Shimla

The Weather at the Cedar Hill Lodge: 8100 ft.

All around the year one needs a minimum of two-layered clothing (cardigan & a light jacket/ shawl) as the weather at this altitude is unpredictable which adds the flavour of the environment at such an altitude. Also, Cedar Hill is situated on a hilltop with wide open views and this in part brings the winds from the Himalayas on a regular basis.

Winters: (Dec.–Feb.): A striking view of the round-the-year snow bound Himalayas mixed with the cool winds and these arty clouds in the blue horizon wrap around the enchanting landscape which perpetually keep Chharabra under the spell of the sun or the moon. It is the time of snow, thick jackets, and hot drinks – for the wild animals this is time to come down from the higher altitudes and make the forest sanctuary and the village surroundings their home. Life is at a peaceful sluggish pace as expected of a village and bonfires, happy faces and folklore amongst the locals are their favourite way to enjoy the evenings.

Summers: (Apr.–Jun.): The summers are heavenly with cool gentle winds, and even though Shimla is only 12 Kms. away from the lodge, the 1000 ft. difference in altitude leads to peace, tranquility and beauty – but it also brings with it a certain moody temperament of Mother Nature. The Himalayas for most times are enveloped by thick clouds that boil this rugged landscape but it is a perfect time to explore, hike, travel the landscape - relaxing the mind body and soul from the pace of the cities. The good part: Chharabra is alive during the day but the arrival of dusk brings the village back into its elements. An ideal way to spend ones vacation exploring, savoring the modern comforts of the Shimla town and to end the evenings peacefully relaxing at the lodge

Monsoons: (July – Mid. Sept.): This is the time when the Himalayan flora is at its finest with a host of wild flowers blooming on every hillside. The clouds play a dance of design, and the rains open up the occasional line of sight into the Himalayas. This would be the time when we call the clouds ‘Pixel Clouds’ as the colours in the horizon are infinite.

Autumn/Fall-Winter: (Oct. – Dec.): These times bring Chharabra, the countryside to a standstill. Business, life, the people are relaxed and are preparing to enjoy the winters. The landscape feels like a portrait where the pictures taken seem unreal. And again: an ideal time to enjoy the sun, the tranquil environment and a time to savor the elements as they gear up for the incoming winters.

HISTORY SHIMLA

Shimla was the summer capital of the supreme Govt. of Punjab and of the Army headquarters. It is situated on the lower Himalayas. It is at an elevation of about 7500 feet above sea level. Its latitude is 31 degrees 6’N and 77 degrees 13’E. The territories of nearly thirty minor chiefs surrounded it. The various suburbs were distinguished by names such as Burra Shimla, Chotta Shimla, Prospect Hill, Elysium, Baluganj, Summer Hill, Kaithu and Jhakoo. To the North and the East lies a network of mountain chains. To the North lie the mountains of Kullu and Spiti and the Central range of the Eastern Himalayas stretching eastwards. The nearest peak is that of Cheru, on the confines of Kullu and Mandi; 27 miles as the crow flies.

It is said that the spot now occupied by Shimla was a sea on whose surface icebergs floated, melted and dropped the stones which they carried on their surface, or embedded in their substance. In 1804 the Gurkhas who suffered a defeat on the hands of the Sikhs at the battle of Kangra, commenced to ravage the states and the hills surrounding Shimla. The Gurkhas built several forts in Baghal state. Jagatgarh now known as Jutog and Sabathu, Dhami, and one on the hill of Sanjouli bazaar were some of the fortresses built by them. The invaders had conquered all posts between Jumna and Sutlej, and from their capital of Arki ravaged the neighbouring hill states.

Subsequent to the appeal of the people, and out of necessity for their own welfare the British fought with the Gorkhas in 1815. With their army of 3000 men, and aided by a majority of the hill chiefs they overtook the Gorkhas. Many of the Gorkhas joined the British forces upon being conquered where they loyally served the British army. Sir David Ochterlony rewarded the hill chiefs with the restoration of their land, rights and privileges. The Maharaja of Patiala gave the British Sabathu, Kotegarh, The village on the base of Kalka and the military posts of Kasauli. 1st Gurkha rifles was formed when the lost soldiers showed an interest towards serving the British Army in these military posts occupied by the British.

