JEWEL IN THE SHIVALIKS -
VALLEY OF DOON
Amidst sal and shisham forests in the foothills of the Shivaliks lies nestled
the valley of Doon. You have a glimpse of the Himalayas in the north. The
mighty Ganga lies east of the town and the Jamuna to the west. This sylvan
valley was once a haven for retired officers. Rapid industralisation of the
town has taken its toll on the scenic beauty and it remains today a gateway
to Mussoorie, the queen of hills.
Dehra Dun is fast expanding though in a somewhat haphazard fashion. The crowded main streets with buses, cars, cycles and carts, and the ubiquitous autorickshaws weaving in and out of the traffic are a symbol of this expansion. Diesel fumes hang heavy in the air, which at one time was clear and pure.
For tourists Dehra Dun and Mussoorie come in a package. Doon being the gateway to Mussoorie and much cheaper is used as a base. This town is also the gateway for visits to Hardwar and Rishikesh, the two pilgrim spots of the Hindus. It is because of Doon’s gentle pace and cool environs that private boarding schools and other institutions were built here. It was a town that revolved around its institutions and schools. Possibly the Indian Military Academy is the best known of the educational institutions. This is where cadets are trained to become officers in the army. It takes two years of rigorous training before they march out. The marching out ceremony is really worth watching. Very often driving through the large estate one sees cadets hard at games or work. After a whole week of training one finds the young cadets out to enjoy themselves on Saturday evenings.
You will find the main market flooded with young men in grey uniform and pretty girls dressed in their loveliest clothes.
Further down the IMA road lies the Forest Research Institute surrounded by rows and rows of tall trees. The building which sprawls gracefully from end to end with its high colonaded verandahs is well worth seeing. The whole estate has a wonderful variety of trees which have been planted by the Institute itself. The trees are old and stand graceful and green and are home for a variety of
Some of the other well known institutions are the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, the Survey of India, the Indian Institute of Wildlife and’ the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology. At one time the Viceroy’s Bodyguard was stationed here as this was the summer headquarters. They came in March and left for Calcutta in October.
Coming to the schools, the Doon school is set in a large and beautiful estate. It is among the best known schools in the country. Other schools are Welhams both for boys and girls, and the Convent of Jesus and Mary which has branches in other parts of the country also.
The British had at one time tried planting tea around Dehra Dun because of the suitable climate. Some tea estates which are not really functional still stand on the outskirts of the town. Dehra Dun however has a number of lychee, mango and guava orchards. The best lychees come from these hills. The months of June and July sees trees laden with red lychees. Nurseries for seedlings and some rare plants can also be located in the valley.
On the outskirts of the city one finds a Tibetan settlement. These are the Tibetan refugees who fled from China with the Dalai Lama. You will find fine carpets made by them and you can also ask them to weave you a carpet. They also have a market in the heart of town where they sell imported goods.
Dehra Dun’s history dates back to 250 B.C. and Ashoka’s inscription at Kalsi on the outskirts is proof. There are 14 edicts carved on this rock. Also near Kalsi is the site of three horse sacrifices, by Raja Shilvarma of the Vrisheri dynasty. Large bricks with writing on them are laid out in the shape of a huge bird with a fire altar in the middle. Historians think that Shilvarma ruled in the 3rd century just before the Guptas.
There is no dearth of scenic spots. About 15 kilometres from the town is Sahastradhara which has.a,sulphur spring. The medicinal waters of the spring are used for drinking and bathing. Once the surrounding hills in this area were well forested but today the area has a denuded look. However all efforts are being made by the residents to reforest the area.
Parts of the Doon valley are still thickly forested. These have been declared sanctuaries. There are three. sanctuaries in the area basically all a part of the same forest block. Theseare called Rajaji, Chills and Motichur sanctuaries. There are still some elephant herds, leopards, tigers, fishing ghurals and a varied bird life. Each of these places has a forest rest house for those who want to stay. Mussoorie is just 35 kilometres away from Dehra Dun. It takes around 90 minutes to reach there by bus.
Candour, as the older part of Mussoorie is known, is perhaps the oldest hill station. Captain Young, who established the town by building its first house, can be called the founding father. His house which was built in 1829 still stands below Candour. Mussoorie straddles a horseshoe shaped ridge. On a clear day one can see the Himalayan ranges in the north in all their splendour. Fabled peaks, Swaragrohini, Bandarpoonch, the Gangotri Massiff, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Nilkanth and on the extreme right Nanda Devi and Trisul, can be viewed in one unbroken line. The silver threads of the Gangs and Jamuna can also be seen meandering along the green valley and then disappearing when the eye can focus no further.
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