Delhi to Lansdowne Itinerary
Where: Situated at 1700 mts above the sea level Lansdowne is the regimental Office of the formidable Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army, located in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand.
This cantonment town has a timeless charm with its pine trees and mossy surfaces. Little bungalows belonging mostly to army officials dot the slope at intervals. A walk through the slopes or drive on the well maintained meandering roads will surely grant anyone the elusive peace of mind. In the middle of the town stands the market place with a grand little white-washed post-office of British architecture and an old time stand-alone movie theatre staying in sync with the nostalgic charm of the town. Though the ambience of this place in itself merits being a good enough travel destination there are a few must-visit tourist spots:
- the Tip and Top viewing point affords a breath-taking view of the snow-covered Garhwal Himalayas. Spend some magical moments lost in the majesty of the range during sunrise/sunset. You can make a quick trip to the Santashi Maa temple which is a bit beyond the viewing point.
- The Garhwal Rifles regimental Darwan Singh museum and their parade ground radiate the hard-earned glory of this famous regiment. The history of the illustrious regiment, the never ending honour-rolls and medals earned by the soldiers and their valiant stories are all very over-whelming.
- Situated amidst the thick oaks and pine trees are the St John and St Mary churches where you are transported to the British era with their serene and untouched beauty. Inside, the monochrome wedding pictures held in the church from that era gives you a certain hit of nostalgia.
- The artificial dam erected by the Army to create the Bhulla Tal is a perfect spot to sit and soak in the sun and the simple charm of this town with ducks, birds and rabbits vying for your attention. It is the perfect spot to spend some time with a book or your loved ones.
But religious or not, it is highly recommended to take a short excursion to the Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple. The 40 km drive on the narrow bendy roads is a joy in itself. Once you reach the spot you have to walk through the pine forests for a good 10-15 mins to reach the temple. It will certainly take your breath away in every sense and awaken your spiritual side. In a clearing of the pine trees are the small temples dedicated to unique shiv-lingam. The last bit of path leading to the temple is lined with rows of temple of every size. You can ring them as you walk along and they reverberate through the solitude of the forest. It does make you wonder that it is indeed a befitting place for the Almighty to reside. Pray and leave your burdens behind in this temple and the adjacent Gauri Kund. There is a small ashram adjacent to the temple compound for tourist to stay and meditate to get in touch with their inner-self. Admittedly, I have not been able to avail of these facilities but the was sorely tempted with the thought of changing my plans and stay blissfully lost to the outer world. It was indeed a place worthy of attempting to achieve nirvana.
If you want to escape from your everyday life and travel back in time for the weekend, Lansdowne is the perfect place – just laze around, soak up the ambience and feel invigorated to face your everyday challenges again.
[Heads-up: Tata Photon did not have any coverage there when I went. So your taking work along is probably not a good idea. Though Airtel had good coverage throughout, and the phone data connection was sufficient for the bare minimum].
On the way:
At Bijnor, on our way to Lansdowne, we drove over the massive dam on the River Ganga. We stopped here for half an hour for the expansive view and to go to the ghat and pay homage to Ganga.
In our attempt to add some adventure to this leisurely trip we visited Karnamuni Ka Ashram on our way to the Lansdowne and Hastinapur on our way back.
Kanwamuni ka Ashram is where Shakuntala grew up and met King Dushwant. Her son, Bharat, from whom India inherits her name Bharat, was born here. Enough reason for about 20 Km detour from our chosen route to Lansdowne. After an uneventful drive through the not too crowded locality where everyone can point you towards the Ashram, a turn in the road suddenly changed the scene. The greenery and the solitude remind you of the stories as this place to be where King Bharat played with lions as a kid while growing up. Malini River flows along the road and on the other side, perched on the hill is a temple dedicated to Kanwamuni. Houses and a foot bridge being constructed right where we stopped to reach the temple contrasted starkly with the surrounding. We crossed the icy cold river on foot to reach the temple, only to realise that the path to reach the temple was too overgrown with creepers to make an approach possible. We later learnt that the path is cleared at a certain time of the year (around March) when people come to pay pilgrimage to the temple. At other times it just remains isolated and unapproachable.
Hastinapur is a fully developed town and have no hope of holding on to any grand illusion of it remotely resembling the seat of power of the Kouravas, around which the story of Mahabharata revolves. Gigantic innumberable Hindu and Jain temple complexes dominate this overcrowded town. We were short on time and only interested in finding out the remnants of the palace of the Kouravas, if any. Hence, we gave the temples a miss and our search led us to an extremely old and secluded temple at the edge of the town. From here, directed by the locals we reached a walled area within which we were told once stood the palace. It sure looked like some great structure stood there once upon a time, now disappeared beneath the soil, and overgrown trees. We proceeded on foot to the centre of this walled area to be rewarded with a very tiny portion of some extremely old wall of some fort like structure still standing in the middle though am extremely doubtful if it has any relation to the actual palace. And to our bewilderment, there were families cooking and spending a leisurely outing on top of the only ruin that stands there. Absolute anti-climax. Basically, not worth the detour in my opinion but then the importance of Hastinapur in indisputable.