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The mountain road winding thru cedar forests. The peace,
tranquility and cleanliness almost slams my senses as soon as we
cross the green and yellow gateway of the Kumaon Regiment Centre
(KRC) into Ranikhet. The ethereal beauty with a majestic deodhar
(perhaps the first on the 9 hour drive from Delhi) to our left
welcomes us in. Since the time the Britishers discovered this
celestial piece of earth to the outside world, the ambience of
the place seems almost unchanged. Norman Troupe, who built his
homestead, Holm Farm, here, would probably agree, a 130 years
later, which still stands atop a hill surrounded by coniferous
hustle-bustle of a busy hill station. No touts offering the best
accommodation bargain in town, or cajoling us to book a
sightseeing tour for the morrow, or offering to escort us to
‘sunset point’ or ‘himalayan point’ in the evening. When did you
need to hold another hand to discover nature in all its purity
and grandeur? I don’t want this 14 km drive from Ranikhet to
Majhkhali, to end. All thoughts of reaching our destination
before dark vanish. Had we not already ‘arrived’?
Golf course ringed by pines. My eyes rove through pines ringing
verdant meadows (to later discover that it is a golf course),
wooded slopes of stately deodars standing sentinel to the
winding mountain road. As the car negotiates a bend, a silver
streak hits the sky. With a sharp intake of breath I slowly
brake, bringing the vehicle to a smooth stop, almost guilty for
the noise the engine was making.
The setting sun breaking thru clouds. The sun, slowly turning
orange, slips from behind the clouds down towards the last leg
of its journey for the day, saying goodbye with a splash of
colors across the sky. As the seconds pass (or stand still?) the
emotions of the Sun through the day are reflected on the white
and blue canvas - silver, orange, grey - slipping in and between
tufts of clouds, its rays streaking through the pine trees,
calling to the birds to return home. Timelessness and
creativity, new meanings are reborn; myriad emotions, changing,
expressed and reflected with each passing moment – the pines,
deodhars, oaks, tiny mountain flowers, the jungle babbler, the
undulating hills, the tree line, soothing breezes, all
juxtaposed perfectly. I realize, my furiously beating heart has
settled to a trance at this discovery (setting suns have become
a ‘discovery’ in the new millennium).
An ancient temple discovered during a jungle walk. Next day, I
wake up to a misty morning and the views through the bay windows
"Blended of mists and light,
winds and water;
Can a mere cloud bear
Now I know where Kalidas got his
inspiration for ‘Meghdoot’.
The trails, behind the resort, on their way to the quaint hamlet
of Digoti lead us through emerald foliage, into a small, ancient
colonial church now turned into a kumaoni factory. The romance
of Ranikhet keeps unfolding. We stop to admire an old church
only to discover that it is now a factory, with the war widows
of the KRC operating looms to knit Australian Merino wool into
shawls with ethnic patterns. At another place, a winding path
into the forest brings us to ‘Carpentree’, a workshop where
Kumaoni youth are engaged in making designer furniture, of
legally felled pines, deodhars, surai. Employed are contemporary
design and traditional techniques of solid wood craftsmanship
and also the likhai craft – decorative wood carving that goes
into ornate doors, beams and pillars.
As dusk mingles into the evening, the star spangled sky entices
us to sit out with our favourite sundowners. Lounging on the
restaurant balcony, the 270 degree view of the Himalayas – the
king of the mountains – is ever so mesmerizing.
Thank you, city stresses, that I find all this so very magical!
- Achal Bindra Ban
Acknowledgement: Review from Caravan Travel Talk
High tea with the queen
By Rishad Saam Mehta
Ages ago, a beautiful Kumaoni queen, Rani Padmini, fell so
deeply in love with the green glades and meadows of a tiny
hill paradise that her king, Raja Sukherdev, built her a
grand palace there and named the place Ranikhet, or queen's
meadow. So goes the legend... There is no trace of a palace
to lend credence to this legend, but few who have visited
Ranikhet have any doubts about its charms.
Part of the Ranikhet experience is in getting there. The
road hugs the mountainside, so for three hours you are
treated to vistas that made the hill stations of Uttaranchal
justly famous , thick, forested slopes of pine down which
charge lively mountain streams and, far below, pristine
valleys carpeted with flowers.
As you approach Ranikhet, keep a watch to the left for the
best view of all. The ancient, snow-clad Himalayas , abode
of India's gods, invincible defenders of her plains , come
into view. No wonder unspoiled Ranikhet is the favoured
destination of exhausted urbanites yearning to breathe in
the fresh, invigorating mountain air.
