Shimla Travel Guide
Distance :362km from Delhi, 93km from Kalka
Population : 1,23,000
Altitude : 2,100 m, 0177
¤ Most Desired Hillstation of
was an English dream made a shade delirious and out of the true by the
thin, high air, combined with all that many a heart loved with passion
in India the outdoor life, the horses, the wild animals, the
early walking in the Indian mornings, with their matchless dazzling
purity that makes each day seem the first ever created. The lanes, the
downs, the tumbling streams were all there, to be tamed and enjoyed as
much as possible in the likeness of home."
Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and a major travel hill
station in India. Shimla is also an important administrative centre.
It has been variously described as the Indian Capua, Mount Olympus and
the Abode of the Little Tin Gods. At the other end is Sir Edward
Lutyens (the architect of New Delhi) snooty remark "If
I had been told it had all been built by monkeys, I would have said,
what wonderful monkeys, they must be shot in case they do it again."!!
Shimla and attention have always courted each other.
The city spreads over a 12km ridge with just two main roads The
Mall which runs from the far west to the lower eastern side, and the
Cart Road which circles the southern part of Shimla. This is where the
railway station and the bus and taxi stands are located. The crescent
of the wooded Ridge stretches from the lofty 2476 m high Jakhu Hill
and Chhota Shimla in the east, to the Observatory (2,148 m) and
Prospect hills (2,176 m) in the west. The best time to travel to
Shimla is in autumn, when the days are warm and bright and the nights
crisp and cool. Summer sees a burgeoning tourist population and this
is precisely why you should avoid going there at this time.
The people of HP are simple and warm. They feel strongly about their
natural and cultural heritage so do not in any way belittle their
customs or rituals. Norms of dress and behaviour are pretty relaxed in
Shimla, as the tourist traffic every year has made the place almost
cosmopolitan. A word of caution, however, dont travel to the
interiors of the state without a reliable and authorized tourist guide
and also beware of touts.
¤ Shimla - the Summer Capital of British Raj
There probably isnt one mountain freak in India who hasnt
set foot in Shimla. Having been the official summer capital of the
British Raj, it is among the largest and most popular hill stations in
the country today.
Shimla (formerly spelt Simla) is set amidst spectacular hills and
seeped in an aura of crumbling colonial charm. More than a government
seat, it worked as the perfect setting for romance in the days of the
The scenic landscape, the fabulous weather and the more relaxed social
norms spelt love with a capital.
Far away from the censorious eyes of Delhi and Calcutta, hot-blooded
men and women indulged in drinking, gambling, and all sorts of
Shimla was indeed the hotbed of passion and gossip, the lovely Mall
being the centre of all action.
To the writer Rudyard Kipling, it was a place of illicit romance. In
story after story in his Plain Tales from the Hills, the same plot
After the sweltering boredom of the plains, the young officer goes up
to Shimla where, bowled over by the sudden glut of young English
beauties, he falls in love with a Mrs Hakusbee or a Mrs Reiver: He
rode with her and walked with her, and picnicked with her, and
tiffined at Pelitis with her, till people raised their eyebrows
and said "Shocking!"
¤ Discovery of The Heaven
Shimla was once part of the Nepalese kingdom and called Shyamala
(another name for goddess Kali). The British discovered it
After they laid down the Kalka-Shimla railway line in 1903, Shimla
became a second home for all those escaping the heat of the Indian
¤ Main Attractions
Shimla tourism has translated into being the grooviest spot for
Apart from seeing evidences of some great colonial architecture in
monuments like the Christ Church, Viceregal Lodge, Gorton Castle and
others, there are dozens of tiny travel places around which offer the
most pleasant walks like Summer Hill, Prospect Hill, Chadwick Falls,
Tara Devi, Chharabra and others. Two of the most famous nearby
getaways are Kasauli and Chail. and its not that there is nothing for
the more adventurous kinds; Shimla tourism has excellent scope for
Splendid by itself, Shimla is also the tee off point for the rest of
Himachal, with roads leading west to the Kangra and Chamba valleys,
north to Kullu and Lahaul valleys, and east to Kinnaur and Spiti
Valley. South of it lie the lower districts of Solan and Sirmaur.
