A walk around the city's prominent institutions
Dehradun's buildings represent many different architectural styles. Thankfully, some of these still survive the age of concrete. A great way of experiencing these is taking this four-hour walk where one can also experience the heritage of oil exploration and military traditions of India. The walk covers the Rashtriya Indian Military College, the Indian Military Academy and the Forest Research Institution among other sites.
Rashtriya Indian Military College
Earlier known as Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, today known as Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), is nestled in the verdant splendor of a vast campus. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward III, formally inaugurated RIMC on 13th March 1922. He was accompanied by Lord Reading, the Viceroy to India, and his ADC Lord Mountbatten, who later became the Governor General.
Further down the winding passage, we approach the headquarters of the oil exploration giant, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). The centerpiece of their campus is the Subir Raha Oil Museum. A crumbling old structure until a few years ago, referred to as the Tel Bhavan (oil building), this used to be the art-deco summer palace of the then king of the erstwhile Patiala state. Today, the museum stands as an example of sensitive restoration and reuse of heritage.
The building retains its art-deco elements and its spaces are creatively used to describe the history of oil exploration in the country. Interactive displays with ingenious scientific experiments to perform are likely to keep the children interested and occupied for hours. A litchi orchard, also a relic of royalty, surrounds the building and reminds us of what life would have been for the royals in this verdant vale.
Forest Research Institute
From the back gate of the new ONGC building, we walk south towards another campus that stands out as a masterpiece of our colonial architectural heritage, the Forest Research Institute (FRI). Earlier known as Imperial Forest Research Institute and Colleges, the building is set within an expansive campus. British architect CG Blomfield designed the building and it was constructed by Sardar Ranjit Singh, in 1906, as a reply to the Viceroy’s Palace (now Rashtrapati Bhawan) in New Delhi, by the foresters, who reasoned that since they controlled almost 75 percent of the land assets of India (in those times 75 percent of India was forest), they needed to have a building grander in scale than the viceroy's magnificent palace on Raisina Hill. Thus, the building was built and the campus shifted from Chandbagh, presently the site of The Doon School. The main building has been built on a raised brick plinth, about three feet high, and is approached through a colonnaded porch. Symmetrical in plan and facing southeast, the building consists of a central block with projections on the north and south faces. Attached to this, on the east and the west are two square blocks with internal courtyards. Each of these blocks has an arm projecting towards the south.
Indian Military Academy
From one institute to another, the back gate of the FRI leads us into the Indian Military Academy. One needs permission from the Army establishment to enter the area. But the effort is worth it once you enter the impressive cast iron gates, with flowerbeds and fences maintained with characteristic military precision. Also called Dormer Hall in the past, the Indian Military Academy stands out for its exceptional history of producing defense officers of repute and also for the architectural elegance of its buildings. Designed in 1930, as the Railway Staff College, it was closed soon, owing to a financial crisis and the assets were handed over to the Army in 1932. The Chetwode Hall, named after the then Commander-in-Chief Sir Philip Chetwode, is a masterpiece of Greco-Roman architecture and happens to be the most significant building, architecturally and functionally, on the campus. It was designed as a memorial hall and has a 90-ft-high clock tower atop it.
Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple
From the temple of war to Shiva’s own cave, the Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple. This natural cave temple is located in a valley between two hills. A stream of the Tons river, locally known as Tamasa, flows next to it. It is believed that the Pandavas (from the epic Mahabharata) stayed in this cave and worshipped the Shiva lingam (a representation of Lord Shiva) during their pilgrimage into the Himalayas.