The written history of Dehradun dates back to 250 BC and King Ashoka's inscription at Kalsi, on the outskirts of the city, is proof of this. There are 14 edicts carved on a rock and nearby is the site of three horse sacrifices by Raja Shilvarma of the Vrisheri dynasty. Large bricks with writing on them are laid out in the shape of a huge bird with a fire altar in the middle. The Sikh saint Guru Ram Rai also camped here at the place where the present Guru Ram Rai Durbar is located. Like most other Indian hill stations, the British found the climate and the serene environment of this place closer to their home and established many well-known institutions here.
Dehradun is now the capital of the new state, Uttaranchal, founded in 2000. It is one of the wealthier and more literate regions of India. Neither of which is surprising when you realize that two of the major industries are oil and education. Although it is not a region with much oil, Dehradun is home to the ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited), for which my father-in-law worked. It is also home to over 200 schools and colleges, including the famous Doon School, India’s top prep-school. Where the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and the writers Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh all went to school. (As did my father-in-law, and one of my former professors at Temple.) St. Joseph’s Academy and Welham’s School (for girls) are also well known, but it is the name “Doon” which is used by schools all over the country to build their prestige. There is even a documentary film about the school by the famous ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall. This year, the school may even begin admitting girls. This is a good thing, considering how important the Doon “Old Boys” network is among India’s ruling elite.
Best time to visit
Due to its location in the hilly part of the state, the climate of Dehradun is salubrious. During the summer months, the temperature ranges between 36°C and 16.7° C. The winter months are colder with the maximum and minimum temperatures touching 23.4°C and 5.2° C respectively.
Robbers' Cave is 8 km away from the city bus stand and is an ideal picnic spot. Local bus service is available upto Anarwala village, from where the caves are only a kilometer away.
The Malsi Deer Park
The Malsi Deer Park is a newly developed tourist spot at the foothills of the Shivalik range. The place is situated about 10 km from Dehradun on the road leading to Mussorie. A mini-zoo with a children's park and lovely natural surroundings make it an ideal sightseeing cum picnic spot.
Kalsi is a historical place with an Ashokan Pillar, which has inscriptions in Devanagari. An Ashokan rock edict built in AD 450 is also situated here.
Tapkeshwar is a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva on the banks of a seasonal river. Here, water falls on a shivling drop by drop from a rock and hence the name Tapkeshwar. It is 5.5 km from the city bus stand and is situated in the Garhi Cantonment area.
How to reach
The nearest airport from Dehradun is the Jolly Grant around 25 km away, on the outskirts of the town. There is a daily flight from here to Delhi, which is the nearest international airport.
Dehradun is a major railhead on the Northern Railway line with direct trains to almost all the metropolitan cities of India and some important tourist destinations in Uttaranchal. The Shatabdi Express is the best option for the tourists coming from Delhi and the other good option is the Mussorie Express. The Dehradun-Mumbai Express connects the city to Mumbai. There are also trains to Varanasi, Kolkata and Lucknow.
Dehradun is well connected to other cities of Uttaranchal and Delhi with regular bus services. Distances of some major cities from Dehradun are Agra 381 km, Calcutta 1562 km, Chennai 2365 km, Delhi 235 km, Jaipur 493 km, Lucknow 582 km, and Mumbai 1578 km.