Tourists throng Landour, the original or old Mussoorie
The peak summer tourist season is now underway in Uttarakhand and visitors to this extremely popular hill station who have spent many a vacation walking the Mall and looking through Kulri Bazaar just love to now venture into Landour, the most scenic and tranquil area of the hill station. However, it is ironical that these crowds that are coming into Landour are also disturbing its tranquillity.
In fact, Landour is the “original Mussoorie”, also known as “Old Mussoorie” or the “True Mussoorie.” It lies just a little beyond the bustle of many coffee cafes and glamorous hotels, not very far off from the busy Mall Road. There is a lot of interesting historic detail associated with this picturesque township. It was with Landour that the story of Mussoorie began. In 1823, Captain Frederic Young, known as the founder of Mussoorie, along with FJ Shore, the superintendent of Dehradun, scrambled up uncharted goat paths on the hills surrounding Dehra in search of game. It was in 1826 that Young built the first home named “Mullingar” in Landour which comes from “Llanddowror”, a village in Carmarthen shire in Southwest Wales.
Land of Pine, Oak, Deodar and Rhododendron, with its winding paths and many-hued floral trees and colourful birds, Landour at 7500 feet, became a summer retreat for the British soon after it shaped up as a convalescent depot for British troops in the eighteen twenties. Also, the American missionaries had a strong presence in Landour soon after it came into existence. In the 1930s, the Landour Community Centre, now part of Woodstock School, was a beehive of activity. It was here that the latest juicy gossip was exchanged. And it was during these days that the “Landour Community Cookbook”, an important reminder of Landour’s American connection, was first brought out.
Landour’s Clock Tower, an important part of its atmosphere, was demolished a few years ago. Now, it is back in its new avatar, lighting up the landscape with its colourful get up. The Landour Bazaar, known as the “Ghantaghar Bazaar”, wore an empty look without the Clock Tower for some years. It looks good again.
Landour is deeply steeped in its fascinating history. Its churches, its old buildings like the Landour Community Centre and Landour Community Hospital and the old bungalows.
The highest point in Landour is the Roman Catholic Chapel, 7,850 feet above sea level; Lal Tibba is 7,464 feet; and both these tower some 1,500 feet over the highest point on the Mall in Mussoorie.
The large open flat near St Paul’s Church has a small park, flanked by the famous ‘Char Dukan’, literally meaning four shops: Vipin’s Tiptop Teashop, Anil’s Coffee Joint, a Bank, and Surbir’s Cyber Cafe. Here, one can feast on waffles, besides the yummy bun-omelettes and vegetable cheese noodles.
Ten years ago, in the summer of 2009, a historic event took place when St Peters, the oldest church in the region, which had been lying in ruins after independence, was brought back to life. On the highest hill (7800 feet) in Landour was built the St Peter’s catholic chapel in 1828, just two years after Landour (the original Mussoorie) was set up by Captain Frederick Young who built “Mullingar”, the first home in Mussoorie, in 1826.
Ruskin Bond, popularly known as “the Grand Old Man of the Mountains” and “the first citizen of Landour” has immortalised Landour through his writings. Together with his old friend and neighbour Ganesh Saili, also an eminent writer, Bond edited and introduced an edition of the fascinating classic cookbook a few years ago. Both admit that though the recipes have a distinctly American flavour, there is an intermingling of European, American and Indian flavours which created a unique Anglo-Indian aroma which spread over the hills. The tradition of exotic cooking continued on the hillside after the Americans left and even today, many of these recipes are followed in Landour’s homes.
Landour’s famous Prakash’s Store, known far and wide for its peanut butter, chutneys and jams, never fails to entice both the locals as well as visitors to Landour who keep coming back for a bagful of Prakash’s goodies. Nehru visited the shop and so did Indira Gandhi. The more than a hundred year old store was set up by Shobha Ram in Sisters Bazaar. It has the distinction of being the first in India where the American Classic-peanut butter- was made commercially available.
The old traditions of Landour are being carried on by its residents who love Landour not only for what it is today but also for what it was long ago. They lovingly and proudly preserve its heritage — be it old maps, old postcards, photographs, early guides, newspapers or the exotic recipes of yore.
It is only in recent years that a large number of tourists have begun spending a lot of time in this beautiful part of the hill station. It is hoped that the visitors will keep in mind that this is an exclusive territory and its norms must be followed strictly so as not to change its complexion and spirit in any way.
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