Dehradun Knowledge Guide


Afghan Connection

Dehradun's Afghan connection dated back to the First Anglo-Afghan War, after which the Afghan Emir Dost Mohammad Khan (Emir of Afghanistan) was exiled by the British to Dehra Dun. He stayed in Mussoorie for over 6 years. The Balahissar ward under the Mussoorie municipality has been named after the palace of Dost Mohammad. The famous Dehradooni Basmati was brought along by him from Kunar Province in Afghanistan and it continues to be counted as a delicacy of the valley. Forty years later, after the Second Anglo-Afghan War, his grandson, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, was sent to exile to India in 1879. Just like his grandfather, he choose Doon valley as his abode. Yakoob became the first Afghan to formally settle in Dehradun. The present Mangla Devi Inter College, was once the Kabul Palace where Yakoob spent a few years of his life. The extended family and servants of the King were also relocated to DehradunThe Afghan royal family maintained a presence in Dehra Dun. It was the birthplace of the second to last King of Afghanistan, Mohammed Nadir Shah. Two quaint palaces — the Kabul Place in Dehradun and Balahissar Palace in Mussoorie — stand testimony to this connection with Afghanistan. They were built by these Afghan rulers in exile in India in the early part of the 20th Century and are palaces are a miniature replica of the palatial structures owned by the kings in Afghanistan. The Balahissar Palace has now been turned into Mussoorie's Wynberg Allen School. Doon-based heritage enthusiast Ghanshyam told the Times of India, "The police station at Karanpur used to be the royal guard room of Yakoob way back in 1879. The electrical office located at the Survey Chowk was the royal servant quarters."Today the descendants of the former royalty, Yakub Khan and his grandson Sardar Azim Khan's family have integrated with the mainstream of Dehra Dun life. The Doon connection was revived when Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, while undergoing treatment in New Delhi during the last years of his life expressed a desire to meet his Doon cousins but the meeting could not take place as the family members were away.Ashraf Ghani, the current President of Afghanistan has mentioned that his grandmother grew up in Dehra Dun. "I speak of Tagore because I was raised on Tagore by my grandmother who lived in Dehradun...," Dr Ghani said while talking about India's vision and the remarkable transformation. Dehra Dun is also being selected to be the second "home" ground of the Afghan cricket team.


Tourist destinations include the Dehradun Zoo, Kalanga Monument, Chandrabani, Himalayan Gallary cum Regional Science Centre Guchhupani, Forest Research Institute, Tapovan, Lakshman Siddha Peeth, Tapkeshwar Temple, Santala Devi Temple, Mindrolling Monastery, Prakasheshwar Mahadev Temple, Sai Mandir, Central Braille Press and Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology.The tourist destinations can be divided into four or five areas: nature, sports, sanctuary, museums and institutions. The nearby hill stations are well known for their natural environment, temples for its faith dimensions, sanctuary for animal and bird lovers. Hill stations include Mussoorie, Sahasradhara, Chakrata, and Dakpathar. Famous temples include Tapkeshwar, Lakhamandal and Santala Devi. In sports tourism, the Doon Ice Rink at Maharana Pratap Sports Complex, Raipur is the first full-sized ice arena in India. It has hosted ice skating competitions and ice hockey tournaments, including the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia.Maa Bala Sundari Mandir is a Hindu temple located in Sudhowala near Dehradun. It is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Maa Bala Sundari, also known as Bal Roop of Maa Vaishno Devi, a manifestation of the Hindu Mother Goddess Mahalakshmi. The words "maa" and "mata" are commonly used in India for "mother", and thus are often used in connection with Maa Bala Sundari. The temple or Bhawan is 3.5 km from Sudhowala and various modes of transportation are available from Sudhowala, including ponies, electric vehicles and palkis operated by 2 or 4 persons. Many pilgrims visit from the northern Indian states to get the blessings of Mahmaya Bala Sundari. A trust is also run by Mandir Maa Bala Sundari Trust, Sudhowala.


After becoming the capital, there has been continuous growth in education, communication and transport. As the state capital, Dehradun is home to many government institutions. Dehradun is renowned all over India for its educational institutions. Buses are identified with blue bars. There are autorickshaws which are often used for transportation but blamed for pollution and noise. The evening buzz of Rajpur road is an attraction. The city centre is easily recognised by the Clock Tower (Ghanta Ghar), a structure with six functioning clocks. The statue of San Dijen placed in Shanti Niketan contributes to the beauty of the city. Dehradun has been home to artists and writers including Stephen Alter, Nayantara Sahgal, Allan Sealy, Ruskin Bond and also to country singer Bobby Cash. Dehradun was home to freedom fighters whose names are engraved in gold on the Clock Tower. It was called "The Gray City" in the initial days because ex-Army officers and VIPs considered this place ideal for residence after retirement.Woolen blankets are typical of this region and worn by people living at high altitude. Women wear saris with full-sleeve blouses along with angora jackets. Girls wear full skirts with scarfs covering their head and shoulders; more recently, they have adopted modern wear like salwar suits. In villages and to a lesser extent in towns, men wear the traditional dhoti, angarakha and langoti. The way dhotis are worn represents backgrounds and castes: short dhotis represent low status whereas long dhotis represent high. It is more common in urban areas for men to wear shirts and trousers, jeans and kurta-pyjamas. In winter, men usually dress in jackets, hats and overcoats. Hemp is grown in great quantities in this region, so its yarn is frequently used as lining. There are fairs (melas) throughout the year. Notable fairs include Magh Mela, held on 14 January and Jhanda Mela in March, a fair for the Hindu community, that attracts Hindus from all over India and abroad.