Shimla 2,250 metres (7,380 ft.), 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.
The mysterious charm of this paradise beckons those who are eager to explore forbidden lands, and meet the people steadfastly protecting their old tradition and culture with a vibrant religion. It is one of the best starting points for Jeep Safari Tours and many Treks into the Greater Himalayas. During the time of British Raj ( rule) in India, Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India, 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 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 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”. In July 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. The entire route offers a panoramic view of the picturesque villages of the Foot hills of Himalayas from Kalka station 6, 56 meters (2,152 ft) to Simla station 2,076 meters (6,811 ft). It is one of the longest narrow gauge railway routes still operating in India.
Originally Simla, used to be a small village by 1806, when for the very first time British community reached Simla. At the time this small village was know by the name of Shyamla, slowly- slowly britishers they start spelling it Simla and after independence of India (1947), the local people they start spelling it Shimla. Now everybody spells Simla or Shimla but very few people remember the original name “Shyamla”.
During the ‘Hot Weather’, Simla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army and many Departments of the Government, as well as being the summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab. 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.
Now a popular relaxed, hassle free, tourist destination, Simla is often referred to as the “Queen of Hills.” The town experiences pleasant summers and cold, snowy winters. The hill town provides an escape not only from heat, but also from native culture of plains. The mall road and Lakkar bazaar (wooden market) of Shimla are the famous shopping streets where innumerable handicrafts are available. The traditional local woven pashmina shawls, Himachali caps and “pullen” (local slippers made of dry grass with beautiful thread designs on top) are the most popular and authentic to buy.
A place of peace and pleasure, with the blue sky with fresh air, quite of the mountains, the hassle free atmosphere, fine walks through oak, Cedar wood and flowering rhododendron forests, the terrace fields in the countrysides, fruit orchards, simple minded warm hearted people – truthful in character, panoramic views of the snow clad mountain ranges of the Himalayas, easy reach, make Shimla an attractive destination throughout the year and add much more to your tour. You can go camping, play golf, go for a nature walk, a heritage walk, or take a jeep safari through the beautiful countryside’s or just plan a restful holiday in the hill station. All you have to do is make up your mind and select your own activity!
Best way to admire the environment of Shimla is to take the walks / hikes, in the hills and mountains around the Shimla town.
Shimla is ideal for walks, and life revolves around the busy Scandal point and Mall Road in the centre of town, which all has to be covered on foot instead of driving.
The large open space in the heart of town presents excellent view of the Great Himalayan Mountain ranges. Shimla’s landmarks – the Neo-Gothic structure of Christ Church and the new – Tudor Library, Band Stand (Ashiana Restaurant) building is worth seeing. This used to be a parade ground in the British time period. Lakkar Bazaar (Wooden market) adjacent to the Ridge is popular for its wood-crafts and souvenirs, many of these are made local in the same market in Shimla. This market also has a roller skating rink.
Situated on the Ridge of Shimla is the famous landmark of Shimla, infact it has become synonymous with Shimla and no picture of the town is complete without it. It is the second oldest church of North India and was designed by Colonel J.T. Boileau in neo — gothic style of architecture. The foundation stone was laid on 09 September,1844 by Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta and the church was completed in 1857. The beauty of the church is enhanced by the stained glass in its windows which represents faith, hope, charity, patience and humanity. The pipe organ is one of the biggest in the country and was erected in September, 1899. Its tuning was completed on September 23, 1899. The beautiful “king of instruments” was built by Messer’s Morgan and Smith of Brighten (England) at a cost of Rs 23,000. It was extensively repaired in 1932.
The Mall is the most favorable place for all the tourists as well as the locals people of Shimla. It is the main shopping street of Shimla and remains crowded during the day and evening. The street has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, Post Offices and historical buildings like Gaiety Theatre and Town Hall. People walk up and down the Mall slowly, stopping to gossip, as it is the main meeting place for everyone. The Ridge and The Mall both meets at the Scandal point. The mall is dotted with many old British buildings and it still presents a look of a small town somewhere in England. Lower Bazaar is another local market of Shimla and runs parallel just below the Mall Road.
