Shimla Knowledge Guide
Most of the area occupied by present-day Shimla city was dense forest during the 18th century. The only civilisation was the Jakhoo temple and a few scattered houses. The area was called 'Shimla', named after a Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali. The area of present-day Shimla was invaded and captured by Bhimsen Thapa of Nepal in 1806. The British East India Company took control of the territory as per the Sugauli Treaty after the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16). The Gurkha leaders were quelled by storming the fort of Malaun under the command of David Ochterlony in May 1815. In a diary entry dated 30 August 1817, the Gerard brothers, who surveyed the area, describe Shimla as "a middling-sized village where a fakir is situated to give water to the travellers". In 1819, Lieutenant Ross, the Assistant Political Agent in the Hill States, set up a wood cottage in Shimla. Three years later, his successor and the Scottish civil servant Charles Pratt Kennedy built the first pucca house in the area in 1822, near Annadale, what is now the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly building. The accounts of the Britain-like climate started attracting several British officers to the area during the hot Indian summers. By 1826, some officers had started spending their entire vacation in Shimla. In 1827, Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal, visited Shimla and stayed in the Kennedy House. A year later, Lord Combermere, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, stayed at the same residence. During his stay, a three-mile road and a bridge were constructed near Jakhoo. In 1830, the British acquired the surrounding land from the chiefs of Keonthal and Patiala in exchange for the Rawin pargana and a portion of the Bharauli pargana. The settlement grew rapidly after this, from 30 houses in 1830 to 1,141 houses in 1881.In 1832, Shimla saw its first political meeting: between the Governor-General William Bentinck and the emissaries of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In a letter to Colonel Churchill, he wrote: Combermere's successor Earl Dalhousie visited Shimla in the same year. After this, the town was under Nawab (King) Kumar Ghosal of Bally, West Bengal and saw regular visits from the Governors General and Commanders-in-Chief of British India. A number of young British officers started visiting the area to socialise with the higher-ups; they were followed by ladies looking for marriage alliances for their relatives. Shimla thus became a hill station famous for balls, parties and other festivities. Subsequently, residential schools for pupils from upper-class families were established nearby. By the late 1830s, the city also became a centre for theatre and art exhibitions. As the population increased, a number of bungalows were built and a big bazaar was established in the town. The Indian businessmen, mainly from Sood and Parsi communities, arrived in the area to cater to the needs of the growing European population. On 9 September 1844 the foundation of the Christ Church was laid. Subsequently, several roads were widened and the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road with a 560-feet tunnel was taken up in 1851–52. This tunnel, now known as the Dhalli Tunnel, was started by a Major Briggs in 1850 and completed in the winter of 1851–52. The 1857 uprising caused a panic among the European residents of the town, but Shimla remained largely unaffected by the rebellion.In 1863, the Viceroy of India, John Lawrence, decided to shift the summer capital of the British Raj to Shimla. He took the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and this separate centre over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876–1880) made efforts to plan the town from 1876, when he first stayed in a rented house, but began plans for a Viceregal Lodge, later built on Observatory Hill. A fire cleared much of the area where the native Indian population lived (the "Upper Bazaar" nowadays known as the Ridge), and the planning of the eastern end to become the centre of the European town forced them to live in the Middle and Lower Bazaars on the lower terraces descending the steep slopes from the Ridge. The Upper Bazaar was cleared for a town hall, with many facilities such as library and theatre, as well as offices for police and military volunteers as well as municipal administration. During the "Hot Weather", Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, India, the head of the Indian Army, and many departments of the government. The summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab moved from Murree, in modern-day Pakistan, to Shimla in 1876. They were joined by many of the British wives and daughters of the men who remained on the plains. Together these formed Shimla Society, which, according to Charles Allen, "was as close as British India ever came to having an upper crust." This may have been helped by the fact that it was very expensive, having an ideal climate and thus being desirable, as well as having limited accommodation. British soldiers, merchants and civil servants moved here each year to escape from the heat during summer in the Indo-Gangetic plain. The presence of many bachelors and unattached men, as well as the many women passing the hot weather there, gave Shimla a reputation for adultery, and at least gossip about adultery: as Rudyard Kipling said in a letter cited by Allen, it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".The 500-foot (150 m) Lower Bazaar tunnel was built in 1905 and christened Khachhar Surang. The Elysium tunnel (now known as the Auckland Tunnel), about 120 feet (37 m) in length, was also built in 1905. The Kalka–Shimla railway line, opened in 1903, added to Shimla's accessibility and popularity. The railway route from Kalka to Shimla, with more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels, was touted as an engineering feat and came to be known as the "British Jewel of the Orient". In 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, Shimla was the capital of the undivided state of Punjab in 1871, and remained so until the construction of the new city of Chandigarh (the present-day capital of the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana). Upon the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Shimla was named its capital. After independence the Chief Commissioner's Province of H.P. came into being on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudatory princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya, known in full as the Shimla Hills States and four Punjab southern hill states by issue of the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 and 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged in the Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954. Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lt. Governor was appointed. Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a Union Territory on 1 November 1956. Following area of Punjab State namely Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Tehsil of Pathankot District; were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Thus Himachal emerged as the eighteenth state of the Indian Union.Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the former Viceregal Lodge, Assembly Chamber, Auckland House, Christ Church, Gorton Castle, Shimla Town Hall and the Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. The original Peterhoff, another Viceregal residence, burned down in 1981. British Shimla extended about a mile and a half along the ridge between Jakhoo Hill and Prospect Hill. The central spine was the Mall, which ran along the length of the ridge, with a Mall Extension southwards, closed to all carriages except those of the viceroy and his wife.
