Dehradun (Hindi: देहरादून, Dehradoon) is the capital city of the state of Uttarakhand in the northern part of India. Located in the Garhwal region, it is 236 km north of India’s capital New Delhi and is one of the “Counter Magnets” of the National Capital Region (NCR) being developed as an alternative centre of growth to help ease the migration and population explosion in the Delhi metropolitan area. Dehradun is in the Doon Valley on the foothills of the Himalayas nestled between two of India’s mightiest rivers — the Ganges on the east and the Yamuna on the west. The city is famous for its picturesque landscape and slightly milder climate and provides a gateway to the surrounding region. It is well connected and in proximity to popular Himalayan tourist destinations such as Mussoorie, Nainital and Auli and the Hindu holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh along with the Himalayan pilgrimage circuit of Char Dham.
The history of the capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun (sometimes written as Dehra Doon, nicknamed “Doon Valley”) is linked to the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is believed that after the battle between Ravan and Lord Ram, Lord Ram and his brother Laxman visited this site. Dronacharya, the legendary royal guru to the Kauravas and Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata, is believed to have been born and resided in Dehradun. Evidence such as ancient temples and idols have been found in the areas surrounding Dehradun which have been linked to the mythology of Ramayana and Mahabharata. These relics and ruins are believed to be around 2000 years old. Furthermore, the location, the local traditions and the literature reflect this region’s links with the events of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Even after the battle of Mahabharata, the Pandavas had influence on this region as the rulers of Hastinapur with the descendants of Subahu ruled the region as subsidiaries. Likewise, Rishikesh is mentioned in the pages of history when Lord Vishnu answered the prayers of the saints, slaughtered the demons and handed the land to the saints. The adjoining place called Chakrata has its historical impression during the time of Mahabharata.
In the seventh century this area was known as Sudhnagar and was described by the Chinese traveler Huen Chang. Sudhnagar later came to be recognised as the name of Kaalsi. Edicts of Ashoka have been found in the region along the banks of river Yamuna in Kaalsi indicating the wealth and importance of the region in ancient India. In the neighbouring region of Haripur, ruins were discovered from the time of King Rasala which also reflect the region’s prosperity.
Before the name of Dehradun was used, the place is shown on old maps as Gurudwara (a map by Webb, 1808) or Gooroodwara (a map by Gerard, 1818). Gerard’s map names the place as “Dehra or Gooroodwara”. Surrounding this original Sikh temple were many small villages that are now the names of parts of the modern city.
Dehradun itself derives its name from the historical fact that Shri Ram Rai Ji, the eldest son of the Seventh Sikh Guru Har Rai Ji, set up his “dera” (camp) in “dun” (valley) in 1676. This ‘Dera’ ‘Dun’ later on became Dehradun.
The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was highly impressed by the miraculous powers of charismatic Ram Rai Ji. He asked the contemporary Raja of Garhwal, Fateh Shah to extend all possible help to Shri Guru Ram Ji. Initially a Gurudwara (temple) was built in Dhamawala. The construction of the present building of Darbar Sahib was completed in 1707. There are portraits of gods, goddesses, saints, sages and religious stories on the walls. There are pictures of flowers and leaves, animals and birds, trees, similar faces with pointed noses and big eyes on the arches which are the symbol of the colour scheme of Kangra-Guler and Mughal art. High minarets and round pinnacles are the models of the Muslim architecture. (The huge talab in the front measuring 230 x 80 feet had dried up for want of water over the years. People had been dumping rubbish; it has been renovated and revived. Now whoever visits to the Shri Darbar Sahib would notice the change.)
Dehradun was invaded by Mahmud of Ghazni during his campaigns into India followed by Taimooralang in 1368, Ruahela Njibuddulo in 1757 and Ghulam Qadir in 1785. In 1806 King Prithvi Narayan Shah united and many of the Indian territories now fell under such as Almora, Phatankot, Kumaon, Garhwal, Simur, Shimla, Kangra and Dehradun. The current king of the Kumaon kingdom is Raja Mahendra Chand of Lamakhet (Pithoragarh), married to Rani Gita Chand of Rina.
On the western front Garhwal and parts of Himachal Pradesh up to Punjab and on the eastern front the state of Sikkim up to Darjeeling became parts of Nepal for a brief period until the British East India Company went on war from 1814 to 1816. The war ended with signing of the Treaty of Sugowli where almost a third was ceded to British East India company. The British got Dehradun in 1816 and colonised Landour and Mussoorie in 1827-1828.
Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was quite fond of the city and often visited. He spent his last few days here before passing away in Delhi in 1964. Another leader from the independence movement, Rash Behari Bose, who was one of the key organisers of the Ghadar conspiracy and, later, the Indian National Army was based in Dehradun in his early days before he was forced to move to Japan in 1915 to continue the freedom struggle.
Post independence Dehradun and other parts of Garhwal and Kumaon were merged with United Provinces which was later renamed the state of Uttar Pradesh. In 2000, Uttarakhand state (earlier called Uttaranchal) was created from the northwestern districts of Uttar Pradesh under the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2000. Dehradun was made its provisional capital. After becoming the capital, the city has seen continuous development.