Photos: Jitendra Singh
|The erstwhile Viceregal's residence during colonial times, this magnificent building now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study
State: Himachal Pradesh
Distance: 370 km from New Delhi
Journey Time by road: 6 ½ hours
Location: Lower ranges of the Himalayas at a height of 2200 metres
Climate: Summer up to 30°C, Winter UP TO sub-zero
SHIMLA, a hill station, located 370 km from New Delhi, is not just a tourist destination but packs in many celebrated institutions in its green fold.
|Christ Church depicts the neo-gothic stucture
Emerging educational hub
Shimla, once the summer capital of British India, is fast emerging as an educational hub. The city with an ideal climate and known for its elite residential schools - a legacy of colonial period - is now being thronged by students. Himachal Pradesh’s capital city is witnessing a marked growth as far as higher education is concerned. The city’s calmness dotted with deodar trees, provides the most favourable setting for educating young minds. Students are now gravitating towards this picturesque destination for their educational needs.
Due to its serene and mild climate, the British made Shimla their summer capital in 1864. The city is named after the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kali. A popular destination among tourists, Shimla, is often referred to as the “Queen of the Hills,” a term coined by the British. Located in the north-west Himalayas at an average altitude of 7,234 feet, the city is draped with pine and oak trees. Rhododendron flowers are found in plenty and rhododendron wines are also quite popular in the region. The city is famous for its buildings styled in asymmetrical Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architecture, remnants of its colonial legacy.
It is in this city that politicians like Late Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, ex president of Pakistan, Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, current Vice President of India, got their education. Celebrated director Meera Nair and actor Amrish Puri also had their educational stints here.
Himachal Pradesh government is putting in serious efforts to make the State an educational hub of the country. In all, 39 technical institutes have been set up by the private sector in the last 4 years, which includes 14 engineering colleges, 7 pharmacy colleges and 18 polytechnics. An engineering college, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Engineering and Technology was established recently at Pragatinagar in Shimla district.
Shimla is making rapid strides in tertiary education to complement its traditional hold in school education for which it is famous all over India. Bishop Cotton School, one of the oldest residential schools in Asia, is one of the best schools in the city. Other top schools are Sacred Heart Convent, St Edwards, DAV Public School, St Thomas, Dayanand Public School, Monal Public School, Govt. High School, Chail Military, Lawrence School and Auckland House. Apart from the regular syllabi, schools in Shimla also encourage the students to take part in extracurricular activities, for their overall development.
|Toy train from Kalka is a major tourist attraction
The city is home to some of the top colleges and universities of Himachal Pradesh offering graduate and postgraduate courses in fields as diverse as Engineering, Arts, Social Science, Law, Commerce, Management, Medicine, Hotel Management, Journalism and Tourism. Shimla is a small town as compared to the metropolitan cities in India but the level of education and knowledge does not pale due to this. The credit goes to the old and experienced institutions built in the past and community of confident and sound teaching staff. The city takes prides in housing the country’s oldest girls’ college- St. Beads College, Centre of Excellence Rajeev Gandhi College and the State-owned Himachal Pradesh University (HPU). Shimla is able to attract thousands of young aspirants from neighbouring states to pursue higher education. Majority of the colleges here are affiliated to HPU. The good colleges are Govt. Degree College, Sanjaulli, Institute of Information Technology, Institute of Management Studies, HP Govt. Dental College & Hospital, Indira Gandhi Medical College, and GB Pant Memorial Govt College.
Other institutes of higher education and research located in Shimla are the Central Potato Research Institute, a member of Indian Council of Agricultural Research and National Academy of Audit and Accounts for training of officers of the Indian Audit and Accounts services (IA&AS). Shimla has two state libraries with a collection of over 47,000 old books. While the one in Gandhi Bhavan, HPU has over 40,000 books, the other - also a heritage building on the ridge - has 7000.
Let’s take a look at education in Shimla in different education streams:
|Chilling with pizza at a local joint
The Institute of Management Studies, HPU is one of the most prominent institutes offering management education. The institute’s commitment to general management focuses on building a deep understanding of business practices and communicating powerful ideas. Also, the University College of Business Studies was established in 1995 by HPU. Located in the heart of the town in the historical Ava-Lodge building, the college stands out for its sylvan beauty and natural surroundings. The college is known for its highly qualified faculty members and well equipped library.
University Institute of Information Technology (UIIT), Shimla is a premier institution in Science and Information Technology that churns out professionals and leaders of high calibre imbued with values of entrepreneurship, ethics, and social responsibility. The AICTE approved institute functions under ‘the Executive Council’ of HPU since 2000 and admits students from all over the country to the B.Tech programme in IT.
Located in nearby Kufri, the Institute of Hotel Management is affiliated to National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ministry of Tourism, GoI. The institute admits students to its undergraduate 3-year degree and 18-month diploma course.
