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Simla Office at Pune

Photo Source:I MD Pune web site

Photo Source: IMD Pune web site

In Pune, the imposing and beautiful building which houses the offices and laboratories of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) is known to the public as ‘Simla Office’. It is an outstanding landmark in the heart of the city of Pune, and even the very busy square where it is located is popularly called the ‘Simla Office Chowk’. The people of Pune know that IMD earlier had its office in Simla (now Shimla) from where it was shifted to Poona (now Pune), but most of them are not quite aware of the fascinating history behind the name. Here it is in brief:

IMD was established in the year 1875 with its headquarters in the capital city of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Almost simultaneously, a Branch Meteorological Office was set up in Simla, which since 1864 was the summer capital of colonial India, and was therefore equally important. As the years went by, greater responsibility got assigned to the Simla branch office and its activities went on increasing. From 1885 onwards, the Indian Daily Weather Report, monthly and seasonal summaries, and the long range forecasts were issued by IMD from Simla. Eventually, in 1905, the role reversal became official, as Simla became the headquarters of IMD and Calcutta was reduced to the status of a branch office.

In 1875, the Simla branch office of IMD was temporarily housed in the Government Telegraph Office. Sir John Eliot, who was the head of IMD from 1889 to 1903, had bought an old bungalow named ‘Constantia’ for his own stay in Simla during the summers. Eliot rented out a part of this bungalow for use by IMD and so ‘Constantia’ served as IMD’s office at Simla from 1890 to 1903.

When Eliot retired, he offered to sell the property to IMD. While this offer was not accepted, Sir Gilbert Walker, who had succeeded Eliot as the Director General of IMD, continued to function from the ‘Constantia’ office until 1908. At that time, the Governor General decided to acquire the building for establishing the Young Women’s Christian Association there. ‘Constantia’ stands today in a properly maintained condition and still houses the Shimla YWCA.

Constantia in 1910 (Photo Source: Internet)

In 1908, IMD moved out into a larger bungalow on the Yarrows estate in Simla, but this was already so old that it had to be structurally reinforced by means of heavy scaffolding. By 1916, the Yarrows site had further deteriorated and had to be abandoned, and so IMD moved its office once again, this time to a temporary and hurriedly constructed building on the Kennedy House estate. There is no trace of either of these buildings in Shimla now.

The Kennedy building was not well-suited to the nature of IMD’s activities, which were constantly increasing. Walker had been seriously considering the idea of shifting the IMD headquarters out of Simla to a place on the plains and had thought of Poona as an alternative. In 1924, the year of his retirement, Walker made a formal proposal to the government to this effect. His successor Director General, J. H. Field, pursued the proposal and obtained government sanction in 1926.

The IMD headquarters building at Poona was built upon a 10-acre site in the Bhamburda (now Shivajinagar) area on Ganeshkhind Road. The architectural plans were drawn up by M/s Stevens and Partners. The observation-cum-clock tower was designed to have a square cross-section with its diagonals aligned north-south and east-west. The building was inaugurated on 20 July 1928 by Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, Governor of Bombay. By that time, Field had also retired and Sir Charles Normand had just taken over charge as Director General of Observatories. Even before the formal inauguration ceremony was held, the process of shifting the office from Simla to Poona had been completed and the publication of the India Daily Weather Report had already commenced from Poona on 1 April 1928.

Normand was the Director General of IMD until 1944. However towards the end of his tenure, which coincided with the Second World War, the headquarters of IMD had again to be shifted to New Delhi, as it was required to provide specialized forecasting services to the air force. In 1947, after independence, it was decided that the IMD headquarters would continue to remain in New Delhi.

Dr S. K. Banerji, was the first Indian to be appointed as the Director General of IMD in 1944 and he held that position till 1950. Presently, IMD has a six-storied building named ‘Mausam Bhavan’, and another six-storied building called ‘Mausam Upagrah Bhavan’ in a sprawling complex of its own on Lodi Road in New Delhi.

