Shimla originally called Simla, is the capital city of Himachal Pradesh. In 1864, Simla was declared the summer capital of the British Raj in India. A popular tourist destination, Simla is often referred to as the "Queen of Hills" (a term coined by the British). Located in the north-west Himalayas at an average altitude of 2,205 metres (7,234 ft), the city of Simla, draped in forests of pine, rhododendron, and oak, experiences pleasant summers and cold, snowy winters. The city is famous for its buildings styled in tudorbethan and neo-gothic architecture dating from the colonial era. Simla is connected to the city of Kalka by one of the longest narrow gauge railway routes still operating in India, the Kalka-Simla Railway. Simla is approximately 115 km (71.4 miles) from Chandigarh, the nearest major city, and 365 km (226.8 miles) from New Delhi, the national capital. The city is named after the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali.
Simla was annexed by the British in 1819 after the Gurkha War. At that time it was known for the temple of Hindu Goddess Shyamala Devi. The Scottish civil servant Charles Pratt Kennedy built the first British summer home in the town in 1822.
Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal from 1823 to 1828, set up a summer camp here in 1827, when there was only one cottage in the town, and only 'half a dozen' when he left that year. There were more than a hundred within ten years.
Simla, or Simla as it was called until recently, caught the eye of Lord William Bentinck, the Governor-General of Bengal from 1828 (later of India, when the title was created in 1833) to 1835. In a letter to Colonel Churchill in 1832 he wrote
One of his successors, Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India 1864–1869, decided to take the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and a separate centre over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. Lord Lytton, Viceroy 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"), and the planning of the eastern end to become the centre of the European town forced these 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', Simla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army and many Departments of the Government, as well as being the summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab. They were joined by many of the British wives and daughters of the men who remained on the plains. Together these formed Simla 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 Simla a reputation for adultery, and at least gossip about adultery: asRudyard Kipling said in a letter cited by Allen, it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".
The Kalka-Simla railway line, constructed in 1906, 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 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. Not only that, there was a significant Muslim population in the region before the partition of British India. In addition, Simla was the capital of the undivided state ofPunjab in 1871, and remained so until the construction of the new city of Chandigarh (the present-day capital of Punjab). Upon the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Simla was named its capital.
Pre-independence structures still dot Simla; buildings such as the Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Gorton Castle, Peterhoff house, and Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. British Simla 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.
Simla is located in the north-western ranges of the Himalayas. At an average altitude of 2397.59 meters (7866.10 ft) above mean sea level, the city is spread on a ridge and its seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 km from east to west. The highest point in Simla, at 2454 meters (8051 ft), is the Jakhoo hill. Simla is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India. Weak construction techniques and increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no bodies of water near the main city and the closest river, Sutlej, is about 21 km (13 miles) away. Other rivers that flow through the Simla district, although further from the city, are Giri, and Pabbar (both are tributaries of Yamuna). The green belt in Simla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1023 acres). The main forests in and around the city are that of pine, deodar, oak andrhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Simla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region are the frequent number oflandslides that often take place after heavy rains.
Simla features a subtropical highland climate under the Koppen climate classification. The climate in Simla is predominantly chilly during winters, and moderately warm during summers. The temperatures range from 3.95 °C (39.11 °F) to 32.95 °C (91.31 °F) over the year. The average temperature during summer is between 14 °C and 20 °C, and between -7 °C and 10 °C in winter. Monthlyprecipitation varies between 24 mm in November to 415 mm in July. It is typically around 45 mm per month during winter and spring and around 115 mm in June as the monsoon approaches. The average total annual precipitation is 1520 mm (62 inches). Snowfall in the region, which historically has taken place in the month of December, has lately (over the last fifteen years) been happening in January or early February every year.
Employment is largely driven by the government and tourism. Being the administrative capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, the city houses several central and state government offices. Government jobs account for almost half (47%) of the working population. Direct hospitality industry personnel such as tour guides, hotel and restaurant employees, etc., are few (10%). Individual crafts and small scale industries, such as tourist souvenir production and horticultural produce processing, comprise most of the remainder.
In addition to being the local hub of transportation and trade, Simla is the area's healthcare centre, hosting a medical college and four major hospitals: the Indira Gandhi Hospital (formerly known as Snowdown Hospital,) Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (formerly called Ripon Hospital,) Kamala Nehru Hospital, and Indus Hospital. The city's development plan aims make Simla an attractive health tourismspot.
The administrative responsibilities of the city of Simla and the surrounding planning areas of Dhalli, Tutu, and New Simla reside with the Simla Municipal corporation. Established in 1851, the Simla municipal corporation is an elected body comprising 27 councilors 3 of which are nominated by the government of Himachal Pradesh. The nominations are based on prominence in the fields of social service, academics and other activities. 33% seats are reserved for women. The elections take place every five years and the mayor and deputy mayor are elected by and amongst the councilors themselves. As of June 2008, the two major political parties are the Indian National Congress (in Opposition) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (in power). The administrative head of the corporation is the commissioner who is appointed by the state government.
