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Way back in 1817, a small village tucked away in the Himalayas was discovered by British surveyors and pronounced an ideal retreat for the homesick colonisers. Named after Shyamla Devi, an incarnation of the fierce goddess Kali, stories of Shimla’s salubrious climate and invigorating surroundings made it grow in popularity. In 1830, the land around was bought from the local ruler and Shimla turned into a resort for British army officers. Soldiers recuperating from the Gurkha war came up to the hill resort to heal their wounds, while the memsahibs favoured its cooler climate to the hot, humid and mosquito-infested plains. Soon it began to look like an English village as cottages with gardens, tree-lined walks, churches and cricket pitches came up around town. Finally, in 1864, the town was formally declared the summer capital of the Imperial Government. Every summer, tons of files and baggage were transported all the way from Calcutta and later Delhi, to this hill town. Shimla came alive with gentlemen and ladies spending their days at garden parties, games of bridge, grand dinners and balls. The main pedestrian walkway, known as the Mall, was popular for evening promenades. Several British landmarks, including the Christ Church, the Cecil Hotel and the Gaiety Theatre came up along the Ridge. In 1903, the Kalka-Shimla railway link was begun making the hitherto arduous journey up much simpler. Even today, the quaint toy train connecting Kalka to Shimla chugs up steep hill slopes carrying hordes of eager tourists. Due to its secluded location and relaxed surroundings, Shimla was useful as a meeting point for national leaders. In the days just before India’s independence in 1947, the architects of modern India and the leaders of the Muslim League met here to discuss the modalities of the transfer of power. Later, in 1972  the landmark Shimla Accord was signed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the premiers of India and Pakistan. The  Shimla Accord was an effort at diffusing tension between the two nations that had remained hostile after independence and partition.

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