The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) wants the Himachal Pradesh government to rename Hotel Peterhoff — the venue for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse’s trial — after Maharishi Valmiki, the ancient sage who wrote the Ramayana.
The Peterhoff housed at least seven viceroys and governor-generals during the British Raj. The first viceroy to move into Peterhoff was the Earl of Elgin who arrived in Shimla on April 4, 1863. After Independence, the building housed the Punjab High Court and it was here that Godse was tried in 1948-49.
VHP leader Manoj Kumar demanded that Peterhoff be named after the sage. “It’s been more than half-a-century that India attained its freedom from the British, but still the building symbolises the colonial rule. We demand that the building be named after Maharishi Valmiki. Even the historic Ridge should be named after Maharishi Valmiki,” he said.
Speaking to HT on the sidelines of a function on Valmiki Jayanti, Kumar said people should draw inspiration from the life of the sage. “We are insulting Valmiki by indulging in caste-based discrimination. The VHP is working towards eliminating casteism from society.”
The BJP government in Himachal led by Shanta Kumar in 1990 had renamed the building Meghdoot. It also decided to develop it as a five-star hotel. However, when the Congress assumed power in 1993, chief minister Virbhadra Singh renamed it Hotel Peterhoff.
The old building of Peterhoff was devastated in a major fire in 1981. Before it was gutted, it housed the governor’s residence which was later shifted to Barnes Court in Chhota Shimla. The building was restructured in 1991 and designed to match the hill architecture’s palatial pattern.
It is now a heritage luxury hotel with 35 rooms, of which 17 are owned by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, two suites are with the governor, the chief minister owns one, six are for state guests and eight with the state’s general administration department.
“The Peterhoff does not derive its name from any individual,” said historian Raja Bhasin, who has authored a number of books on Shimla and its history. The building probably got its name after Russian czar Peter the Great.