It was freezing three degrees in Delhi during January last year. But I was loving it. I love the cold, I love the nostalgia and I love Delhi. And I love the early morning flights, because those are the only days I get to see an early morning.
Delhi. My home for seven long years. And add to that the numerous stop overs during my college days and my umpteen business trips. Delhi is Delhi, many love. And many, who love to hate. For reasons that could never touch my mind. But I prefer to ignore them.
My day was for Delhi. For some little work, to catch up with friends, meet old neighbors and once again see my old home in C.R.Park. The number M 40 and the door with still the same nice polished look, hopefully. A home which I loved and which still at times brings tears to my eyes. And then I tell myself. Come on. You are a man. You are not supposed to cry.
Come on man, I am not crying. I was happy. I had just landed and was looking forward to having my favorite Aloo (Potato) and Paneer (Cottage cheese) Parathas from Moolchand for lunch and Chicken Kassa/Rice at Ma Tara restaurant in C.R.Park market no.2 for dinner.
C.R.Park in Delhi is known as ‘Mini Bengal’ and you get the best of fish here in two of the main markets and of course the complete range of yummy Bengali sweets, almost as good as anywhere you get in Bengal. After having a peep at the fish market in the evening and getting some sweets packed from my favorite shop in the same market, it was time to visit to the Kali Mandir (Temple) followed by dinner and my peaceful one night stay in Atithi Guest House facing the Mela Grounds. Little things of life which still makes a huge difference to me.
Got up very early. The morning was fresh and the weather nice and cool on this winter morning. The Uber guy came on time. The roads were empty and before I realized we were at the Old Delhi station. The window seat meant that no one would disturb me till I was ready to get up and have my breakfast. It seemed wonderful. No newspaper, no television and soon there would be no network and hence no mobile. And with my planned nap as soon as the train departed, I thought I was blessed. Life was truly wonderful.
The next few days though would be different. It would be nostalgia of a different kind. My journey to a new destination. New for some of my readers probably, but for me a little old. Because this was going to be my second trip to this tranquil hill destination, Lansdowne.
We reached on time. It was 2.30 in the afternoon and I was now at Kotdwar Railway Station. Kotdwar is a tehsil (sub-district) in Pauri Garhwal district. It’s old name was Khohdwar, which means the gateway of the river Khoh. The name was later changed to Kotdwar. It is one of the main entrance points in the state of Uttarakhand. Kotdwar station established in 1890 by the Britishers is one of the oldest railway stations of the country. Being the gateway of Himalayan Region, Kotdwar rail route was used for timber transportation. The first passenger train ran from here in the year 1901.
I checked, and yes the mobile connection was back. It made me feel secure. A call, a reciprocation from the other end and it brought a smile on my face. I was going to meet him after six long years.
There waiting for me outside was Balam. The same taxi owner cum driver who had transported me to my destination and back the last time. He was still the same, the same smile and the same old mannerisms to make you feel at home. We hugged each other and I felt so good.
I have always had a very special corner for the people from the hills. They are so natural, have a big heart and are truly genuine. It’s the same Balam whom I had called up couple of days back after ages, when I could not reach the owners of the place I was going to stay in, and was pleasantly surprised that he had retained the same number all these years. He took all the pains to get me connected to the owners and then even called up to confirm whether I had been able to speak to them. Good people still exist in this world.
We chatted. He talked. I listened. And I inquired. And soon the forty odd kilometers seemed such a short distance. We were almost there.
Lansdowne, is a cantonment town and a hill station situated on the Kotdwar – Pauri road at a height of 1,706 m in Uttarakhand, India. Lansdowne was founded and named after then Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne in 1887 when the first battalion of Garhwal Rifles migrated from Almora to Lansdowne. The town was developed by the British to handle the recruitment for the training center of the Garhwal Rifles since Lansdowne was a major place of the activities of freedom fighters during British period.
Nowadays, the famous Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army has its command office here. Lansdowne is one of the quietest hill stations of India and is well connected but remote and peaceful in its own way and is surrounded with thick oak and blue pine forests.
The journey up was awesome and I soon checked into my room at the Oak Grove Inn Resort. And I was lucky to get the same corner room as last time with a great view, on the top floor. These trivial things which still excites me, although you may find it so childish. Let the child remain in you, I keep telling myself 😁. Ordered my first round of tea. Then the next one and soon it was approaching dusk and the perfect time to just relax marveling at the beauty of nature and this place.
And it was not long, before I asked myself this question. Why was I here? All of a sudden and almost an impulsive decision. I soon found the answers. One was to take you, all my readers, around this beautiful Indian destination. And the second a very selfish reason. To laze around one full day in the sun reading a book and staring at the beauty of nature, just like I had done last time.