The city contributes one seat to the state assembly (Vidhan Sabha), and one seat to the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). Law and order in the city is collectively maintained by the Police department, Vigilance Department, Enforcement directorate, Forensics, Fire department, department of prisons, and Home Guard department. There are five police stations and three fire stations in Simla. TheSuperintendent of Police, Simla heads the police department. The First Armed Police Battalion, one of the four armed police battalions in the state, is also available for assistance to the local police for assistance. There are eleven courts in the district including a fast-track court
Simla city consists of the Simla municipal corporation and Simla planning areas (SPA). The SPAs are Dhalli, Tutu, and New Simla urban agglomerations. As per the 2001 India Census, the city has a population of 1,042,161 spread over an area of 19.55 km². A floating population of 75,000 is attributed to service industries such as tourism. The largest demographic, 55%, is 16–45 years of age. A further 28% of the population are younger than 15 years. The low sex ratio – 930 girls for every 1000 boys in 2001 – is cause for concern, even though it is not atypical of the region.
The unemployment rate in the city has come down from 36% in 1992 to 22.6% in 2006. This drop is attributed to recent industrialization, the growth of service industries, and knowledge development. 84% of the population of Simla city is literate, compared to 80% in Simla district and 77% in the entire state. The majority of Simla's population consists of natives of Himachal Pradesh. Hindi, Punjabi and Pahari are the main languages. The major religion is Hinduism (93.5%), followed by Sikhism (2.5%) and small minorities of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims.
The people of Simla are informally called Simlaites. With largely cosmopolitan crowds, a variety of festivals are celebrated here. The Simla 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. Simla has a number of places to visit. Local hangouts like the mall road and ridge are in the heart of the city. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original tudorbethan architecture. The Viceregal lodge which houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and Wildflower hall that is 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). 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. 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 river Satluj. Simla is also home to Asia's only natural ice skating rink. State and national level competitions are often held at this venue. The Simla 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 effects of global warming and increasing urban development in and around Simla, the number of sessions on ice every winter have been decreasing in the past few years.
Simla 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 Simla. Sankat Mochan, another Hanuman temple, is famous for the numerous monkeys that are always found in its vicinity. It is located on Simla-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 a Church on the ridge.
The city has 14 anganwadis and 63 primary schools. There are many schools from the British era. Some of the popular schools in the city are Bishop Cotton School, Simla Public School, St Edwards School, Tara Hall, Hainault Public School, DAV Lkr Bazaar, DAV New Simla, Auckland House School, Dayanand Public School, Himalayan Internation School at Chharabra, and Chapslee School.
The medical institutes in Simla are Indira Gandhi Medical College and Dental college. St. Bedes and Rajkiya Kanya MahaVidayaliya (RKMV) are girls-only colleges. Government College, Sanjauli, and Government College Chaura Maidan are also located in the city. The Indian Institute of Advanced Study, housed in the Viceregal Lodge, is a residential centre for research in Humanities, Indian culture, religion, and social and natural sciences. The Himachal Pradesh University is also based in Simla. University Institute of Information Technology (UIIT), a premier institute to provide technical education in the state is located here.
Simla has two state libraries with a collection of over 47,000 old books divided between them. The one at Gandhi Bhavan in the University has over 40,000 books and the other library, also a heritage building on the ridge, has 7000.
Other institutes of higher education and research located in Simla are the Central Potato Research Institute, a member of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and National Academy of Audit and Accounts for training of officers of the Indian Audit and Accounts services (IA&AS).
Places of interest
Places of Interests-
Shimla is surrounded by seven picturesque hills which are the prime attractions of the tourists.
- Jakhoo hill- in central Shimla, which is crowned by the temple of Lord Hanuman.
- Bantony in central Shimla, which has the Grand Hotel.
- Prospect Hill- Famous for Kamna Devi temple.
- Summer Hill- Here Himachal Pradesh University campus is located.
- Observatory Hill- Famous for Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
- Invererarm Hill- The hill top has the State Museum and TV broadcast tower.
- Elysium Hill - This holds The Auckland House and Longwood and reaches out towards Bharari.
