By RUBY CHOUDHARY
“You have to get lost before you can be found”
Lansdowne was our travel destination this summer. It is three and half hour journey from Muzaffarnagar, our place of residence currently. Lansdowne is a hill station situated in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand at the height of 1800 meter. In the past it was called Kaludanda due to dark tinge given by oak and pine trees. Back in 1890 it was renamed Lansdowne, after the then viceroy of India, Lord Henry Lansdowne.
Throughout Lansdowne to Kotdwar, road goes with the flow of Koh river. This is one of the cherishing moments anyone can have while travelling through this route. Flowing through the deep forests, the river water carries with it the aroma of various types of herbs that have several medicinal properties.
As we entered Lansdowne, long canopies of Oak and pine welcomed us. It seemed like a bollywood picturesque set. Our guesthouse in the cantonment board premises was like small cottage with lovely garden outside. The interior gave us ample hint of cool weather. It was dark polyester bed sheet over the double bed with feather like blanket neatly lying over the bed to wrap around in its warmth. We quickly got refreshed with hot cup of tea. Putting our sports shoes on, we went on hunting for food joint. Hotel Mayur, in the nearby Gandhi market was the only good restaurant, we were told.
Lansdowne is a serene place with mainly cantonment board land and buildings. The population is very small, around 5000. It is the training centre of the Garhwal regiment. Entire Lansdowne is clean and green, which adds to its beauty. It is a perfect destination for a quiet holiday and for rejuvenating mind and soul.
There are travel attraction, like Tip n Top, Bulla Lake, Church and temple.
Tip n Top: The mystical Himalayan peaks visible from tip-n top, a tourist attraction were the most blissful thing. It is the highest place in Lansdowne. It is surrounded by Oak and pine tree.
Bhulla Lake is a popular place. Since it was raining we enjoyed our chai and pakoda out there. Fine drizzle was making the atmosphere romantic all together. The term Bhulla in local Garhwali language means ‘young brother’. It is dedicated to the young Garhwali youth of Garhwal RifIes who helped in its construction. It is an artificial Lake having boating facility. Nearby an amusement park and children park , a souvenir shop, café, herbal plant nursery, enclosure for rabbits, a fountain and a bamboo machan is constructed making it a perfect picnic spot.
Bhim Pakora is another exciting attraction. It is located 2 Km downhill. Here two rocks lay one above another in perfect balance. The above rock can be moved by single touch but it never fells down. This place has mythology attached to it and is linked to pandavas. It is believed that during their exile Pandavas stayed here. These two rocks were kept by Bhim over here.
Darwan Singh Museum is a historical defense museum named after Darwan Singh Negi, who was the first Victoria Cross holder from Garhwal rifles. It contains rarest collection of Garhwal rifles. It is located near the parade ground.
Next, we visited the St. Mary Church, which has British architecture. The Sunday morning prayer on the hilltop was the most divine thing I was experiencing. It was constructed in 1895. After 1947 preaching was stopped here due to deterioration. The Garhwal rifles regimental centre has restored it.
As it was raining heavily that day we chose to call on our friends and returned the same day to our home town. Our friend, the CEO of Lansdowne Cantonment board area further enriched our knowledge about the area. He informed us, population of Lansdowne in recent years has declined dramatically. One of the main reason cited are outmigration due to lack of job opportunity. The population has declined to 5000 only from 19000 within few years. Several training programmes for skill development by the government and Cantonment board are not taken seriously by the locals. However, there are growing opportunities due to recent increase in the number of tourists. Last year the number grew to two and half lakhs. Compared to this the facilities are not much. While returning, I promised to myself to come again to rejuvenate my mind and soul in its serene environment.
(Ruby Choudhary has doctorate in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Rich cultural and academic environment of JNU inclined her to take up academic career. She taught in Delhi University for around five years. She has relocated and left teaching, and currently she is a full time mother.)