[Himachal GK] Historical Facts of Shimla - British Era

The name of Shimla [Simla] from 'Shyamalaya' meaning blue house said to be the name of house built of blue slate by a faqir on Jakhu. According to one version Shimla takes it name from 'Shamla' meaning a blue female another name for Goddess Kali. The place was on the Jakhu Hillside, there was a temple of Goddess Kali. During the British period the image of the Goddess was shifted to a new place ,now famous Kali Bari Temple.

Shimla remained unnoticed during the Gurkha War. In 1804 the Gurkhas , who had suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Sikhs at the battle of Kangra, a hill fortress about sixty miles from Shimla, where according to some accounts they lost thousand of men in the fight and many others from disease, commenced to ravage the states and hills surrounding Shimla.

Gurkhas built many forts around Shimla. One of these strongholds, the Jagatgarh  fortress, was the origin of the modern Jutogh, the well known military cantonment adjoining Shimla. By 1808 the invaders had conquered  all the fortified posts between the Jamuna and Satluj, and from their capital Arki began their ruthless rule over the neighbouring  hill states, untill at length the people in their wretchedness appealed to the British for help.

A small British force under Major General 'Sir David Ochterlony' was despatched to liberate the hill men from Gurkhas. Majority of hill chiefs responded to the call and joined the British forces. The rivals  were engaged in the toughest battle at 3750 ft high Ramgarh fort at Nalagarh. A decisive battle took place near the fort at Malaon in which superior guns of the British overpowered the enemy.

The battle of Malaon on 15th May 1815 ended the dream of the Gurkhas, to rule over this part of the land for any longer. After few days, an official declaration was made according to which all Chieftains who had joined British in expelling the Gurkhas were restored with their land under the British protection.

The maharaja of Patiala who has also rendered invaluable services to the British was rewarded with land in the neighbourhood of the area now comprising Shimla. After the defeat of Gurkhas they were forced to sign the Treaty of Sanjauli. The company retained the strategic forts of Sabathu, Kotgarh, Ramgarh and Sandoch.

Timeline of Events Related to Shimla during British Era :

1. In 1804 the Gurkhas suffered adefeat at the hands of the Sikhs at the battle of Kangra  thus commenced to ravage the states and hills surrounding Shimla.

2. Gurkhas lost The battle of Malaon on 15th May 1815 and Chieftains who had joined British in expelling the Gurkhas were restored with their land under the British protection.

3.Lt. Ross set up first British residence- a mere cottage of wood in 1819

4. Lt. Charles Patt Kennedy- erected the first pucca house in 1822 A.D. He was C.O. of ‘Nasiri Battalion. It was named after Lt. Kennedy as 'Kennedy House'.

5. The Combermere Bridge across a chasm and the water tank on the hill above it were built at the behest of Lord Combermere, the Comander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in 1828. This tank located at the site of the present day Indira Gandhi Sports Complex was the primary source of water before piped water was introduced to the city.

6. The first fun fair was held in Annadale in Sept 1833. Annadale’s legacy to Indian sport was the annual Durand Cup Football Tournament – inaugurated by Sir Mortimer Durand in 1888.

7. The credit to introduce potato cultivation in Shimla Hills goes to Major Kennedy.
8. Jutogh was made a cantonment of British infantry in 1843.

9. Dagshai was made a cantonment of British infantry in 1847.

10. LAWRENCE ASYLUM was founded in Sanawar near Kasauli in 1847.

11. First Commander –in – chief of the Indian Army to visit Shimla – Lord Combermere in 1828.

12. Christ Church While the cornerstone of this oldest Christ Church in Northern India was laid in September 1844 it was constructed in the neo-gothic style by the Bishop of Madras (now Chennai) and opened in January 1857, the year of India's first war of Independence. In 1860's it was declared a public building and looked after by the Government.

13. The construction of Hindustan Tibet road was started in 1850-51 commencing from Kalka and first lap was upto Shimla. The Road upto Shimla came to be used for wheeled traffic by 1860. A 560 feet long tunnel was constructed  beyond Sanjauli.

