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History of Shimla

History of Shimla

History of Shimla Timeline:

Shimla as a destination has a history rich and colourful, with many a fascinating fact that has helped shape it into the city it is today. Given below is a brief outline of its history with the most important milestones marked out for you.

1804: Ghurkhas attack the Hill states surrounding Shimla and subject the defeated hill folk to an oppressive rule

1815: The local Chieftains, tired of the Ghurkhas ruthlessness, request the assistance of the British to gain freedom from the Ghurkhas. The combined forces of the hill folk, British soldiers and the army of the Maharajah of Patiala achieve what the hill folk on their own could not. The land is returned to the rightful owners and the Maharajah of Patiala is rewarded with surrounding land. Shimla escapes the attention of British for it is hardly anything more than a few non-descript houses and an ancient temple amid the woody slopes.

1819: Lt. Ross, the Assistant Political Agent of Hill States, stumbles upon Shimla and sets up a simple wood cottage in the scenic surroundings

1822: The succeeding Assistant Political Agent of Hill States, Lt. Charles Patt Kennedy, builds the first ‘pucca’ house in Shimla. The house is named after the owner as Kennedy House.

1823 – 1830: News of Shimla, its picturesque settings and England-like weather spreads to other British officers in India and they start travelling to Shimla. Thus, Shimla gets its first taste as a tourist destination. During this period, Shimla gets a three-mile road and a bridge near Jakhu in 1828, when Lord Combermere, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, was in residence at the Kennedy House.

1830: By now, there are 30 houses to accommodate the rising surge of British officers keen on spending their breaks away from the heat of the plains. The same year, the British decided to expand their hill base by acquiring more land from the surrounding hill states. With the acquisition of new land, the British builds more houses and the settlement of 30 houses grows.

1832: Combermere’s successor Earl Dalhousie visits Shimla. More British Officers follow to socialize with high-ranking officials. British Ladies in India, namely, the wives of the British Officers follow to enjoy parties, grand balls and find prospective grooms for their daughters, nieces, sisters and other female relatives from the pool of eligible British officers.

1830 – 1840: During this period, Shimla sees extensive growth as a party destination, where socialization in the form of grand balls, parties, picnics and festivities is on high priority. The unattached men, lonely wives of officials on duty in the plains of India, daughters and the overall scene of balls, parties and festivity leads to many a rumour of adultery and flirtations.

The city also became a centre for theatre and art exhibitions. More bungalows for high-ranking officials come up and a big Bazaar is set up in town to cater to the needs of the European population. Indian traders from Indian business communities move up to Shimla to set up shops in the Big Bazaar.

1840: Observatory House is built by Captain J. T. Boileau. This house later goes on to become the residence of the Viceroy’s Private Secretary

1844: The foundation of the Christ Church is laid. Christ Church is the second church to be built by the British in North India.

1845 – 1852: Several roads are laid and old ones are widened. Construction of Hindustan Tibet Road begins in Kalka, with the first lap extending until Shimla and a 560-feet tunnel beyond Sanjauli.

1852 – 1860: The Hindustan Tibet Road is ready for vehicular traffic up to Shimla. Christchurch is completed and consecrated.

1864: Shimla is declared as the Summer Capital of the British India.

1876: Lord Lytton, Viceroy of India, plans the first Viceregal Residence in Shimla, as the Viceroy did not have a residence suitable to his position in Shimla. He also begins to develop Shimla City. The Upper Bazaar area is created after a fire clears the area of woods and the native population relocated to the lower regions. A Town Hall, Library, the Gaiety Theatre and several offices are planned in the Upper Bazaar Area.

The regional Government of Punjab moves its summer capital from Murree to Shimla.

1878: Captain H. H. Cole of the Royal Engineers presents Lord Lytton with the first designs for the Viceregal Lodge.

1885: Allan Octavian Hume helps found the India’s Congress Party and hosts its first meeting in his home – Rothney Castle. In this year, St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of St Michael and St Joseph, and the first Roman Catholic Church in a hill station is built.

1887: Gaiety Theatre opens in the newly constructed Town Hall. The opening coincided with Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year. As Theatre is a major form of entertainment and part of the social life of the British elite, Gaiety Theatre flourishes in Shimla.

1888: The Amateur Dramatic Club is founded. This is also the year, when the Viceregal Lodge is finally ready.

1903: The first railway line between Shimla and Kalka is laid, which enables easier access to the hilly heights of Shimla. Until then, transport to Shimla was only by horses, horse-driven carriages and village carts.

1946: Leaders of the Indian nationalist movement come to Shimla for a crucial conference that eventually paves the way to Independence and the division of united India into two different states – India and Pakistan.

1966: Shimla is designated as the capital of Himachal Pradesh.

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