Shimla 2,250 metres( 7,380 feet), also spelt Simla is a beautiful hill station, is the capital town of Himachal Pradesh and it lies in the North Western part of Himalayas, in the North India. This beautiful hill station is situated on a transverse spur of the Central Himalayas and is also considered as the gateway to Central Himalayas and Greater Himalayas. It is one of the best starting points for Jeep Safari Tours and many Treks into the Greater Himalayas.
Originally Shimla, used to be a small village by 1806, when for the very first time British people reached Simla. At the time this small village was know by the name of “Shyamla” meaning a blue female, another famous names for the Hindu goddess Kali. Slowly and slowly Britishers, they start spelling it Simla and after independence of India (1947) the local people start spelling it Shimla. Now everybody spells it Simla or Shimla but very few people remember the original name “Shyamla”.
The first description of Simla, a middel – sized village, comes in 1817, from the dairy of the Scottish officers Lt. Patrik and Alexander Gerrad (Brothers). The earliest available records also reveal that the area was the part of the Keonthal and Patiala states (Punjab Province) in the 18 centuray.
History of Shimla goes back to the period of Anglo – Gurkha war in the year 1808-09. The British connection with the area developed only after this battle between the Sikh rulers of these hills and the Gurkhas from Nepal. Shimla, along with Almora, Kumaon, Garhwal, Sirmaur, Dehradun, Kangra in North India and Sikkim, Darjeeling in North East India , was invaded and captured by Prithvi Narayan Shah of Nepal. Before that time these hill parts were ruled by different hill chiefs.
Gurkhas continued their terror spreading technique and presents a great threat to the local people and the rulers of the area. In the year 1808-09 on demand of the Sikh rulers and local people, British East India Company forces under Major General “Sir David Ochterlony” was dispatched to liberate the entire hill parts from the Gurkhas. The rivals were engaged in the toughest battle at Ramgarh fort at Nalagarh. A decisive battle took place near the fort of Malaon in which the Sikh army with the help of British army defeated the Gurkhas and drove them back. The Gurkha leader “Bhagat Thapa” was killed and the British captured the fort.
The “Battle of Malon” on 15 May, 1815 ended the dream of the Gurkhas , to rule over Shimla and other parts of the hills for any longer.The British with their tradition of honouring, the valiant, raised The First Gurkha Rifles in the Malon Fort. It was the first Gurkha battalion to enter the British army.
After a few days, an offical declaration was made according to which all hill chieftains, who joined British in expelling Gurkhas were restored with their states (lands) under the British proctection. The Maharaja of Patiala (Punjab Province), who had also rendered valuable services to the Britishers, was rewarded with the neighberhood of the area now compromising Shimla.
At the conclusion of the war in 1814-15 “The Treaty of Sugauli” between the Britishers and Gurkhas was signed and all these captured parts of North India and North East India ( some parts of Sikkim and darjeeling Hills) were ceded to the British East India Company including the strategic forts of Subathu, Kotgarh, Ramgarh and Sandoch. On the other hand it was the responsibility of British forces to provide a safe passage for the Gurkhas to leave this land and return back to Nepal.
Shimla still remains unnoticed during the war. It was in the year 1822 that Lt. Charles Patt Kennedy then the Superintendent of the hill states, visited the small village of “Shyamla” (later famous as Simla) and made the first British house in Shimla. He was sent to receive tribute from the hill chiefs and establish some traditional British laws and order among them. The town still has a building know as “Kennedy House” where there is certain government offices located.
In the meantime British officers start coming to shimla for their summer holidays and for hunting parties. The forest of shimla was full of hyena, bears, leopards, barking deers, jackals and many beautiful Himalayan pheasants. The delightful and beautiful climatic conditions of Shimla, representing something like European conditions in India and providing a wonderful opportunity to the Britishers an escape not only from heat but also from the native culture of plains of India. In those times, if an English officer was unable to go on long leave to England, he uses to come to Shimla.
The tales about the area began spreading far and wide and then the Governor- General Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal (1823 to 1828) himself paid a visit to Shimla in 1827 and set up a summer camp here. He came with 1,700 potters and stayed for two months in Kennedy house. At that time there was only one cottage in the town, and only 'half a dozen' when he left that year. This visit of him was the foundation of Shimla’s greatness. It was at Kennedy house that Lord Amherst said these famous words: “The Emperor of China and I govern half of the human race and yet we find time for breakfast”
The following year 1828, Lord Comberemere became the first Commander- in- chief of the British forces in India, to visited Shimla. He took keen intrest in the develoment activities in the town. During his time period, a Pine wood bridge across a deep water stream, below Jahoo hill was built to join the two parts of Shimla and this was the very first developement activity done in Shimla by the Britishers. Later on he planned and got constructed a three miles road around the Jakhoo hill. Still the same bridge (now totally changed) is known by the name of Comberemere Bridge and there is a hotel near the bridge also knows as Comberemere Hotel after Lord Comberemere.
