A POPULAR HILL STATION in north india, Shimla’s spectacular location, thickly forested slopes and invigorating climate have attracted countless visitors since the small village was discovered by Captain Charles Kennedy in te early 19th century. In 1864, it became the summer headquarters of the British government in India. Today it is the fast-growing capital of Himachal Pradesh. Though many of the surrounding spurs and forests are now covered with concrete buildings, Shimla still retains much of its colonial charm.
The Ridge N of The Mall A popular promenade and the centre of Shimla’s busy social and cultural scene, the Ridge, situated at a height of 2,230 m (7,316 ft), is an open stretch of land on the western shoulder of Jakhu Hill, From here, the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayan Range stretch in an arc across the northern horizon. Ceremonial parades and official state functions are also held here.
Christ Church q daily pad Sam, Imam Sun. Contact caretaker if church is closed. Dominating the eastern end of the Ridge is the Gothic Christ Church, a prominent landmark. Constructed in 1846, it was one of the first curches built in North India. Its fine stained-glass windows and impressive organ were acquired in the 19th century. The fresco around the chancel window was designed by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s father. Shimla’s mock-Tudor Municipal Library is nearby.
The Mall Shops q Mon-Sat. Restricted vehicular movement. This 7-km (4-mile) long thoroughfare, running from Boileauganj in the west to Chhota Shimla in the southeast, demarcates the original limits of the town. The central section of The Mall, flanked by rows of half-timbered buildings, has always been, and still remains, its most fashionable area with a profusion of restaurants, bars and upmarket shops. The Mall’s highest spot, Scandal Point, is marked by a statue of Lala Lajpat Rai, the famous freedom fighter. The so-called “scandal” efers to the reputed abduction of an English lady in the late 19th century from this spot by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (see p102). Nearby are the timber-framed Post Office, the Town Hall and the jewellike Gaiety Theatre, opened in 1887, and still a popular venue for amateur dramatics. A favoured pastime for both local residents and visitors, is to stroll along The Mall, from Combermere Bridge to Scandal Point, passing the charming mock-Tudor Clarkes Hotel along the way.
Lower Bazaar Shops Mon-Sat. Below the central section of The Mall is the Lower Bazaar, which Kipling once referred to as “that crowded rabbit warren catering to the native population of Shimla”. Offering the option of cheaper wares and less fashionable hostelries and eating places, it remains the poor man’s Mall. Lower still is the Gang, a congested bazaar where the town’s wholesale trade in groceries takes place. This, more than any other part of town, retains a flavour of times gone by. Customers and coolies mingle in crowded lanes redolent with the aroma of the many spices on display.
State Museum Chasra Maidsn. 15 (0777) 205044. Tue-Sun. public hols . g The State Museum, housed in a reconstructed Raj building called Inverarm, was opened to the public in 1974. It has, since then, built up a fairly good collection of almost 10,000 artifacts from various parts of Himachal Pradesh. The exhibits. displayed in 15 galleries, include stone sculptures dating from the 6th to 11th centuries, belonging to the Gupta and Pratihara periods, and a collection of Kangra miniatures (see p121) representing various themes, based on the seasons ( Baramasa), musical modes (Ragamala) and episodes from the Gita Govinda , a devotional poem. Most impressive, however, is a spectacular series of mid- 19th-century wall paintings from Chamba, housed in the ground floor galleries.
Jakhs Hill Temple Jakhu Hill. Q daily . The forested dome of Jakhs I till, at 2,450 m (8,038 ft) is the highest point in Shimla. At its peak stands a temple dedicated to the monkey god, I lanuman. According to the epic Ramadan (see p2 7), Hanuman rested here during his journey to fetch the Sanjivini herb from the Himalayas to save the wounded Lakshman’s life. A steep 2 km 11.3 miles) climb from the Ridge to the summit through deodar and oak forests offers panoramic views of Shimla and its suburbs. Monkeys are a common sight all over Shimla but Jakhs is their kingdom. Visitors should watch out for simian hands rifling through their pockets and belongings.
Viceregal Lodge The Mall. N (0177) 23 m375. daily Ng 0 The most imposing Britishbuilt building in Shimla is the former Viceregal Lodge. Situated atop Observatory Hill, this grey stone structure in the English Renaissance style was built under the guidance of Lord Dufferin in 1888, as a suitable summer residence for the viceroys of India. Wellmaintained gardens surround the stately mansion on three sides. The interior is as impressive, with two rows of balconies overlooking the magnificent teak-panelled entrance hall. A bronze plaque behind the building lists the peaks visible at a distance. It is now called Rashtrapati Niwas and houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Only the entrance hall and the gardens are open to the public.