The Viceregal Lodge Attractions
A pleasant 2km walk further west of the Himachal State Museum will
lead you to the most imposing edifice of Shimla the Viceregal
Lodge. Located on the Observatory Hill at the western end of the
Shimla ridge, the Viceregal Lodge is a majestic, sprawling,
grey-tinted structure ringed by tall pines. It was built in 1888 as
the residence of Viceroy Lord Dufferin. Now called Rashtrapati Niwas,
the Lodge houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). It is
quite befittingly the only building in Shimla that occupies a hill by
¤ The Magnificent Insight of The Lodge
This rambling Scottish baronial edifice was designed by Henry Irvine,
architect to the Public Works Department of the colonial government in
India. The south facing entrance portico sees the visitor into the
The hall is marked by a grand staircase which springs from the right
and spirals up three full floors. Facing the main entrance is the
A gallery with well-appointed teak panelling is the central space of
the building around which the other rooms are arranged.
The state drawing room, ballroom, and the wood-panelled dining room
decorated with coats of arms of former Governor-Generals and Viceroys
lead to the gallery at the lower level.
Verandas and terraces surround the entire building at different
levels. Those at the lower level link the lodge to the magnificent
grounds while those on other floors provide superb views of mountains.
Try to catch a colourful sunset from a terrace.
Way back in 1888 this Lodge had electric light when nobody
else in Shimla did and, would you believe it, an indoor tennis
The lodge had extensive facilities including huge kitchens; separate
rooms for storing table linen, plates, china and glass; laundry; an
enormous wine cellar; a room for empty cases; boilers for central
heating and running hot and cold water in the bathrooms.
Pretty much as in Delhis Viceregal Palace, the Viceroy hosted
lavish parties and entertained the royal princes and nawabs (governors
in the Mughal Empire) in style.
¤ Transformed Into Indian Institute of Advanced Study
After independence, the Lodge remained the summer retreat of the
President of India. In the early 60s the President of India, Dr. S.
Radhakrishnan, a leading philosopher and writer, and the Prime
Minister Jawaharlal Nehru decided to make it a scholars den
where the best minds would find an ideal retreat. Thats when the
Indian Institute of Advanced Study moved into the Lodge in 1965.
Obviously enough, some of the interiors had to be changed to
accommodate the needs of the Institute. The state drawing room,
ballroom, and dining room, for example, have been converted into a
library; the Viceroys office is now the IIAS Directors
office; and the conference hall is now a seminar room for research
Without the large contingent of Viceregal attendants and the
resources, the ambience of this large estate is very different from
what it used to be in the days of the Raj.
The institute seems like the perfect setting for lively intellectual
debates and discussions. The list of Fellows of the Institute includes
names the Burmese Nobel peace prizewinner Aung San Sun Kyi, who was a
fellow here in 1986.
¤ Visiting Hours
¤ Observatory House
Not far from the Viceregal Lodge is the Observatory House, once the
home of the eccentric Colonel Boileau who, besides being the architect
of Christ Church, was a keen astronomer.
He built his observatory here in 1944 and gave his name to the
neighbouring locality of Boileauganj (pronounced Baluganj
by the locals).
¤ Tailpiece Homes of the High and Mighty
All the Governor-Generals of colonial India stayed in Shimla at least
once during their tenure. and most of them chose different homes from
their predecessors. You can be sure that these were no ordinary summer
cottages and why should they have been? After all the Company
was happily sponging off the resources of India and there was no such
thing as public accountability.
¤ Residences of Lord Governor - Generals
Anyway, the chronology of residences built for different
Governor-Generals is rather interesting. Lord Amherst came first and
stayed at Kennedy House. Lord Bentinck was so particular about staying
only in his own home in Shimla that while Bentinck Castle was being
built, he spent a summer way down in Ootacamund in south India! Lord
Auckland, who replaced Bentinck, chose yet another property. The two
Governor-Generals who followed Auckland, Lords Ellenborough and
Hardinge, were, however, satisfied with Auckland House.
The next occupants were Lord and Lady Dalhousie. Although the lady
was charmed with the house, and everything about it, the
Dalhousies were not satisfied with only one property. At various times
they sojourned to Strawberry Hill, Kennedy House and a cottage at
Mahasu (and perhaps Wildflower Hall too). Lord Canning who came next
stayed at Barnes Court, and Lord Elgin, who came after him, stayed at
Peterhoff. Many of these splendid residences have survived till today.
After the Uprising in 1857, the Governor-General was declared the
Crowns Viceroy. Peterhoff remained the official residence till
1888 when the Viceregal Lodge was built for Lord Dufferin who wanted a
house that equalled his stature. (Incredibly enough, every brick of
the six-story building was carried here by mules there was no
train connection at that time!) About 13 Viceroys enjoyed the comforts
and splendour of the Lodge till the British packed up and went home in
¤ Critics About The Lodge
Despite all its magnificence the Lodge was abundantly criticized by
its occupants. Lady Curzon found its appearance a trifle ludicrous,
calling it a building in which a Minneapolis millionaire would
delight. Lord Montague thought it resembled a Scottish
hydro while someone else compared it to Pentonville Prison!