In 1830, British Government decided to acquire land in the vicinity of the settelment. Lt. Charles Patt Kennedy was Major Charles Patt Kennedy till this time and he was empowered by the government to settle deal with the hill chiefs of Keonthal and Patiala states ( of Shimla hills).
After the acquirement of land, in 1832 Lord William Bentick the next Governor General of Bengal from1828 to 1835 (later the Governor General of India, as the title was created in 1833), visited Shimla. Bentick Castle in Shimla was made as a residence for him in 1829. Later on Bentick Castle was made as a residence of the Commander- in- Chief.
In a letter to Colonel Churchill in 1832, he wrote: “Simla is only four days march from Loodianah (Ludhiana), is easy of access, and proves a very agreeable refuge from the burning plains of Hindoostaun (Hindustan)”.
The Queen, Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837 and her tenure was marked by strict regimentation and court etiquette. A large number of British officers, who were not disciplined, were packed off to India. To such officers, Shimla offered an ideal setting.
Lord Auckland arrived in Shimla in 1838. “Auckland House” near Longwood hill, was the residence for him and the important decision to invade Afghanistan was taken in Shimla in the same house by him. Ironically, after four years the decision to invade Afghanistan was criticized in the same house” Auckland House” in the same room and on the same day by Lord Ellenborough, who recognized the right of self determination for the people of Afghanistan.
During the annexation of Punjab, Lord Dalhousie spent three summers from 1849-51 at Shimla. He visited in the remote of Himalayas, a village know as “Chinni” (now a day’s famous village of Kalpa in Kinnaur valley—Himachal Pradesh ), in the hill state of Bhushar. He re-examine the possibility of the trade route to Tibet envisioned during the Gurkah war. He made construction of the “Hindustan Tibet Road”, commencing from Kalka. The first lap of the road was constructed in 1850-51. This road came to be used for- wheeled traffic by 1860. A 560 feet long tunnel was constructed beyond Sanjauli bazaar ( market) on this road during 1850-51(tunnel still being used).
A few pioneering foreign merchants opened shops on the Mall road. Most of the shops on the Mall road were owned by the British trades and goods were brought from London to sell in the town. The British traders were affiliated to the “Punjab Traders Association” with headquarters at Lahore ( now in Pakistan). The goods sold by these traders were very expensive. The first of these shop on records belonged to Messrs Barret & Co. for butchery. Later on the same firm opend the Shimla’s first billiard room and a racquet court and also become a founder member of the Old Shimla Bank (now grand Hotel), which was first mooted in 1845 after a dinner party.
Williams Edwards, Shimla Deputy Commissioner and Suprintendenof the hillsfrom 1847 to 1852 was a man with possitive vision and he introduced westren schools in the hills. For this purpose he collected the funds from the local rulers.,
The Shimla Muncipality was created in 1850, was the oldest one in Punjab.
Lord Canning, the last Governor General and the first Viceroy under the crown (the term governor General changed to Viceroy in his time- 01 November 1858), visited shmla in 1860. He was succeeded by Lord Elgin, but he died soon in 1863. At this time Sir John Lawrence was unexpectedly appointed Viceroy in 1863, following the sudden death of Lord Elgin.
Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India ( 12 Jan1864 - 12 Jan 1869), decided to take the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and Simla over 1,000 miles away and declared Simla the summer capital of India in 1864. The administrative move to the summer capital Simla was normally made in early April, and the migration back to the plains took place in early November and during this period the entire Indian continent was ruled from Shimla.
Sir John Lawrence in one of the letter to sectary of state, Mr. Charles Wood, he strongly favoured the shifting of capital on the folowing grounds:
“Of all the hill stations, Shimla seems to me the best for the supreme government. Here you are with one foot, I may say, in Punjab and another in the Nrth- west provinces. Here you are among a docile population and yet near enough to influence Oudh. Around you in a word are all the warlike races of India, all those on whose character and power, our hold in India, exclusive of our countrymen, depends…. Nowadays, you have no large native army to fear. What you have on this side of India, you have mainly around and about you, so that your Governor- general, if he has any discernment, is well placed to perceive the first sign of danger and is then able to apply a remedy”.
Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army and many Departments of the Government. The decision to maintain Army headquaters permanently in shimla was taken in view of Shimla’s strategic locatin regarding Punjab and North West Province now pakistan / Afganistan). The army headquarters were shifted to Delhi in 1941, almost after the decade as the capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi ( 13 Febuary 1931).
Shimla was also summer capital of the regional Government of the undivided state Punjab. The offices of Punjab government were also shifted from about five months each year from 1871 to 1873, but from 1876, it became an annual practice though Punjab government continued to move to Shimla from Lahore till the partion of British India into two nations of India and Pakistan..
Shimla was the headquarters of the exiled Burma government from July 1942 to 1945. The various offices of the exiled Burma government were scattered in different buildings in Shimla.
