Whenever I accompany any friend or colleagues to my home town of Lansdowne, the first question asked is, from where did the town gets its name. It may be that most of those who came with me had not read much of Indian History particularly the British period in India.
Many might have read or heard some of the known names like Hastings, Wellesley, Cornwallis, Dalhousie, Minto and Mountbatten, but may not have heard the name of Lord Lansdowne. So I keep on repeating that Lord Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marques of Lansdowne, was viceroy of India in the year 1888 to 1894, and that the town was established in his period and hence the name.
The next obvious question comes up, as what was its earlier name and how did the town come up. This makes one read up some military history, particularly that of the Garhwal Rifles. So I continue to answer the anticipated question, that the Garhwal Rifles was raised in 1887 at Almora and move in the same year to Kaludanda, the earlier name of the town. Without asking I tell that the name Kaludanda comes from the Garhwali dialect, where Kalu means black and Danda means forest. For some the kids it might mean a pastry by the name black forest!
There is Mainwaring road and garden by this name and that comes from Colonel E.P.Mainwaring who raised the first battalion and laid the foundation of the Garhwal Rifles Regiment.
It was only in September 1890, that Kaludana was renamed as Lansdowne. The Garhwal regiment came up, due to the recommendations of the field marshal Sir F.S Roberts, the then Commander in Chief in India.
I remind my friends about the role played by Subedar Bal Bhadra Singh who as a ADC to the Field Marshal persuaded him to recommend the raising of a separate Regiment of the Garhwalis.
I also remind the accompanying children, that the term viceroy, is derives from the latin prefix, Vice-meaning “in place of” and the French word roi meaning King and hence the viceroy was the royal official who was head of the country and was the representative of the British monarch.
The many roads of Lansdowne are named after people who have played a historical role in the country or for the town.
Individuals like Griffith, Wheatle, Kitchner, Mainwaring, Channer, Cassgrain, Ramsay and Hutchison have roads in their name and all played a historical role for Indian army and civil administration.
Henry Ramsay was first Assistant Commissioner and later Commissioner for British Garhwal and Kumaon for 28 years. Ramsay had a big role to play in the administration and development of the hill districts.
Similarly the many army barrack lines have names which also tells history. The Evatt lines, comes from J.T.Evatt, who was one of the first officer of the regiment when it was raised in 1887. He also later raised the second battalion in 1901.
Similarly Kitchner lines, after well known Commander in Chief in British times. There is also Queens lines after queen Victoria. There is a Bazar named as 2/3 ( second third ) Bazar in lansdowne town.
The name comes from the second battalion of the third gorkha regiment and initially the garhwal battalion was raised from this regiment. The place where the market came up for these troops, become the 2/3 bazar.
There is so much of history that the town has in store that a whole book can be written in the process. The town has history of British India and any inquisitive person visiting the town will learn history by default.
By D.K. Budakoti, Social Development Consultant, Dehradun.