Our second day at Shimla was a resounding success. After a refreshing visit to the famous Jakhoo temple, we stepped into the premises of the equally famous Rashtrapati Niwas building. This is one of the landmarks of Shimla, accorded an entire hill to itself for its magnificent, imposing structure. The Niwas, situated on the Observatory Hill, was previously called the Viceregal Lodge, residence of the Viceroy of Lord Dufferin in its infancy. The British made Shimla their summer retreat to escape the scorching heat and dry summers roasting the rest of the country. This edifice, built in 1888, was surrounded by tall Pine trees with lush green leaves, offering a cool breeze and pleasant scent that wafts through the open windows in Summer, alluring the British officials who were stationed in the Capital Delhi, where Summers where dry, scorching and unbearable. Today, Lodge, renamed to claim Indian independence, is being used by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS).
My friends And I were impressed by the architecture of the building. Quaint, elegant and sophisticated, the monument is built in the style of the mansions of Scottish, designed by the architect of the Public Works Department of the Imperial government, Henry Irvine. The building has six stories, a massive, opulent reception hall with an imposing fireplace and a grand spiraling staircase that makes one think of grand balls held in honor of the Viceroy, with Waltzes and chamber music, officers in dashing uniforms and ladies in evening gowns. A grand structure for a grand event!
As we walked through the hallways of the building, our tour guide pointed out the rich teak paneled gallery that holds the coats of arms of the former Viceroys and Governor-Generals ruling our
country. The lower levels of the building open into sprawling lawns, with a state-room, a ball room, a game room and the reception hall off the main vestibule. The upper floors offer spectacular
views of snow-capped mountains, where one could enjoy a cup of tea while tracing the path of the sun through the sky at dawn and dusk.
We were extremely impressed by what out guide explained. As early as 1888, the Viceregal Lodge had a host of amenities for guests, with a tennis court and a wine cellar and offered facilities and services like laundry, central heating, boilers for hot water, massive kitchens to cook an array of dishes and well-tended gardens with a variety of exotic and locally grown plants. Royal princes and Nawabs were hosted by the Viceroy in the Niwas, with Lavish Parties, delectable food and a magnificent venue. A walk down memory lane, into the lives of the rich and powerful!