It won’t be a mistake if I say that Mussoorie is one of the most popular hill station in India coming next to only tourism powerhouses like Shimla and Manali. Situated in the state of Uttarakhand, Mussoorie which is popularly known as the ‘queen of hills’, has sadly fallen prey to over commercialisation, which has ripped apart most of its natural serenity which leaves many who visit the place feel incomplete.
Kempty falls has been renegaded to an amusement park, Lal Tibba has become a Restaurant and Gun hill an eatery joint. All the spots of Mussoorie that claims to provide panoramic view of the Himalayas, are either underwhelming or a downright deception.
Thank fully one spot has managed to stay true to its identity and provides the tranquility a hill station is supposed to provide. Happy Valley, as if standing as a testament to its name, is the happiest place one can be when in Mussoorie.
How to Reach and Timings:
Happy Valley is a couple of kilometers from Library Chowk end of Mall road of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. Taxis are available from the mall to take you to Happy Valley. You can also club it with the Mussoorie local sight seeing tour, just make sure to mention it to your tour operator/driver as by default it may not be on your tour itinerary.
The Monastery remains open from sunrise to sunset and is completely free of cost.
History of Happy Valley:
On 17th March 1959, a 24 year old Tenzin Gyatso escaped in disguise from his own home and two weeks later reappeared in Tezpur, Assam. This man, Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th Dalai Lama who had escaped from Lhasa in Tibet and took refuge in India. Against the might of China, India gave asylum to Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile in Happy Valley, Mussoorie.
After staying for a year in Mussoorie, the Dalai Lama had to move to Dharmashala in Himachal Pradesh owing to security concerns, and the center of Tibetan influence in India shifted. However a large Tibetan population stayed back and continued to flourish at Happy Valley, which became their permanent home. Schools those teach in Tibetan language, shops trading Tibetan stuff and families having ties to Tibet, Happy Valley is like a link between both Indian and Tibetan culture.
What Happy Valley has on offer:
As per all the available tour guides, Happy Valley is a Tibetan settlement and nothing more. There is neither any designated scenic point for panoramic views nor any market for shopping. But that is exactly why you should go to Happy Valley as this ambiguity has allowed it to retain its old world charm in the otherwise commercialised city of Mussoorie.
You will be in company of nature and nothing else. The madenning crowd will not be anywhere close, the photographers, hawkers and unending rows of vehicles, all will be out of your sight. It will be just you and the mountains.
It’s true that Happy Valley doesn’t boast of any ‘view point’ per say, but that does not mean that there is no place for the splendid view of mountain peaks. The views from the Dalai Hill or from the Shedup Choepelling Temple are some of the most tranquil and scenic view you can get of the surrounding hills, so much so that you will fall in love with Happy Valley.
My Trip of Happy Valley:
Happy Valley doesn’t require any extensive hiking or climbing. Gentle slopes and proper paved, traffic less roads make it a treat to take a stroll. The name is quite apt as you will feel the air of serenity as soon as you enter it and feel so very ‘Happy’.
As we entered Happy Valley, we crossed the homes, school and various offices belonging to the Tibetan settlement. The meandering roads gradually took us to the Shedup Chopelling Temple, affectionately known as ‘Buddhist Monastery of Mussoorie’. The taxi dropped us at a designated parking spot after which we walked down about 100 meters on concrete path to the monastery. The cars you see in the picture above belong to families who live around the road, tourist vehicles have a separate parking. One side of the road had large deodar trees, some pine as well, the other side had walls and steps leading to various roads in the periphery.
The Shedup Choepelling Temple (Buddhist Monastery):
Shedup Choepelling Temple (Buddhist Monastery), is a beautiful monastery known for its serene vibes. Painted in mostly white, the monastery houses many Tibetan literature, and books. The temple is adorned with clay lamps and colorful prayer flags, a 3D statue of the smiling Dalai Lama, made of cardboard and blissful paintings on the ceiling and walls. It is not as elaborate as the Monastery in Dehradun, the nearest city, but a work of art nevertheless. Add to that the attched history of the Dalai Lama to this place, makes it even more amazing.
Photography is restricted inside the prayer room but it is open for devotees and tourists from sunrise to sunset. We took a stroll around the temple rotating the prayer wheels and visited the lively statue of the Dalai Lama. We paid our respect to the statue of Buddha inside the monatery and came out of its doors to an alluring beauty of nature.
Mountains and mountains till eyes could see with no electrical wires or houses or rocks blocking the stunning landscape. There are chairs placed strategically to aide photography and we were not going to let this chance go. The place was so well maintained and so less crowded that we happily spent about half an hour on those chairs, soaking in the atmosphere.
A short trek up the Dalai Hills:
A hill next to the Monastery is called Dalai Hill, the top of which can only be reached on foot. Its a walk of about a kilometre on a designated walking trail which starts from the outside of monastery to the top of the Dalai Hill. The hike up is not treacherous but a hike nevertheless, so a little physical effort is required.
As we continued our hike, we were welcomed by millions of multi-coloured prayer flags. These flags covered the entire length of the walking trail and added to the already mesmerizing beauty of the Hill. It comes as a blast of bright colours in the green and blue background of trees and sky. I forgot about my tired legs and stood still in awe of the beauty.
The top of the Dalai Hill is flat and has a boundary running round it. A massive golden statue of Buddha is present on the top around 20 ft in height.
When the sun light falls on the statue, it shines bright, creating a golden aura as though showering the blessings of lord buddha on the whole of humanity. The whole place is adorned by more prayer flags of all colours, bright and dull. The place is a perfect outcome of the trek we had just undertaken, with more open views of the hills behind the statue.
These mountains were dry, with small patches of vegetation on them, a very distinct variation from the mountains we had seen till then in Mussoorie, which were all green. The brown mountains, blue sky and the white clouds hanging in like cotton candies, was a very welcomed refreshing change.
On a perfect day, one can even see the snowcapped Kedarnath mountains from this place, we were just not lucky enough on that day as fog had blocked the view. A peek down reveals the play ground and the school we had crossed on our way up, the looping athletics track and the uniformly red coloured roof of the buildings, just added a new dimension to the whole affair.
Happy Valley may not be a truly touristy destination, but it is not entirely off beat either. It doesn’t feature in an everyday Mussoorie handbook, however was the highlight of our Mussoorie tour. It just goes on to prove, sometimes a places should be left on its own, and not milked for every bit of revenue.