History of Mussoorie – British Rule & Colonial Influence

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The queen of hills, Mussoorie is a hub for tourist activities. Over time it has turned into an undefeatable force of commercial travel catering to explorers and tourists from all over the globe. Bound by lush greenery, deep valleys, and unpolluted air, Mussoorie has a very vibrant past that has shaped the way you look at this fantastic hill station right now.

Starting with the name. Mussoorie got its name from one of the most widely grown and popular shrubs which are found in abundance here called ‘Mansoor’. Over time it got modified by the locals and the British folks into Mussoorie. No matter what the history is, currently Mussoorie tours dominate the travel industry especially by people on their honeymoon or anyone looking to catch some break from the scorching heat of the plains.

Let’s dive right into the history of Mussoorie

Mussoorie before the British

The picturesque hill station of Mussoorie which graces the Garhwal Himalayan region of Devbhoomi Uttarakhand the town’s existence cannot be pinpointed since it goes back to the ancient ages, then the gods used to walk on earth. The present town of Mussoorie was inhabited by many different hill tribes and small ethnic communities. Their source of livelihood was agricultural activities, which it still is. Imagine the current flourishing town of Mussoorie without any new age, colonial buildings, and only scores of green cover as far as the eyes can see. Shepherds used to bring their cattle here for grazing on Mansur shrubs. Did you know that the first house built in Mussoorie was a very small shooting hut by the British? Uttarakhand has always been under the rule of Chand or Gupta rulers who were two of the major ruling empires and many of the temples established here are owed to them.

In 1803, Gurkhas captured Dehra and the Garhwal region and the conquest was led by Amar Singh Thapa. This meant that indirectly Mussoorie came into being in this way. Naturally, British security forces clashed a lot with the Gurkhas who followed the policy of expansionism which the British saw as a huge threat. On November 1, 1814, the tensions that were brewing led to an inevitable war between the two strong forces. The Gurkhas lost the war and they had to evacuate Dehra by 1815. This sort of cemented the British rule on the hills of Mussoorie.

British Arrival in Mussoorie

After the establishment of the British rule in Mussoorie by 1823, a British had built a very large home residence called Mullinger and allotted it as the house of the commandant of Landour. Unlike Shimla, which had quickly been turned into the summer capital of the British, in the same manner, the pleasant weather and climate conditions made Mussoorie their seat of power. Gradually Europeans started pouring into this region. By 1827, a convalescent depot for European soldiers was established in the neighboring town of Landour. This worked like a Launchpad for the further development and population to increase in Mussoorie. British folks started ditching the dusty, sandy, and hot plains by moving to Mussoorie. They started establishing entertainment the way they enjoyed in their hometown. There were grand and elaborate balls, parties, polo matches in Landour, and other such hectic but grand social events which made the British feel more at home and less home-sick.

Colonial Influence in Mussoorie

Needless to say, as the British started pouring into this hill town, they began setting up everything as per their needs and requirements. Even in the modern-day if you travel to Mussoorie, you will notice that the entire hill landscape is dotted with many abandoned as well as well-preserved colonial buildings which range from churches to offices and houses. Mussoorie’s long history of brewing can also be pegged to the British since they were also big-time brewers. India’s first brewing house called ‘The Old Brewery’ was first established by Sir Henry Bohle in Mussoorie. While initially they were dedicated to brewing only beer, they eventually gained popularity and also started brewing whiskey.

Racism by the British towards Indians in Mussoorie

No matter how wonderful the picture of the British in India is painted, the truth remains that the local Paharis and the Indians living on these hilly slopes were discriminated against in their own homeland. For all its lovely history of the beautiful hill town, the unfair treatment of Indians by the British should also be highlighted in the years they had ruled India. There are some establishments in Mussoorie where there were signs hung up saying ‘Indians and dogs not allowed. Not just houses there were social spaces that prohibited the locals and Indians in general from entering. This was one law that was regularly broken by the members of the Nehru family who then, later on, would pay the fine amount as well.

Mussoorie after British Rule

Unlike Shimla, Mussoorie was never the British’s summer capital; it was their unofficial place of recreation on the hills. By 1901, the population of Mussoorie rose exponentially mainly because instead of just one road through Saharanpur, the railways coming to Dehradun played a vital role in bringing in people from the plains to the hills. Among the frequent visitors to Mussoorie which mainly consisted of British people, with time Indian elite and royals also started to make their way to this wonderful little hill town, among them was the Nehru family.

With the independence rebellion, people started to come up to pace with the ongoing attempt to dethrone the British. Over time the British left India and later on with a lot of rebellion and hard work, Uttarakhand was divided out of Uttar Pradesh due to their unique way of life, customs and beliefs. Once Mussoorie attained the name of the ‘honeymoon capital of India’ inviting all kinds of tourists to this dreamland-like place full of Magicals hills, forests, and culture, the rest is history. Currently, Mussoorie stands at the top as one of the reigning and the best hill stations in not just North India but in the entire sub-continent.

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