Facts & Figures :
MUSSORIE HISTORY.... M
||65 sq km
||31.2°C (max); 7.2°C (min)
||Hindi, English, Garhwali
|Best time to visit
||7.2°C (max); 1.1°C (min)
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 been retained.
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. MUSSORIE-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.
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
Running 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.
If 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 wallahs
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 will be
. The Mall is
Mussoories main artery, certainly. It is also a catalyst of dreams.
MUSSORIE-AROUND MUSSOORIE .....
highest point that one can visit around Mussoorie is the famous Surkhanda
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.
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.
Most 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.
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.
to 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.
Kempty 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.
latest 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. MUSSORIE- WALK-WAYS ....
described as the piece de resistance of walks in Mussoorie, Camels
Back Road rivals the Mall in popularity. About three kilometers long, Camels
Back Road was so christened, it is said, because of a rock that resembles
the back of a camel. This distinctively shaped rock can be seen from a point
near the gate of Mussoorie Public School. Curving round a mountainside, the
road itself looks like the back of a camel. The Hawa Ghar is the most
inviting of the resting places along Camels Back Road.
two-kilometer walk from Library Chowk to the colorful Municipal Garden,
still known by its old colonial name of Company Bagh, is yet another favored
walk in Mussoorie. Beyond the garden with its artificial lake, the walk can
be continued, if one is so inclined, towards Cloud End. In the vicinity can
be seen the estate of the first Surveyor General of India, Colonel George
Everest (later sir George Everest), after whom the worlds highest
mountain is named. A Bibi Khanaouthouses for the Indian consorts of
Englishmenis an interesting feature of the time-ravaged estate, which,
according to land revenue records of 1839, belonged to Colonel
Everest. This sprawling 192-acre estate has been now acquired by the
state government which plans to convert it into a holiday resort.
many cricket fans, the walk towards Cloud End offers a landmark of more
recent times. On a road branching off before Cloud End, is a house that
belongs to the father-in-law of Sunil Gavaskar, the cricketing legend.
Back Road, the walk to the Municipal Garden or Company Bagh, and on towards
Cloud End are gentle, leisurely walks blessed with superb views. Quite
obviously, scenic beauty is a feature shared by all walks in Mussoorie. Even
the walk towards Charleville and the Tibetan settlement of Happy Valley is a
rewarding experience. However, for the more intrepid tourist there are
challenging walks as well such as the ones to Benog Hill (7,000 feet high,
seven kilometers from Library Bazaar, it boasted once of an observatory),
and to Lal Tibba, the highest peak (8,000 feet) at Mussoorie. About four
kilometers from Picture Palace, Lal Tibba is an ideal location for a picnic.
Near Lal Tibba is Childers Lodge, where a powerful coin-operated
binocular is available for surveying the mountains around. In the distance
can be seen peak after peak of snow-capped mountains. MUSSORIE-
SPOOKY STORIES ....
Like most old places, Mussoorie has a very
special set of ethereal denizens. At Mount Pleasant School, just above
Wynberg Allen School, there resides a ghost who likes to make merry at night
on the swings in the school playground. According to the school Principal, a
number of people have seen this playful ghost. On still nights, when not
even a leaf stirs, many people have been nonplussed and finally unnerved by
the sight of empty swings swaying wildly. 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. HOW TO REACH MUSSORIE.....
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
The overnight Mussoorie Express links Delhi to Dehradun, the
railhead for Mussoorie.
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