The best and the most interesting stories of the past of this hill station come from the only tableland, in the vicinity of the town, called Annandale Ground in Shimla. This piece of ground was already in use for holding the local fairs and festivals by the locals. Otherwise, this was just a grassy plot for the cattle from the surrounding villages. The place had no name and the locals called jubberd – a land of no use for agriculture or a glade in the middle of the forest. Everyone liked this place which had high-rising cedars around it forming a thick forest.  

Gatherings at Annandale Ground in Shimla

Till 1820 no European was there to hold and organize all those functions at Annandale ground in Shimla. But after that when the Europeans started moving up to the hills, they were there with the band ‘Puritani’ and ‘Masaniello’. To enjoy more in their own way and style they managed to get Salmon fish from Scotland and sardines from the Mediterranean. In the hills which had never seen anyone from outside and the area that never expected people from overseas to arrive there and change the entire style of living. That was the time when Shimla had no connection with the world outside. A handful of Europeans were there. Nearly three thousand locals from the nearby villages, wrapped in their woollen shawls weaved locally, would surround them. They would look at them and see those white outsiders’ style of enjoying life.

Fancy Fairs at Annandale Ground

Annandale ground in Shimla is the place where almost every person, a simple man to the Viceroy of India, living in Shimla gathered to participate in the fair and sports. From the early days of the settlement of Shimla, the Brits had started going there every year to hold all types of public functions. During a fancy fair, there were shops and temporary bazaars where they sold satin, silk, embroidery, and lace place in an elegant style. They used bamboo and cloth to make the shops in a line facing each other leaving a corridor in the middle for the people to walk through. Also, there used to be romani people who mocked, danced, placed some acrobatic shows, and played music to entertain people and earn their living. Street plays, wrestling, sword fights, and bow & arrow shows were the attractions of the fairs.

Annandale Ground mentioned in United Service Journal

In the East Indian United Services Journal, Mr. William de. Rhe Phillip mentioned the Annandale of Shimla in 1834. He wrote

‘Beyond the glen is a patch of tableland about a quarter of a mile in circumference, and a village called Khytoo containing 30 houses. Annandale will ever remain celebrated as the spot where a fancy fair and fete champetre were held in September 1833, for the purpose of instituting a school at Subathoo for the instruction of native females. On that occasion the place was thronged with the inhabitants temporary and constant o Simla, the sale produces nearly Rs.900/-, and after its conclusion, a collation was served up and the visitors returned to their homes.

How did Annandale Ground receive its name?

Annandale in Shimla received its name from one of the three divisions of the county of Dumfriesshire in Scotland. The people of the area got their name Annandale from the place and used it as their Sir name. There are several people called Annandale living in different parts of the world who originated from the Annandale Division. One day Captain Kennedy, the man who was responsible for designating the boundary of Shimla, walked down to the ground and inquired about its name. People from the nearby village Kyatoo, called it ghaasani – a grassland. Kennedy thought of Annandale, his native place in Scotland, and gave this place the same name. Some people also said that Kennedy was attracted to a girl called Anna, during his school days and he named the place after his beloved.

Emily Eden in Annadale Ground in Shimla

Following is an extract from the diary of Ms. Emily Eden, in April 1839,

‘Our Aid-de-Camp gave a small fete Chempetere yesterday in a valley called Annandale. The party consisting of six ladies and six gentlemen, began at ten in the morning and actually lasted till half-past none at night. Annandale is a thick grove. Annandale is a thick grove of fir trees, which no sun can pierce. They had bows and arrows, a swing, battledore and shuttlecock and fiddle, the only one in Simla; and they danced all day and seem to have enjoyed it tall throughout wonderfully’

Annandale Ground was given to the Military

Annandale remained a venue of many fairs, festivals, gymkhanas, birthday parties, horse races, cricket, and polo. Apart from the theatrical activities that actually took place in Gaiety Theatre, Racket Court, and Theatre of the Prince of Wales for every other function people went to Annandale ground in Shimla. Later the army took it over on lease and still, it is there with the Indian Army, thank God. They now use it as a Gold Course, a helipad and there is a museum that displays and history, medals, weapons, paintings, awards, flags, uniforms, bands, musical instruments, war stories, and some other equipment used by the Army.

Written by:

Sumit Raj

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