Shimla- A town of monkeys
by Nancy Trejos
From USA Today travel page
The first sign of trouble is when a monkey tries to snatch a handkerchief from my tour guide’s back pocket while we are waiting in line to get into Jakhu Temple, the highest point of this northern Indian town in the foothills of the Himalayas.
It’s not like they are not welcome here. Jakhu Temple, which stands at 8,054 feet, is dedicated to the monkey God Hanuman. An orange statue of the deity — more than 100 feet tall — towers over the temple. His feet are a common resting spot for his monkeys.
Inside the temple, several people are sitting on the ground praying. Others wait in line to get blessed by a cleric.
Outside, there’s a playground but there are no children in it. Just monkeys.
The creatures, some of them tall enough to reach my knees, seem adorable at first. That is, until one of them snatches the sunglasses off my head and runs off, with my tour guide, Yoginer Prakash, trailing him. My guide manages to coax my glasses back by bribing him with a snack.
Shimla, the capital of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, was once the summer capital of British India from 1864 until independence in 1948. But the Brits are largely gone, and the new rulers of this town appear to be the monkeys.
While walking on the Ridge, a large square with statues of Mahatma and Indira Gandhi and the neo-Gothic Christ Church, I run into many more of the little creatures. I find the perfect spot to take photos of the gorgeous sunset, but am quickly chased away by two monkeys that have the same idea.
While walking on Mall Road, the main drag and shopping area, I hold on tightly to my bag and try to ignore my new stalkers as they lounge around people-watching,
But it’s all for naught. I find myself flat on my back on the ground, the result of a cheeky monkey running into my legs and knocking me down. Two men walking in front of me hear the commotion and turn around to help me to my feet.
My ego and backside bruised, I decide to spend a little more time indoors.
You can see the British influence throughout Shimla, especially at Rashtrapati Niwas, also known as the Viceregal Lodge.
Located on a hill, it was the residence of the British Viceroy of India. The first viceroy to live there was Lord Dufferin. British architect Henry Irwin designed the regal mansion. Think Downton Abbey in the Himalayas.
The house is now home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study and is open for public tours. Inside is a large collection of photographs of some of the greatest historical figures in Indian history, including Mahatma Gandhi himself, visiting the property.
Because of history, we thought they’d be quite dismissive of British people,” Andrea Southern, who is visiting from the United Kingdom with her friend Margaret Lindley, says about the locals. “But they quite like that we are here.”
For shopping, I check out the Lakkar Bazar, known for its wooden crafts, and the Himachal Emporium, known for textiles and jewelry. In the Lower Bazaar, street vendors sell garlic, scarves, toys, clothing and much more. It’s crowded, and the various sounds, colors and smells engage all of your senses.
When I reach Christ Church, I find some serenity along with beautiful Victorian stained glass windows. The church has been around since 1846.
For more history, I head to the Himachal State Museum to see its broad collection of sculptures dating back to the 10th century.
I brave the outdoors and the monkeys again and head back to the Ridge to watch the sun set over the hills. The rooftops from the homes embedded in them are so colorful that they create an almost rainbow-like landscape. It’s one of the things to love about Shimla. It’s even worth standing up to the monkeys to see the enormity of the Himalayas.
“It’s got magical views,” Lindley says.
Note: Article written by Nancy Trejos for USA Today and reproduced without any permission. Original link to the article is here.
September 24, 2016 / Vikas / 0
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