Monday, 13 February 2012

Lansdowne Garhwal - Uttarakhand

Walk in the clouds, soak in the emerald environs, tuck into piping hot food or wander aimlessly. come, fall in love with Landsdowne.

The name was stuck in my head.My fauji friends also insisted that it was the right place for an idyllic holiday.And I was also looking for a destination that wasnt crowded.So Lansdowne it was.Leaving Delhi early helped us escape the crazy, rush hour traffic at Meerut.Crossing Bijnor and Najibabad,we tucked into terrific aloo paranthas at a Punjabi dhaba and drove through a thickly forested winding road to Kotdwar,a foothill town that serves as the gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas.
Following the Kotdwar-Pauri road at a leisurely pace whilst capturing the scenic beauty with our cameras, we almost didnt notice the signboard that read Lensdowne.The scent of pine engulfed us.My first view of Lansdowne was breathtaking tall oaks and blue pines stood like sentinels on the mountainside.The forests were dark and deep,just perfect for those long leisurely walks on unknown trails.A little further, the mighty gates of Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre announced our arrival at Lansdowne.
Perched at 6,000 ft, Lansdowne,originally known as Kalundanda, is home to many valiant Garhwalis. In 1887, the British, on the suggestion of the District Collector of Pauri, and after getting approval from the top brass of the British Empire, established Kalundanda as a military base and renamed it after the then Viceroy of India,Lord Lansdowne.The Garhwal Rifles Regiment set up its headquarters here in 1921, and since then, has maintained and preserved the ecological balance of this heritage military station.
The small town square and the main marketplace that flanks both sides of the tiny street,has a number of eating joints.But we left these behind,to drive up a little further, past the GMVN Tourist Bun galow,to a road that led us to Fairydale Resort.True to its name, the resort built in 1902 is set amidst fairytale surroundings.Khandelwalji, host and manager, had organised piping hot lunch and once that was over, advised us on what to see and do in this quaint town.
First on our hastily put together itinerary was Tip-in-Top.If youre the kind whos obsessed with the Himalayas like I am youll love this place for the spectacular views of the mountains.My camera went click click click,until I noticed the menacing clouds that threatened to burst any minute.Hurrying back to the car,we decided to visit St Marys church,barely half-a-kilometre away.
Constructed in 1896 on the upper Mall,the church resonated with choirs and prayers till Independence.Over the years,it fell into a state of neglect and rapid decline.It was restored to its former state of glory by the local regiment.The beauty of the church was not lost on us,as we admired the stained glass windows.From there,we moved to St Johns church located in the midst of the forest and the Garhwal Rifles Regimental War Memorial, which was unveiled by Lord Rawlinson of Trent, the then Commander in Chief of India,on Armistice Day, November 11,1923.Located at Parade Ground,it is a major attraction for tourists.
Back in the town square for a quick tea break, Santoshi Mata temple,located on a hillock was our next destination.The climb was laborious, but the view from the temple worth the effort.Situated at the highest point of Lansdowne,the temple is surrounded by oak trees and rhododendron shrubs.The tinkling of hundreds of bells added to the temples charm.
Our last stop for the day was Bhulla Taal, an artificial lake built in 2003. Bhulla, meaning younger brother in Garhwali, refers to the jawans of the Regimental Centre who toiled day and night to create the dam and the lake. It is a popular tourist spot. Many families enjoyed boat rides,kids frolicked in the park, while we enjoyed the view from a machaan next to the lake.
At dawn the next day,we left for Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple, some 40 km away on the Lansdowne-Dehriyakhal road.No other vehicle was in sight as the car caressed the roads edges and ate up the distance. A diversion from the main road, another six kilometres on a non-metalled stretch, a short walk through pouring rain, and we were standing in a setting that seemed straight out of paradise.A temple stood in the midst of towering cedar trees. No matter how hard I tried and whatever angle I took, I couldnt capture a single tree in one frame.After offering prayers at a shivling, (believed to be buried inside the earth),we lazed around.Since it was still a while before we needed to get back,we decided to explore the surroundings.From the end of the road, an elderly Garhwali gave us company for the last kilometre till we reached a conical hill at 6,100 ft.The excursion,which was supposed to be just a nature walk,turned out to be a visit to another historical site. Apparently, this is where the historical battle between the British and Gorkha troops took place in 1814.The fading light allowed me to catch a glimpse of the River Eastern Nayar,gleaming on the floor of the valley.
Back at Lansdowne,after yet another sumptuous feast at Fairydale, we took a stroll through its pristine surroundings. But it had to be abruptly called off.A fog played spoilsport, pushing us back to the safe confines of the resort.


For a town having just a handful of restaurants,the variety on offer is quite surprising. You can sample Chinese, Mughlai and South Indian fare. But dont miss out on Tipsys gigantic aloo paranthas, Mayurs chaat and steaming-hot momos. Also dont forget to carry back some chocolate burfi for folks home from Mishrajis Mithai Shop


There are a few private hotels and lodges, in addition to Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigams tourist bungalow. A good option is Fairydale Resort.


Nothing! Just take a break! Enjoy the sunrise at Tip-in-Top,a boat ride in Bhulla Taal, the trek to Dehriyakhal, a walk through Lovers Lane and practise those swings at the Army golf course.


Do not even think of littering in the town. If caught, the army will fine you heavily. Over speeding and riding without a helmet are prohibited too. Keep a look out for leopards while enjoying those walks especially at night.There are at least four leopards that have made the forest around Lansdowne, their home. Trek in the early hours to Rathi Point,which provides glorious views of the rising sun.To get the best out of the trek,start from Khyber point (6 km).It takes you through meadows of wild flowers and spectacular views of mountains awash with the golden rays of the rising sun.Learn about the rich cross-culture of Lansdowne, a great mix of Garhwali,Kumaoni and Rajasthani cultures.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Heaven - Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand, is a state in the northern part of India. It is often referred to as the Land of Gods (Hindi: देव भूमि, Dēv bhūmi ?) due to the many holy Hindu temples and cities found throughout the state, some of which are among Hinduism's most spiritual and auspicious places of pilgrimage and worship. Known for its natural beauty and wealth of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai, the state was carved out of the Himalayan and adjoining north-western districts of Uttar Pradesh on 9 November 2000, becoming the 27th state of the Republic of India. It borders the Tibet Autonomous Region on the north, Nepal on the east and the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the south and Himachal Pradesh to the north west.
The region is traditionally referred to as Uttarakhand in Hindu scriptures and old literature, a term which derives from Sanskrit uttara (उत्तर) meaning north, and khaṇḍ (खण्ड्) meaning country or part of a country. It has an area of 20,682 sq mi (53,566 km²).
In January 2007, the name of the state was officially changed from Uttaranchal, its interim name, to Uttarakhand. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, which is also a rail-head and the largest city in the region. The small hamlet of Gairsain has been mooted as the future capital owing to its geographic centrality but controversies and lack of resources have led Dehradun to remain provisional capital. The High Court of the state is in Nainital.

Recent developments in the region include initiatives by the state government to capitalise on handloom and handicrafts, the burgeoning tourist trade as well as tax incentives to lure high-tech industry to the state. The state also has big-dam projects, controversial and often criticised in India, such as the very large Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi-Bhilangana rivers, conceived in 1953, the phase one of which has already been completed. Uttarakhand is also well known as the birthplace of the Chipko environmental movement, and other social movements including the mass agitation in the 1990s that led to its formation.