The Shimla district Gazette of 1888-89 mentions that the settlement in Shimla grew with tremendous speed, from 30 houses in 1830 to 100 houses in 1841, 290 houses in 1866 and the number of occupied houses in 1881 was 1,141. The growing popularity of Shimla and the increasing numbers of visitors required the need of “Jampans”(rickshaw), as a mode of local transportation in Shimla.
Lord Litton visited Shimla the summer capital in 1876 and stayed in Petterhoff (than the residence for the Viceroys). He was not happy to inhabit the samll residence at Peterhoff and selected a new site on the summit of the Observatory Hill, in the western part of Shimla to make a new residence for the Viceroys, which is now a days famous as the name of Indian Institute of Advance Studies.
Later on the High court of Punjab was located in Peterhoff and it was the venue where the trial of Mahatma Gandhi Ji’s killers ( Nathu Ram Godse etc.) was conducted. The convicted were lodged in the Boileau Gunj lock-up in Shimla. On November 8, 1949, Nathu Ram Godse was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Ambala Jail (Now the part of Haryana state) on November 15, 1949, along with Narayan Apte, the other conspirator.
United service club ( U.S club) was opened in 1844, and since its inception it was reserved for the defense personal only. Women were not permitted, even as a guest. In 1890 the Chalet was constructed to enable members to entertain ladies.
The Kalka-Shimla Toy railway line, 96.54 km (59.99 miles) was opened for trains on November 9, 1903, added to Simla’s accessibility and popularity. The idea of a railway line to Shimla dates back to the introduction of railways in India. In the Delhi gazette, a correspondent in November 1847 sketched the route of a railway to Simla with estimates of the traffic, returns etc. in appropriate style. He wrote: “We might then see these cooler regions become the permanent seat of a government daily invigorated by a temperature adapted to refresh an European constitution and keep the mental powers in a state of health alike beneficial both to the rulers and the ruled.” . Lord Curzon took keen interest in the speedy construction of Kalka Shimla railway. The railway route from Kalka to Simla, 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".
Click here>>> To Read More about The Kalka Simla Toy Train Line.
Shimla claims the credit for being the place where the Indian National Congress was conceived by A.O. Hume and where the idea of forming the Muslim League gained ground. The League , which was the mouth piece of the Muslims of India during the nationalist movement, partly owes its origin and formation after a delegation of Muslims had met the Vicerory Lord Minto at Shimla. The first formal recognition to the claim of the Muslim for separate representation was given in Shimla in 1906.
In 1945, Lord Wavell convened “Shimla Conference” The following year from 05 may to 12 may , another historical meeting took place between the Cabinate Mission and representatives of the Congress and Muslim League. Once it was decided that the country( India) would be partitioned, a Boundary Commission was appointed with Sir Cyril Radcliffe, as the Chairman of the two Commissions for Bengal and Punjab.The draft of the partion of British India in two nations of India and pakistan was also drifted in Shimla in the Viceregal Lodge, finally it was signed in the Presidential house in New Delhi.
The partion and Independence of the country which took place on 14 and 15 August 1947 respectively, saw Shimla as the Capital of what was then called “ East Punjab’. The Indian tricolor flag was unfurled outside “Ellersile” the Secretariat of Punjab government in Shimla on the Independence day.
Himachal Pradesh came into existence as a “Chief commissioner province” of the Indian union on 15 April, 1948 as a result of merging 30 princely states of Punjab and Shimla Hills . Even after the partion it remained the capital of Punjab province (which remained in India after the partition), until the new city of Chandigarh was made (1953). On 01 November,1966 the state of Punjab was re-organized and Shimla became the part and capital of Himachal Pradesh. Himachal Pradesh was termed as a union territory till it gets a full fledged statehood on 25 January,1971.
Shimla was also the venue of the “ Indo- Pakistan summit” after the war of 1971 with pakistan. Formal and informal meetings were held betwen the two delegations at ‘Ellersile’ and the Barnes Court”( Governors house) and “ Shimla pact “was signed in 1972 between India and pakistan at Shimla.
There is complete change in the nature and structure of shimla town after the Britishers left this summer capital of IndiaB (during the Raj), but Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the Vice regal Lodge, Auckland House, Gorton Castle, Peterhoff ,Command House, Town Hall, Christ Church of Simla, Municipal Administration building and Gaiety Theater Building. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original architecture. The Vice regal lodge which houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Gaiety Theater still used by the local dramatic clubs, and Wildflower Hall that is now a luxury hotel are some of the famous ones.
Today, the lingering strands of Shimla’s past still echo through its streets and buildings –which have so much history packed into them and are the reminders of British rule in India – Specially Shimla
So come plan with us and experience the very best of your Indian Holidays with Summit Safari India..! .
India’s former summer capital during the British rule in India ,is famous for its its colonial heritage and pleasant whetaer .Now a popular relaxed, hassle free, tourist destination, Simla is often referred to as the “Queen of Hills,”.