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Dehradun

Area

300 sq km.

Population

5,20,000 (1991 census)

Language

Garhwali, Hindi, English

Religion

Predominantly Hindu

The unhurried lifestyle and moderate climate of Dehradun make it the ideal retirement town it is.   Some parts of the town still retain a distinctive British character, while a lot of it has outgrown its colonial origins. The town is also a centre for renowned public schools and educational institutions. In recent times, widespread environmental degradation due to limestone quarrying around the town has caused concern amongst local inhabitants and conservationist. After a lengthy process of protests and litigation, the Supreme Court imposed a ban on limestone quarrying, and efforts at re-forestation of the denuded hill slopes around Dehradun have begun.
Today, Dehradun is the administrative centre of the hill region of Uttaranchal and the capital of the new hill state that has been carved out of Uttar Pradesh. Dehradun sees a lot of local tourists escaping the hot and dusty plains to its temperate climes.
The area around Dehradun has references in several ancient Hindu texts. It is known as the land of Shiva, the region where the Hindu mythological heroes Rama and Lakshmana performed penance, and the Pandavas of Mahabharata rested on their way up to the mountains. Apart from mythological associations, Dehradun was once ruled by the great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (1st century BC), whose rock edict was found near Kalsi, just off the town.  Over the centuries, this area passed from one ruler to the next, including the Sikhs, Mughals and Gurkhas. Finally, the British established it as an army base and educational centre in 1815. In the post-independence era, Dehradun has witnessed dramatic transformations, from a quiet sub-Himalayan town to a bustling commercial centre. The spiralling local movement for a separate hill state was spearheaded from this town, which is now all set to become the new capital of Uttaranchal.
Nestled in the Doon Valley surrounded by the Shivaliks and the lower Himalayas, Dehradun is situated at 640 metres above sea level. Dehradun is the point from where the steep rise to the upper reaches of the Himalayas begins. The town is hemmed in by the Shivalik range that marks the border with the plains, and the Hindu sacred rivers of the Ganga to the east and the Yamuna to the west.
Limestone quarrying around Dehradun has wreaked havoc on the fragile ecosystem of the area. This led to public protests and a High Court order banning quarrying in the region. The unstable hill slopes are now being rejuvenated by afforestation programmes and recharging of the local springs.
Dehradun is famous for its long-grained basmati rice and extensive fruit orchards.

Religion
Dehradun is the gateway to some of the holiest Hindu shrines in the upper Himalayas. The town itself has a predominant Hindu population, with some important shrines that attract devotees from all over the country. Amongst the various festivals of importance is the Shivratri celebration at Tapkeshwar. A special celebration dedicated to Lord Shiva, the fair sees a large congregation of sadhus (holy men), mendicants and the devout lining up to get entry into the Tapkeshwar cave which has a shivalingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva). Other important festivals include the Jhanda Fair held in March-April to commemorate the arrival of the Sikh Guru Ram Rai in the valley in 1699, and the Lakhawar Fair in September-October which sees a display of tribal sports and cultural events.

Food
Restaurants in Dehradun largely serve Indian food, most of which is quite affordable and good to taste. Remnants of its colonial past are the good bakeries around Paltan Bazaar and Rajpur Road where you can get fresh breads, biscuits and pastries.

Education
Dehradun is famous for its elite public schools, the best known being the Doon School. Reputed as India’s first public school from which many of India’s post-independence leaders and erstwhile royal princes passed out, the school still continues to attract students from India’s upper crust. Besides other such schools, Dehradun is home to the Forest Research Institute, which has an extensive library, museums and research centre. The Indian Military Academy, begun in 1932 with 40 cadets, has grown into a landmark institution with some 1,200 cadets passing out every year.

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