Mystical Lansdowne

 Agencies |  2017-08-26 14:24:28.0

Suffering the heat of summer, my heart urged me to make a quick escape to the mountains for some cool air. I wanted to enjoy the soothing beauty of nature but didn't want the tourist crowd beside me as well. Searching for the nearest hill station from Delhi, I read about Lansdowne. Believe me, nothing could have prepared me for the serenity of Lansdowne, which is about 6 hours drive from Delhi.

Lush forests of blue pine and oak trees, and snow-clad mountains, Landsdowne was such a surprise! After being in awe of Himachal, I wasn't sure whether Uttarakhand would impress, but upon reaching Lansdowne, I was speechless. This cantonment town, maintained by the army, has a timeless charm and struck me with its cleanliness and order. Little bungalows belonging mostly to army officials dot the slope at intervals. A walk through pine-clad slopes or a drive on well-maintained meandering hill roads will instantly get rid of your city blues. In the middle of the town stands a marketplace, with a grand little white-washed post-office, circa British times, and a quaint old movie theatre, in sync with the town's nostalgic charm.
Originally known as Kaludanda after Kalu (Black) and Danda (Hill) in Garhwali, Lansdowne was founded and named after the Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne in 1888. It was developed by the Britishers to cater to army recruits, and used as the training centre of the Garhwal Rifles. The famous Garhwal Rifles regiment of the Indian Army also has its command office here. Lansdowne was also a major staging centre for freedom fighters to unshackle Garhwal from British control. Though the chilled ambience of this place itself is satisfying enough, there are a few must-visit tourist spots here too. Tip-N-Top or Tiffin Top viewpoint affords a breathtaking view of the snow-covered Garhwal Himalayas at sunrise and sunset, and is great for picnics. It's just a short trek from here to Santoshi Maa temple.
The Garhwal Rifles regiment's War Memorial is the main attraction in Lansdowne cantoment. Darwan Singh museum and parade ground showcases the hard-earned laurels of this famous regiment. Its history, honour-rolls, medals earned by soldiers and their valiant war exploits, are all on display here. Situated amidst thick oak and pine trees are the St John and St Mary churches, where you are transported to the elegant British era, with its lovely decor and social etiquette, glimpsed in faded, monochrome wedding pictures on display.
The artificial dam erected by the Army to create the Bhulla Taal is a perfect spot to soak up the sun and simple charms of this town – with ducks, colourful flowers and rabbits vying for your attention. It's a lovely place to go boating, birdwatching, chill with a book, stargaze, or spend time with loved ones. There's a small restaurant next to the lake to enjoy snacks and tea. You can also go for a jungle safari into the nearby forests, towards Shantiraj Hill cave, and glimpse Himalayan wild animals like leopards in their natural habitat.
Kalagarh Tiger Reserve, at the northern end of Jim Corbett Park, near Landsdowne, also has a high density of tigers and Himalayan wildlife. Do visitTarkeshwar Mahadev Temple, located atop a hill at 2092 mts, one of the ancient holy sites or Sidha Piths dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Mahashivarathri festival here draws huge crowds from across India. Bhairav Garhi Temple is another famous Sidha Pith, 18 kms from Lansdowne. Durga Devi Temple is located at a distance of around 25 km from Lansdowne, on the banks of the River Kho. Located inside a cave, this temple to Goddesses Durga is considered one of the oldest Sidha Piths. A variety of watersports are also available at Kho river.
Kanvashram is an ashram located beside Malini river, surrounded by thick forests and hills, and popular with pilgrims. Shakuntala, stepdaughter of Sage Kanvan, gave birth to her son Bharat here. You can also trek to Snow viewpoint and Hawaghar, a stunning location for camping and a launchpad for treks to Jaiharikhal and all the way to Khyber pass.
Bhim Pakora can be reached after a 2km trek downhill on a rough path. Two big rocks perch one above the other in perfect balance, and while the stone can be moved with a finger, it never falls down. Do try local Garhwali delicacies like Kafuli, Phaanu, Thechwani, Baadi, Kulath ki dal and Aloo ke gutke and also enjoy some sweet dishes like Gulgula and Arsa. Jolly Grant Airport is 145 kilometres from Landsdowne and Kotdwar Railway Station is 40 kilometres away.

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