The Mall – The main centre of attraction of Shimla is the mall. The mall is the main shopping attraction for tourists at Shimla with many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars. There are number of restaurants, dhabas and fast food shops located on the mall which offer a wide range of delicious food like Punjabi, South Indian, Chinese, pizzas, burgers and Continental dishes. On the Mall there are many emporiums and showrooms which have varied collection of shawls, caps, pullovers, jewelry, potteries, books and other handicrafts and toys of Himachal Pradesh. The place looks wonderful during the evening hours as the entire place glitters with lights and crowds of people. Most of Shimla's landmarks are located here like Gaiety Theatre, Post Offices and tourist offices. At the extreme end of the Mall road there is a scandal point which gives a spectacular sight of the mountain ranges. The majestic architecture of Municipal Corporation building situated on the Mall of Shimla reminds the reminiscent of the pre-independence colonial era.
Himachal State Museum & Library - Opened in 1974, Himachal State Museum and Library is the colonial form of building situated on the edge of the hilltop at an approximately two and a half kilometers away from Scandal Point. The Museum has a rich collection of historical sculptors, paintings, coins and photos relating to the history of Himachal Pradesh. The gallery has an exquisite collection of paintings which are the rare pieces of the Indian art form, the Pahari miniature art form, Mughal and Rajasthani miniature paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and also costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region. The museum opens daily except on Mondays and public holidays.
Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens - Viceregal Lodge is located on the Observatory Hills. This magnificent architectural building was the residence of the British Viceroy Lord Dufferin. The lodge has now been converted into Indian Institute of Advanced Studies which is further 2-km from State Museum.
Prospect Hill - Prospect Hill is 15-minutes walk from Boileauganj on Shimla-Bilaspur road. On the Prospect Hill tourists come to visit Kamna Devi temple.
Glenn – Glenn is a famous picnic spot at an altitude of 1830 metres which is about 4 kms walk from the Ridge through dense forests where an ice-cold stream flows through the forest making it one of the fascinating spot.
Annandale - Annandale is a favourite spot for cricket, picnics and polo beyond the Glen, 2–4 km from The Ridge at a height of 6117 ft. The big open ground rarely found in the hills is covered with deodar forests.
Chadwick Falls - The 67 meters high Chadwick water falls are situated at about 7 kms from the city at a height of 1586 metres. The falls are streaming down from the Summer Hill amidst thick forest and are at their best after monsoons.
Christ Church- The unique beauty of Shimla Mall is its Christ Church which is situated on The Ridge which looks beautiful at night. Built in the neo-Gothic style in 1857 Christ Church remains one of the enduring legacies of the British Raj. Christ Church is the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a very majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.
Jakhu Hill - Jakhu Hill is the highest peak situated at a height of 8000 ft which offers a beautiful view of the town and the snow-covered Himalayas. It is 2 km away from Shimla. At the top of the Hill at 8,500 feet there is an old temple of Lord Hanuman with a 108 feet high statue of Lord Hanuman which is the single statue to stand at the highest altitude among several other master pieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil .
Summer Hill - Situated on Shimla Kalka Road at a distance of 5 km from The Ridge is the lovely township of Summer Hill, at a height of 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is situated here. Located just 5 kilometers from the Ridge of Shimla on the
Tara Devi - 11 km from the Shimla bus-stand, Tara Devi hill has a temple dedicated to the goddess of stars on top of the hill. There is a military Dairy Town here as well as the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides.
Sankat Mochan- A Lord Hanuman temple is located here. Located amidst the verdant timber of Shimla woods just below the National Highway 22.
Junga- 26 km away from Shimla, Junga is near Tehsi. It is the former royal retreat of the princely state of Keonthal. It is also known as the Keonthal Estate.
Anand Vilas- Anand Vilas is situated at the midway between Shimla and Junga. The Anand Vilas is the divine abode of the world famous spiritual guru Sri Satya Sai Baba. Anand Vilas is a Sarva Dharma Mandir (Temple of all Faiths), which is a spiritual group dedicated to the Mother Nature. Every year visited by thousands of devotees, this temple offers an Art is Values school attended by students from around the country, and provides them classes free of cost.
Bhimkali temple - Among the 51 Shakti Peeths in India, Bhimkali Temple is a very famous pilgrimage in Shimla. This temple is an architectural wonder due to its style of architecture which is a blend of both Hinduism and Buddhism. This architectural masterpiece is made up of wood.
Kalibari temple - Kali Bari Temple is a famous shrine of the Goddess Shayamla, a form of Goddess Kali which is a popular tourist attraction. It is lying the Scandal Point towards General Post Office. Shimla has been named after Goddess Shyamala the sitting deity of the year 1845-built temple.
Elysium Hill - Placed behind the Jakhoo Hill, Elysium Hill provides the best view of the Shimla. Lord Auckland selected this hill for his home, Auckland House which now a school.
Mashobra- The small village of Mashobra is about 13 kms from Shimla on Shimla-Naldhera road. The village is surrounded by thick forests and offers some pleasant stroll including one to Sipi where a fair is held every year in the month of June. There is a temple of Goddess Durga which is worth visiting.
