India is filled with a huge number of breath-taking and picturesque hill stations spread across the country. Hill stations gained popularity in the early 1800s and the term was invented during the British Raj when the British rulers opted for higher altitude towns to beat the summer heat of India. Also referred to as the Summer Orients of India, hill stations reached their zenith in the late 1800s attracting British Rulers and their families to enjoy the Flora and Fauna. This led to the development of the hill stations architecturally along with social and cultural development.
The hill stations have been designed in the Colonial style of architecture with neo-gothic design influences. The traditional houses are a replica of European style with usage of Indian local materials like wood, sandstone and brick and large window openings on the southern facade to get maximum sunlight. The other characteristics are the steep sloping roof, herringbone brickwork, half-timbering, thatched roof, pillared porches, bright roof windows, wooden floors, large wooden staircases, fireplace and a tall chimney.
Let’s have a look at the architectural marvels of splendid summer sojourns of India established during the British Raj.
Shimla is also known as the “Queen of Hills” was the summer capital during the British Raj. The Viceroy House is the finest example of the Elizabethan style of architecture with grey sandstone and light blue limestone exterior. The palace façade adorns glass windows, brick roof, iron girders, beams and trusses. Stone carved ornamentation on to the top with stone railing resting on brick masonry work. The other historical buildings are the Mall Road, State Library, Ellerslie, Gorton castle, churches and temples.
2. Mussoorie & Landour
The twin towns of Mussoorie and Landour are popular for their rustic charm enhanced by prominent structures and houses built in European style. Christ Church, Mussoorie, built-in 1836 is a classic example of Gothic architecture with pointed arches, ribbed vaults, flying buttresses and glass windows. Another heritage site is George Everest’s House situated on a cliff offering glimpses of the serene Mussoorie valley. Built by Sir George Everest in 1832, the dilapidated house only has a wall and roof and is likely to be converted to a museum. Another major attraction is Mall Road.
The hill station of Dehradun is a scenic city nestled between the Himalayan mountain ranges. The famous hexagonal Clock Tower dedicated to the brave freedom fighters that lost their lives during independence. Foundation of the tower was laid by Sarojini Naidu also known as the Nightingale of India and inaugurated by Lal Bahadur Shastri. Another architectural attraction is the infamous Forest Research Institute built in the classic blend of the Greco-Roman styles and the colonial style of architecture in 1878. The institute spread across 450 hectares of greenery and the Himalayan Mountains in the backdrop. The paltan bazaar and Connaught place also offer glimpses of splendid colonial-era houses & shops.
Ooty, a hill station in the state of Tamil Nadu served as the summer capital for Madras Presidency and is home to several heritage structures built during the British Raj. The St. Stephen’s Church is the oldest church in the Nilgiris district built in the Gothic style. The Fern Hill Palace was the summer residence of the Maharaja of Mysore situated between 50 acres of lush landscape the palace resembles a swiss chalet. The other Italian Gothic-inspired structures are Rajbhavan, Adam’s Statue, Stonehouse, Lawrence School, Lawley Institute, Breeks School, Assembly Rooms and Nilgiri Library.
Matheran is a hill station in Maharashtra built during the colonial era. The small town with its towers, spires, brick-lined streets and houses with quaint corners and restored furnishings remains to be a town with no motorised vehicle allowed inside. The Holy Cross Church dates back to the British era with pinched arches with the cross in windows and vaulted ceilings. Among the several heritage villas converted to homestays for the experience of the colonial era are Parsi Manor, Dune Barr House, Hazel Villa and West Cottage View.
Pachmarhi a hill station in Madhya Pradesh acted as the summer capital of the Central Provenience during British Raj. Currently, the majority of colonial structures are under the cantonment zone though there are a few still accessible to the public. Bison Lodge Museum is the first bungalow to be built by Captain James Forsyth. The yellow bungalow with a red sloping roof was named after the captain saw a herd of bison here. Protestant Church is a cross-shaped structure constructed with red sandstone and has arched windows with a pyramid-shaped tower on the north-eastern side. Gamma Ray Observatory is another structure from the colonial era.
Nainital popular for the European boarding schools for boys and girls also became a home to summer retreats of Maharajas serving under British Rule. Nainital is home to dozens of colonial structures like the Raj Bhavan or the Governor’s House designed as a replica of the Buckingham Palace in Victorian Gothic Style. Built-in neo-Gothic style of architecture, St. John Wilderness Church is one the earliest churches in Nainital. Balrampur House designed as a French Chateaus for the former Maharaja of Balrampur is decorated with wooden floors and period furniture now used as a Hotel and Resort. The other structures from the colonial era are the Methodist Church, Chevron Fairhavens, St. Joseph’s College, Writer’s Bungalow and Gurney House.