbed up to the Viceregal Lodge in horse drawn or hand-pulled carriages.

   Today, Shimla is the capital city of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Tourism based on the heritage monuments built during the colonial period is its main industry, which has attracted a large influx of people here. This has resulted in the post-Independence expansion of Shimla into New Shimla and Chhota (or small) Shimla.

Simla as it was........

Interactive Map of Shimla

Photos of Shimla

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