Five Must-Visit Sites In Shimla

This time, when in Shimla, delve into the history and culture of India and Himachal Pradesh
Shimla   Photo Credit  Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Wikipedia Commons
Shimla Photo Credit Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Wikipedia Commons

Shimla, a buzzing capital city, is hemmed in by a forest comprising Himalayan oak, fir, cedar trees, interspersed with swathes of rhododendron shrubs, the state flower of Himachal Pradesh. The summer capital of our country during the era of the British Raj, Shimla is dug into a long ridge with seven spurs. During the main tourist season, it is bursting at the seams with people eager to partake the ethos of Shimla. While The Ridge, and The Mall Road of Shimla are crowd-pullers, its fir-lined roads lead to many other gems. Here are five of them you can start off, each day of your holiday with. 

Rashtrapati Niwas 

Rising towards the sky, atop Observatory Hill, the Rashtrapati Niwas, earlier known as the Viceregal Lodge, is as majestic as they come.  Its architecture is inspired from the English Renaissance, and has elements of the castles of the Scottish Highlands.  It was built at a final cost of rupees thirty-eight lakhs, Henry Irwin was the architect and chief superintendent of&nbspworks, and soon, Lord and Lady Dufferin moved into the building on 23 July 1888.

It continued to be a place of great relevance through reaching for our Independence, as part of the 1945 failed Simla Conference, which was attended by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Liaqat Ali Khan, Bhulabhai Desai, Master Tara Singh, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Later, post-independence it was handed over, by the British to the President of India, who then dedicated it to the Indian Institute for Advanced Study. It continues to be the only one of its kind in our country.  

The interior of Rashtrapati Niwas is as grand, detailed and beautiful as the exterior. Elaborate wood-work by way of panelling and&nbsppilasters the staircase, the dining room, all carved from teak procured from Burma, is supplemented with, local cedar and walnut wood. The carving in the dining room is a replica of the screen that stood behind the Emperor of China's throne. The earlier 331-acre estate has now been whittled down to 110 acres, however, the collection of rare and exotic plants, and numerous grasses, still stands. 

Army Heritage Museum 

The Annadale glade is the largest stretch of flat land in Shimla. Away from the hustle and bustle of the primary tourist spots, Annadale retains its forest-frilled charm. The Durand Football Tournament was first held here in 1888, and now it is used as a helipad by the Army Heritage Museum. 

Set at an altitude of 6,117-feet above sea level, the museum is home to a collection of modern and traditional weapons, uniforms, flags, armoury, etc. The vast and rich history of the Indian Army is on glorious display here, with collectibles dating back to 2,500 BC, as well as mementoes from the Indo-Pak war of 1971, and the Kargil war.  In the vicinity is a small Cactus Museum, which should not be missed out on.  

Himachal State Museum

For a thorough lesson on the history and culture of Himachal Pradesh, step into the Himachal State Museum. Built in the Victorian style of architecture, it once was the residence of many a lord of the British era, later it provided the same facility to Indian government officials. The residence was converted to a museum on January 26th, 1974, with the aim of preserving historical and archaeological artifacts. It is now home to a range of heritage paintings, coins, photographs, and sculptures, that are contained in one of the five galleries Pre-Historic, Wood Carving, Wall Painting, Archaeology, and the Numismatic Gallery. Besides these, there is a section dedicated to the dolls of Himachal, which is a big drawing card for the museum. 

Jakhu Hill

Better known for the temple of the same name, atop it, Jakhu Hill, is the highest peak of Shimla. The temple has brought fame to this hill, earlier known only to locals and Shimla regulars. Its 33-metre-high Hindu god Hanuman statue is visible above the tree-tops. You can take a short cable car ride to reach the hill's summit. The other, more immersive option is the arduous but scenic hike that begins next to Christ Church. Lose yourself to the beauty which will surround you, but be cautious of the hordes of monkeys, which are notorious for snatching.

Summer Hill

One of the seven hills surrounding the city of Shimla, Summer Hill, at an elevation of 2,100 feet above sea level, is locally known as Potter&rsquos Hill. A walk-through of a part of this picturesque suburb will reveal its historical significance. It is well known that Mahatma Gandhi used to stay at the mansion of Princess Amrit Kaur of the Kapurthala royal family, which is located here. Apart from statuesque residential buildings, the Himachal Pradesh University is also in this part of Shimla. Summer Hill forms a part of the backdrop when travelling on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. 

The Information

How to get there 

By road Shimla is 405 km, approximately, from New Delhi. On the other hand, Chandigarh, is 112 km, approximately, from Shimla.   

Nearest airport Jubbarhatti Airport. Flights are available from New Delhi. 

Nearest railhead Shimla station. By railway, you will have to complete the journey in two phases. The first phase is from New Delhi to Shimla on the Delhi-Kalka line. The second phase is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, narrow gauge Kalka-Shimla line. 

Best time to visit Summer and winter months are best for a visit.   

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