This Independence day, let me take you to Shimla, where the Indian Flag flutters over the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge.
Today, this building is home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Before that, it was Rashtrapati Nivas, but it was built to be the home of the Viceroy of India. The name itself is interesting, since it is not a lodge by any standards! Regal, it certainly is, and I don’t think the nomenclature can be attributed to anything but the classic British understatement!
The entrance led us to a path lined by huge stone walls which made us wonder if it was intended to be fortified!
From the outside, it looked like a massive castle, fully made of stone.
On the inside, the delicate woodwork complemented the look, giving us a glimpse into how impressive it must have been, as the residence of the Viceroy.
The structure has an interesting history, being the first permanent residence of the Viceroy, built in 1886. This was the first structure to get electric supply in India, and most interestingly, some of the original electrical fittings still work, after the passage of centuries!!!
This was also where the meetings for the famed Shimla Agreement were held, deciding the fate of India and Pakistan. Many of the memorabilia from the time have been preserved, such as the original table on which the agreement was signed, and old photographs of the meet.
Post-independence, this became the residence of the President of India, to be used during the summer. However, the residence was rarely used, and under Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, it was handed over to the Institute of Advanced Study, to ‘provide an environment suited for academic research’. Part of the building still functions as such, with an impressive library on the ground floor, and rooms for the scholars on the upper floors. Part of it is closed to visitors, while a section is opened to tourists, albeit under the supervision of a guide, to give us a glimpse of its magnificence.
Back on the outside, creepers have crawled up the stone, and provide a splash of colour to the grey of the stone…
The British lion glares down at us from the Royal coat of arms. This is one of the few places it hasn’t been replaced by the Indian symbol – the Ashoka pillar.
On the arch, the building’s name has been replaced, but the names of the architect, Henry Irwin and the executive engineers – F.B. Hebbert and L.M.St.Clair stay on, a reminder of their art.