With all its intricacies, history seems to have been the mortar for every brick and stone that has built Shimla. As the Summer Capital of the British in India, Shimla was the country’s focus for the better part of every year and now, is the state capital of Himachal Pradesh.
The town of Shimla rose in the nineteenth century when the Gurkha Wars came to an end in 1815-16 and the victorious British decided to retain certain pockets as military outposts and sanitaria. In 1822 the most rigorous of dandies and the greatest of sticklers for form Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy, Political Agent to the Hill States directed that a house be built for him at the village whose name is variously reported as Sheyamalaya Shumlah, Shimlu and Shemlah.
Kennedy House led the vanguard of the hundred-odd houses that were to scatter themselves by 1841 over every level or gently inclining space. Lured by the climate and terrain scores of European invalids began moving to the station and the only stipulation of the local chief who owned the land was that no tree be cut or cattle slaughtered.
PLACES TO VISIT
This is the hub of Shimla’s social life. Lined by shops and restaurants this pedestrian thoroughfare loosely resembles an English Home County’s marketplace. The Gaiety Theatre, which is a reproduction of an old British theatre is a center of cultural activities. A passenger lift operated by HPTDC can be taken from the Cart Road to The Mall. Lakkar Bazaar adjacent to the Ridge is popular for its wood crafts and souvenirs.
Two Km from city centre, this is Shimla’s highest point and offers a panoramic view of the town’s hills and distant mountain ranges. There are spectacular views at sunrise and sunset especially during the monsoons. The peak has a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Legend has it that he stopped here while searching for the sanjivini plant – the herb required to cure Laxman who lay mortally wounded on a battlefield in Lanka in an episode from the epic Ramayana. A variation of the legend says that his sandal fell here. The temple has been exhaustively renovated and this vantage point is being connected by a ropeway. At the top of the hill in the temple complex is a 108 feet tall idol of Lord Hanuman is a big attraction for the tourists.
Situated above Boileauganj, the temple offers splendid views of the town, the airfield and the ranges.
Standing tall through the tough rapids of time, the Christ Church is one of the most important buildings of Shimla. It tells the story of a part of the town’s rich history – and its pews mark the seats of the Viceroy, the Commander-in-Chief and the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, while the fascinating memorial tablets in brass and marble sound a roll call for some who shaped what was the British Empire.
4 Km away, this is a thickly wooded ravine through which a stream flows. This is a popular picnic spot and is especially attractive after crossing the initial two hundred metres or so.