Friday, November 25, 2016

Autumn in the Himalayas - Shimla

We had a 4-day long weekend for Thanksgiving in November and Lex and I decided to go to Shimla for this.  Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills.  Apparently at one point it was part of Nepal, and later it was also the summer capital of British India.  We took the whole day to drive up there, arriving around late afternoon.  We settled into our room, watched the sun set behind the mountains and then set out to explore the town.

The view from our hotel room

Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural beauty of the city attract a large number of tourists. The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge.

Christ Church as seen from The Mall
The following day we decided to go to the Viceregal Lodge.  On the way we stopped at the Kali Bari Mandir.  There were great views from here and the walk was lovely along Mall Road and The Ridge.

The walk to the Viceregal Lodge took several hours.  We then stopped for lunch before going on a tour.  This beautiful building was the official summer residence of the British viceroys from 1888 until Independence after the Second World War.  The entire Indian subcontinent was ruled from here for just over half of every year (usually early April to late October).


Today the lodge houses a postdoctoral humanities research centre (now called the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies), but you can visit parts of it on a tour. The entrance hall is beautiful and lined in Burmese teak, though it wasn't possible to take any photos inside.


It's incredible to think that the British ruled 1/5th of the world's population from this summer residence for over 100 years!

The following day we walked around Shimla.  We visited the Christ Church and looked out at the views from Mall Road and The Ridge.  In the afternoon we took a taxi up the hill to the Hanuman Temple on Jakhoo Peak.  The photo below was taken from The Mall looking up to Christ Church on The Ridge.

View from Mall Road


The highest point of the city is Jakhoo Hill. At the top of the flat hill is the colourful Jakhoo Temple and the Hanuman statue. On the walk up to the temple you have to watch out for monkeys that are waiting to rob tourists of food and shiny objects!  One ran off with my sunglasses - luckily the locals helped and I got them back.  It is very appropriate that Jakhoo Temple is dedicated to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, as the monkeys rule Jakhoo hill. From the summit there are great views to the north over the Shivalik mountain range of the Himalayan foothills and west over Shimla.

The Temple itself is colourfully painted.  On the outer wall of the temple is a lucky religious bell, if a visitor to the temple rings the bell the ringer will have good luck for the following 3 days. The statue of Lord Hanuman is next to the temple. The Hanuman statue has been painted a vivid orange colour and when viewed from Shimla this large statue can be seen towering above the natural greens of the pine tree canopy.

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