Himachal Pradesh Medical College was renamed Indira Gandhi Medical College in 1984. It has 100 seats for its MBBS course and 81 at postgraduate level. This college has also been granted the status of Regional Cancer Centre by Govt. of India, thus providing much needed comprehensive cancer care. HP Govt. Dental College & Hospital, is yet another renowned institute in Shimla.
|Music and Liberal arts are recent disciplines at Shimla Institutes
Shimla Nursing College is affiliated to HPU and is recognized by theIndian Nursing Council. The College has a basic BSc Nursing course and a Diploma in General Nursing and Midwifery. It soon aspires to begin short-term, certificate, fellowship and postgraduate courses in Nursing under HPU Shimla.
Cost of Living
Shimla is pretty reasonable in comparison to metro cities to which students flock for higher education. It’s even cheaper than most of the Tier-1 cities despite being a tourist hotspot.
Unique Food Habits
Shimla offers a wide range of lip-smacking food. The State celebrates the food festival of Dham, which attracts hordes of tourists. Himachal cuisine has a significant influence of Punjabi and Tibetan cuisine. People prefer it spicy. Cooked from wheat flour and savoured with ghee or butter, Sidu is a well known cuisine of the State. Sidu is offered to guests who are overwhelmed at the heavenly taste of this indigenous delicacy. Dal and Chawal or plain rice and pulses is popular with Roti-sabzi or flat pancake like bread made of wheat and vegetable curry. Easy-to-make North Indian dishes are popular as staple food of Himachali people and are tasty too.
Health services are available in plenty. Shimla hosts a medical college and four major hospitals: the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Kamala Nehru Hospital, and Indus Hospital. The city’s development plan aims to make Shimla an attractive and vibrant health tourist spot.
|PG accommodations are available in the city at reasonably priced rates hovering around Rs 4,000-8,000 depending on the quality of facilities. They can be found through direct Internet search or by taking assistance from batch-mates or property agents. Guest Houses can be utilized for initial stay by students which are cheaper as compared to hotels. Click here to search guest housees
Shimla is well connected by road and railways. One can traverse a distance of 80km from Kalka by one of the longest narrow gauge railway routes still operating in the country. The scenic Kalka-Shimla Railway is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the steepest rise in altitude. Shimla is 100 km from Chandigarh - the closest big city connected by National Highway-22. Kalka, the nearest plain rail terminus, has daily departures to all major Indian cities. Flights from Jubbarhatti Airport at Shimla connects it to New Delhi.
Transport within city is mainly driven by bus or private vehicles. Local Buses ply frequently on the circular road surrounding the city centre. Tourist taxis are also an option to visit nearby places. Being a small city locals are seen traversing on foot. Private vehicles are prohibited on the mall, ridge, and nearby markets. The auto rickshaws, common in other Indian cities, are largely absent due to narrow roads and steep slopes.
Part-time work opportunities
Being a tourist destination one can find work in hotels dotting the city in plenty. To be a city guide is another option after registering with Department of Tourism and clearing the requisite exam.
Shimla comprises simple-minded and god fearing people. The social practices here are a combination of tribal values and the dominant Hindu customs that are rooted in past traditions.
|Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Housed in the Vice Regal Lodge, this is a residential centre for research in humanities, Indian culture, religion, and social and natural sciences. Scholars from all over the world come to pursue higher studies and research. The institute aims to “provide opportunities for such meeting of minds and commerce of ideas as are likely to extend the horizons of knowledge and wisdom”.
Institute of Vocational Studies
The Master of Tourism Administration (MTA) is the most sought after course. Others include Tourism, Hotel Mgmt and a PhD in Tourism.
University Inst of Information Technology
A premier institution under the HP University, it has capabilities to develop professionals inbued with the values of entrepreneurship, ethics and social responsibility. UIIT has strong collaboration with the IT industry which helps greatly in the placement of B.Tech students.
The Mall is the main shopping street. One can see people walking up and down slowly, stopping to chit chat. It is dotted with many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, post offices and tourist centres. The Gaiety Theatre attracts many. Two key meeting points are Ridge & Scandal Point.
Christ Church: Located on the Ridge, this is the second oldest church in Northern India with a majestic appearance.
Jakhu Hill: Highest peak that offers a beautiful view of the town and snow-covered Himalayas.
Shimla State Museum: Depicts hill-based cultural wealth of the state like miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, wood-carvings et al.
Summer Hill: 5 km from the Ridge, it is a lovely township situated at 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visit here.
Annandale: Playground of Shimla at 6,117 ft, it is a favourite spot for cricket, picnics and polo.
Tara Devi Hill: The temple of Goddess of stars
Junga: 26 km away, is a former royal retreat of the princely state of Keonthal.
Potter Hill: a picnic spot and ecological park.
Glenn: 4 km walk from the Ridge at an altitude of 1830 meters it is a secluded picnic spot.
Kufri: 16 km away at 8,600 ft, it is the local winter sports centre.
Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Gardens: The residence of British Viceroy Lord Dufferin.