Shimla is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Northern India. It was the summer capital of the erstwhile British India and was known by the name Simla. Simla was named the capital of the Punjab state after partition of India. Later when the state of Himachal Pradesh was carved out of Punjab, Simla became Shimla and also the capital of Himachal Pradesh.
If you are coming in a car, then get ready to be stuck in long queues and traffic jams in the city area. The weather condition there is generally cool and the environment is pollution free.
The Himachal Tourism Tourist Information and Assistance office on The Mall has been opened to help the tourists.
The important places to visit are also mentioned there on a board. Some of them include:
- Temple Mata Tara Devi Ji
- Temple Jakhu Hanuman Ji
- Temple Mata Shristi Ji
- The Mall, The Ridge and The Scandal Point
- Viceregal Lodge, now Indian Institute of Advanced Study
- Green Valley
- Temple Sankat Mochan
Temple of Mata Tara Devi Ji
Mata Tara Devi Ji is the Goddess of Stars. Mata Tara Devi Ji is considered one of the forms of Mata Laxmi, Goddess of Wealth and wife of Lord Vishnu. Mata Tara Devi Ji is very popular in this part of Himachal Pradesh and devotees can be seen from all parts of India. The temple is situated on the top of a hill in the small village of Shoughi, approximately 6 Kms from Shimla.
If you are coming from Solan side, Shoughi will come before Shimla. The temple route is very steep, so drive carefully! Besides the temple, there is another temple of Mata Dudhadhari Ji about 250 meters from Mata Tara Devi Temple.
Temple Jakhu Hanuman Ji
Temple of Jakhu is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. It is situated on the hill top of Jakhu Hill. It is said that during the times of Ramayana, when Lord Laxman Ji was wounded by the arrow, Lord Hanuman Ji was sent to find the medicinal plant of Sanjeevani Buti. Lord Hanuman came here and saw Rishi Yakshya meditating on this hill top. Lord Hanuman had stopped here and had asked Rishi Yakshya for directions to find the Sanjeevani Buti. Today the hill top has an old temple, named the Jakhu Temple. A huge 108-ft long statue of Lord Hanuman has been erected on the hill top towering the whole of city.
The temple is full of monkeys, so beware of displaying your belongings in the public! Avoid buying ‘Prasad‘ from the temple foothill. They sell it expensive there, varying from ₹ 50-100. You can get the ‘Prasad‘ from the temple top, where it is sold comparitively cheaper for about ₹ 10-30.
Temple Mata Shristi Ji
On the way of returning to Shimla after visiting Mata Tara Devi Temple, approximately 2-3 Kms from Shoughi, comes the Temple of Mata Shristi. It is the only temple of Mata Shristi in the world. It is a small but a very popular temple of the area. A bhandara, a religious meeting where people gather and sing praises of Mata Shristi Ji together, is held every first and last friday of the month.
The Mall, The Ridge and The Scandal Point.
The Mall is the main street of the Shimla city. The Mall, The Ridge and the Scandal point, all are located together adjoining each other on the same road. Public vehicles are not allowed to enter The Mall, and it is the favorite spot for the tourists visiting Shimla. Many pre-independence British Era government buildings are situated along the Mall Road, some of which include the Town Hall, The State Library, The Municipal Building, Fire Brigade Building and the Police headquarters. Apart from these, there are a lot of Departmental Stores, Shops selling clothes, local handicraft, wooden items and pottery, cafes, bookstores, jewelery shops. The Mall is accessible by a Lift system, where you pay a one side ticket for ₹ 10/person and you reach the Mall directly and save a lot of time and effort. Long queues can be seen of the people who wish to enter the Mall using the Lift system.
Other major points of attractions near the Mall are The Ridge, Lakkad Bazaar, Mata Kali Bari Temple and the Scandal Point. The Scandal Point has its own history. It is said that the Maharajah of Erstwhile Patiala State fell in love with the daughter of British Viceroy. It is at this point that they both used to meet and spend time together. When the Viceroy came to know about this, the Maharajah was banned from entering Simla by the British authorities. The Maharajah countered the move by establishing a new summer capital about 45 Kms from Simla, now famous by the name of Chail, another famous hill station. Now, the statue of Lala Lajpat Rai, a prominent freedom fighter, stands facing the Scandal Point. This statue was brought back from Lahore to Shimla after the Indian Independence. Other statues have also been placed along the Mall to honor the various personalities who had played an important role in the development of the Himachal Pradesh state.
