like other hill resorts in India, came
into existence in the 1820s or thereabouts, when the families of British
colonials began making for the hills in order to escape the scorching heat
of the plains. Small settlements grew into large stations and were soon
vying with each other for the title of queen of the hills.
Mussoories name derives from the Mansur shrub (Cororiana nepalensis),
common in the Himalayan foothills; but many of the house names derive from
the native places of those who first built and lived in them. Today, the old
houses and estates are owned by well-to-do Indians, many of whom follow the
lifestyle of their former colonial rulers. In most cases, the old names have
Take, for instance, the Mullingar. This is not one
of the better-preserved buildings, having been under litigation for some
years; but it was a fine mansion once, and it has the distinction of being
the oldest building in Mussoorie. It was the home of an Irishman, Captain
Young, who commanded the first Gurkha battalion when it was in its infancy.
As you have probably guessed, he came form Mullingar, in old Ireland, and it
was to Ireland that he finally returned, when he gave up his sword and
saddle. There is a story that on moonlit nights a ghostly rider can be seen
on the Mullingar flat and that this is Captain Young revisiting old haunts.
There must have been a number of Irishmen settling and building
with names such as Tipperary, Killarney, Shamrock Cottage and Tara Hall. The
harp that was once in Taras Halls must have sounded in Shimla
too, for there is also a Tara Hall in the old summer capital of India.
everywhere, the Scots were great pioneers in Mussoorie too, and were quick
to identify Himalayan hills and meadows with their own glens and braes.
There are over a dozen house names prefixed with Glen.
English, of course, went in for castlestheres Connaught Castle
and Grey Castle and Castle Hill, home for a time to the young Sikh prince,
Dalip Singh before he went to England to become a protégé of
Sir Walter Scott must have been a very popular
writer with the British in exile, for there are many houses in Mussoorie
that are named after his novels and romancesKenilworth, Ivanhoe,
Woodstock (later an American mission school), Rokeby, Waverly, The
Monastery. And there is also Abbotsford named after Scotts own home.
Dickens lovers must have felt frustrated because they could hardly
name their houses Nicholas Nickleby or Martin Chuzzlewit but one Dickens fan
did come up with Bleak House for a name, and bleak it is even to this day.
Mussoorie did have a Dickens connection in the 1850s when Charles
Dickens was publishing his magazine Household Words. His correspondent in
India was John Lang, a popular novelist and newspaper proprietor, who spent
the last years of his life in Mussoorie. His diverting account of a typical
Mussoorie season, called The Himalaya Club, appeared
in Household Words in the issue of March 21, 1857.
It is well over
50 years since a person lived in the parsonage and its owner today is Victor
Banerjee, the actor, who received an Academy Award nomination for his role
in David Leans A Passage to India. Victor doesnt mind his
friends calling him the vicar.
This naming of places is never as
simple as it may seem. Lets take Mossy Falls, a small waterfall on the
outskirts of the hill station. You might think it was named after the moss
that is so plentiful around it, but youd be wrong. It was really named
after Mr. Moss, the owner of the Alliance Bank, who was affectionately known
as Mossy to his friends. When, at the turn of the century, the Alliance Bank
collapsed, Mr. Moss also fell from grace. Poor old Mossy, said
his friends, and promptly named the falls after him. MUSSOORIE-ON
The Mall would be lifeless without people and people
would find Mussoorie lifeless without the Mall, a shopkeeper observes.
The main artery of Mussoorie, the Mall certainly responds to the influx of
visitors in the same manner as a person fighting for life-sustaining breath
revives after receiving oxygen.
Shops closed for the winter spring
to life when summer approaches. Soon, the trickle of visitors swells to a
steady, heartening stream. Happy laughter and the gay chitter-chatter of a
cosmopolitan band of people from the plains flows from one open end of the
Mall to the other. Forming a fascinating fashion parade with a potpourri of
fashions from different parts of the country, visitors glide up and down the
Mall, gulping the fresh mountain air, gazing at the assortment of goods in
the shops that line the Mall.
There is no noisy traffic here. Only
the occasional, measured clatter of hooves as a horse-riding tourist goes
past. And every now and then, pedestrians move to the sides as two sturdy
hillmen pulling hand rickshaws occupied by people reluctant to walk, signal
their approach with the spirited ringing of a bicycle bell mounted on the
handle of the quaint rickshaw.
through Kulri Bazaar, on towards Library Chowk, the Mall, like a magician
pulling a rabbit out of a hat, offers an amazing variety of pastimes.
