February 8, 2023 5:41 am

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Uttarakhand’s Very Own Kalo Ka Danda to Shed its Colonial Identity

During the colonial era, 62 army cantonments were set up in the country for training purposes. Nine of these are in Uttarakhand, one of which is the Lansdowne cantonment.

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Almost 135 years after it lost its identity to colonisers, Kalo Ka Danda in Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, will finally shed its popular British name, Lansdowne. Known in the local Garhwali dialect as a place with dark clouds, “Kalo Ka Danda” became Lansdowne way back in 1887 as Britishers eyed the region for setting up an Army cantonment in the aftermath of the 1857 First war of Independence that led to the large scale killing of British soldiers and their families in cantonments of the plain areas. 

Housing today a Regimental Centre of Garhwal Rifles and a popular hill station of the region, Lansdowne was once a desolate place and just a grazing area for livestock. It was also a place meant to collect fuelwood for local villagers. 

At the height of 5990 feet, Kalo Ka Danda got its very name from the weather conditions prevalent in the region. Due to its height and thick forests, the area remained covered with fog most part of the year, witnessing frequent rains and was often dark. Due to the prevalent darkness, it got the name Kalo Ka Danda. In other words, forest with darkness. However, some still believe that Kalo Ka Danda name was derived from the Kaleshwar temple situated in the vicinity. A few also relate the name to a Muslim fakir Kalu Sayyed, whose mausoleum still exists in the area.

Part of the Decolonisation bid

As part of the Union government decolonisation bid, Union Defence Ministry had recently asked the Sub Area Uttarakhand to suggest alternate names for the British era named places in the region, following which the name – Kalo Ka Danda was suggested for Lansdowne by the Lansdowne cantonment authorities. 

During the colonial era, 62 army cantonments were set up in the country for training purposes. As many as 9 of these still exist in the Uttarakhand region, one of which is the Lansdowne cantonment.

Lt Casgraini first identified Kalo Ka Danda

British Officer Lt P W Casgraini, who was part of the survey team, identified Kalo Ka Danda, for setting up a cantonment. This region was close to plains and had immense natural beauty and healthy environs.

Historical facts reveal that Garhwal Gazetteer author Edwin Atkinson and tenth Bandoast officer E K Pon gave the region the name of Kalo Ka Danda. Another imminent historian Atkinson, described Kalo Ka Danda as a desolate place falling midway in the Bijnor to Pauri foot road.

Why British Preferred Hilly Cantonments

The first war of independence in 1857 came as a shocker for the British. Freedom fighters targeted Britishers and their families, who were mostly housed in plain areas. Only those families who migrated to the hills were safe, and this made the British give rethink, and they understood the strategic importance of hilly settlements.

The other major reason behind the British favouring hilly cantonments was the weather. It was also generally seen during those days that British soldiers were finding it hard to cope with the hot and humid climate in the plains and the diseases linked to it. Between 1800 and 1856, almost every year, 69 out of 100 British soldiers lost their lives due to warm weather-induced disorders and the spread of contagious diseases due to lack of clean air and water in the thickly populated barracks.

Who was Lord Lansdowne

Lord Lansdowne, who was 14 the Viceroy of the country, had tenure between 1888 till 1893. During his tenure, the first factories act was passed in India in which the working hours of labourers were reduced and an effort was undertaken to check child labour. This Act proved to be a Magna Carta for labour reforms. 

On 21 Sept 1880, in honour of the then, Indian viceroy Lord Lansdowne, the Kalo Ka Danda cantonment was named Lansdowne.

Removing Colonial Mindset 

PM Narendra Modi’s government has been taking special initiatives to remove the colonial mindset from society. Apart from repealing several colonial laws, the incumbent government has also been working to remove colonial symbols. Very recently, the colonial symbols Rajpath and Central Vista Laws have been renamed as “Kartavya Path”. PM Modi has also inaugurated the hologram statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at India Gate. A statue was installed under the canopy where King George’s statue once stood. Similarly, some years back, the famous Race Course Road was renamed, Lok Kalyan Marg. The renaming of Lansdowne cantonment certainly will add to it. For locals, the change of name from Lansdowne to Kalo Ka Danda is certainly a welcome development. 

Jotirmay Thapliyal
Jotirmay Thapliyal

The writer has over two decades of experience in journalism that includes long stints with The Tribune and The Pioneer. Has acumen for political reporting. Keeps a passion for covering forests, wildlife and environment.

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