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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shimla "The best summer capital of India"

Shimla derives its name from Shayamla, which is another name for Goddess Kali. Shimla came into light when the Britishers discovered it in 1819. Till then it was a part of the Nepalese kingdom. Soon after the British came to this place many Europeans started making houses here. In 1864 Shimla was declared as the summer capital of India. After Independence Shimla was the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. In 1903 a rail line was constructed between Kalka and Shimla.

Shimla has been blessed with all the natural bounties which one can think of. It has got a scenic location, it is surrounded by green hills with snow capped peaks. The spectacular cool hills accompanied by the structures made during the colonial era creates an aura which is very different from other hill stations. Shimla has all the facilities required for tourists but they can be very expensive particularly during the peak season. Often it becomes difficult to find accommodation here during the peak season. And remember water is a perennial problem in Shimla.

Shimla in itself is a very small town and is very well maintain and neatly kept city. In central part of the town is Mall which almost divides the city in two parts. In the center of the city is the famous scandal point which was immortalised by Rudyard Kipling. From Christ Church to the Scandal point is the Ridge area. The Ridge is a place where all tourist flock and spend time. From the ridge one can hire a pony to other places in Shimla. Just below the ridge is the Tibetan market where one can purchase foreign items which often are fake. Shimla has got a big but very unorganized bus stand on the cart Road. A lift has been provided from the Cart Road to the eastern Mall road. This lift carries people from lower to upper Shimla. The rest of Shimla is connected by unnamed and steep lanes and steps.

Christ Church
Christ Church is the second oldest church of North India and is considered as one of the landmarks of Shimla. It was built in 1846-1857 and stands overlooking a ridge. Its stained glass windows and clocks, though not working anymore, add to its beauty. Other important churches of the city are St. Michael's Cathedral and Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Jakhu Temple
Situated at the highest point of the Shimla ridge, Jakhu temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. It offers fantastic views of valleys, snowcapped peaks and the town itself. The temple is just the right place for seeing the magical sunrises and sunsets of Shimla.

Sankat Mochan Temple
Another shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Sankat Mochan Temple is situated 5 km down the Shimla-Kalka road. The temple offers beautiful views of Shimla and also has a campus worth visiting. Every Sunday, a 'Langar' or open kitchen is organized here.

Tara Devi Temple
Situated at a distance of approximately 20 km from Shimla, Tara Devi temple is connected to the city by train, bus and motorable road. You can also trek through a shorter route (5 km) through dense forests to reach the temple. It also offers panoramic views of the city and is also a very a popular picnic spot.

Kali Bari Mandir
Close to the Mall Road of Shimla lies the Kali Bari Mandir, dedicated to Goddess Shyamala Devi. Pilgrims throng this temple, especially during Diwali Festival and Durga Puja.

The Ridge

Centrally situated in Shimla, this large open space offers picturesque views of mountain ranges. It is situated quite close to some significant landmarks of Shimla, such as the Christ Church and the Tudor Library.

The Mall
The activity center of Shimla, the Mall is located near the Ridge and Scandal Point. There are a number of emporiums, showrooms and restaurant here, along with the Gaiety Theatre that is built on the lines of old British theatres and is used as a center of cultural activities. Shimla Mall has three cinema halls, a Roller Skating hall, Billiard Rooms and video game centers. It is also the chosen venue for Summer Festival in June, Ice-skating in December-January and Winter Carnival of February. One can also visit the exhibitions and craft fares going around in the area quite frequently.

Summer Hill
1 km from Boilaeuganj, Summer Hill at an altitude of 1,283 m is a charming spot on Shimla-Kalka Railway line. It has peaceful surroundings, shady walks, Himachal Pradesh University and beautiful Georgian House of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visit to Shimla.

Annadale is a glade surrounded by forests of tall deodar trees, just beyond Glen. It has an ancient temple on its edge and was once used as the playground of Shimla by the British who came here to enjoy racing, polo and cricket.

