Due to the summer heat everywhere, we decided to spend a week in a cold place. After much contemplation, we zeroed down on Shimla and Manali. It was lovely to experience the cold after five years. The last cold place we visited was Norway on our Europe trip in 2017.
Shimla is a beautiful place though it had some confusing weather in the three days we were there. The first day was quite pleasant. I simply wore a knee-length dress and roamed all of Mall Road. On the second day, it was cloudy and pouring with thunder and lightning. The bonfire was canned due to the weather. The third day had mist and chilly winds. Check out some Shimla properties here.
Whenever the weather permitted, we walked around Shimla to visit Christ Church, Scandal Point and Kari Bari Temple. But the best tourist attraction there, according to me, was the Viceregal Lodge (currently known as Rashtrapati Niwas). I was in awe of it. Not as much as I was in awe of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona but it was still a very impressive heritage building.
The tour timings are from 10.30 am to 5 pm with a 30-minute lunch break at 1.30 pm. You can buy tickets at the counter for the different kinds of sessions they have with a guide who will explain all about the history of the lodge. Wearing a mask is mandatory and clicking pictures is not allowed.
Viceregal Lodge was built, as a summer residence, on a hill 7000 feet above sea level, in 1888 for the British Viceroys of India. Currently, it is considered a heritage site by UNESCO, so it is only being used by scholars to study. More about its significance is mentioned below.
WHY I THOUGHT VICEREGAL LODGE WAS THE BEST VISIT IN SHIMLA
-Very few are aware that the papers for the Partition of India were prepared at the Viceregal Lodge, Shimla. There is a round table, made from walnut wood, around which a lot of discussion on this subject is believed to have taken place (during the Shimla conference in 1945). But besides being a building where the division of India was discussed before it got its independence, it was a building built by an intelligent architect.
-The place was constructed with a marvellous rainwater harvesting system. The tank is under the lush green garden and rainwater from around the lodge collects into it. No one is allowed to step on the lush green lawns because the covers of the tank would get damaged. There is a footpath all around the garden to admire the lodge and click your pictures.
-Viceregal Lodge was the first building in Shimla to have concealed electrical lighting. There is a huge steam generator hidden in the grounds for this purpose. It would be great if the whole country followed this concept. I’ve only seen this in Moscow and loved the way the city looked illuminated.
-The fire-fighting system, built into the ceiling and walls, has a piping network that spans the entire structure and is yet not visible as their sprinkling ends are sealed with wax. The science was that wax melts at 58 degrees, so, any fire would cause enough heat to melt the wax thus allowing the water to flow. It hasn’t been used till date but the twenty overhead water tanks are always primed with water.
-The creative architecture outside and inside the lodge is marvellous. The walls are made of teak wood from Burma. The ceilings of the private rooms are made of walnut tree wood brought from Kashmir.
– The furniture is more than 130 years old but thankfully still well maintained. The viceroy’s chair is kept on display. It is made of Burman teak wood. FYI – Beginning with Lord Dufferin, Lord Mountbatten was the last viceroy to occupy the lodge before the Presidents of India began using the place as a summer retreat.
-The 135-year-old pendulum Dutch wall clock brought from Holland not only displays the time but also shows the degree of the moon. The clock is wound once a week.
-High up on the walls are depressions of the weapons that used to be on display. Currently, the weaponry has been transferred elsewhere as the place is currently used by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). I imagined how it looked back then with the real ammunition hung up merely to show power.
-The huge ballroom and dining room have been transformed into a library for the scholars. We weren’t allowed to enter this area as it was in use but you can assess the magnitude of it from its enormous glass entrance.
-On display, in the main hall and some rooms, are old articles and photographs dating back to the times when the British ruled India. It was interesting to read some of the memos from those times. There are also photographs of important leaders standing outside the lodge.
The downside to this visit was that we were not allowed to visit the higher floors or get into the library. As we were also not allowed to click photographs (or even take a phone call in there), I found a website that had a few images of the interiors. Do check it out.
To conclude, I must reiterate that this lodge, which has seen so much for so long, was the best visit in Shimla. Though we didn’t get to explore every part of it, it was unique, huge and still exuded power in some way. So, if you are visiting Shimla, I recommend that visiting this lodge should definitely be on your list.
Have you visited the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla yet? Did you like something there that’s not mentioned here?