Acknowledgement: Review from Outlook Traveller
Ranikhet Still Station |
Ranikhet is a sleepy hill station where even leopards take
their own sweet time to move out of your way, says Mahesh
lounging around at Ranikhet Club and looking at most of the
300-kilometres of the Himalayas that can be seen from most
places in Ranikhet. At 1,829 metres above sea level, I can
see the snow on the tips of the Himalayan Mountains.
Banderpunch (6,316 metres), Kedar Dome (6,830 metres), the
three prongs of Trishul and the five peaks of Panchchuli are
gleaming a golden yellow, which gets softer as the sun sets.
Gold becomes mellow yellow and I get up, bored. It has been
two months since I stepped foot in Ranikhet and these sights
don't excite me anymore. It's the transformation of colours
once the sun sets behind the mountains and the moon shimmers
on the ice-capped peaks, that has caught my eye recently.
I walk from the porch, towards the Billiard Room and spot a
new family at the club. In Ranikhet most faces become
familiar in a week or two at most. I walk towards the
television they are watching. The lady appears bored of the
cricket and the children look like they would prefer
watching something else.
"Where are you from?" I ask.
"Delhi," the man replies, looking a little startled, as if
surprised to see someone else there.
"Have you come to Ranikhet for the first time?" I ask,
ignoring his glance.
"No. We come here every year," he replies.
I am flummoxed that they are watching television when the
porch offers more entertainment with the sun exhibiting all
the shades of yellow, orange and red.
"Are you a local?" asks the man, not taking his eyes off the
"No," I say, "I have been here for two months… living with a
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he says.
I rumble a 'splendid' under my breath, wondering if that's
the case why’s he watching cricket on television.
"We've come here every year for the past fifteen," he
"How come only people from Delhi visit this town?" I ask
expecting him to know the answer.
"Not too many people know about Ranikhet. I think it's best
left that way, otherwise we would have another Nainital on
our hands," he says.
I agree with him. He continues, "The people haven't
commercialised the place with shopping areas and the lake is
nowhere close to the main town, I guess that's what detracts
people from visiting Ranikhet."
I agree to this point as well and get on to trivial issues
about the benefits of having only one temple of note
situated outside the main area and the town having shops
which only offer the bare daily requirements of the locals.
Fifteen minutes later I go back out on to the porch and
watch the snow capped mountains gleam in the moonlight. A
soft blue has descended and as the night grows, the colours
change to deeper shades of blue, indigo and violet.
I get back to where I sat previously and Akshay, my host,
comes out after his game of billiards with his cousins. On
most days Akshay and his cousins are the only people in this
relic of a club, built during the times of the British Raj.
It still retains its Old World charm with wood panelling
skirting the walls and a watering hole which is a favourite
with locals and guests. The bartenders do not need to be
told what you need after you've ordered your first drink.
We have to leave but the show would continue after a short
break in which we drive home and have dinner. We approach
the 100-year-old house on the winding road lit by the car's
headlights. Akshay suddenly slams on the brakes and calls
for my attention. He flicks on the headlights to a high beam
and my eyes light up to the leopard lounging on the road.
We're ten feet away. The leopard lazily gets on its feet,
looks at us and starts walking away from us and towards the
house. Akshay eases off the brake and goes towards the big
cat, which begins trotting and breaks into a run. It stops,
looks back, its eyes shining in the light of the headlight
and then canters away graciously. We're stunned and amazed.
My mouth is open while Akshay looks more relaxed since he
has seen many leopards around his town.
The next morning the routine continues, meeting the same
people, talking about the same things and planning the
evening. I participate convivially though I know the routine
by heart by now. In a place where every second lasts a
minute and the only sounds that one can hear are of birds
chirping, I am not surprised that the only skyscrapers are
tall Australian pines.
Kumaon Regiment Centre (KRC) is the sole active zone in
Ranikhet. In its grounds youngsters play sport and the
Kumaon Regiment marches. Ranikhet has been the headquarters
of KRC ever since Lord Mayo, viceroy of India from 1869-72
was enchanted by this town and planned on shifting the
summer capital of India from Shimla to Ranikhet.
Unfortunately (or fortunately for Ranikhet) before realising
his dream he was killed during a visit to the Andamans. The
summer capital stayed put in Shimla but the Kumaon Regiment
made the hill station its headquarters.
Acknowledgement: Review from Business Traveller India