It is often said that the best plans are the ones that are never planned at all. They are the moments that happen all of a sudden in the spur of the moment. And just like that these moments become one of the most memorable and pleasurable moments of our lives.
I am usually a very planned person, hence, I never believed in this saying. Yet, as I was looking at the dense pine trees in the town of Ranikhet, I realised how true this saying is.
My trip to Ranikhet was absolutely unplanned. I had a few more days left in my holidays, and every inch of my body wanted to enjoy that.
That very moment, I saw a little coffee table book that spoke about the hidden town of Ranikhet. Instantly I was in love with the lovely picture that adorned the book and decided to head off to Ranikhet.
At this time I was staying at Kausani, from where Ranikhet was only about two hours away. While apprehensive at first, my doubts about Ranikhet evaporated completely as the road took a turn towards the green trees and serene lakes. The whole journey was absolutely stunning, with the air so fresh and the skies so blue, I felt alive again.
Ranikhet is a Hindi word that translates to- Queen’s Fields. The locals have a legend attached to the origin of this pretty town.
They believe that Rani Padmini, who was a Kumaoni Queen, was captivated by the beauty of the rolling green hills that surrounded Ranikhet. She strongly desired to make this beautiful town her own abode. She urged the King to make a palace here, and the King obliged. The queen then left her previous residence and started residing in this new grand palace. From then onwards, it is that the town acquired the name of Ranikhet.
What truly is fascinating, is that there is no sign of this grand palace that was built here. There is no tangible proof to show that this legend was indeed a fact. Yet, the lush green hills complemented perfectly by the formidable Himalayas, surely made me believe in this popular legend.
Ranikhet, just like Kausani is located in the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand. The town was built by the British and used as a cantonment town since 1869. The town was so beautiful, the Viceroy had also contemplated shifting the Army headquarters from Shimla to Ranikhet. Interestingly Ranikhet was also under Nepal for a brief period, before it fell into the hands of the British empire.
Ranikhet still has that trail of the British times left in it. Large quaint bungalows and huge gardens filled with vibrant flowers will take you back to the era of the British rule. This little town is under the army, and the Kumaon regiment of the army resides here.
The town is devoid of any pollution, and you will only see greenery no matter where your eyes go.
Many people mistakenly believe that Ranikhet is only for the nature lover. While there is no doubt that this place is a dream come true for the lovers of nature, but there is a strong history that exists in this town. The town is a perfect amalgamation of history, culture and natural beauty.
When I reached here, I was at first enchanted by the responded greenery that engulfed me. No matter where I looked there were lush green hills that spoke to me.
After a little te-a-te with the locals, I charted out a plan and the places I need to visit in Ranikhet.
I have also been an avid fan of history and artefacts that enshrine the culture and historical anecdotes about the place. To satisfy this desire, and know more about this town, I went to the KRC Museum. KRC is short for Kumaon Regimental Centre (KRC) Museum. It is completely maintained by the Kumaon and Naga Regiments of the Indian Army and was established way back in 1970. This museum gave me an insight into the ways of the army, and a little about the history of the town. The museum has a mind-blowing collection of artefacts and memorabilia, all which tell the stories of the gruesome wars and bloody campaigns, and the brave achievements of the army.
What really fascinated me was the array of different weapons, that was on display. These weapons were and are used by the Indian army. Watching the evolution of weapons throughout the years was extremely entertaining and insightful.
After such a heavy dose of the time long gone, I wanted to get more insights into the culture of the town.
I was once told by a local, that you understand the culture of the place one should visit the places of worship that adorn the town.
Keeping that in mind, I decided to visit the Jhula Devi Temple, which as the locals believed was initially located in Chaubatia. This ancient temple was constructed more than 700 years ago and still stands tall with pride.
The first thing that caught my eye as I saw the temple, where the number of bells in the temple. The bells were kept nonchalantly inside the temple, and upon enquiry, I learned that these bells are actually a mark of respect, which the devotees keep, once their wishes are fulfilled.
This temple is a popular pilgrimage site and I find many saffron-clad pilgrims making their way to this holy temple.
After offering a quick prayer, basking in the serenity inside the temple, I went off to visit another famous temple in Ranikhet
This pious temple is more revered for its majestic surroundings than the temple itself. It was built over 100 years ago, but what really drives the tourists here is the awe-inspiring beauty that has engulfed thus temple.
The temple is nestled with some wonderful fruit trees, which were ripe with all kinds of fruits, as it overlooked the gorgeous valley, with the Himalayas in the background. It possibly cannot get better than that.
I visited this place in the evening and was in for a lovely surprise. The entire temple was reverberating with melodious chantings and devotional songs, as all the devotees sang in unison. There was such power in the singing that it echoed off the walls of the inner sanctum of the temple, and filled my heart with an acute feeling of devotion and respect. The music made me feel both energised and at peace.
The next morning, just as the sun was peaking above the clouds I decided to visit the Chaubatia Gardens. This place is perfect for having a lovely picnic or just lazing around. It was initially built by the British and was meant to be the abode for the Government Fruit Garden. The diversity and variety of fruits are amazing- there are about 150 varieties of fruits, and my mouth was salivating the moment I saw those vibrant and juicy fruits.
What really enhances the beauty of the gardens is the awesome panoramic views of the snowy white peaks of the Himalayan range.
I was truly in heaven, as I sat beneath a lovely apple tree and stared at the lovely white peaks of the intimidating peaks of the Himalayas. I was lucky enough to watch as the sky turned orangish red, right when the sun was setting.
This majestic golf course is the Kohinoor of Ranikhet. It was built way back in the 1920s and is under the army as of now. Tourists can enter after paying a little fee. This amazing 9 hole course is truly worth the praise it gets. The very sight of the sprawling green meadows and the magnanimous Himalayas is absolutely surreal.
The only way to truly feel the beauty of Ranikhet is to just simply stroll around this little town and surrender yourself to the natural beauty of the place. From the beautiful views of the Himalayas to the breathtaking forests that sing to you, Ranikhet is truly a hidden gem.
Most of my memorable moments in Ranikhet came from just walking around and observing the natural beauty. The town is rich with flora and fauna, and I spent hours just trying to spot different kinds of birds and animals.