The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) wants the Himachal Pradesh government to rename Hotel Peterhoff — the place associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse’s trial — after Maharishi Valmiki, who authored the great epic of Ramayana.
VHP’s state organisational secretary Manoj Kumar demanded that Petrohoff should 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 should be named after Maharishi Valmiki. Even the historic Ridge should also be named after Maharishi Valmiki,” he added.
Speaking to HT on the sidelines of a function on Valmiki Jayanti, Kumar said: “People should draw inspiration from the life Valmiki. We are insulting Valmiki by indulging in caste-based discrimination. The VHP is working towards eliminating casteism from society.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Shanta Kumar in 1990 had renamed the building as Meghdoot. The BJP government also decided to develop it as a five-star hotel. However, when Congress assumed power 1993, chief minister Virbhadra Singh renamed it as Hotel Peterhoff.
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 Nathuram Godse was tried in 1948-49.
The old building of Peterhoff was devastated in major fire in 1981. Before it was gutted, the building 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 palatial pattern and now is a heritage luxury hotel. The hotel has 35 rooms of which 17 are owned by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC), two suites are with the governor, one chief minister, six state guests and eight are with the state’s general administration department.
“The building Peterhoff does not derive its name from any individual person,” says noted historian Raja Bhasin, who has authored a number of books on Shimla and its history. He said the building probably go its name after Peter the Great, a Russian czar.