Sanjauli 1880

At the moment the population of Shimla is nearing 400,000 people and gradually the town is turning into a small melting pot in the hills. Once a remotely located village that was away from the hustle of the world is today on World’s Tourist Map. Its journey from Shayamalaya to Shimla has been incredible. Gurkhas, before the British arrived in the hills, had already set up various forts, majorly on the hill tops to keep an eye around on the intruders. In and around present Shimla they had three forts on the hills tops. Most of the people are not aware of them as all those hill tops are in a different shape and have got no sign of having forts on them.

Gurkhas ruled this area not for a very long period rather they continued with their invasions between 1780s till 1816. Before the British arrived in the hills, had already set up various forts, majorly on the hill tops to keep an eye around on the intruders. In and around present Shimla they had three forts on the hills tops. Most of the people are not aware of them as all those hill tops are in a different shape and have got no sign of having forts on them.

These were not very big forts rather they were the small units basically to provide shelter to small Gurkha troupes. In size some of them were as small as five thousand square feet or as big as ten to twelve thousand square feet. They were accessible only on foot after steep uphill climbs and had very basic facilities for the troupes. But Gurkhas as fierce fighters and it is hard to challenge the mountain ability of a Gurkha so for them it was as easy as for you it is going to buy a packet of mil, in today’s world.
If you live in Shimla or you have been to Shimla and have spent much time here with a very good Guide, you will be surprised to know about them.

Sanjauli 2020

Fort in Sanjauli

If you drive to Sanjauli from Shimla, via Chhota Shimla and St. Bede’s College for Girls, pass the College Gate and the road automatically takes a turn. Now you have the view of Sanjauli to your right side. The whole slope is full of multi-story houses that appear to be like match boxes placed on a slope. These houses began to come up only after early eighties of the twentieth century. To extreme east along the ridge where the houses finish and a forest begins, the top of this ridge is crowned by a temple of local Goddess called ‘Dhingu Devi’. You can point it out from the distance as the shape of the structure is different than other and the red colour tomb reflects separately. This actually was the site of a Gurkha Fort. The remains of this fort could still be seen till around the independence and little later. Then the area began to see some level of development and the houses began to sprout on the top and the slope.

Hardly anyone in Shimla had an idea about the fort. Presently Sanjauli is one of most busy suburbs of Shimla and the road that passes through its crowded bazaar and leads towards the tunnel that was dug through the hill of the fort, finally becomes Hindustan Tibet Road. Most of the inhabitants of this belong to the upper hills and survive on the fruit orchards in those high regions. Here in Sanjauli they have their second home because of the good schools and good medical facilities in Shimla.

Bentinck’s Castle – The site of Shayamala Fort

Shayamala Fort – Bentinck’s Castle

Before the British arrived in the hills and village Shayamalaya attracted their attention, due to its climate, this hill, now called Bantony was to the North West direction just above the village. The only way to access that hilltop was to walk. The inhabitants village Shayamalaya and the other villages around were very much aware of the fort on the top of that hill. Later when Shimla became the retreat for the British families the hill and the land of the fort, which actually had become the site of a Dak-Bungalow, was purchased by Lord Bentinck the Governor General and the Viceroy of India – 1829 – 1835. The original house is no more there and the site already has lost three houses on it, one only recently, a year ago.

It is almost in the middle of the town now and is only a few furlongs away from Scandal Point the most happening place of Shimla. We will talk more about Scandal Point in some other article in this blog. Now named as Grand Hotel that is used as a holiday home for the employees of the Central Government, this is one of the landmarks of Shimla. A year ago a fire broke out and the main building was lost.

Jagatgarh Fort

This may of another interest for your, to know more about this site. This is a famous cantonment now where Gurkha regiment is based. Presently known as Jutog this was the site of a Gurkha Fort. No signs of fort are there now. After 1822 when British Government, with the help of Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy, decided to set up the army posts in these hills Jagatgarh decided as one of the important sites for the cantonment. During the Indian Mutiny in 1857 Nassiri Battalion of Gurkha Regiment based here was a great threat for the British officers based at Shimla. Although nothing such happened but it was a talk of the town that the Gurkha’s from Jagtgarh, now called Jatog were going to invade the town and kill the British officers.

The summit of the hill had a building of the cantonment with green top, clearly visible from distance was also the venue of a boy’s school called Simla Public School. Later the school was renamed as Bishop Cotton School and was relocated to its present location.

Presently it is with the Indian army and is very well looked after by the Indian Army. In the surroundings of Jutogh there is a village called Tutu which has turned into another suburb of Shimla. During the British Raj the security battalion of the Viceroy that had twenty two soldiers was based outside Jutogh. From Twenty Two is became Two-Two and so is Tutu. This places had most of the people from the lower parts of Himachal such as Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra districts. The reason is same as for the inhabitants of Sanjauli, the education for children and the medical facilities in Shimla.

Gurkhas built several other forts in these hills to base themselves here. Most of them are wither gone or are in dilapidated condition. There was a fort in Arki, Dhami, Banasar, Malaun, Subathu, Kangra and many other places. The Malaun fort was the venue of the last Anglo Gurkha War in which Gurkhas could not stand in front of the modern guns and cannons of the British soldiers and lost the battle completely. After that the British took over the hills and began to establish themselves here. Later British worked out a special regiment for the Gurkhas and employed them as their soldiers. Gurkhas Shimla remained their retreat and Summer Capital till the Indian Independence and Gurkhas remained their loyal servant, still are.


We will talk more about the forts and Gurkhas in the hills in further articles in this blog.

Writer : Sumit Raj

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