Nestled in the green Doon Valley and fringed by the Shivaliks, Dehradun is Uttarakhand’s capital and the gateway to the hills of Garhwal. The area was occupied by the British in 1816 and was used as an R&R station for its troops. From a quiet hill town, Dehradun transformed into a bustling city after the state of Uttarakhand was formed in 2000. At rush hour, every traveller is likely to experience traffic problems, just like any other urban metropolis in India. While walking through parts of the old city, you will witness crumbling colonial structures standing beside glitzy new malls.
Although commercial complexes have replaced old structures amidst private orchards, there is still something historic, stoic and grand about the city – against all odds, Dehradun has managed to retain its old world charm. Doon Valley is also famous for the production of basmati rice, and for its fruit orchards. There are a few NGOs here working with women from remote parts of the Himalayas and promoting handicrafts and other arts amongst them.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Survey of India Museum
In the 19th century, the British set about the colossal task of mapping India and this museum documents this event. Instruments used by the surveyors are on display here. Note that entry to the museum is restricted to those with a permit, which can be procured at the Surveyor General’s office at the Survey of India compound.
Clock Tower (Ghanta Ghar)
This is one of the most well-known landmarks of Dehradun. It is a sixfaced hexagonal structure, which is made of bricks. The names of freedom fighters have been engraved on the tower. The area has many shops, restaurants and bakeries, etc. A short distance away is the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology. As its name suggests, it has a wealth of information on the geology of the mighty Himalayas.
Forest Research Institute
Spread over 2,000 acres amidst a verdant estate, the Forest Research Institute (FRI) was established by the British in 1906. Although it was established at Chandbagh first (the present-day location of the Doon School), it moved to its existing location in 1923. The current building was constructed between 1924 and 1929. It is dedicated to the preservation of India’s varied flora and fauna and is one of the oldest institutions of its kind. The red brick building comprises of Mughal towers, Roman columns and delightful archways.
It was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for a few years as the largest brick structure in the world. The FRI Museum inside the premises has six sections – the Pathology Museum, the Timber Museum, the Social Forestry Museum, the Entomology Museum, the Silviculture Museum, and the NonWood Forest Products Museum. Guided tours of the museums are possible for a small fee. The Botanical Gardens here are ideal for picnics.
Entry Adults Rs 15; Children Rs 5 Timings 9am-5pm Closed Gazetted holidays
Ram Rai Durbar
Also known as Darbar Sahib, this 17th-century gurudwara was built by Guru Ram Rai, son of the 7th Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai, with the help of the then ruler of Garhwal, Fateh Shah. When Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh for the Mughal throne, he summoned Guru Har Rai to his court to question him about his support of Dara Shikoh. Guru Har Rai sent Ram Rai to represent him and he was taken hostage. Aurangzeb probed Ram Rai about a verse in the Adi Granth that vilified Muslims. To appease the emperor, Ram Rai changed the meaning of the verse. Consequently, Ram Rai was excommunicated from the Sikh community by his father and he started his own sect known as the Udasi sect.
Darbar Sahib is made with white marble and its main gate has artistic Mughal, Pahari and Rajasthani murals. The annual Jhanda fair is held here on the fifth day after the Hindu festival of Holi, which attracts thousands of devotees from around the country.
Read: Walking the Dehradun Valley
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A favourite picnic spot in Dehradun, Robber’s Cave is locally called Guchhupani. It has a little rivulet, which disappears underground and reappears a little distance away. The cave is called so because, allegedly, robbers used to frequently and successfully hide from the police here in the past. The cave is accessible by car, but you will have to walk the last 1km to the cave. There are a few dhabas selling Maggi, pakoras and tea near the entrance of the cave.
The Indian Military Academy
A famous institute that trains officers of the Indian Army, the 1400-acre Indian Military Academy (IMA) was set up in 1932. The main building of the academy, Chetwode Hall, was built in 1930. The military museum inside the academy is a fascinating place to visit. Special permission is required to enter the academy.
Museum timings 10am-1pm. Closed on weekends and government holidays
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Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the hilltop Tapkeshwar Temple is set amidst lush green hills beside a small stream. It has a natural Shivalinga inside and water trickles down from the ceiling onto it. The locals refer to the temple as ‘Drona Cave’ as they believe that Dronacharya, the guru of the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Mahabharata, resided here. During Shivaratri, a fair is organised on the premises and the temple is packed to the brim with pilgrims.
WHERE TO EAT
Barista, Nirula’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s – Dehradun has them all. Rajpur Road heading north from Astley Hall has no dearth of eateries. The dosas at Kumar’s are popular. Moti Mahal serves good Chinese food, while Ellora’s and Melting Moments Bakery are always crowded. Kalsang Friends Corner has great Tibetan and Chinese food.
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The word ‘sahastradhara’ literally translates to ‘thousand fold spring’ and, true to its name, this place boasts of multiple waterfalls beautifully cascading down from the hill. The locals believe that the water of these falls has medicinal properties and cures skin diseases. There is also a temple nearby. Summer months are an especially popular time to visit the falls.
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Located in the Jaunsar-Bawar region of Dehradun district, this ancient temple complex is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that visiting this temple brings people good luck. The main attraction of this temple is the graphite Shivalingam found here.