The topography of Himalayas presents them as unique natural monuments. Himalayas have been regarded to be the toughest topography on this planet; still these heavenly mountains have nurtured and preserved, a rich, warm and lively culture. Being isolated from the rest of world, these Himalayan wonderlands still preserves local dialects.
Difficult to communicate sometimes, however communication barrier can be surmounted by usage of the local terms which will bridge the gap of the modern world with them.
Aari: Small saw which is operated by single person
Anar/Daru: Pomegranate (a tropical fruit with many seeds), Punica granatum
Angoori: Grape vine, Vitis spp.
Angora: Type of goat
Aonla: Emblica Officinalis
Arbi: Colocasia species
Barter system: A system in which purchase and sale of animals, farm produce and goods is based on exchange basis
Bathu: A leafy vegetable, Chenopodium album
Ber: Zizypus mauritiana (an important fruit tree)
Berka: Threshing pole
Beul: Grewia optiva
Bhains: Salix tetrasperma
Bhang: Cannabis sativa, a multipurpose narcotic plant
Bharal: Animal found in cold desert of Himachal Pradesh
C W De Russet had moved from France to India in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. He was a deft tailor but when he started visiting Shimla with his friend T. Reincke in 1850s, he was so impressed by the natural beauty of the town that he switched over to camera-clicking and then to commercial photography that brought Shimla, along with other metropolis of the country, as a top centre of marketable photography.
When Shepherd and Robertson moved from Agra to Shimla in 1864 and established themselves as photographers of merit, De Russet withdrew from camera work and established himself as general contractor. Charles de Russet was his son and Old Cottanian Association Record shows that he was in the Bishop Cotton School in 1872. Charles de Russet had developed interest in Indian asceticism and mysticism immediately after he completed his school education. He came in contact with Baba (probably Mangal Das) of Jakhu temple and impressed by his preaching embraced the life of a Sadhu in 1880s.
He rejected his European uprising and abandoned Christianity for Hinduism. He bequeathed the property that he had inherited to his sisters keeping nothing to himself and led a life of disciple of the Baba of Jakhu. He would sleep outside in the open and take food that was given to him by his devotees. Because he was a foreigner embracing their religion, the local Hindus held him in high esteem. He then shifted to a temple near Annandale ground in Kaithu and started donning a leopard skin and wore matted hair.
Meanwhile, John Campbell Oman, born in Kolkata to Scot tea-planters, who rose to be professor of natural sciences in Government College Lahore was collecting material for his book ‘The Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India’ happened to meet this French Sadhu in 1894.
Professor Oman has done extensive touring throughout the length and breadth of this country, interviewing many saints and has written scholarly books on Hinduism, Brahmanism and the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana.
When he met the French Sadhu here, he found him disinclined to talk about the reasons for abandoning Christianity in favour of Hinduism.
He found out that Charles De Russet ‘did not regret the step he had taken, and that he was well satisfied with his condition and mode of life as a Hindu devotee, a sanyasi.
The professor had in one of his books quoted a passage from Sir Monier Williams’s Indian poetry that appeared fitting into the mindset of Charles, “the performance of penances was like making deposits in the bank of Heaven. By degrees an enormous credit was accumulated, which enabled the depositor to draw on the amount of his savings, without fear of his drafts being refused payment. The power gained in this way by weak mortals was so enormous that gods, as well as men, were equally at the mercy of these all but omnipotent ascetics” prof. Oman wrote that Charles commanded the highest respect from natives though he found him to be of mediocre intelligence.
He used to live idly, happy and contended, even when it snowed heavy in the mountains. Discoursing about the virtues and vices, Charles had told the professor that it was not necessary to be a Christian in order to lead a virtuous life. O.C. Sud writes that this Baba left Shimla in the company of sadhus after this and was never heard of but suddenly returned here in 1926 as Baba Must Ram and took over the charge of Jakhu temple. He had, by this time, mastered the Hindu scriptures and the people were awed by his knowledge. According to Sud, he died on the December 27, 1927 and was cremated on Jakhu peak.
The distance from Kalka railway station to Shimla by cart is 58 miles.
It is surrounded by the territories of thirty minor independent chiefs.
In recent years it has extended from one end to the other fully six miles in length. The officer gazette describes Shimla as “exquisite.”
The journal of the Tour through the part of Himalaya Mountains by James Baillie, published in 1820, describes the account of the war in which Gurkhas and British were engaged in 1815. To revenge the uprising in the area between Sutlej and Yamuna, British gave a tough defeat to them.
Among other place where Gurkha retained their military posts by Ochterlony were Sabathu and Kotgarh.
Gerard brothers’ diary dated August 30th, 1817, ran: “Shimla a middling sized village where a fakir is situated to give water to travellers.”
A writer describes road to Jakhoo: “the road was steep and rocky in several places, and through kelo and oak trees very thick undergrowth which is full of bears and hogs.”
In 1831, a talented French traveller describing Shimla said it was “the resort of rich, idle and invalid. Now there are over 60 houses scattered on various Hills.”
A journal from year 1834 tells us that the road leading from club to Chota Shimla was then called ‘Combermere road’ and that to Elysium Hill, ‘Bentinck road.’
The original site for, the half timbered building of the General Post Office was completed on 3rd July 1883 and originally exhibited both Neo-Tudor and Swiss-Bavarian architectural forms with decorative wooden work. In 1972, a fire damaged the exterior of the building, which was then repaired retaining some essential elements of the facade.