And third, which was probably the most important reason of my being there. To once again meet this wonderful couple, Col Bikram & Neelam Rawat who own this place, Oak Grove Inn. To spend some time in the evenings with them. Two people whom we admired, learnt from and learnt what hospitality should be all about. They are someone, me and my wife always wanted to visit again. I was there. She was not. But I know she was equally excited, as I was.
Have a look around the place which combines the comfort and privacy of a good hotel and the care, the homely touch and the option of wonderful home cooked food. The room options are double bed, family room and a two room honeymoon cottage which you can choose from depending on your need, family size and budget. I bet you are bound to fall in love with this awesome place which still retains a British era charm.
After a completely laid back evening on the first day, I got up very early today to experience the sunrise from my room. And then spent the entire morning lazing around before and after the lovely breakfast at the resort.
And then it was time to head off for some authentic Garhwali food for lunch. When you are in Lansdowne you must get a feel of the local cuisine, preferably down in one of the village houses who offer this service. It was a three kilometer walk down from Oak Grove Inn through the woods into the closest village which was so enjoyable.
I had a bit of every dish that was on offer and not only was the food so different and very tasty, but what touched my senses was the hospitality of the lady of the house. It felt like being at home away from home. And I promised to go back again during my next visit. The walk up to the resort took quite an effort after a more than full tummy.
The evening was spent chatting with the Rawat’s over few drinks followed by a wonderful dinner. Another great feature of this resort apart from the location is that you get lovely home cooked food. Mostly vegetarian but if you wish to have non veg during dinner time, you got to inform them in advance.
After a wonderful breakfast, we are now all set to explore. Lansdowne is a small town and most places of interest can even be covered by foot once you reach the main market. But it is advisable to hire a car if you also wish to visit the other places nearby. I opted for a car.
Bhulla Tal is dedicated to the Garhwali youth of the Garhwal Rifles who helped in the construction of this lake. This artificial man-made lake is a must visit destination in Lansdowne. Located at a distance of 1 km from Lansdowne City Centre, the lake allows you to enjoy boating and picnic facilities.
Located approximately at an altitude of 1700 m above the sea level, this Tip-n-top view point gives breathtaking views and panoramic sights of the snow-capped Shivalik range. If you visit early in the morning you can get an amazing view of sunrise amidst the mighty mountains and hence is also known as ‘Sunrise Point’.
Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple, is the most visited Hindu Temple in Lansdowne and is flocked by thousands of devotees during the month of Sawan (Indian Monsoon). It is believed that this temple has the Shivlinga which is Swayambhu (self-formed).
Even after visiting so many places, I still had time left to venture out to the other places nearby including a trip back to Kotdwar. You could also do it the next day by moving out early from the resort if you are taking the afternoon train or checking out in the afternoon before taking the night train to Delhi. And if your visit is by car from Delhi, you could do it at your own pace. So let’s get going again. And our first stop, Tarkeshwar Temple.
This is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva surrounded by thick Cedar trees. It is located 38 km from Lansdowne at an altitude of 1800 m to the north east of Lansdowne on Lansdowne-Deriyakhal road.
Durga Devi Temple is located near Kotdwar, 11 km from Kotdwar bus stand and on the road to Dugadda. The other famous temple located in Kotdwar is Sidhhabali Temple at a distance of 5 km from Kotdwar’s main market. The Siddhabali temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The temple is located on the bank of river Khoh around 50 meters above the river bank. A large number of devotees visit the place round the year. Not only Hindus but people from other communities also visit this temple.
This place is also very popular as a picnic spot. There are several small water falls and hill forest which makes this place very spectacular.
Kanvashram is an important place both historically, culturally and archaeologically in the history of India. It is located on the bank of river Malini about 14 km from Kotdwar. It is believed that Indra, the king of Gods, was scared by Sage Vishwamitra’s meditation, sent a beautiful heavenly damsel named Menaka to the earth to disrupt his meditation. She succeeded in disturbing Vishwamitra’s meditation. With their union she gave birth to a girl child. Menaka having succeeded in her purpose left the child on the bank of river Malini and went back to her heavenly abode.
This child was found by sage Kanva and brought up in his ashram called Kanvashram. She was named Shakuntala by the sage. She later married the King of this region named Dushyanta and gave birth to a boy who was called Bharata, the prince after whom India was named as Bharatavarsha. About 10,000 pupils used to get education in the ashram of Kanva Rishi in the ancient times and since then the valley or ghati is known as Kanvaghati.
Back to the resort after a wonderful day of sightseeing, it was time in the evening to have a heart to heart chat with the Rawats again over a couple of drinks before and during our dinner together. About their earlier trip to Egypt and about their son Zorawar, whom we had met during our last trip and who now stays and works in New Zealand.
The next day was my journey back after an eventful three days. But that would surely not be my last trip. I will keep going back, again and again. You too should visit this wonderful hill destination in India. And you bet, you too will fall in love.
Visit Lansdowne. Meet the Rawats. Experience India Beautiful 🇮🇳
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