Friday, December 07, 2007

A Garhwali Fairytale... Uttarakhand, Uttaranchal

Contributed by Lakshmi......

A Garhwali Fairytale... Landowne, Pauri Garhwal, Uttaranchal, Uttarakhand

In the sweltering summer heat and scorching days, who wouldn't like to take a quick retreat over the weekend to de-stress, get far away from the maddening crowd and in touch with our inner-self. If you dream of romancing the mountains, exult in the un-spoilt scenery, breathe in the bracing air and relish the peace and tranquility of the snow covered peaks, then Lansdowne, is the perfect get-away choice. An unexpected turn on the Kotdwar Pauri road brings you to Lansdowne, a pretty hill station in the Pauri Garhwal of Uttaranchal.Ensconced with the world's highest and most beautiful mountain ranges, the Himalayas, Uttaranchal Hills are endowned with extraordinary beauty, majority of which is yet to be exposed to the sights and sounds of outside world. The majestic mountain peaks and the lush green flora abounding in the area make Lansdowne an ideal location for eco-tourism. There are amazing mountain views of the western Himalayas from a number of vantage points like Snow View and Tiffin Top. The clean fresh and invigorating environment makes Lansdowne a preferred destination to relax and unwind and a mere visit to the place is a truly rejuvinating experience. Free from all the trappings of the standard hill stations, Lansdowne offers a lot of options for true connoisseurs of nature. While there is the Siddhpeeth route for the pilgrims, there is wild life route for nature and animal lovers; adventure sports for the daring and health resorts and cultural tourism for the regular tourists. Till late 70s Lansdowne was the only city after Almora, which was the centre of cultural activities. Having adopted from the culture of Kumaonis, Garhwalis and Rajasthanis, the city boasts of an enriched culture centre. Named after Sir Henry Charles Fitzmauritz, the 5th Marques of Lansdowe, Viceroy of India from 1888 to 1894, the winding paths of the city are still lined with colonial bungalows. it is also home to the famed Garhwl Rifles....rather, the whole economy of the city revolves around the cantonment, which rigidly ensures that this little station is kept as spic and span as its own barracks. Set admist lovely surroundings, tall oaks, blue pines rising like spires off the mountainside, and blanketing bougainvilleas colouring the hills with Blue, Purple and Red, the forests of Lansdowne are just ideal for those long walks and picnics. Yes, you won't find the ubiquitous cycle rickshaws of Mussoorie or the three wheeled 'autos' of Dharmsala, Savor instead the unlimited pleasure of walking in and around the slopes. WHAT TO SEELike all other hill resorts in north India, Lansdowne too has its fair share of temples and shrines, most of which are devoted to the various forms of the Mother Goddess. While here, you can make a wish at Jwalpa Devi, 47 Km from Lansdowne on the Pauri Kotdwar Road. As the ancient Garhwal legent goes, a demon king's daughter, Sachi wanted to marry Indra, the king of heaven, who was not inclined to tie the nupital knot with the besotted girl. Sachi prayed to her her favourite diety, Jwalpa Devi. Moved by the girl's heart-felt prayers, th goddess granted her wish. Since then, Garhwalis say a wish made here is often granted, which often means crowds of boon-seekers throng the shrine during the Ashtami in April to October. The locally important Durga Devi temple (24 Kms from Lansdowne) lies on the right bank of the Khoh River, and the temple itself is really 4 Km inside a cave. Deep inside is a Shiva Linga and locals whisper that wishes made here are bound to be granted. The Tarkeshwar Mahadev (30 Kms) with its special Shiva Linga, is dedicated to the God of Kedar Khand. This temple is one of the oldest Sidhpeeths in India and is nestled in a thick forest of deodar, blue pine and oaks. Water pools around the temple lend an aura of mystic charm to the place. Tarkeshwar is on the road heading back to Kotdwar. Another well known landmark is the Kanwa Ashram, and so beautiful is this idyllic hamlet, just 14 Kms from Kotdwar, that it doesn't evenneed an on-so colourful history to tempt a visitor. This is the place where, as the legend goes, Sage Vishwamitra meditated for years, which even rattled Indra. So, the crafty lord deftly sent a bewitching Menaka, to entrance the sage, who couldn't resist the temptation. So was born Shakuntala, who later on fell in love with Dushyanth, and to them was born King Bharat, after whom the nation is named. Overlooking this valley, quiet flows the river Malini, where Shakuntala lost her engagement ring, making Dushyant forget her. This silver stream is so clear that you can see the pebbles from your bus window. GETTING THEREThe best way to reach is to take the Mussorie Express, which leaves Old Delhi at 10:45 PM to arrive at Kotdwar at 07"20 AM. One can hire a cab from Kotdwar or share a cab or take a bus for around Rs. 25 per person. Else, one can drive up to Dehradun via road, which is 150 Kms from Delhi, and drive further up for another 150 Kms. Else drive upto Meerut and then take the State Highway to Kotdwar via Bijnor. The route becomes most stunning as soon as you leave Kotdwar right upto Lansdowne. ACCOMODATIONThere are a few private hotels and lodges in addition to GMVN Tourist Bunglows. Besides this, there is PWD Inspection Bunglows, Army Welfare Board Rest House and Uttaranchal Forest Department Base Camp, where you can stay with prior arrangement. But the most popular among them is the 'Fairy Dale Hotel', run by a local gentleman. Even if you ask for the moon he will tell you, "I will try and get it for you".

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The Pauri Garhwal Group!

The Pauri Garhwal Group!