Viceregal Lodge (now Indian Institute of Advanced Studies)
The Viceregal Lodge, now known as the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, was the residence of British Viceroy of India. After India gained its independence from the British, the building was named The Rashtrapati Niwas. But, the Presidents of India found it to be of lesser use to them. Later, Dr S. Radhakrishnan decided to put it to academic use. The Rashtrapati Niwas was handed over to the Ministry of Education and the Estate was renamed to Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). The building is open to public. People can buy the tickets from the Ticket counter and visit the building. Photography is allowed inside by paying a camera fee of ₹ 30, which can be bought from the ticket counter. There are guided tours of the building which are free of cost, and the guides tell you about the history of the building, the various rooms inside, and even the furniture kept and still preserved over there since the British times.
The Viceregal Lodge is built on the Observatory Hills of Shimla, and houses some rare photographs of Indian freedom fighters and British personalities. The Viceregal Lodge was designed by British architect Henry Irwin and built in the Jacobethan style during the regime of Lord Dufferin. Its construction started in 1880 and was completed in 1888. Lord Dufferin occupied the lodge on July 23, 1888.
The Fire Brigade building outside the Viceregal Lodge has been converted into a Cafe by the name Fire Brigade Cafe which also houses the Ticket Counter for the public.
Green Valley, Shimla
Known by this name due to all the Greenery due to trees and bushes. You cannot find a single spot which is not covered by green trees. The view of the valley is so good that during the sunrise, it feels that you are so close to the nature.
Temple Sankat Mochan
The Temple Sankat Mochan is located in the heart of Shimla and is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The temple complex consists of a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, all the 9 planets, including Lord Shani, Lord Vrahaspati, etc. , Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
Kufri is another popular hill station approximately 14 Kms from Shimla. Kufri one of the highest peaks in the region and hosts a small settlement. This area once belonged to the Kingdom of Nepal. Later the British annexed it and it became a part of India under the Sagauli Treaty with Nepal. Kufri is famous for its Ski-track which becomes functional in winters. During this time the place is flooded with tourists who come especially for Ski’ing purposes. The town also houses a good collection of animals in the Himalayan Nature Park Zoo.
The place is also famous for a temple dedicated to Naag Devta (Serpent Lord, God of Snakes), situated on the hill top of Shateyan. The hill top is also known by the name of Mahasu Peak. You can either hire a horse or travel to the hill top on foot. The purpose of the horses is to take you to the top of the hill. Beware of touts who try to fool people by quoting them different prices for a Full-tour and a Limited-tour. When you reach the hill top, you need to get down the horse and explore it by foot anyway. So, get the cheapest deal to reach the top. At the top, you need to buy an entry ticket for ₹ 10/person, by the order of Gram Panchayat of Shateyan. The Mahasu Peak is full of rides and trekking and adventure tours. If you want to get a picture clicked while riding a Yak, then you got it here. Kufri Fun World enterance is located towards one corner, whose ticket costs about ₹ 400/person, and it includes more rides and an Apple Farm. Apple-picking is not allowed in the Apple Farm though.
Other places of interest -
Apart from these places, there is much more to be explored in Shimla and its surrounding areas. The region is situated in the Himalayas and the scenic beauty is wonderful. There are many waterfalls, but the ones in the city have been polluted by the city waste dumping into the rivers. This is sad but the truth. The British influence on the area can still be seen. In case you need to inquire something then you can call the Himachal Tourism Office located on the Mall. They are helpful people and can guide you most of the time. Having a stroll on the Mall in the evening is the most popular thing with the tourists. Lakkad Bazaar on the Mall is full of wooden items. Get some handicraft stuff as a souvenir. You will get paintings on wood and more items carved out of wood there.
Wish you a good time there. Share your experience in the Comments section below.