The Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun India, is every bit grand as its name.
Ask the locals and on cue they go into raptures.
See the sweeping emerald green lawns and don’t miss the museum and the botanical garden!
The monkeys are a menace and be careful of leopards. Yes! They sneak up on you.
Take photographs against the magnificent building for envy inducing pictures.
It definitely rates high on everyone’s must visit list.
Yet, it took a walk on a cool and wet Sunday morning lead by the silver hair, charming walk leader of Been There Doon That (BTDT), to truly appreciate this place. Trust me, it is far more than just an instagrammable place.
First stop a temple, Shri Laxmi Narayan, tucked right outside its sprawling campus.
Honestly, there is one in every neighbourhood except when you step inside this, I guarantee you will be wonderstruck.
Those are actual hand painted murals in the Garhwali style dating back to the 16 th century. Now isn’t that old!
Bright and recognisable, these murals have survived even though they appear worn and damaged in few places.
They continue to narrate episodes and tales borrowed from scriptures and mythology in their inimitable style to people who pause to look around.
Incidentally there are no sign boards that speak of this treasure. It is just a place of worship for the devotees.
The exterior on the other hand dazzles in a fresh coat of pink and blue, looking all new.
Just proves, never judge a book by its cover or a building.
Anyway it was onwards to the main building of The Forest Research Institute.
Completed in 1929, this iconic structure dominates the landscape in an extraordinary way. It easily bagged a starring role in the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Student of the Year’ as the alma mater. Incidentally this fantastic building was the only thing repeated in the sequel, Student of the Year 2.
First impression, it reminds you of the Pantheon with its pillars and angled roof. The twin domes on the side were so Florentine. Maybe that is what the walk leader meant when he called it, ‘Greco- Roman architecture’.
You borrow the grandest elements to create something new.
Take a bow Mr Bloomfield, the architect. You designed a winner !
Now for the icing on the cake, the thing that made this walk hauntingly memorable.
A resident ghost!
Well, that day I discovered the main gate leading to the Institute was haunted.
A lady in our walk group claimed to be an eye witness. One minute a figure in white was there and the next, poof!
The ghost was called Ghost of Brandis. Since the spectre did not interact, I suppose it was called that because the haunted gate was on the road named after Deitrich Brandis, a botanist who was a founding member of the Forest Research Section.
Anyway this gate does not have a security guard and it remains locked all the time. I also heard of another superstition attached to it.
Urban legend says, anyone passing through these gates dies, well sooner than usual. They were a number of brave souls who didn’t believe in this tomfoolery but unfortunately they did not live long enough.
Anyway I hear another fancy gate was constructed for the visiting VIPs.
Isn’t it amazing how something old reinvents itself as something new.
A new legend is created by something borrowed even if it is just a cliched image of a ghostly spectre in white and sealed gates.
By the time the walk ended, the sky was no longer grey but turning something blue.
This post is in response to Patti’s challenge to go on a photo scavenger hunt for Something old, new, borrowed and blue and mix them up. Apparently the items together can bring luck to anyone.
How could I resist that!