The people of Shimla are informally called Shimlaites. With largely cosmopolitan crowds, a variety of festivals are celebrated here. The Shimla Summer Festival, held every year during peak tourist season, and lasting 3–4 days, is celebrated on the Ridge. The highlights of this event include performances by popular singers from all over the country. Since 2015, 95.0 BIG FM and Himachal Tourism have been jointly organising a seven-day long winter carnival on the Ridge from Christmas to New Year's.Shimla has a number of places to visit. Local hangouts like the Mall and the Ridge are in the heart of the city. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original 'Tudorbethan' architecture. The former Viceregal Lodge, which now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and Wildflower Hall, now a luxury hotel, are some of the famous ones. A collection of paintings, jewellery and textiles of the region can be found at the State Museum (built in 1974). Lakkar Bazaar, a market extending off the Ridge, is famous for souvenirs and crafts made of wood. Tatta Pani, 55 kilometres (34.2 mi) from the main city, is the name of hot sulphur springs that are believed to have medicinal value located on the banks of the River Satluj. Shimla is also home to South Asia's only natural ice skating rink. State and national level competitions are often held at this venue. Shimla Ice Skating Club, which manages the rink, hosts a carnival every year in January, which includes a fancy dress competition and figure skating events. Due to the effects of global warming and increasing urban development in and around Shimla, the number of sessions on ice every winter has been decreasing in the past few years. Shimla has many temples and is often visited by devotees from nearby towns and cities. The Kali Bari temple, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali is near the mall. Jakhoo Temple, for the Hindu god Hanuman is located at the highest point in Shimla. Sankat Mochan, another Hanuman temple, is famous for the numerous monkeys that are always found in its vicinity. It is located on Shimla-Kalka Highway about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the city. The nearby temple of Tara Devi is a place for performing rituals and festivals. Other prominent places of worship include a Gurudwara near the bus terminus and Christ Church on the Ridge. Shimla arts and crafts are highly in demand by the tourists. They range from excellent pieces of jewellery, embroidered shawls and garments to leather made articles and sculptures. Shimla is full of pine and deodar trees. The wood has been extensively used in all major buildings of Shimla. The various kinds crafts of Shimla made out of wood includes small boxes, utensils, image carvings and souvenirs. Carpet making of Shimla is a great attraction for the tourists. Different floral and other motifs are used. Wool is used to make blankets and rugs. The embroidery includes handkerchiefs, hand fans, gloves and caps. The shawls of Shimla are very well known for their fine quality. The leather craft of Shimla comprises shoes, slippers and belts. The other arts and crafts of Shimla includes a huge collection of beaded and metal jewellery. The culture of Shimla throwbacks religious, agnostic Kumauni people with simple lifestyle living away from the hustle and bustle of metro cities. Shimla has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia. The ice skating season usually begins in the start of December and goes on till the end of February. The city has sporting venues like the Indira Gandhi Rajya Khel Parisar, the main sports complex. Further out from the city is the Naldehra nine-hole golf course, the oldest of its kind in India. Kufri is a ski resort (winter only) located 19 kilometres (11.8 mi) from the main city.