The citizens of Shimla are unofficially known as ‘Shimlaites’. By nature they are quite friendly, hospitable and down to earth and their lifestyle is very simple and unambiguous. They try to find happiness in every little thing and skillfully maintain the balance between traditional and modern. Shimla is the potpourri of various tribes and races harmoniously dwelling together. Shimlaites are heavily influenced by the Tibetan lifestyle which reflects in their clothing, food and way of living. Agriculture is the major economic source of the people here and apples are grown in abundance at Shimla. Cattle husbandry, weaving and other handicrafts and government services rank next to agriculture. The houses of the natives of Shimla are built in Indo Tibetan style with slanted roofs. The major religion followed in Shimla is Hinduism while Buddhism and Christianity are also quite prominent religions of Shimla.
The traditional dance and music forms of Shimla have survived the test of time and they are still prevalent here. They are mostly based on religious themes such as invoking deities and seeking their blessings. Music and dance form the integral part of all festivals and celebrations of Shimla. The chief musical instruments played in Shimla are: Flute, Chimta, Ektara, Ghunghroo, Ghariyal, etc. and traditional songs are sung to the tunes of these instruments. The major dance forms of Shimla include Bnayangchu Dance, Kayang Dance, Jataru Kayang Dance, Bakayang Dance, Chohara Dance, Shand & Shabu Dances and Rasa Dance. All of these dance forms are exclusive to Shimla and they are not performed anywhere else.
The culture of Shimla is rich with various local and national festivals celebrated with unlimited gaiety and gusto here. Some of the most important festivals of Shimla include; Ice Skating Carnival, Rhyali Festival, Shimla Summer Festival, Baisakhi, Bhoj Fair, Lavi Fair, Lohri, Sipi Fair, Diwali, Navaratri, Christmas, etc.
Ice Skating Carnival celebrated every year during winter infuses spirit into every little fragment of Shimla life. This festival favored by India’s biggest open-air natural ice rink of Shimla happens to be one of the most beckoning attractions of this ‘Himalayan Jewel’. This carnival is organized in the month of January by ‘The ice-skating Club of Shimla’. The ice skating sessions are held twice a day and skates are available at the rink at nominal handling charges. Ice Hockey, dance competitions and fancy dress for kids are the additional attractions of the Ice Skating Carnival of Shimla.
Rhyali Festival of Shimla is celebrated during the monsoon season to appease the Rain God so that they can cultivate good crop. Celebrated from the first day of the Hindu month Shravana, Rhyali Festival marks the official onset of monsoon in Shimla. Seeds of five to seven different crops are sown by the head of the family or the priest in a small basket filled with earth some ten days before the Rhyali Festival. A day before the festival, a mock wedding is performed symbolizing the nuptial of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Clay statues of the deities are placed near the newly grown saplings in the aforementioned baskets and they are offered various fruits and flowers.
Shimla Summer Festival is held in the month of May every year when various talent hunt competitions, sports tournaments, flower shows, local music and dance concerts, cultural performances by school children, photography & poster-making competitions, fashion show, etc are held.
Baisakhi, celebrated on the first day of the month of Baisakh is the harvest festival. Also known by the names Bissu or Bisha at Shimla, Baisakhi is celebrated just before the onset of the harvest season.
Bhoj Fair is a three days fair organized in the month of November in the honor of the presiding deity of Shimla worshipped by the name Devta Bansor.
Lavi Fair is celebrated in the memory of the mutual trade treaty signed between Tibet and the former Bushahr State. At the time of the Lavi Fair a number of cultural shows are performed and small-scale business amongst the shepherds and other locals is encouraged.
Lohri celebrated in the month of January marks the beginning of the sowing season when the first Rabi crop is sown.
Sipi Fair is celebrated at Sihpur in the month of May/June in the honor of a deity named Sip Devta. Archery competition, acrobats, magic shows, jugglers, and many other cultural programs are organized at the time of Sipi Fair.