Shimla, formerly Simla, is a beautiful hill station located in northern India and is the capital city of Himanchal Pradesh. Surrounded by lakes and lush green forests, this beautiful city of Shimla was discovered by the British. Since the climate of Shimla was very much like England, it soon became the abode for most of the British officers to spend the entire summer vacations during hot Indian summers and was gradually declared as the summer capital of British India in 1864.
Prior to this, Murree (now in modern day Pakistan) used to be the summer capital of the Punjab Province of British India until 1864. The thought of shifting the summer capital of the British Raj to Shimla was coined by the then Viceroy of India, John Lawrence in 1863. The town was planned by Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876-1880). He used to stay in a rented accommodation but later built a Viceregal Lodge on observatory hill. The Upper Bazar, which was used by the native Indian population, was cleared for a Town Hall, with facilities such as library and theatre and offices for police, military and municipal administration. This forced the native population to live in the Middle and Lower Bazars descending the steep slopes. The town was also the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of India, the head of the Indian Army.
Shimla was a place of refuge from heat during summers for most of the British Soldiers, Merchants and Civil Servants along with many Bachelors and unattached men and women thus giving this town a reputation for “frivolity, gossip and intrigue” – as mentioned by Rudyard Kipling in a letter cited by Allen about this place.
Shimla is popular for the Kalka-Shimla railway line. Also known as the “British Jewel of the Orient”, this railway line, having more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels, was constructed in 1906 and became a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Post Independence, consequent to merger of 28 petty princely states (including feudatory princes and zaildars), the Province of Himachal Pradesh came into being on 15 April 1948. Thereafter, with the implementation of the constitution of India on 26 January 1950, Himachal became a part C state and eventually became a Union Territory in 1956. The areas of Punjab State, specifically Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Tehsil of Pathankot District; were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament.
On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and thus the state of Himachal Pradesh, with Shimla as its capital, came into being on 25 January 1971.
Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the former Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Christ Church, Gorton Castle, Shimla Town Hall and The Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. The original Peterhoff, another Viceregal residence, was burned down in 1981. British Shimla extended about a mile and a half along the ridge between Jakhoo Hill and Prospect Hill. The central spine was The Mall, which ran along the length of the ridge, with a Mall Extension southwards, closed to all carriages except those of the Viceroy and his wife.