Elysium Hill
Elysium Hill houses Lakkar Bazaar (Wood Market) and the famous Auckland House, which was used as the residence by Viceroy Lord Auckland once. Today, the Auckland House is used as popular girls' school. The hill also boasts of Stirling Castle, which is being used as an orphanage for Tibetan children and a shelter for locally settled Tibetan exiles.

Shimla State Museum
Shimla State Museum is set on top of a hill, above the Chaura Maidan at Shimla. It is housed in a colonial building, known as Inverarm. One has to hike about 1500 m to reach the colonial mansion housing the museum.

Padam Palace
Situated at a distance of approximately 125 km from Shimla is Padam Palace, one of the major attractions of Rampur. It once served as the Winter Capital of the former princely state of Bushair.

Viceregal Lodge
One of the most famous landmarks of Shimla, the Viceregal Lodge situated on the Observatory Hill and also known as the Rashtrapati Niwas now. The building lies at a distance of just 2 km from the Himachal State Museum.

Kamru Fort

Standing at an altitude of 2600 m above sea level, Kamru fort is 229 km from Shimla and 2 km from the beautiful Sangla Valley. The fort is set in a picturesque location and is entered through a series of gates.

Arki Fort
Situated at a distance of approximately 40 km from Shimla, Arki is a small town in the Solan district that was once the capital of the princely state of Baghal. Gurkhas trying to invade the city used Arki Fort as their stronghold during the Gurkha Wars that went on till 1815-16.

Bhakra Nangal Dam
Bhakra Nangal Dam has emerged as a very popular tourist place in Himachal Pradesh. It was aptly titled as the 'New Temple of Resurgent India' by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

As such Shimla has nothing special to offer to the tourists. But being the state capital handicrafts from all over the state come here for sale. The Mall has some of the good and big names in the garment and textile industry. But the garment or the woollen material which are sold here are not manufactured in Shimla, they are all brought from Ludhiana and adjoining places. The State emporium on the Mall offers many handicraft and handloom items which are made by the artisans of Himachal. The famous Himachali hat comes in different rates and vivid colors. The quality also differs. To avoid any fakes it is better to purchase these items from Government approved emporiums. Lakkar Bazaar is famous for items made from wood. These decorative wooden items are made from the soft wood found in the region. Further, dry fruits and natural herbs which have many medicinal properties are easily available in the shops. But the fact can not be denied that Shimla is a place to rest and not to go on shopping sprees.

Shimla is located on the slopes of lower Himalayas. The altitude of Shimla from the sea level makes it a very cool place. The temperature range is not very high and the maximum temperature rarely crosses 25 degrees during summers. The summers are marked by rainfalls. The nights of summers are cool and light warm cloths are required during this time. Winter are cold and chilly winds from the upper Himalayas makes the place really cold. Around Christmas or last week of December Shimla gets snow. The snowfall during this time attracts many tourists and accommodation can prove to be difficult. The Best season to visit Shimla is between April and August. But the main season is between December and January. It is better to avoid the rainy seasons.

Getting There
The Jubbarhatti airport is 23 kms from Shimla. Major domestic airlines cater their services to Shimla. The flights are mainly form Delhi. Shimla has a narrow gauze railway line on which toy train runs from Kalka to Shimla. The train cruises its way through valleys and beautiful landscapes at a very slow pace making the journey very pleasant. From Kalka one can take trains to other parts of the country. The Toy train from Shimla is of two types. One is the normal multi coach train and the other is the single car train which has a glass roof giving an enthralling experience during the journey. Roads connect this capital city of Himachal with other places in the state as well as other major towns and cities. There is regular bus service from Delhi and Chandigarh. Ordinary, semi deluxe, deluxe and AC coaches are available for Shimla. One can also cross over to Leh and Ladakh via Rohtang pass from here. Local transportation is very good, with taxies and buses available for the nearby places.