See also Simla Office at Pune – Vintage Pictures

30 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CHEENA K SHARMA
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 05:22:00

    Dear Prof Kelkar
    Congratulations for a great write-up! I am a resident of Simla and it is delightful to learn different people’s comments and perceptions about this charming town!I feel glad that Simla is popular elsewhere too through its old historical linkages. Thanks once again.
    Cheena

    Reply

    • Prof R R Kelkar
      Nov 04, 2013 @ 06:34:27

      Dear Cheena,
      Thank you for your words of appreciation! I hope and wish that some day I can visit Simla and see for myself what I have written about.
      I suggest that you go through the comments on my post. They are interesting too.
      Regards and a Happy Diwali,
      Ranjan Kelkar

      Reply

  2. A.K. Sen Sarma
    Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:26:27

    Appropos Shree Bhagwat’s comment -
    I have heard different versions of the Donkey story and why IMD HQ was
    shifted to Poona (Pune).
    First the donkey story:
    In a party Blanford overheard a remark by a guest that he can forecast
    weather better than IMD. When his turn came for after-dinner speach
    Blanford said he would tell a story:
    “When a king complimented his court forecaster for his correct weather
    forecasts the man very modestly said that credit really should go to
    his washerman who provides him with weather forecasts. The King then
    summoned the washerman and enquired about tne secret of his success.
    That man was modest too and replied that the credit should go to his
    donkey who shakes one of its ears when it is going to rain and the
    other when weather is going to be fine.
    The King then got the donkey to be brought to the court and put his
    priciest garland on its neck.”
    Blanford then sat down leaving the other guests in confused silence
    till one of them jokingly broke the silence, “What is the moral of the story?”
    Blanford rose again and said, “Since that day every donkey thinks he is
    a good forecaster of weather”..
    Next about the shift to Poona:
    During a court of enquiry about a marine accident the Judge asked the
    Simla based Meteorolgist who had issued the forecast under scrutiny
    whether he has ever seen any sea. When the poor soul replied in the
    negative the Judge ordered that the Met Office should shift forthwith
    to seaside. Poona was the closest to sea. IMD could shift its entire
    establishment to Poona at that point of time.
    I don’t remember the sources but am sure that these are just jokes.

    Reply

    • Prof R R Kelkar
      Nov 10, 2011 @ 10:50:45

      Dear Dr Sen Sarma,
      Thank you so much for your stories. I am sure that my blog readers will enjoy them.
      R R Kelkar

      Reply

  3. VINAYAK VASUDEO BHAGWAT
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 04:24:04

    As a child, I remember to have read in Marathi “ANAND” monthly, that once the then Governor General of India (I don’t remember the name given in the article) was staying in Shimla, the summer capital of India and had arranged a party. After consulting the IMD in Shimla, he thought of a garden party. On the morning of the party day, he had gone out in his car when he saw some farmers gathered in a field and one of them had lifted some dust in his hand and was releasing it slowly and they were all watching it and discussing among themselves. Curious, the Governor General stopped and through his interpreter asked what activity was going. The reply was, “We are examining the possibility of rains today.” “And what is your prediction?” “It shall rain today and it will be around 8-8.30 in the evening.” As an abundant precaution, he shifted the party to the hall. In the party, one of his friend sort of ridiculed him for ignoring the well- equipped IMD’s prediction and relying on illiterate farmers’ opinion. Just then, a servant came telling that heavy showers had started. The Governor General asked the friend what the time was and it was 8.35 p.m. Furious about incapability of IMD to predict correct weather even with latest equipment, he ordered its shifting from Shimla which was shifted to Pune. The article ended with a comment that the IMD still continued its tradition of “errorless prediction”.

    Reply

    • Prof R R Kelkar
      Oct 15, 2011 @ 03:39:06

      Dear Mr Bhagwat,
      This is an old joke, but thanks for your comment anyway!
      R R Kelkar

      Reply

  4. khanwalkar
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 11:02:54

    Interesting to read the comment from Brig.Sood.During my last visit i.e. Nov09 I happened to visit the premises of Kenfield and even took some snaps of my once home building with a immense desire to see it back in its original state…..a hope against a hope.Nice learning from you that your a wife is a part owner of te building and nice to receive your comment.

    Reply

  5. SHARAD
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 12:10:13

    Dear Prof. Kelkar,

    Well well, Random surfing is my pasttime. Read your beautiful informative article about Shimla house Pune

    I need you Help.

    I was born in Shimla (1949) and studied at Harcourt Butler (1957-64)

    I read the comments of Mr Khanwalkar and Wg commander Achutha Ramaiah.

    Both of them have studied at the Harcourt Butler.I wish to get in touch with them. Please postme Mr Khanwalkar’s email id.

    I am from Mumbai. my e mail id sharadshinde@hotmail.com

    Reply

  6. khanwalkar
    Jul 25, 2009 @ 10:20:03

    Sir,

    I happened to surf for Simla due to my love towards the place. My father was working as Section Officer that time and his office was located in Kennedy Cottage. We, myself and my elder brother, were frequent visitors to his office on our way back from the school, Harcourt Butler School. On reading some comments on your post, I have gone back so many years in my age and once again got lost amidst the sweet memories of Simla. We were staying in Kenfield, Chura Maidan. I shall be thankful to you if you could post some rare pictures of Simla or those of Harcourt Butler.

