Monday, December 26, 2011

Enchanting Himachal – Shimla & around

Enchanting Himachal – Shimla & around

DSC_0020 by S Roy Biswas
Panaromic view of Shimla
We reached Shimla in the evening, I had booked a hotel through the internet in the Ridge area and during my conversation with the owner, I was informed that they had space for parking of the Car. However, when I reached Shimla, I found out that there were restrictions on movement of Cars in the Mall & the ridge area. I called up the owner/manager, who informed me that one could come to the hotel from Chotta Shimla route via Jakhoo hill. We kept wondering from place to place, as we could not make out the route and after a few hiccups were finally able to reach the road late in the evening. However, the road was narrow and no parking was available in the vicinity of the hotel and the car had to be parked at a substantial distance from the hotel and the poor driver had to spend two nights in the car, as he was himself not convinced about its security. Moreover, the hotel was at a height of almost 100 meters from the road and had to be accessed by steep flight of stairs. I would advise the readers to avoid booking in the Ridge & mall area, in case you are traveling by your own car.
Shimla by night
Shimla derives its name from Goddess Shyamala, an incarnation of Goddess Kali, the deity of power and wrath. Perched at an altitude of 2159 m above sea level, Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and located towards the southern parts of the state. The city is spread over a 12 km ridge with just two main roads. The Mall which runs from the far west to the lower eastern side, and the Cart Road which circles the southern part of Shimla. This is where the railway station and the bus and taxi stands are located. The crescent of the wooded Ridge stretches from the lofty 2476 m high Jakhoo Hill and Chhota Shimla in the east, to the Observatory (2,148 m) and Prospect hills (2,176 m) in the west. Shimla is surrounded by seven picturesque hills which are the prime attractions of city tours. These are:
Jakhoo hill: in central Shimla, which is crowned by the temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman;
Bantony in central Shimla, which has the Grand Hotel, but at a much lower elevation than Jakhoo hill;
Prospect Hill: Famous for the Kamna Devi temple;
Summer Hill: The Himachal Pradesh University campus is located here;
Observatory Hill: This place is known for Indian Institute of Advanced Study;
Invererarm Hill: The hill top has the State Museum and TV broadcast tower, located opposite Jakhoo hills;
Elysium Hill : It houses the Auckland House and the Longwood and reaches out towards Bharari.
Apart from these, the main attractions of Shimla are the Mall road & the Ridge, which houses the Kali Bari, Churches & Cathedrals and shopping arcades all along, while the latter presents astounding views of Shimla & around. After taking rest during the night, we started exploring Shimla & around the next day.
Church in Shimla
Panaromic view of the famous Mall in Shimla
The Jakhoo temple complex
The Jakhoo temple entrance
May check out the video on Jakhoo temple at Youtube -

Shimla usually does not offer such views - however, this photograph was shot by my friend and colleague Sh.Chandan Sengupta, just after a severe storm from the Grand Hotel, Shimla on 20th May, 2011 - I got the picture from him to share with the viewers
The first destination we touched was the Jakhoo hill, which houses the famous Jakhoo temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and a huge sculpture of Lord Hanuman is being erected at this site and is now visible from whole of Shimla. Although there were a large number of monkeys in the temple vicinity, but we were not disturbed by any of them. Having visited the temple, we headed towards the Mall, which we accessed by ascending through the lift installed for the purpose, the charges for which are @ Rs.7/- per person for ascending and @ Rs.3/- per person for descending. We had to endure a long queue at the two stages of the lift to reach the top. However, the Mall was over-crowded and people were jostling with each other for some space. Having had our lunch and explored the Mall area, we headed out of Shimla to explore the nearby places.

Excursions around Shimla
A) Mashobra – About 12 Kms. from Shimla towards Naldehra lies this quaint little township, which houses a small church & some interesting walks through the Deodar trees. Hotel Gables is just on the main road.
View of valley below Mashobra

B) Naldehra – About 15 Kms. ahead of Mashobra is the famous Golf course, conceptualized by Lord Curzon, who was so enamored by this place that he had named his daughter as Naldehra. This place is extension of the Kufri ridge and offers some astounding sights of the Himalayas from behind the Nag Devta temple. Pony rides are available from the main road and cost Rs.250/- per pony for a 2 Km ride plus a Rs.10/- surcharge being charged by local Gram Sabha per pony;
The famous gold club at Naldhera

Taking ride on the ponies

View of the Himalayan ranges from Naldehra
The Nag Mandir at Naldehra

C) Fagu – On way towards Kufri a small village about 11 Kms. from Shimla lies Fagu. It houses a HPTDC hotel and is a base camp for trekkers in the region;
Passing by Fagu
D) Kufri – Situated at a distance of 4 Kms. from Fagu, it is one of the dirtiest destinations around Shimla. The whole place is stinking with pony loo & shit (shouldn’t have used these words – but used the same to convey the actual conditions). The road has been purposefully so made, that any one wishing to walk down this road will find it impossible to do so, due to the dirt & muck, purposefully created by the Pony owners & associations. It will cost you Rs.250/- (Min.) for the ride plus Rs.10/- per pony being charged by the Gram Sabha. The viewing perch, which was open to all till a few years back, as been deliberately cordoned off by the Mafia operating telescopes and charging @ Rs.75/- per person. The haphazard makeshift constructions that have taken place at this spot, has ruined the natural beauty of the place and made it a veritable garbage infested hell-hole with no views. Hope that the government wakes up to this manifestation in time to save the environs & abvience of the place.
Yaks at Kufri - poor beasts made to stand in such harsh sun
View from Kufri
The arbitrary encroachment in Kufri viewing point
Photograph taken in late 1990's from the viewing point


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  18. Roy Biswas Babu

    Wonderful post! Reading a travelogue of yours after a long time.

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