14. Town Hall was Built in 1860 out of stone and timber, the Town Hall which represents typical European architecture, housed the Municipal Corporation offices. Being a best example of Imperial City planning, the sober yet architecturally magnificent Town Hall was built on a commanding ridge at the confluence of the grounds of the ridge and the Mall.

15. Shimla was made Summer Capital in – 1864 it remained so until 1939. The summer exodus of the officials from the plains, however, ended after 1947. After Independence, Shimla became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh.
16. The building of the General Post Office, Shimla, the oldest post office of Northern India was constructed in 1882 and was earlier known as the Conny Cottage. Mr. F. Dalton Is supposed to be its first Post Master and Mr. L.G. Pigott was the last English Post master till December, 1946 and Mr. A.K. Hazari was the first Post master of Indian Origin in 1947. Before the establishment of rail or road links with Shimla, mail was sent through a special "dak gari" from Ambala to Kalka. It was further transported by postal employees using horses, ponies and even elephants.

17. A.O.Hume founded INC in 1885 at the ‘Rothney Castle’.

18. The Town Hall was completed in 1888.

19. The Gaiety Theater was opened on the 30th of May, 1887. This five storey building which was amongst the tallest buildings of its times was inaugurated in 1888 and served as a major place of entertainment for the Anglo-Indian society as it housed a stage for Shimla Amateur Dramatic Club. Built in stone, with artistically shaped windows, doors, lintels and openings, it also possessed boxes, galleries, beautiful paintings and sculptures, it was one of its kind in Asia during that period.

20. Kalka Shimla railway was completed under the supervision of the Chief Engineer – Mr.
The longest tunnel was the “Barog Tunnel”- being 1143.61m in length. The railway line was opened for traffic on 31st March 1891 and passenger train was flagged off only on 9th November 1903.

21. Shimla Municipal Committee was first constituted in 1852. It was given the status of a first class municipality under the Act of 1867.

22. Octroi was levied for the first time in Shimla in 1875.

23. RIPPON HOSPITAL was designed by Henry Irwin and completed in 1885 and declared open by Lord Dufferin on May 14,1885, hospital was named after Lord Rippon.

24. Gorton Castle one of the most striking buildings of the British Empire, the Gorton castle was built in the Neo-gothic style of architecture during 1901-04. It was once the Civil Secretariat of the Imperial Government of India and housed legislative, Land, Education, Health and Finance departments before it became the Office of the Accountant General in 1947. Even today this building houses the office of the Accountant General of Himachal Pradesh.

25. Viceregal Lodge was Constructed during the Viceroyalty of Lord Dufferin during 1884 - 1888 by architect Henry Irwin, this building with Neo-Gothic architecture was the first building to have electric lighting in Shimla. This building, spread over 123 acres has been a witness to several historic moments. It was the venue of the Shimla Conference in 1945 and it was here that the decision of partition of India was taken in 1947. After Independence in 1947, the building became the property of the President of India and was renamed Rashtrapati Niwas. Now it houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies.

26. Shimla Deputation: On October 1, 1906, a group of Muslim representatives of Muslim elite of United Province and specifically from Aligarh, met the Viceroy Minto at Shimla. They sought separate electorates and representation in excess of numerical strength in view of their loyalty towards the defence of the Crown Empire in India.
Soon afterwards, in the month of December 1906, Muslim League was founded by Salimulla and the members of the deputation was found dominating the working of the Muslim League..

27. Mahatma Gandhi first visited to Shimla on 11th May, 1921 and stayed at ‘Shanti Kutir” at Summer Hill. He was accompanied by Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya and Lala Lajpat Rai.

28. 12th May 1921- On May 12 1921, Mahatma Gandhi came to Shimla in order to have a meeting with the Viceroy. He gave a speech to the people in the Id-Gaha Maidan.

29. 11th May 1931 to 17th May 1931- In this span of time Mahatma Gandhi had a meeting with Lord Willingdon in Shimla on violation of peace related acts between Indian freedom fighters and British government by British government.

30. 13th July 1931 to 22nd July 1931- Again Mahatma Gandhi visited Shimla from 13th July 1931 to 22nd July 1931 to have a discussion with lord Willingdon.

