Shimla derives its name from Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the goddess Kali, whose temple existed in the dense forest covering the Jakhu Hill in the early 19th century. Shimla is surrounded by pine, deodar and oak forests. Its well developed amenities, easy reach and various tourist attractions make it one of India’s most popular hill stations.
Shimla , also known as Simla, is the capital and the largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is also a district which is bounded by Mandi and Kullu in the north, Kinnaur in the east, the state of Uttarakhand in the south-east, and Solan and Sirmaur. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of the hilly regions of the state.
Small hamlets were recorded prior to 1815 when British forces took control of the area. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of Himalayas. As the summer capital, Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945. After independence, the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being in 1948 as a result of integration of 28 princely states. Even after independence, the city remained an important political centre, hosting the Simla Agreement of 1972. After reorganisation of state of Himachal Pradesh, the existing Mahasu district was named Shimla. Its name is derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.
Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural environment of the city attracts tourists. Attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge, which together form the city centre. The Kalka–Shimla Railway line built by the British, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a major tourist attraction. Owing to its steep terrain, Shimla hosts the mountain biking race MTB Himalaya, which started in 2005 and is regarded as the biggest event of its kind in South Asia. Shimla also has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia. Apart from being a tourism centre, the city is also an educational hub with a number of colleges and research institutions.
Shimla lies in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas at 31.61°N 77.10°E. It has an average altitude of 2,206 metres (7,238 ft) above mean sea level and extends along a ridge with seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) from east to west. Shimla was built on top of a total of seven different hills namely: Inverarm Hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill. The highest point in Shimla is the Jakhoo hill, which is at a height of 2,454 metres (8,051 ft).
The city is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India. Weak construction techniques and an increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no water bodies near the main city and the closest river, the Sutlej, is about 21 km (13 mi) away. Other rivers that flow through the Shimla district, although further from the city, are the Giri, and Pabbar (both tributaries of Yamuna).
The green belt in the Shimla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1,020 acres). The main forests in and around the city are of pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Shimla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region are the frequent number of landslides that often take place after heavy rains.
The city is situated 88 km (55 miles) northeast of Kalka, 116 km (72 miles) northeast of Chandigarh, 247 km (154 miles) south of Manali and 350 km (219 miles) northeast of Delhi, the national capital. Kalka can be reached within 2.5 hours, Chandigarh can be reached in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Delhi and Manali are both around 7 hours away from Shimla.
Shimla features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under the Köppen climate classification. The climate in Shimla is predominantly cool during winters and moderately warm during summer. Temperatures typically range from −4 °C (25 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) over the course of a year.
The average temperature during summer is between 19 and 28 °C (66 and 82 °F), and between −1 and 10 °C (30 and 50 °F) in winter. Monthly precipitation varies between 15 millimetres (0.59 in) in November and 434 millimetres (17.1 in) in August. It is typically around 45 millimetres (1.8 in) per month during winter and spring, and around 175 millimetres (6.9 in) in June as the monsoon approaches.
The average total annual precipitation is 1,575 millimetres (62 in), which is much less than most other hill stations but still much heavier than on the plains. Snowfall in the region, which historically has taken place in the month of December, has lately (over the last fifteen years) been happening in January or early February every year.
The maximum snowfall received in recent times was 38.6 centimetres (15.2 in) on 18 January 2013. On two consecutive days (17 and 18 January 2013), the town received 63.6 centimetres (25.0 in) of snow.