Shimla receives its name from Shyamla, a house built of blue state, erected by a fakir on Jhakoo. However many people who stated that Shimla or ‘Shumlah’ is the actual word from which the name was derived contradicted the above theory. The original settlement in Shimla originated from to the East of the Secretariat, above the Ripon hospital. It is claimed that the three Gerard brothers in India made Shimla known to the world. Alexander Gerard (scientist and a surveyor), Patrick Gerard (meteorologist), and James Gilbert Gerard (Bengal Medical Service; a keen explorer) were reported to have surveyed the regions of Shimla. The first two brothers served In Sabathu. The attainment of these three brothers was mentioned in the German scientific journal at that time. Many a writer was overwhelmed by the beauty of the forests and the climate provided by the hills of Shimla.

The Maharaja of Patiala and the Maharaja of Keonthal were the owners of the majority of the land that consisted of Shimla. The British army was looking towards a strategic point where it could form a station. So, Major Kennedy formed a deal with the two Rajas. A certain portion of the land taken was compensated with money and the allotment of land from the regions that was conquered. The now famous ‘Kennedy House’ was the first British establishment formed in the regions of Shimla subsequently. An officer, who was serving in the heat stricken plains for some years, was posted in Shimla with the duty of handling all the political obligations. The beauty and the climate of Shimla mesmerized him. Subsequently his friends who visited him decided to built their own houses. Hundreds of trees cut down on mountaintops by mountaineers, constructing cottages (60) for these people.

Lord Combermere took the first steps towards the development of Shimla. He constructed a broad, level, fine road around the Mount Jhakoo. It was worked entirely by the Hillmen and was skilfully done. He also constructed a bridge made of pines, and under it a water tank was constructed to meet with the demand for water. The bridge was known as the ‘Combermere Bridge’. The visitors were all enamoured by the trees and the wild flowers found in Shimla and nest to the station (Kennedy House). Slowly but surely, the vicinity was stripped of all the trees and the wild plants leaving way to more construction.

Once or twice in early days, Shimla was entirely cut off for two or three days from the plains due to excessive rainfall. Shimla being made, as the summer capital of the supreme government did not suit well with the press due to this fact as the functioning of the government was hindered from time to time. From Kalka, until the new cart road, originally called the Hindustan Tibet road, was finished in 1856. The Mode of transit used was ‘Jampans’ and ‘Ponies’, and the entire luggage was carried off by coolies or mules. The ‘Jampan’ was really a sedan chair fitted with curtains - slung on poles born by bearers who carried the passenger at an even level.

The rail network (Kalka-Shimla) towards Shimla was started in November 1903. On the mountain where the ‘Taradevi’ temple stands, a tunnel was constructed under this hill to ensure stability for the route proposed. The workers unhappy, due to the construction stated that the Goddess of the shrine would never let the tunnel be completed. When the tunnel was half completed, a rumour about a hundred feet snake being present in the tunnels led to a lot of excitement amongst them. It was later found out that the object in question was a steel pipe being passed into the tunnel so as to allow the workers fresh air for them to breathe. The rail network however did not prove to be a big success; the Secretary of the state as well as the Delhi Abmbala Company incurred huge costs and loses continued for a few years and slowly a small portion of profits was realized.

CHIRST CHURCH SHIMLA

The corner stone for the church was laid down in 1844. Prison labour was used to level down the site selected. However the church was quite cold in the winters and the service for sometime was held in Gordon castle. The Church also leaked a good deal and was far from being complete. Finally the consecration ceremony was done in Jan. 1857. It was taken over by the government in 1856 and throughout the fifties and the sixties various improvements were carried out e.g. erection of the clock tower, extension of the aisles, provision of a new roof and the construction of the porch (1873). The organ that was finally placed in the church was bought by Messrs. Organ and Smith of Brighton (1899), for Rs.23000. In 1900 two bells were placed in the church for Rs. 2000. Rs. 89000 was the total cost for the construction of the church, without the organ. Later in 1924, around Rs. 16000 was spent upon improving the organ. Lord and Lady Minto presented the Lectern bible. The fresco work surrounding the windows was done by Lockwood Kipling and carried out under his supervision by the pupils of the Mayo college of Arts, Lahore.