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • Prof R R Kelkar
      Jul 25, 2009 @ 12:01:36

      Dear Mr Khanwalkar,

      How nice to get a comment from a person who studied in Simla and whose father worked for IMD? Can you recall in which years that would have been? You must be having many personal memories or anecdotes about IMD and life in Simla at that time. I would be happy to put them on this post.

      I have never been to Simla myself, nor do I have any vintage pictures, but if you happen to have some, we can upload them on this site.

      Yours sincerely,

      R R Kelkar
      Pune
      email kelkar_rr@yahoo.com

      Reply

    • Chander Kant Sood
      Jan 03, 2011 @ 14:50:21

      This is interesting as my wife is one of the present owners of Kenfield Estate and if you have any further information, we could discuss and exchange notes.

      Brig C K Sood
      Pune

      Reply

      • Prof R R Kelkar
        Jan 03, 2011 @ 15:48:16

        Dear Brig Sood,

        Thanks for your interest in my blog. To be honest, I have never visited Shimla, and this post has been written by me on the basis of information gathered from various sources. Since you own property in Shimla, you would be more knowledgeable than me about the current situation.

        R R Kelkar

  7. Mansi Arya
    Jul 16, 2009 @ 05:08:55

    Dear Mr. Rrkelkar,

    I need to know the state wise data of how rainfall has already taken place in India in the year 2009.
    I have searched a lot many websites, but data has not been updated on them for current year, can you please provide me with the data or guide me to find it.

    Regards,
    Mansi Arya

    Reply

  8. Prof R R Kelkar
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 15:28:48

    Thanks, Dr Gopal Krishan, for your comment. I am happy that my post has evoked so much interest and we now have corroborative evidence from different sources. Kelkar

    Reply

  9. gopal krishan
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 15:01:39

    Sir,
    I am interfering in the discussion that it was very true to mention that old Kennedy house had been burnt to ashes long before (nearly more than a decade) where there happened to be the store house of some useful documents. And the glory of previous building, which was original, had been lost completely but the site of the building is very much there.

    with regards,
    gopal krishan

    Reply

  10. Amit Paranjape
    Oct 10, 2008 @ 10:07:13

    Dr. Kelkar,

    Great article. Really helped me understand the history of this great building and institution in Pune. I am always to curious to learn about historical facts about Pune. It is amazing to know sometimes, how little we know about our surroundings! I am planning to put some Pune centric history trivia on my blog.

    Thanks again,
    Amit

    Reply

  11. Prof R R Kelkar
    Sep 04, 2008 @ 01:29:01

    Dear Wing Commander,,

    Thank you for your comment. We now have first hand information to settle the controversy. Thank you also for inviting me to visit Shimla. Maybe you can suggest a good time for doing that and help me plan my excursion on a low budget.

    Regards

    Kelkar

    Reply

  12. wg cdr S A Ramaiah (Retd)
    Sep 03, 2008 @ 17:16:22

    Sir
    I recently ( july) visited Simla and went straight to the spot where Kennedy house and Kennedy Cottage were situated.Frankly I was flabergasted to find that the two buildings were missing. I found two solid buildings built on the spot of old buildings by HP Government.On enquiry I was told that the old buildings built of soild wood got burnt in a big fire and the HP government built those new buildings.
    Simla has changed so much. The old charm is gone for ever excet the Mall which is being preserved under The World Heritage Funds.
    I am sorry sri Kelkar for misleading you.However i still insist on your going to Simla to pick up the old charm.
    achuta

    Reply

  13. Manoj P Brahmane
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 12:36:13

    Sir,
    I have spent a lot of quality time around Simla Office. The article made an informative reading.

    Thanks

    Manoj

    Reply

  14. rrkelkar
    May 30, 2008 @ 13:59:07

    Dear Col Dalvi,

    Here is an additional piece of information. Next to the Simla Office is another two-storied building which also belongs to the Meteorological Department. This is called Ramdurg House as it was acquired from the Prince of Ramdurg around 1963. Maybe you had known this and somehow confused it with the main office building.
    .
    Kelkar

    Reply

  15. rrkelkar
    May 30, 2008 @ 10:56:09

    Thanks, Col Dalvi , for your comments.

    Kelkar

    Reply

  16. Lt Col Amit R Dalvi
    May 29, 2008 @ 14:41:10

    Dear sir,
    Your article is very informative. I always had some misconception that the building must have been donated or previously owned by some prince or maharaja from Shimla. Your article has set aside that doubt. Also thanks to Wg Cdr SA Ramaiah for updating the info.