Kufri - 16 km away from Shimla at a altitude of 8,600 ft, Kufri hosts a winter sports festival. It also has a small zoo. The surrounding countryside here offers a great opportunity for hiking especially to the nearby Mahasu peak.
Chharabra - It is situated at 13 km from Shimla on route to Kufri.
Naldehra - Naldhera is a pleasant little town situated at an altitude of 2,050 metres, 22 km from away from Shimla. Naldehra has the oldest and the highest golf course in India with 9 holes which were later increased to 18 holes. An ancient Nag temple is also situated here. It is said that Lord Curzon was so fascinated by this place that he named his daughter after it.
Chail - 43 kilometers away from Shimla, the lush green town of Chail is situated. Chail was the summer capital of the Maharaja of Patiala before Independence. The town is built on three hills, one of which is topped with the Chail Palace, the other with the Chail village, and the third one by the Snowview mansion. Three kilometres from the village lies the world’s highest cricket ground at a height of 2,250 metres. Chail is also a hiker’s paradise. There is a wildlife sanctuary at a distance of 3 km from here.
Arki - (46 km) Akri is situated 46 kms from Shimla. The 18th century fort was built when Arki was the capital of the erstwhile hill state of Baghal.
Tatapani - Tattapani is located at about 65 km from Shimla on the Shimla-Mandi highway. The place is famous for its hot water springs that have sulphur content near the Tatapani mandir. Tourists can also visit the nearby Hindu temples and Shiv Goofa at Saraur (4 km).
A new 108 foot (33 metre) statue of Hanuman has been erected at the top of the 8,500 foot (2,591 metres) Jakhu Hill, the highest point in Simla. The bright orange idol is due to be unveiled on 4th November, 2010 by the popular Indian actor and film producer, Abhishek Bachchan.
Local transport in Simla is by bus or private vehicles. Buses ply frequently on the circular road surrounding the city centre. Tourist taxis are also an option for out of town trips. Locals typically traverse the city on foot. Private vehicles are prohibited on the mall, ridge, and nearby markets. Due to narrow roads and steep slopes, the auto rickshaws common in other Indian cities are largely absent.
Simla is well-connected by road and rail. The National Highway 22 (NH 22) connects Simla to the nearest big city of Chandigarh. The scenicKalka Simla Railway, a narrow gauge track, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the steepest rise in altitude in a distance of 96 km. Kalka, the plains rail terminus, has daily departures to major Indian cities. Flights from the airport at Jubbarhatti (12 km away) connect Simla to Delhi.
How To Get There – Shimla is well-connected by road and rail.
By Road – Shimla is well connected to all the major towns in North India by road. Shimla can be reached from Chandigarh through National Highway 22 which is 100 kms and takes nearly 3.5 hours to reach there. Shimla can also be accessible from New Delhi by road which is 365 kms away. The shortest & popular route to Shimla is via Kalka which takes 3 hours to reach 80 kms.
By Train- Shimla is well connected withdifferent cities in India by train. Several trains from all parts of the country ply to Chandigarh, New Delhi and Kalka from where tourists can reach Shimla by road. The narrow guage train of Kalka Shimla Railway from Kalka to Shimla which covers 96 kms, is a memorable experience for the visitors for its beautiful scenic route which passes through 806 bridges and 103 tunnels. In the year 2008 this narrow guage railway route got the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain Railways of India and was enlisted in the Guinness Book of World Records for the steepest rise in altitude in a distance of 96 km. The tourists who want to enjoy the green mountain slopes, covered with fir, rhododendron, pine and the Himalayan Oak must avail their journey by train. Himalayan Queen is one of the options for those travelling from Delhi.
By Air – Flights are available from Shimla Airport at Jubbarhatti which is 12 kms away flies to Delhi. Jagson Airlines and Indian Airlines offer daily flights to/from New Delhi.
Road distances from Shimla (in kms) :–
Kalka : 80
Chandigarh : 119
Ambala : 152
Patiala : 172
Amritsar : 342
Delhi : 348
Jammu : 482
Agra : 568
Jaipur : 629
Srinagar : 787
Kolkata : 1460
Mumbai : 1742
Chadwick Falls : 7
Craignano : 18
Fagu : 22
Hatkoti : 109
Indian Institute of Advanced Study : 4
Jakhoo Temple : 2.5
Jubbal : 90
Kharapathhar : 85
Kotgarh : 82
Mashobra : 12
Naldehra : 23
Narkanda : 65
Prospect Hill : 5
Recong Peo : 231
Sankat Mochan : 7
Sarahan : 171
State Museum : 3
Summer Hill : 7
Tara Devi : 11
Tattapani : 53
Kufri : 15
Shilon Bagh : 26
Chail : 43
Parwanoo : 90