It is a popular place in a ‘Queen of Hills’ Shimla, which is a center point of attraction for tourist’s. But exactly why Shimla’s ‘Scandal Point’ has been known as so is still a enticing secret. The only thing agreed upon is that the place is situated in the wonderful city Shimla capital of Himachal Pradesh, where the Ridge and the Mall (road) converge, got its name in the 19th century.
The story goes that the then Maharaja (ruler) of Patiala had eloped with the daughter of the British Viceroy. This had led to the Maharaja being banished from entering Shimla by the British authorities. He countered the move by setting himself a new summer capital – now famous hill resort of Chail, 45 km from Shimla.
But with the real sequence of events still a suspense, Chandigarh based author Manju Jaidka, a professor at Panjab University’s Department of English, has tried to unveil the history behind it.
In her historical fiction “Scandal Point” (Publisher: Rupa, Price: Rs.195), Jaidka has tried to get to the bottom of the mystery.
“It’s a place with which everyone has an associated memory. Since my childhood, I have grown listening to stories about how the Scandal Point came into being and how it got its name. But they were usually vague memories that passed on through ages. So I decided to go on researching about it. I might be wrong in my assumption of the story but this is what I could make out after looking into the facts of the matter,” Manju Jaidka said.
The most common story told about the Scandal Point was that of the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, eloping with the British Viceroy’s daughter in 1892. He was banned by the British from entering Shimla. So, he constructed a summer capital for himself at a small village called Chail. And the place of intersection of the Ridge and the Mall, where he eloped with her, came to be called as Scandal Point,” Jaidka said.
But according to the author, the story about Maharaja Bhupinder Singh cannot be true. While going through the archives at the Patiala palace and other places, she came across some facts which suggested otherwise.
“How could he (Bhupinder Singh) have eloped with a British lady and constructed a palace at Chail after being banished when he was just one year old at that time? Probably because of his colorful nature and many wives, he is mistaken by the people,” Jaidka said.
The author believes that the Maharaja in question has to be Bhupinder’s father, Rajindra Singh.
“It is on record that Maharaja Rajindra Singh had an English wife. According to the facts that I have gone through, she also had a son. But no one ever knew where the mother and son disappeared. In my book, I have kept them alive and the story is woven around their lives. I may not be correct in my assumption, but when I thought that this might have happened in my head over and over again, I felt as if it was all true,” she explains.