Scandal point of Shimla is the place where both the Mall Road and the Ridge meets together. Now a day this is marked with a lamp post in the middle of the road. According to the famous tale a British lady eloped with the local Maharaja (king) Bhupinder Singh of Patiala from this point, and she returned back to the society after several days, only after this- the place was named as the Scandal Point. Even it is said that this lady was the daughter off the Commander- in -chief’s of British Army in India, so the Britishers (Lord Kitchener 1902–09), restrict the entry of the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala into the summer capital, Shimla. This incensed the Maharaja and he vowed to build a new place at a more height than Shimla and later on built “Chail” as the summer capital for himself.
This might be a century old gossip but the scandal point of Shimla is the main focal point of the town and it is the place where people meet for both conversation and gossip. Every evening the scandal point of Shimla is still guarded by well dressed police men’s, in their special dresses.
The architect Henry Irwin, who built the Viceregal Lodge, designed the theatre building and it started as the Theater in 1887. The first play held inside the theater was comedy play, known as “Time Will Tell”. Shimla became the home of amateur theatre and the Gaiety Theatre produced the best of the plays performed in London. Rudyard Kipling and Lord Elgin ( Viceroy of India) have also performed and acted in the Gaiety Theater.
It is a flat ready made, semi circular ground and now days it is being occupied by the India Army. The Indian Army is operating Army heritage Museum at this place which is worth to visit (Monday closed). The first fun fair was held in these grounds in September 1833, to raise funds for Girls school at Subathu. This ground was used by the Britishers to play polpo and even to organize horse races. The famous Durand cup football cup , still played in India was inaugurated by Sir Mortmier Durand in 1888 on the same ground. The Annandale ground gained such an importance that the viceregal dance in honour of the Queen’s birthday was actually held at Annandale on 24 May 1839.
Also known as the Indian Institute of Advance studies, it was designed by Henry Irwin. The building was made in 1844 – 1888, during the viceroyalty of Lord Dufferin. From Lord Dufferin to lord Mountbatten 13 Viceroys ruled from here. The building was used as the office and the residence of the Vice Roy (Governor General) in India. At that time Shimla used to be the summer capital of India (1864), it was from this building that the British Vice Roy’s used to rule the entire Indian sub continent . It is one of the most historical buildings of Shimla as the pre independence talks were also held inside the same building. During the time of Lord Wavell in 1945 “Shimla Conference” was held in the same building. The draft of the partion of British India, into two nations as India and Pakistan was also drafted inside the same building. Many of the national leaders have visited the building for pre independence talks including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Maulana Azad and Mohamed Ali Jinnah (Muslim League).
After the independence in 1947 the entire estate with the building passed into the hands of the President of India .It was used for few days in a year as the summer residence of the president of India, rest of the year this building used to remain closed. This was the time when it became famous as the name of Presidential House. On 6 October, 1964 the second President of India inaugurated this building as The Indian Institute of Advance studies. Now a days it has a big library related to the subject of Humanities and social sciences, which attract scholars throughout the world. The building is used as the higher research institute and a limited portion of the building is opened for the visitors to visit, with the official guide of the institute. It has beautiful and fascinating gardens.
This building is “must to see” in Shimla.
Jakhoo Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Hanuman. It is situated on Jakhoo Hill, which is the highest peak in Shimla at an altitude of 2,591 metres (8,500 feet). There is a 108 feet tall, newly built statue of Lord Hanuman at the temple. After the name of the hill (Jakhoo) this temple is known as the Jakhoo temple. There are a lot of monkeys all over, near the temple and the Lord Hanuman himself looks like a Monkey God – having a monkey face with the Human body that is why many western people pronounce it monkey temple but the exact name is Jakhoo Temple. It offers a fine view over the surrounding valleys, the town of Sanjauli and the snow capped peaks of Himalayas at back, and over the town itself. The temple is a 45-minute of uphill walk from the Mall. There is driving way up to the temple from Sanjauli town. Beware of the small monkey and do not wear any kind of glasses or sun glasses. Rest all is fine.