Shimla tourism highlights like most of the Indian cities, fairs and
festivals in the valley. Most of these are mainstream and have been
discussed in detail in the section on Religion.
Christmas is particularly fun here owing to the overwhelming
British presence in the past. A white Christmas is what Shimlas
inhabitants really look forward to. Here we will only discuss
festivals that are unique to this area or celebrated here in a manner
distinct from the rest of the country.
Though celebrated in many northern states, this agrarian festival
is celebrated differently in different regions of Himachal. Generally
held on the first of Baisakh (13th April), it is called Bissu or Bisha
signifies vigour and vitality and serves as a ritual before the onset
of the harvesting season. Burning the jhalra a pile of dry
twigs with a pole bearing a conical bamboo basket erected in the
middle is an important ritual. It is set afire in the morning
as young boys sing and dance around it.
Rhyali is the festival of the rainy season. In the Indian society
rains denote good harvest thus ensuring prosperity. Therefore its
an absolute must to keep the rain god happy.
Rhyali is celebrated on the first of Shravana (16th July). Some ten
days before this, seeds of five or seven kinds (wheat, barley and the
like) are mixed together and sown ceremoniously by the head of the
family or the family priest in a small basket filled with earth, or
near the place where the household gods are kept.
Then one day before the actual day, a kind of a mock wedding is
performed with a wooden hoe, and as many kinds of available fruits are
placed near the tender saplings.
Clay images of Shiva and Parvati are placed amidst the tender growth,
and the priest chants, "O Haryali, may thou ever remain in the
green fields..." and a whole lot of rituals follow. Rhyali is
same as Haryali of Kangra.
Contemporary Carnivals :
A Summer Festival conducted by the tourism of Himachal is held in
Simla every June which includes cultural programmes from Himachal and
neighbouring states. An art and handicraft exhibition, a folk dance
festival, a Mushaira (recitation of Urdu poetry), the Red Cross Fair,
sports tournaments, a fashion show based on folk costumes and a flower
show are also scheduled around this time to make most of the tourist
season. The extravaganza of the Ice Skating Carnival is normally
reserved for December, where the winter winds carry with them the
delights of ice skating at Shimla.
¤ Bazaars - The Shopping Hubs
The Mall :
is the place for shopping in Shimla. Lined with many showrooms, it
is a shoppers delight. You can buy all sorts of goodies here
from old books, through woollens, handicrafts, handlooms, curios and
plum sherbet to mushroom pickle. Do check out the State Emporium for
good quality handicrafts. Although Shimla has nothing too special to
offer on its own, you will get items from all parts of the state at
Other Shopping Centers :
There are two other bazaars in Shimla. Just below the western end of
the (eastern) Mall, is the frantic Subzi Mandi, also called Lower
Bazaar. It is a maze of twisting, steep lanes full of stalls selling
food and just about everything imaginable. Do pick up those colourful
socks, gloves and caps that are such a speciality of Himachal.
Some of the shops sell good pottery, the most common being the
decorated matka (water pot), sold in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Prices for meals are less here than in places on the Mall.
the Ridge, the small and busy Lakkar Bazaar (lakdi means wood) is
popular for wood souvenirs. Though most of them might seem tacky and
of little use, you could perhaps pick up a carved walking stick.
Ivory inlay work used to be a major craft in the days of the British,
but the quality has deteriorated over the years. Dry fruits and
medicinal herbs are also available in some the shops.
Rudyard Kipling describes the maze-like bazaars spread across the
lower hillsides of Shimla in his novel Kim, "
a man who
knows his way there can defy all the police of Indias summer
capital; so cunningly does verandah communicate with verandah,
alley-way with alley-way, and bolt-hole with bolt-hole."
¤ Pssst! Some Gastronomic Tips
There are lots of ice cream parlours, bakeries and sweet and
chocolate shops in Shimla. Just about every place serves hot, western
breakfast, but many dont open till 9 am Shimla isnt
a place for early risers. The Indian Coffee House along the western
Mall serves great coffee and south Indian snacks. Both Indian and
Western fare can be enjoyed at Embassy Restaurant and Park Café
on the eastern Mall. HPTDC runs a good restaurant called Ashiana but
its a little expensive.