From the British Raj days popularly known as Ladies’ Park, the beautiful landscape between The Mall below and ‘Jodha Niwas’, is a picturesque area which is being re-developed again.
Adopted by HimachalTourism under a city infrastructure development programme that is being funded by the Asian Development Bank, the scenic spot is being spruced up as another tourists attraction of Shimla, as it was during the times when the place was the summer capital of India.
The place is now renamed as ‘Rani Zhansi Park’ with the majestic statue of freedom fighter Rani Lakshmibai astride a war horse installed prominently at this place.
Early descriptions of Shimla during the first quarter of 19th century describe the place full of dense undergrowth and wild life. Later Shimla’s first hotel named ‘Royal Hotel’ came up in this area which was later renamed as ‘Lowrie’s Hotel ‘after the name of its owner.
In the 1930s the hotel building got burnt down and the erstwhile authorities decided to convert the area into a ‘Municipal Park for women & Children’. It was the place which was developed into a beautiful park which was formally opened by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur on 6th July, 1937.
The remainders of the hotel building were converted into centres of adult education for women and the old building precincts still house centres for cutting, embroidery & knitting run by the Shimla branch of All India Women’s Conference and the National Council for Women. Diploma courses in Painting, Soft toys, Flower making & decoration and Beautician are regularly run here. Here one finds prominently written on the outer wall of the old building a famous thought from Holy Bible “Lord! Thou dost Root Out The Ego of Those who Meditate on thee in the heart of Lord”.
The redevelopment activities of the Park began in the year 2012 with the installation of the statue of Rani Lakshmibai of Zhansi astride a mighty horse with her son tied on her back. It was the early freedom spirit of Rani Lakshmibai against the Britishers which enflamed the entire country into the first war of independence in the year 1857.
Born in 1835, Rani Lakshmibai wanted to save her kingdom Zhansi from annexation by the Britishers after the death of king without begetting a son. At the young age of 32 years, Rani Lakshmibai had laid down her life for the cause of Zhansi and the Nation.
As a tribute to this freedom fighter who also represented the women’s power, the Ladies’Park was renamed as Rani Zhansi Park. She also represented the undaunted fighting spirit of women against oppression and suppression. The famous couplet from the poem of poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan is also inscribed on the plaque installed here which reads as follows:
Chamak uthi san sattavan main
Vah talwar purani thi
Budele harbolon ke munh
Hamne suni kahani thi
Khub laddi mardani, vah to
Zhansi wali Rani thi
Mr. FC Parida, a sculptor from ’Parida Moorti Kala Kendra’, Haridwar, has sculpted this statue in the backdrop of which now tourists and locals take pictures in memory of their visit. The enclosure is adorned with a fort shaped wall and flower meadows. This is a real tribute to the undaunted spirit of women.
The place is also popular among boys and girls as a meeting point and soft flirtation. Some couples are also spotted in the hide outs of old building stairs relaxing in cosy positions.
As a part of ongoing Shimla beautification plan at a cost of Rs.144 crore, the Rani Zhansi Park is also getting a facelift. The restoration and renovation plans include providing beautiful fountains, children parks, a public convenience building etc.
The upcoming rope way project to connect the New Inter State Bus Terminus to the Mall will also terminate close to this park making it a flocking point for the tourists and other visitors.
Truly, the old gives way to the new while retaining its instinctive charm and attraction. The place developed long back during the British Raj, is all set to pave way for the all modern tourist joint.