Raj Relics The Architecture of Shimla

Heritage Zone

Though the INTACH had identified 329 structures in and around the town to be declared as heritage buildings but the government has decided to include only 97 of these for the time being. The list of these 97 structures both private and government will be placed before the Cabinet for its approval.

In order to ensure conservation of heritage along the Mall, the stretch from Chotta Shimla to the Vice-Regal Lodge has been notified as Heritage Zone. Only reconstruction along old lines is permissible in this zone and that too in strict accordance with heritage regulations and projecting the original structures.

It is being suggested that in order to encourage people to adopt the British architectural features, prepared doors, windows and other material be supplied through some agency like the Municipal Corporation or a development agency at subsidized rates. “The new structures that come up in a particular locality should be in consonance with the prominent British time building in that particular area so that there are no eye sores in the form of ugly concrete structures,” says an official.

Names galore

(LEFT) BANTONY- This is one of the t well proportioned and architecturally beautiful building of Shimla. Located near the GPO on the road leading to the Kalibari temple, it was the summer palace of the Maharaja of Sirmour. Before its construction in 1880, the place had a rickety cottage belonging to one Capt Gordon, with some Indian army officers living in it. — Photos by Anil Dayal

Perceived and established by the British during colonial period in first half of the 19th century as their summer capital, the town had acquired global fame by the time the British left it in 1947. Known by various names like “Indian Mount Olympus” “Abode of the little tin Gods” and “British Jewel of the Orient” Shimla has a name in the international market due to its unique architectural and beautiful buildings that dot the cityscape.

The British in trying to recreate homely atphere used English architecture while constructing their houses. However, with time they also incorporated the indigenous style as a result of which some of the buildings display attributes of a different style coined as the Anglo Indian architecture. The Bantony, the summer palace of the Maharaj of Sirmour is a perfect example of this style.

Gothic architecture

Swiss Chalet bungalows were the t common in Shimla along with Baronial Chateaus with corrugated iron roof and Tudor Gothic, a dull but dignified style. The city possesses distinct British heritage, including institutional buildings, bungalows, churches, theatres, schools, hospitals street pattern Some of the architectural masterpieces constructed by the British include Vice Regal Lodge, Gorton Castle, Bantony, Railway Board building, Gaiety Theatre, Town Hall, Auckland House, Ellerslie, Barnes Court and Chalet Day School.

The houses were named either after the name of the owner like Kennedy House, Bentick Castel or after important features on which they were located like Mt Pleasant Lodge, Knollswood Lodge, Observatory House or on the physical characteristic around it like natural vegetation – Oak Ville Violet, Fir Cottage, Pine Lodge or North View, Snow View. Many of the names of houses were also changed as its ownership changed like Allan Bank was called Nunnery in 1840 when its was occupied by three sisters.

Like t of the other pedestrian hill stations set up by the British, Shimla too is a melancholy shadow of its past. However, with the government now keen to take some concrete steps it is being hoped that there will be thrust on heritage conservation so that it preserved for posterity.

“Shimla should be declared a heritage city and making heritage conservation as a people’s movement is the foret necessity,” feels Mr B.S. Malhans, Convener of the Shimla Chapter of the INTACH.

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