Viceregal Lodge, Shimla – a Fine Example of Jacobethan Style of Architecture in India


It is known to most of the people that Shimla, which is famously referred to as the ‘Queen of the Hills’, has a series of the British colonial era (colonial era 1615 A.D. to 1947 A.D.) heritage buildings. The Viceregal Lodge, which is also called Rashtrapati Niwas, is the main one of them.

 Viceregal Lodge / Rashtrapati Niwas  

Situated on the Observatory Hills of Shimla, the capital city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Rashtrapati Niwas, which was called the Viceregal Lodge on account of having been the summer residence of the British Viceroy of colonial British India from 1888AD to 1947AD during the British rule in India, is one of the heritage buildings built during the British colonial era. From 1947 A.D. to 1965 A.D., as this charming edifice has served as a summer retreat of Rashtrapati (president) of Independent India, it is called the Rashtrapati Niwas.

The main thing about this historic heritage building is that it is the singly one building in Shimla that occupies a hill by itself. Boasting of being the rambling Scottish baronial edifice, this heritage building owns its south facing entry gate portico observing the visitors into the reception hall, marked by a grand staircase springing from the right side and spiraling up three complete floors. The grand fireplace is just opposite the main entry gate. The central space of this charming edifice around which the arrangement of the other rooms have been made is a gallery with well appointed teak paneling. The state ballroom, drawing room, and the wood paneled dining room – adorned with coats of arms of erstwhile Governor Generals and Viceroys of colonial British India – lead to the gallery at the lower level of it. At various levels, the whole edifice is covered by the terraces and verandas. The breathtaking glimpses of mountains are offered by those on the other floors while the lodge in the charming grounds is connected by those at the lower level link.


This charming British colonial era heritage building, which was designed by Henry Irwin, the British architect for the Public Works Department of the colonial government in colonial British India, was constructed in the Jacobethan style of architecture during the regime of Lord Dufferin, the then Viceroy of colonial British India.

Boasting of being the former Rashtrapati Niwas of India, the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge of colonial British India is the finest example of the English Renaissance architecture. Constructed of gray stone, this charming structure, which is situated amidst scenic gardens, suitable for its stature and size, owns its 3 sides covered by lush greenery.

Resembling the fictional Hogwarts School of Harry Potter and speaking of the English Renaissance Revival, this charming heritage building was designed in the renowned Jacobethan style of architecture.


In this breathtaking heritage building, you can find some of the most ancient articles and photographs focusing back to the times of the British Raj in India.



It is notable that it was the 1st building in Shimla which had electric light in 1888 A.D. This charming lodge also has an indoor tennis court in it. This edifice was equipped with the extensive facilities such as separate rooms for storing table linen, enormous kitchens, plates, laundry, China and glass, huge wine cellar, boilers for central heating, a room for empty cases, and running cold and hot water in the bathrooms. Being beautiful much as the Viceregal Palace of Delhi, this lodge was perfect for the viceroy for hosting lavish parties and entertaining the Nawabs and royal princes in style. In this charming heritage building, many momentous decisions were taken. This building played the role of being the venue of the Simla Conference in 1945 A.D. In 1947 A.D., the decision to partition of India and carving out of the states of Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was also finalized here.

Even after the independence of India, this edifice retained its continuity as the summer residence of the President of India. In the early 1960 A.D., the 2nd President of Independent India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a leading philosopher and writer, and the 1st Honorable Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru take the decision of making it a scholars’ den where the brilliant minds would be capable of getting an ideal retreat.

For the accommodation of the requirements of the IIAS, some of the interiors had to be clearly altered enough. For instance, the state drawing room, dining room, and ballroom of  the Lodge have been changed into a library; the conference hall is now a seminar room for the research scholars; and the Viceroy’s office is the IIAS Director’s office at present. Because of the unavailability of the large contingent of Viceregal attendants and resources, the surrounding of this enormous estate has much variation from what it used to be in the days of the British Raj over India.

As Shimla as the summer capital of colonial British India was of little use to the President of Independent India, who used it as a summer retreat only for a few days in a year, the Rashtrapati Niwas Estate was transferred to the Ministry of Education to be handed over to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) for putting it to academic use after the decision of Professor Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the 2nd President of Independent India. While some of its buildings were used by the Himchal Pradesh High Court, the C.P.W.D., and the Himachal Pradesh University, the bulk of the Estate, comprising its well arranged rich greenhouse and lawns is being used by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS).

Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS)

Set up in 1964 A.D. and commenced in 1965 A.D. by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), which was formally inaugurated on the 20th of October, 1965 A.D. by Professor Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the 2nd President of Independent India, is an advanced research institute of India. Social Sciences, Humanities, and Natural and Life Sciences are the areas of academics in this grand research institute.

