A long time ago, Raja Sudhardev set his heart upon a fair maiden by the name of Rani Padmini. He proposed, she said yes and although there was no palace around, they set up a home there. Thus, was born the Queen’s meadow – Ranikhet.
WORDS BY- Amogh Purohit
Overlooked by the mighty Himalayas on its west, Ranikhet is a place that you know is hiding many stories of these great mountains. It is a hill station and cantonment town in Almora, Uttarakhand. It is the home for the Military Hospital, Kumaon Regiment (KRC) and Naga Regiment and is maintained by the Indian Army. Ranikhet is at an altitude of 1,869 metres above sea level. This makes the golf course here, the highest golf course in all of Asia.
History and some really old locals would tell you that the Queen Padmini of Kumaon was enchanted by this tiny hill paradise. King Sudhardev obliged her, by building a palace here for the queen and named the place Ranikhet.
Today, there isn’t a palace in sight, but the place has remained untouched. It still is as captivating, abounding with flowers, trees and green meadows, and beautiful as ever. Lost into oblivion for long, the picturesque hill station was rediscovered by the British. They bought the land from the native villagers and build a summer resort here apart from establishing an army recruitment centre. Ranikhet still remains the head quarters of the gallant Kumaon Regiment. This serene hill station has great things to offer its guests – a healthy climate, tall coniferous trees, vast green meadows, tranquil surroundings, perfect peace and warmth, and kind, smiling faces.
A short walk toward any direction and you can find yourself surrounded by the pine, oak, and deodar forests. They host an array of wildlife including leopard, leopard cat, mountain goat, barking deer, sambar, pine marten, Indian hare, red-faced monkey, jackal, langur, red fox, and porcupine. They lurk around but won’t bother you on your trek to explore the surroundings.
There’s so much to do around here, so much to see that you’d be surprised how much you can see and explore in the neighbourhood itself. The Ranikhet Golf Course for example, is one of the prime attractions of Ranikhet. Located in Kalika, the green meadow of the golf course at such high altitude is awe-inspiring.
Maintained by the Kumaon Regiment and the Naga Regiment of the Indian Army, the Kumaon Regimental Centre museum has a wide collection ranging from stories of the heroics of the First World War till date. It has on display the various weapons captured, flags of enemies captured by the army and also the LTTE boat captured during Operation Pawan. The regiment, which has a long and successful history of heroics and tales of valor, is on full display at the museum.
Also famous in Ranikhet is the Katarmal Sun Temple. It is the second most important temple to Sun God, the first one being Konark Sun Temple in Orissa. Katarmal is more than 800 years old. Situated 25 km from Ranikhet, this historical temple is an example of intricate sculpturing. About 8 kilometres from Ranikhet is Tarikhet. It is well known for its Gandhi Kuti, and the temple of Golu Devta is venerated in the Kumaon region. It is belived that Gandhi stayed here for a part of his life.
A little further away, about 25 kilometres is a scenic spot with unparalleled beauty, Syalikhet. It is located in the amidst green forest and apple orchards. The famous temple of Syahi Devi is situated here.
Jhula Devi temple is situated at a distance of 7 kilometres from the town of Ranikhet near Chaubatia.
It is said that the dense jungle near the temple was once full of wild animals, leopards and tigers used to attack local villagers.
The villagers prayed to Maa Durga for protection, and one day Goddess Durga came in a shephard’s dream and advised him to excavate her idol. At that spot, this temple was constructed. Since then pilgrims come with wishes.
And when their wish is fulfilled they come again to thank the deity by offering a bell to the temple. Well this phenomenon must be quite popular considering the number of bells hanging over the temple walls. Close by is the Rama Mandir. A short flight of stairs goes up to the hilltop where the temple is. There’s a monastery here where students are taught ancient vedas along with vedic and modern mathematics.
Chaubatia Gardens, here, have plantations of apricots, peaches, chestnuts, and almonds and is known far and wide for its apples. With a wide variety of Himalayan flora, it also offers the picturesque views of snowcapped Himalayas.
Every season here brings along a unique charm. That makes it an amazing host in almost every season. Although, Ranikhet becomes very cold in the winters and remains moderate in summers, and is best enjoyed from March to October.
During winter, there might be a chance that you might get snowed in and don’t leave the warmth of your cottage. But being with a hot beverage and a book in the mountains is not a bad place to be, right?