CATHEDERAL OF SAINT MICHAELS AND JOSEPH

The church at the lower bazaar, was the first place of Catholic worship in Shimla. The site initially was the abode of an ‘old dispensary’. In 1850 the site was purchased for Rs. 1500 and a further Rs 2900 was spent upon it construction. Subsequently the representatives of the church decided to built a better, bigger and a more accessible church. For that Gorton Castle was bought for Rs 40,000. However at that time The Viceroy, Marquis of Ripon, asked for the site to be given up for government purpose. The clergyman handed over the site for the same amount as he had paid. The viceroy was so happy that he named that site, ‘Ripon Place’. In 1885 the church was finally constructed for Rs. 80000, Lord Ripon being the primary subscriber. Over the high altar is a stained glass window, the central figures of which are a group of crucifixion. On the gallery at the end of the church may be seen a copy of Guido Reni’s famous painting of St. Michaels conquering Satan. The original copy is in Rome.

FAMOUS SHOOLS IN SHIMLA

CHELSEA, SAINT BEDE’S (1864) - The nuns who came to India made it. LORETO CONVENT TARA HALL (1895)- Was Boarding as well as a day school at that time. SAINT EDWARDS - Known as Milsington and was a catholic school for boys. (March 1925). The Irish Christian Brother’s constructed it here in Shimla.

BISHOP COTTON SCHOOL

Bishop Cotton, Scholar of Westminster, founded this school. He came out to India as Bishop of Calcutta in 1858. He realized the need for improving the quality of education for the European as well as the Anglo Indian community. Bishop Cotton stated the school motto now, ‘Overcome Evil With good’, during his service. 1863 the school was formally opened in Jutog in the cantment area, which the Gorkhas had left. The site was however found to be inconvenient. The Viceroy John Lawrence laid the foundation in Knolls wood. In 1868 the school was moved, and in 1867 the name was changed to Bishop Cotton School at the Bishop’s name. The Viceroys that have visited the school are John Lawrence, Lord Minto, Lord Curzon, Lord Chelmsford and the Earl of Reading.

AUCKLAND SCHOOL

After Lord William Bentick who stayed at the Bentick Castle (Grand Hotel), Lord Auckland decided to move to Auckland house. His employees were given residence in Chapslee. The hill on which Auckland house was made was known as The ‘Elysium Hill’, after the name of his sister. Misses Eden. It is known for its amazing balls, theatricals and is also the one of the oldest houses. After being the residence for various Governor Generals it was subsequently handed over to lesser and lower levels. In 1868 it was purchased for the purpose of a girls school; the school existing at Holly lodge since 1866. The house was accordingly enlarged and an upper storey erected.

Trees of the Western Himalayas – Around Cedar Hill Lodge

The Himalayan Cedar:

Scientific name: Cedrus deodara
Indian name: Deodar
The cedar grows in an altitude belt ranging from 6000 ft. to 9000 ft.. It prefers north-facing slopes and is the predominant tree-species in and around the Shimla area. The Indian name for the tree is ‘Deodar’. Deo means God and Dar means a tree, in other words; the celestial tree or the tree of the gods. Its resin has insect repellent properties and the branches as well as the roots of the tree grow horizontally. The needles are arranges in bunches.

The Spruce:

Scientific name: Picea smithiana
Indian name: Rai
The spruce is considered a fir and grows in an altitude belt ranging from 7,500 ft. to 9,500 ft., the needles droop downwards and are arranged individually on the branch, unlike the cedar. The higher branches of the spruce tend to point upwards.

The Silver Fir:

Scientific name: Picea pindrow
Indian name: Rau
The silver fir resembles the spruce to a great extent; it grows in an altitude belt ranging from 8,000 ft. to 10,000 ft. and owes its name to the bright whitish streak on either side of the mid rib on the under-side of each needle.

The Roxburghi Pine

Scintific name: Pinus roxburghi
Indian name: Cheel
The roxburghi pine (earlier classified as Pinus longifolia) grows in an altitude belt ranging from 2,000 ft. to 7,000 ft. It is the most common conifer found in the lower Himalayas and is considered to have the longest pine needles found in any coniferous tree in the world. It has a heavy woody cone and a long tap root and regularly grows on the southern slopes of the lower Himalayas. Turpentine is derived from the resin extracted from this tree. The needles are arranged in tufts of three.

