The Interesting Story of Rich British Heritage town from Shayamala to Shimla
With Rich British Heritage history Shimla is one of the most famous hill stations in India. Its old name was Shayamla. Its journey from Shayamla to Shimla is very interesting. In India, a Hill Station is the place where you see gothic villas, towering pines, monkey menace, forested trails, deep gorges, vast valleys, gargling streams and traffic less stretched Mall streets. A place to where the British officers rode and the ladies & the children were carried in palanquins, a place where everything was introduced and built by ‘angrez’ or ‘Gora Sahibs’, a place where angraziyat can still be found scattered around and a place where the ‘memsahibs’ traveled in hand pulled rickshaws, tinkling through the forested roads. In the evening everyone would assemble in the clubs and had late night parties.
Before the nineteenth century this was not the culture of the hills. The locals were, both, surprised and glad too to see a large number of white skinned people who, every year in the month of March, would move up and would remain there till October. In those months, the hills stations were full of life. There was a lot of movement in the area. And as came winter, suddenly, everything would come to stand still.
Everything in the hills had started getting based on their arrivals and departures. Their promptness and presence kept the locals on heels & toes. The stations grew to new dimension every year and also locals, although remained dominated by them but, looked at the new world.
Shimla rose to the prominence and still it is, but the other hill stations did not developed that much. The reason was that in Shimla the British did what they wanted to do or what they liked to. They loved this place like parents love their kids and brought it up as a baby.
Shimla started growing up in the second decade of nineteenth century when all of sudden the British officers entered the hills to fight against Gurkhas. The hills were under their aggressions and they had already suffered a defeat from the Sikhs, but they remain scattered in the hills and rose their heads as a when they got chance to create disturbance to the local dynasties. Although very religious minded and great Hindus but were they but their attacks on the locals Rajas earned them an immense abhorrence. So the Sikhs had to seek help from the British East Indian Company.
The Gurkhas suffered a complete defeat from the British, under the capable leadership of General David Octorlony. Everything returned to peace and then the British officers realized that living in the hills was the best option to escape the heat of the plains. Shimla came into existence after the British officers moved up to the hills to fight against Gurkhas. After defeating them and expelling them completely, they were lured by the climate of the place, due to its resemblance to Europe. They made Shimla, developed it and loved it.
After the war a British officer arrived here, while moving up a Gurkha troop from Subathu in the lower hills to Kotgarh in the upper regions, and fell in love with a small hamlet called Shayamala. He camped here for a few days. The jungle then was full of hyenas, leopards and bears. Locales were surprised to see the Gora Sahib – a white skinned gentleman, camping in their village and came out from all the twelve mud houses that the village Shyamala, then name of Shimla, had. This was their first chance to see a European. Some even touched him and tried to talk to him but the language was a big barrier.
The officer stayed here for a few days. Every morning he would come out of his tent, sipped his coffee and looked at the plains towards the south. He did not know that he was standing at the elevation on 2195 meters but he was astonished at the resemblance of the climate of this place to his own country. He had never thought that in a warm country like India he would ever find a place that has the same climate like England.
After leaving the troop at Kotgarh he returned to the plains by the same route. He stayed at Shyamala for a day and was surrounded by the locals once again. He looked at them and God knows what impression they left on him that he, when returned to the plains, he strongly recommended to his officers to do something to set up the army posts in these hills. Even he didn’t know that he was going to mark that small hamlet present on the world map.
His advice was ignored for next few years but then in 1822 they sent a Political Agent called Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy. Captain Kennedy built the first Pucca – a permanent wooden house here named as Kennedy House. A new chapter of the history of these hills had begun. After that there was no looking back for Shimla.
Almost every day it grew to new dimensions. Initially developed as Military station but then, gradually the administration also started moving up. Families followed the officers and the barren forests were soon dotted with Victorian villas with large sized rooms, vast balconies, glazed verandahs and beautiful gardens. The officers would move around but the families would stay here for long. The requirement to lead a smooth life was to have bazaars, churches, postal services, roads, schools, medical facilities, clubs and work.
Shimla remained a summer retreat, a holiday resort and a summer capital for the British Government from 1864 to 1947. They brought here everything. They built here everything. They prepared here everything that was necessarily required to lead a smooth life. Although here in the hills life is very simple but the British made it stylish and the present generation still follows the British lifestyle.
The British constructed roads to Shimla. They even got is connected to the plains with rail. They introduced the best schools of India for both genders. They brought Medical facilities for locales and European population of the town. They gave us club culture, those are still in use. Every summer to control the entire subcontinent form here, they built the Viceregal Lodge. Now, this building, still the most beautiful in the North India and now is being used as Institute of Advanced Study.
And when they left, they left a legacy behind, in the shape of this hill town. An amazing town carved out of the hills and is connected to the world now, is the one of the most famous tourist spots for the world. It hides a great history in its bosom remains as open museum of British architecture. Now, British come to Shimla, looking for their family history and to pay homage to their ancestor buried in the Cemeteries in Shimla. The old houses hold an attraction for them where perhaps they were born and lived some early years of their lives. There are schools, Bishop Cotton School & St. Edward’s School for the boys and Loreto Convent and Jesus & Marry School for the girls, where some of them studied. A partial record of their Baptism, and marriages lay with the Municipal Corporation of with the Christ Church and St. Michel’s Cathedral.
Shimla has already lost a large number of buildings which have been a landmark in the various stages of its development. The authorities are struggling to protect and save its history that is hidden in its built Heritage, but still the phases of the development are ruining it now and have started proving as stigma on its birth-right. Shimla Walks