The IIAS looks like the complete setting for the vibrant intellectual discussions and debates. The list of Fellows of the IIAS comprises the name of the Burmese Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Sun  Kyi, who has been a fellow in this institute in 1986 A.D.


Bollywood Connection

In the National Award winning Bollywood movie ‘Black (2005)’, this charming heritage building was displayed in the form of the Michelle’s (Rani Mukerji) college.

Main Attractions in Viceregal Lodge

By paying a visit to this charming British colonial era heritage building, you can get the chance of taking the fine glimpse of several top attractions, comprising Wooden Main Hall, Wood Paneling, Photographic Museusm (Historical), and Historical Seminar Room. During the tour of the historical photographic museum, you can view some of the most ancient articles and photographs focusing back to the times of the colonial British India. Used by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), the well kept rich greenhouse and lawn in the complex of this breathtaking heritage building are also counted among the main points of interest in it. Till April 2010 A.D., visitors of this breathtaking heritage building have got the chance of praising the bell made of eight metals which was offered by the king of Nepal.

Common people are allowed to pay a visit to only entrance hall and grounds of this heritage building. It is sad that the interior of this charming heritage building is not probably so magnificent as originally designed.

Wall hangings that once belonged to the British empire have been changed with the paintings and photographs of Indian heritage. This heritage building, which is compared to most British buildings left behind and now working as the museums, could make the use of some freshening on the inside of it.


Inside the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), you can visit a museum that owns the texts and photographs from the era of the colonial British India. Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who made a stay here as a research fellow for approx two years from 1987 A.D. to 1989 A.D., is one of the most renowned alumni of this institute.

Guided Tour 

After every half an hour, a guided tour, which covers some basic history of the building, is also conducted in this beautiful historical heritage building. The fee of the guided tour provides funds for continuous work of the maintenance of this huge sized structure.

The tour of this charming heritage building is a fabulous outing for history lovers. It is a great pity that photography is not allowed inside the Viceregal Lodge. This guided tour occurs through 4 rooms comprising the Viceroy’s chamber where the decision about the luck of India after independence was made.

Besides paying fees for the visit of the inside building, you will also have to pay the entry fee to park.

You can take the car to the main entry point of this heritage building.

Concern about the Poor Maintenance of the Historic Heritage Building

It is a matter of serious concern about the poor maintenance of this historic heritage building in order not to let its history decay and fall down, as this historic heritage building is in a miserable condition. Even some areas of this complex, which relate to the ‘British Raj’ days have no availability to be visited i.e. Viceroy’s Official Office and bedroom, are missing, which is only plain foolishness.

The major rooms of this heritage building are badly painted (the whitewashing of excellent design is a travesty), the gardens are in miserable condition, and the frames of the windows seem as it they have not been painted or stained for several decades.

The visit of this historical heritage building includes the billiard room, the cloakroom, the major hall and the room where the agreement of the ‘Partition’ of colonial British India as India and Pakistan was made. The ballroom, etc. has been converted into a library. If bureaucrats had not neglected this heritage building, it would have been a main tourist attraction and brought in a huge amount of revenue.

A main thing about this historic heritage building is that all the original furniture of it is missing.

Main Points

Type: – British Colonial Era Heritage Building

Designed by: – Henry Irwin

Architectural Style: – Jacobethan

The Regime of: – Lord Dufferin

Constructed in: – 1880-88 A.D.

Occupied on: – 23rd of July, 1888 A.D. by Lord Dufferin

Location (Address of Venue)

Boileauganj, Observatory Hills, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh-171005

Telephone No.: – +91-97145 02534

Collection size: – some of the most ancient articles and photographs going back to the times of the British rule in India

Closing Days: – Mondays, and Government Gazzeted (Indian National & Public) Holidays

Opening Hours: – 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.

Time Required for Visiting: – 1.5 Hours approx

Entry / Entrance / Admission Fee / Charge

Indian: – INR (Indian Rupees) 20.00 (Adult), INR 5.00 (Child)

Foreigner: – INR 100.00

(Free Entry to Children under the Age of 5 Years)

Guided tour in this heritage Building also conducted after every half an hour

Photography: – not allowed inside

Thus, it can be rightly said that the Viceregal Lodge, which is one of the heritage buildings built in India during the British colonial era, is a must visit during the tour of Shimla. In case of being willing to pay a visit to this magnificent heritage building of the charming hill station of Shimla, you can book Book Shimla Holiday Packages on ARV Holidays. Being affordable to the budget for all types of people, all of these tour packages, which are available at ARV Holidays, one of the leading tour and travel operators of India, can also be customized as per the requirement of the clients. So, do get ready for paying a visit to this charming heritage building.


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