The Shimla Ridge: Between tradition and transformation
Shimla, Jan 14
In recent times, the tranquil ambiance of Shimla’s Ridge and Mall Road, known for their serene beauty, has given way to a surge of modern urban activities such as carnival, food, and garment shopping stalls. This shift has sparked contemplation among nature enthusiasts who prefer the pristine charm over commercialization.
Historically, the Ridge served as a venue for political rallies, religious congregations, and occasional shopping events, that too very few. However, now in the recent years the amalgamation of diverse activities, including winter carnival, shopping festival, and an array of food stalls offering street foods, has raised eyebrows.
While these vibrant markets undoubtedly contribute to the city’s revenue, the collateral damage is evident.
The breathtaking views of snowy peaks from the Padam Dev complex are obscured, and even the famed sunsets at the park next to Ashiana are overshadowed by the tented markets. Even the local residents, accustomed to enjoying the Ridge’s beauty during the day sun-shine, found themselves displaced amidst the shopping setup.
The Ridge’s allure lies not just in its flat terrain but in its panoramic surroundings of high and low peaks against a clear blue sky, adorned with rare Chinar trees. Visitors seeking solace in nature missed out on these natural wonders due to the overwhelming presence of festivities, the purpose of which remains unclear.
While the recent winter carnivals was happening, protests from local shopkeepers arose as regular market items got replaced by stalls selling non-indigenous products. Former deputy mayor and councillor lodged complaints about nails being inserted into trees, and many shopkeepers claimed significant losses in business.
Former Director of Public Relations, BD Sharma, questions the tourism impact. Is there data supporting an increase in tourism by altering the aesthetics of a heritage site? The essence of earlier hill station philosophies, where individuals sought relief from city life during winters and summers, seems to be overshadowed by the current focus on the Ridge and the Mall as Shimla’s primary attractions.
Instead of preserving the panoramic Ridge and heritage Mall, authorities have transformed them into venues reminiscent of village fairs, obstructing the city’s scenic beauty.
The crux of the matter is whether the Shimla Municipal Corporation and the state government prioritize revenue generation over the preservation of Shimla’s peaceful and historical environment? This calls for transparency and a clear stance from the authorities. As even discerning tourists are questioning the rationale behind such methodologies, urging a re-evaluation of priorities in this cherished hill city.
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