The Blue Pine

Scientific name: Pinus wallichiana
Indian name: Kail
Earlier classified as Pinus excelsa, the blue pine grows in an altitude strata extending from 5,500 ft. to 8,500 ft. The cone of this tree is slender with well-spread bracts. It derives its name from a thin blue stomata layer on each needle giving the tree a bluish hue, especially on a windy day, when the spines are upturned by the wind. The needles are arranged in tufts of five.

The White Oak

Scientific name: Quercus incana
Inidan name: Ban
Of the three Himalayan evergreen oaks, the one that grows at the lowest altitude is the white oak. The altitude belt it thrives in ranges from 6,000 ft. to 8,000 ft. It is characterised by leaves that have a shiny white underside. The bark, similiar to the other two oaks, is twisted and gnarled and the leaves have a serrated edge, a characteristic common to all oaks.

The Green Oak

Scientific name: Quercus dilatata
Indian name: Moru
This oak grows higher than the white oak (8,000 ft. to 9,000 ft.) and is also known as the Mashobra oak due to its extensive growth in and around the Mashobra region. The leaves of this tree are green on both sides and the overall appearance of the tree, other than the colouration of the underside of the leaves, is very similar to the other two oaks.

The Brown Oak

Scientific name: Quercus semiscarpifolia
Indian name: Kharsu
The brown oak is characterised by the russet-brown colouration of the underside of each leaf. It is found higher than the green oak and grows in an altitude belt ranging from 8,500 ft. to 10,000 ft. This oak is often found in the neighbourhood of the silver firs.

The Rhododendron

Scientific name: Rhododendron arboreum
Indian name: Brass
This tree underlines the glory of the Himalayan spring with its rich blaze of crimson and scarlet blossoms. It flourishes in an altitude belt ranging from 5,000 ft. to 8,000 ft. with a preference for the lower elevations on the northern side and avoids arid and dry positions. Some of the other trees found in the Western Himalayas include the Yew (Taxus baccata), Cypress (Cupressus torulosa), the Himalayan Holly (Ilex dipyrena) and a variety of cornels, laurels and maples.

OLD HOSPITALS IN SHIMLA

RIPON HOSPITAL

The foundation stone for ‘Ripon’ hospital was laid down in 1882. Marquis of Ripon played a Major role in its construction and subsequently the hospital was named after it. All welcomed the hospital, as the hospital was located in the heart of the bazaar. A beautiful view of Kasauli and Sabathu can be seen from the hospital. The need for this hospital arose due to the non-availability of good medicinal facilities for the European patients as well as the natives. Medicine before this hospital was practiced in very unhealthy surroundings. The ground on which the hospital was constructed was given by the municipality, and comprises former estates known as ‘Glen Cottage’ and ‘The Briars’. Almost 1,50,000 was collected for the purpose of construction of this hospital.

In 1899 General Franklin visited the hospital, when he realized that the Indian patients were ousted from the hospital due to the increase in number of European patients. He proposed to the Punjab Committee, the construction of a new hospital for the Indian patients, since Ripon hospital had been constructed with the local populations welfare in mind. Mr. J.L.Walker generously donated his ‘Gordon Castle’ for this purpose, however the location was objected to as it lay in the heart of the mall. The building was resold to the government for Rs. 1,20,000 and a further forty thousand was taken as building fund. As the hospital grew, resulting in the construction of a separate residence for the nurses who were serving there. A subsequent extension was also constructed, to house the requirements of the hospital. The hospital came to be known as ‘Walkers Hospital’.

SNOWDON HOSPITAL

Sir George White, Charles Nairne, William Lockhart were some of the few generals, who had been residing at this place. Lord Kitchener was the more famous personality to live there during his tenure. He made considerable improvements to the place. The Government of India accepted Lord Kitcheners proposed changes to Snowdon, and remitted him finances to make the proposed changes. In 1903, Lord Kitchener gave one of his most famous ballroom parties here. However Sir O Moore Creagh was not happy with the reputation Snowdon had acquired when he was posted there. Dinner parties, dances, meetings, were some of the things that were done there. Later on Billiards room, Society Meetings, Weddings were some of the activities inculcated in Snowdon. Snowdon hospital served as the residence for many commanders in chiefs during their tenure.

 

Search Words: Holiday in Shimla, hiking, homestay, honeymoon in shimla, mashobra, kufri hotels, bed and breakfast shimla, shimla to spiti, holiday in himachal pradesh, from delhi to shimla to manali to delhi.