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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Post Offices of Shimla

The bright red pyramidal roof stands out, marking it clearly against the rest of the buildings. The red and yellow symbol of India Post painted over the entrance is equally visible, indicating that it is the GPO – the General Post Office, at Shimla.

Inside, the GPO is a hub of activity. There are long queues at every counter, and there is scarcely any space to take a good look at the interiors. It looks just like any other post office, on a busy day. Heading into the Philately counter, however, is a pleasant change. There is just one person in the room, surrounded by papers, covers, stamps and the like. He looks up impatiently, but brightens up when we say we want the special cancellation of the GPO. His smile lights up the small office, and he happily takes out the stamping pad. The cancellation he is giving us is a special one – one issued for the date 12-12-12 (12th December 2012).

The stamped image has a Monal on it, the state bird of Himachal Pradesh, and Samhith is excited at the fact that he now has a bird on his collection of special cancellations! And a bird he has just seen on a visit to a bird park! The official is amused, and his happiness is evident. There are obviously not many philately enthusiasts coming here, and certainly few this young!

This is one of the oldest GPOs in the northern parts of the country, built in 1883. The half timbered structure is an example of typical British hill architecture, with hollow pillars of brick and stone that help warm the interiors during the cold winter months.

Almost every building here, on the Mall, is a heritage structure, and yet the GPO building manages to stand out. And, like most of the buildings here, this too has seen its share of renovations in modern times. A major fire which broke out in 1972 almost succeeded in destroying it, but persistent efforts to renovate the structure were successful and the renovated building, preserving the original features was re-opened to the public in 1992.

A little further down the road, is another post office. This one is painted the same colours of white and red as the GPO, but looks too simple to be an important building. We are surprised to learn that this is a heritage structure too, albeit of a different kind. At a time when horses were the only means of bringing the mail to Shimla from the plains, this structure served as the stable for the horses! 

The advent of the Kalka Shimla Railway line in 1903 retired the horses from service and rendered the building inoperative till the Postal Department decided to use it as a branch office!

Further down, at Chaura Maidan is a green and white building which looks more like a country cottage. It’s only the India Post symbol which marks it as another post office.

Considering our interest in Philately, it isn't surprising that the highlight of our heritage walk of Shimla turns out to be the post offices! However, it is surprising to see the state of preservation of each of these post offices. As I mentioned earlier, many of them have been renovated in recent times, but efforts have been made to retain as much of the design as possible, while modernizing the interiors to suit today’s modern world. Now, if only this was true of all our heritage buildings! 


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, it is, Shrinidhi, but the Mumbai GPO is much more majestic :D

  2. Interesting! I think Trivandrum Post Master General's office is housed in a heritage building. Vaguely remember seeing it as a child. :)

    1. Thanks Bindhu! I guess most of the GPOs and head offices of the postal dept would be housed in heritage buildings.... planning to do a series on post offices across the country.. as and when i visit them, of course!

  3. Loved the hidden gem at the philately counter! I've been to Shimla and yours is such a unique perspective on the place.

    1. Thanks Manasi!!! we are always on the look out for philately counters at post offices wherever we go, and this was a real treat!!!

  4. Beautiful buildings and a beautiful post too. I think now it is time to devote few posts on Samhit's collections.

    1. Thanks PNS! planning to do that.. just wondering how to do that :D

  5. You have imparted very good information about post office of shimla in Himachal PradeshHimachal Tourism.

  6. This is a very interesting post. Those buildings look very nice.

  7. This is a post after my own heart, and you have given me an idea for a blog post which I will discuss with you later. Lovely, lovely post, Anu.

    PS: I loved the green and white cottage post office the most

    1. grt to hear that, Sudha! cant wait to read it now! and the green one looked lovely, and different. most post offices i have seen are painted red and white, but oculdnt go in as it was closed. would have loved to see what it was like from the inside.

  8. Wonderful Post on Post offices of Shimla. Being a philatelist, I liked it very much...


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