31. 25th August 1931 to 27 August 1931- Mahatma Gandhi visited Shimla in this span to have a talk with Viceroy and to have a discussion with George Suster in relation to Salt law.

32. 28th June 1940- Mahatma Gandhi visited Shimla on 28th June 1940 to talk in context of Second World War and our nation's favour in that.

33. 27th September 1940 to 30th September 1940- In this visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Shimla, he informed the Viceroy that the war is being forced on the Indian masses.

34. 23rd June 1945 to 17th July 1945- Mahatama Gandhi participated in the Wavell Plan held in Shimla

35. 2nd May 1946 to 14th May 1946- Mahatma Gandhi participated in the Cabinet Mission in Shimla and discussed on Cripps Mission also.

36. Gandhi was greeted by Shimla with black flags in 1945.

37. Ellersile- Secretariat of Punjab Government – now Secretariat of Himachal Pradesh Govt. Indo – Pak Summit after 1971 war. Formal and informal meetings were held between the two delegations at the Ellersile and the Barnes Court (Himachal Bhawan).- served as the residence of Commander-in-Chief of the imperial Army.

38. Shimla Municipal Committee was replaced by Municipal Corporation in 1978.

39. Petterhoff- The High Court of Punjab- a former residence of the Viceroys- venue of trial of Gandhi’s killers. Destroyed in 1981.

Misc. Facts :

Lord Amherst, the first Governor General who visited Shimla, in 1827 stayed at the Kennedy House.

Rothney Castle:

On the lower slopes of Jakhoo Peak, now dominated by a giant orange statue of the monkey god Hanuman, lies Rothney Castle, once the home of Allan Octavian Hume. Here in 1885 he hosted the first meeting of India's Congress Party, which he helped found. It was Build by Colonel Rothney in 1938. In 1943 house passed into the hands of
Dr. Carte Who established Shimla Bank Corporation which later shifted to Grand Hotel. Then Rothney Castle become property of A.H. Mathews, and then followed by R. Mitchell then it purchased by A.O. Hume founder of the Indian National Congress (INC). Glass was used extensively and the local people still refer Sheesha Wali Kothi or the House of Glass.

Holly Lodge:

It was built in 1930 by Sophia Anne Cotton wife G.E.L.  Cotton Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India, a Girls School was established here in 1866 and then moved to its present premises at Auckland House School 1n 1868. Later this was passed to Raja Padam Singh of Bushehr Who was the leading Hill Chiefs; the properties is still with his descendants. Present Occupant is Raja Virbhardra Singh.

Note: If any facts or Points related to Shimla are left please Comment below.


  1. In 1827 Lord Amherest was the first Governor General to visit Shimla.

  2. I read your Interesting and awesome blog.Thanks for info.

  3. town hall was completed in 1908. wrong info blogger. correct yourself.

  4. 1.The McMahon line was established on 27April 1914 at the shimla conference between Tibet and Britain. It is named after Sir Henry McMahon, the chief British negotiator at Simla.

    2. Shimla was the headquarters of the exiled Burma Government from july 1942 to 1945

    3. 5 may 1946 cabinet mission conference..

    I think u missed these Sir..

  5. pls tell me about KendaL lODGE SIMLA, OPP. TO AUCKLAND HOUSE SCHOOL simla.

  6. very useful information, sir. keep it up

  7. Commander in chief residence was which one of these.is it kennedy house

    1. It is Wild Flower Hall. Read these links-


    2. yes its wild flower hall

  8. Thanks for the account and information shared about Shimla. I had read somewhere and heard from some old people too that the Viceregal Lodge has a Wine Cellar in the basement and a dungeon as well. In addition to that there is a tunnel beneath Viceregal Lodge that leads to some place in the adjoining area of the Observatory Hill.

    In the lawns behind the Viceregal Lodge, there is at some distance another two storey building which stems from dugout earth and remains mostly covered and hidden. Further ahead of the building is another structure which is referred as ice-cube but is again a strategic point. There is no mention anywhere about that structure and has been isolated now a days.

    Appreciate if you can throw some light on that too.