According to the Hindu epical book of Ramayana (mythology), during the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana at Lanka (Sri Lanka now a days), Lakshmana, brother of Lord Rama, was mortally wounded by an arrow. To save his life, Hanuman journeyed to the Himalayas to retrieve the Sanjeevani herb. En route, he encountered a meditating sage on JakhooMountain; as he paused to inquire about the herb, Hanuman’s landing on the mountain compressed the earth, changing the shape of the mountain to its present state. In his haste to depart, Hanuman is said to have left his friends (other monkeys) behind, and they are said to continue to roam the area even today. A temple honoring Lord Hanuman was constructed by the saint Yakshu (Jakhoo). The pictures inside the temple related to the story of Ramayana are impressive.
Sankat Mochan temple is one of the famous sacred temples of Shimla. It is located on the Shimla Kalka highway about 4 kms from Shimla. It is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Hanuman. The word “Sankat Mochan” means the one who helps in removing sufferings. According to Hindu mythology, one who visits the Sankat Mochan temple regularly, his wishes get fulfilled.
According to Vedic Astrology, Hanuman protects human beings from the anger of planet Saturn ( Shani Dev) and those who have ill placed Saturn in their horoscope visit the Sankat Mochan temple to get remedy. People put “Sindoor” (Orange colour of powder) on the statue and offer “Channa (Roosted chick peas)” to Lord Hanuman. The “Sindoor”, from the statue of Lord Hanuman is put on the foreheads of devotees as a blessing from him. If you have time with you visit this temple, as it offers very good view of Shimla town in front and can we covered with the hike or drive to Taradevi temple.
Naldehra, Kufri, Fagu, Tattapani, Chail, Narkanda
Shimla is located on the slopes of lower Himalaya and is very closer to the Central Himalayas and Greater Himalayas. The altitude of Shimla from the sea level makes it a cool and pleasant place. The temperature range is not very high in summers and the maximum temperature rarely crosses 28 degrees during summers. Rainfalls mark the summers. The monsoon season is from July to August. Monsoon does not mean rain every day, but it rains every 4-5 days, then the weather remains clear for the next couple of days. Winters are cold and chilly winds from the upper Himalayas makes the place really cold in evening. Day time it is very nice and warm sun in the winters. By the end of December till the end of February it is the time for snowfall in Shimla.
The Best season to visit Shimla is from early March to mid December.
By Road: Shimla the Capital of Himachal Pradesh is excellently connected with other places in the state as well as other major towns and cities in North India. By road Shimla is 370 kms from Delhi, 120 kms from Chandigarh, 90 kms from Kalka, 240 km from Dharamshala, 260 kms from Manali.
One can also travel to Leh Ladakh via Manali and Rohtang pass from here, as well as there is a good road to Kinnaur valley (Kalpa 240) kms and Spiti valley Kaza( 430 kms).
By Train: Shimla is connected to rail route by narrow gauge line to Kalka. Further Kalka is very well connected to all the major parts of the country including Mumbai, Calcutta, and Delhi etc. The “Shatabdi Express” first class air condition chair car and meals are served on it (between Delhi and Kalka) is available to access to Shimla till Kalka and further. It connects to the narrow gauge trains to or from Shimla. There are many other trains on the route.
By Air: Kingfisher airways connect Shimla to Delhi. The Airport of Shimla with a small runway is about 23 kms, from the city center. There is only one flight a day available to Shimla and the same return back to Delhi. Flights are very unreliable and depend on the wheatear conditions in the mountains specially Shimla. We would not recommend you taking a flight to Shimla.
Flying from Delhi to Chandigarh Airport (120 kms. / 4 hrs. from Shimla) is a very good option for the people who want to fly / come towards Shimla. Chandigarh airport is very well connected to Delhi and Mumbai airport and there are many regular flights to this airport. For more suggestions you can write us and would be happy to suggest you other best and fastest ways to Shimla.