Haggling, bargaining with rosy-cheeked Tibetans over the prices of imported
goods and Tibetan metalware; browsing through a bookshop; searching for
antiques in the curio-shops; choosing hand-carved walking sticks or handmade
cane baskets and other wares. There are embroidered wall hangings, dry
pinecones, hill jewelry, garments and a dozen knick-knacks besides.
tired of shopping or window-shopping, there is the cable car that starts
from the Mall and goes up to Gun Hill. There is a revolving restaurant and
scores of fancifully named eating-places. City-bred children are torn
between trying to run up and down every steep path they can spot, and video
parlors, a tiny park with swings and see-saws, candy floss wallahs, balloon
From the Mall, there is a feast of views of the
surrounding hills and the Doon Valley below. As evening falls, there is the
prospect of watching a glorious sunset, and in the deepening darkness,
twinkling light appear one by one in the valley below. Simultaneously, the
Mall transforms itself into long, glittering rows of shops. As the
shopkeepers on the Mall bring down their shutters on yet another day, the
mood changes again. Visitors spill onto the Mall. The shopkeepers have left,
the hardworking rickshaw wallahs have earned a rest and the shaggy mountain
horses too have gone. The soft mountain nigh, the coolness, the sudden,
complete silence that descends on the Mall act like a salve. Couples walk
peacefully hand in hand, talking, perhaps, of the good times that were and
. The Mall is Mussoories main artery, certainly. It is
also a catalyst of dreams. AROUND MUSSORIE
highest point that one can visit around Mussoorie is the famous Surkhanda
Devi Temple at 10,000 feet35 km down the MussoorieTehri road.
Perched on a peak, the temple demands a stiff two-km climb form devotees.
The temple, goes the legend, was built on the site where the head of Shivas
consort (Shiva is the destroyer in the Hindu trinity) fell after it was
chopped off to stop Shivas terrifying dance of death that was shaking
the universe to its very core.
Nag Tibba, 41 km from Mussoorie,
also soars to an altitude of 10,000 feet, and entails a fairly long, taxing
but exhilarating trek, and therefore more time. Thick pine forests, mountain
brooks and slate-roofed villages keep one company for the greater part of
the trek to Nag Tibba peak. The nearest accommodation is a forest rest house
at Deolsari, about five hours of trekking below Nag Tibba.
people looking for a few quiet days prefer to sojourn amongst the
picturesque pine-clad slopes of Dhanaulti, 24 km from Mussoorie, 11 km
before the Surkhanda Devi temple. A comfortable Tourist Bungalow and a
private hotel, the Dhanaulti Breeze, make Dhanaulti an ideal getaway from
the milling season crowds at Mussoorie.
Thirty-one kilometers form
Dhanaulti, along the Tehri road, is Chambathe home of apples. A
tourist bungalow has been built atop a mountain, and with the approach of
the monsoon, fluffy clouds come in low, enter through the windows, move
across the room, and float out through the door.
Mussoorie, at an altitude of 4,500 feet, Kempty Fall is perhaps the biggest
attraction. The highest (over 40 feet) and most beautiful (the fall splits
into five distinct cascades) of the waterfalls around Mussoorie, Kempty Fall
is 15 km from Mussoorie, on the road to Chakrata.
Fall, 12 km downhill, you cross the Aglar River and reach the legendary
Yamuna River. Trout are in abundance here, and fishing permits can be
obtained form the Divisional Forest Officer, Mussoorie.
addition to man-made attractions around Mussoorie (six km away, on the road
winding down to Dehradun) is a small, artificial lake, complete with pedal
boats. GETTING THERE
There are regular,
daily Vayudoot and Jagson flights from New Delhi to the Doon Valley (50
minutes). From the Jolly Grant airport, taxis and buses ply to Dehradun,
from where they go up to Mussoorie (2¼ hours, 60 km).
overnight Mussoorie Express links Delhi to Dehradun, the railhead for
Delhi to Mussoorie is 290 km by road. Dehradun to
Mussoorie is 35 km. There are direct buses from Delhi to Mussoorie, along
with private taxis. Buses ply every half hour from Dehradun to Mussoorie.
Private taxis and shared taxis are favored by a majority of visitors. WHERE
Mussoorie has more than a hundred hotels from which to
choose. Upper-bracket hotels include Hakmans Grand Hotel, Holiday Inn
and Classic Heights. Brentwood, Valley View, Connaught Castle, Rockwood,
etc., are mid-range and economy hotels. Cottages and flats are also
available on lease