    Regards

    amit

    Reply

  17. achuta ramaiah
    Dec 24, 2007 @ 16:51:14

    Dear Kelkar sir

    I went through the website remark. I guessesd correctly that you put down the remark about the Kennedy House
    through someone. I can say with new found conviction that building still exists along with adjacent Kennedy
    Cottage where my father had worked and retired.My brother Sai Murty now settled in Piitsburgh went to Simla
    along with his family in the yR 2005. He visited our old places and many other buildings and he showed the photographs .He me that Simla of our days has not changed much esp the office places like kennedy cottage, Anandale etc. So I back my conviction that the building still stands intact.
    Simla stays as the queen of hills despite the din over other hill stations in India. One thing you would admit
    that only in India Raj still survives through its buildings fondly built by the English with the fond hope of the Raj survival trough centuries.When Victoria’s memorial was built in calcutta the Viceroy having remarked on inaguration that the British Sun would never set brought laughter from the public. The English were non-plussed but were told that Hindustan has seen several victors.But we Indians continue to lionise the British and not enganger their buildings like the Victoria Terminus and the Mall in Simla. Infact the HP government has declared the whole of Mall in simla as touch me not as Imperial relics.
    So I request you to go down to Simla and see it for yourself and confirm.
    achuta
    Wg Cdr S A Ramaiah(Retired)

    Reply

  18. rrkelkar
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 04:29:57

    Thanks for your detailed comments. To be frank with you, I have never visited Shimla. My article was based upon information gathered from various sources. That the Kennedy House did not exist any more was something that I had learnt from a colleague who had visited Shimla in the year 2000. If you can find out more about it from your sources in Shimla, I will be very grateful.

    Reply

  19. achuta ramaiah somayajula
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 01:58:49

    dear rrkelkar
    Sir
    you mentioned in your write up that Kennedy House is no longer there. I had lived in Simla from 1944 to 1967 doing my schooling and college education before completing my engg from iit madras . During my time Kennedy house was existing where the labour commission branch was situated. During the second world war Kenendy Cttage was built near by – where the indusrance department finanace ministry was located . My father worked in the Insurance dept Ministry of Finace and retired as Deputy cotroller of insurance in 1975. The Kennedy Cottage was built opposite to Kennedy House. We used to go to Har court Butler High school passing the Kennedy House. Kennedy House was located on the main road Mall from where a T joint road led off to Annandale ground – a large motorable road taking in Military trucks to Annandale ground.
    The article is good and very informative and did not know that Simla office existed in Pune . Thank you for the nice article . Pray accept my congratulations on this fine write up
    achuta
    Wg Cdr S A Ramaiah (retd)
    2-B , 6-3-1100/4 , Somajiguda , Hyderabad- 500082

    achuta

    Reply

    • Avinash Khanwalkar
      Sep 02, 2009 @ 06:53:19

      Dear Mr. Achuta ,

      I read your letter to Mr. Kelkar of Simla Office while surfing on the net ( a favourite pastime ). As I read your letter , I thought I know you . Are you the same Achuta who lived in Rock House near Chaura Maidan . Your father Mr. Krishnamurthy and my father Mr. R D Khanwalkar were colleagues in Insurance Dept located in Kennedy Cottage . We used to live in Kenfield ( which is now in a bad shape) near Rock House and went to Harcourt Butler High School , Shimla via Kennedy Cottage and Kennedy House , Railway Board etc. How is your younger brother Satyam . I am now living in Pune .

      I hope I am right.

      regards and awaiting your response,

      Avinash

      Reply

      • Prof R R Kelkar
        Sep 02, 2009 @ 08:37:31

        Dear Mr Khanwalkar,

        What a delight to know that my blog has been instrumental in bringing together two old friends! I hope you will now plan a reunion. And don’t forget to include me in it!

        Mr Achuta’s email id is achuta.ramaiah@gmail.com in case you want to send him a direct mail.

        Regards,

        R R Kelkar

  20. rrkelkar
    Sep 18, 2007 @ 06:03:24

    I do not really know this part of IMD Pune’s history and therefore cannot write about it with any degree of authenticity. One may have to search the records available at IMD or IITM.

    Reply

  21. n. jayanthi
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 11:26:31

    ANY PLAN TO INCLUDE THE HISTORY OF THE ANNEXURE TO SIMLA OFFICEVIZ. RAMDURG HOUSE , ITS EX.PRINCELY STATUS AND HOW IT CAME TO IMD?

    Reply

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