My Travels through the Himalayas – I – Simla-1

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My Travels Through the Himalayas – I

Simla the Queen of the Mountains

From this post onwards, I am beginning a series on my travels through the Himalayas, which I made during 2006-2008, when I was a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla in Himachal. Apart from researching on my monograph as a part of my Postdoctoral work, I also took out time to travel through Himachal i.e., through the Lower and the Middle Himalayas.

This series covers my experiences, photographs of the dangerous and beautiful terrain and the monuments and cultures I came across.

Please keep coming back to this blog to read about these  exotic travel accounts.

The Mall, SimlaBuildings on the Mall, Simla

Since I was based in Himachal at the beautiful Simla, it is only appropriate that I begin from an account of this place – which itself will take a few posts! It is well-known that the British had create this town in the Lower Himalayas at 7000 ft as their winter capital. The Indian Institute of Advanced Study, (IIAS) where I lived, was in fact the Viceregal Lodge, the mansion created by the British on the summit of a high hill from where the British Empire of the Indian Sub-Continent was ruled. More about this building in a future post. The British came to Simla because they were not able to stand the heat of the plains for most parts of the year, but also because situated at this height, on slopes that stand almost vertically and even today the road has sharp curves which makes travel difficult, this was an ideal site that provided the British with a protection in an equestrian era when there were no metalled roads and modern vehicles.

The British loved Simla so much that they called it the Queen of the Mountains – a very apt epithet.


Tall Fir Trees, Heavy Rain and Monkeys, the Marks of Simla (From Viceregal Lodge)

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 uninhabitable 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, Simla 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 Simla by the British army officers on the hill slopes since the early decades of the 19th century. Soon, its popularity 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 hub, 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, Simla 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 Simla into New Shimla and Chhota (or small) Shimla.

Following link shows some of the photographs of Simla during the British days.

Simla as it was……..

Clouds Rising from the Valley Below My Garden

Mountains Seen From My Garden

Sunset Seen From My Garden

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Comments
15 Responses to “My Travels through the Himalayas – I – Simla-1”
  1. Sundaram says:

    Nice Post !

    Are all these pics taken by you?

  2. Archana says:

    Thanks.
    Yes, the first three with my 2 megapixel mobile phone camera! I think they are quire good considering the quality of the camera.

    The last two with the more sophisticated 8.1 megapixel, 12X optical zoom SONY digital camera I bought later – and you can see the difference.

  3. lynn vaiphei says:

    awesome pics!!

  4. Archana says:

    Thanks, lynn!

  5. piyas chakrabarti says:

    excellent pics

  6. Chitra Nayak says:

    Beautiful. I want to visit Shimla some day anfd this may be helpful for me.

  7. Archana says:

    Hi Chitra,
    Yes, Simla is very beautiful and when you go there, do visit the other places in Himachal.

    Thanks, Piyas.

    Keep on coming back, there is a lot more to come.

  8. pranav says:

    excellent…gud pix..gud post..keep writing..tks

  9. Archana says:

    Thanks, Bhaiya.

  10. RAMAN SINHA says:

    GOOD. KEEP IT UP!

  11. Archana says:

    Thanks, Raman!

  12. oby says:

    Oh My Gosh! The photos are so lovely and it looks so beautiful. My husband has been there and loves it. I hope very much to visit one day and see it for myself.

  13. Archana says:

    Thanks Oby,
    You must visit Simla and when you go there, do visit the other places in Himachal as well. Keep on coming back for more.

  14. Cedar Homes says:

    Hey ! Your work is amazing. Visit us to know more about the concept of luxury holiday homes in India.

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  1. […] had been built here from the early 19th century onwards. I have mentioned some of these in the first post in this series. Most of these buildings are renovated now, but they still exist. You can see them if you take a […]



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