The one monumental and prestigious institute that has been synonymous with Dehradun for over a century now, has to be the massive colonial Forest Research Institute.
I personally believe this is the only place that has not changed much, post my very first visit to the Doon valley a couple of decades back. Thanks to my maternal uncle who introduced me to this wonderful institute and its museums that re-kindled in me an interest towards Life Sciences. So much so, that I opted for Biology as one of my subject of study in the Junior College and saw future prospects in it by opting for Applied Sciences in the Graduation course.
I was in awe of the architecture from the very beginning. During a recent trip to the #BNLF meet conducted by IndiBlogger at Dehradun, I squeezed out some time to visit the Forest Research Institute. I am glad the complex is being maintained, thanks to its National Heritage Status. Without wasting much time, let me quickly take you on a photo tour of the sprawling estate and the FRI building.
Note: It was a misty and cloudy morning on the day we visited the complex. The sun graced us, as we entered the building and loitered in the beautiful corridors. Nature blessed us with a short-spell of rain while we were in awe of the main entrance near the convocation hall. All this in a span of 90mins that we spent inside the building. Thus, the snaps reflect varying hues of bricks and the building, owing to the peekaboo of the sun and the canopy of grey clouds!
A Photo Tour of the Forest Research Institute (FRI)
Situated amidst lush greenery in a sprawling estate of almost 450 hectares, the Forest Research Institute’s colonial building with the Himalayas as a backdrop is the perfect travel postcard from Dehradun. I am sure it looks spectacular on a bright sunny-day with snow-covered peaks in Winters.
We drove from the frontal entrance of the campus to the back and caught a glimpse of the beautiful estate, dotted with colonial cottages that serve as the present day homes of various instructors and forest officers of the Forest Research Institute.These snaps were captured from the comforts of our car as it was drizzling.
An Officer’s Guest house right in front of the back entrance of the FRI was literally straight out of a British novel! With chimneys popping out of the hip roof, it looked like a dream.
The campus is also home to a mini forest and I was immediately transported to the various cantonments areas we have lived in. It is a perfect idea to take a stroll along these canopied roads with trees lined in an array!
The main FRI building
The main parking and the ticket counters are on the Eastern side/back of the FRI building. Since we had no time for a tour of the museums and wanted to just visit the FRI for its architecture, we visited the place between 8:30-10:00 AM.
A Brief History
The FRI actually began as a small forest school at Dehradun in 1878 to impart training to forest rangers. This school, which was taken over by the Central Government in 1884 and named the Imperial Forest School, formed the nucleus of the present FRI. The history of the FRI is synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry not only in India but also in the entire sub-continent.
Forest Research Institute’s Architecture
Styled in a hybrid architecture of Greek, Roman and Colonial influences by C.G. Blomfield, the main building was inaugurated in 1929 by the then Viceroy Willingdon. The building is said to have taken seven years to complete and the cost was a whopping sum of about Rs90 lakh of those days!
Blomfield had earlier worked with Edwin Lutyens on many projects in Delhi.Thus, the Lutyens’ touch to the Forest Research Institute’s architecture cannot be missed. In fact, I would say that the courtyards are archetypal of Indian and Oriental architecture, too. It is well known that apart from the Roman architects, the former architects also exhibited a penchant for central courtyards.The wall-less porticos are archetypal of the Roman architecture building plans.
The windows on the ground floor are huge and the ones on the first floor are smaller – a typical feature of colonial architecture.This is distinctly visible from the inner courtyards. Have a look at the picture below!
A distinct aspect of the British architecture was the wood and brick interiors that were often aligned in a symmetrical and rational layout.This is again a distinct aspect of the FRI interiors. Also, the arcaded and airy corridors radiate the Classical architectural form.
There are six central courtyards, surrounded by wide corridors on all sides. These open to various museums, washrooms and official rooms.
The FRI building houses six museums around these courtyards :
- The Social Forestry Museum
- Pathology Museum
- Silviculture Museum
- Timber Museum
- N.W.F.P. Museum and
- The Entomology Museum.
The FRI is said to be the only humongous structure in the world made entirely of bricks, at one time.The bricks and mortar used in the Forest Research Institute’s Architecture are arranged in repetitive patterns, accentuated and punctuated by moulding strips.
The drain pipes look rust-free and intact. I am not sure if we get such quality pipes any longer!
The main facade of the building is said to be almost 1,000 ft long.
Wheat and other food crops are said to have been grown in front of the main FRI building, during the Second World War. I am sure the golden crop would have added its own hues to the Forest Research Institute’s architecture.
Did you know: It snowed in Dehradun in the year 1945 and the FRI premises had 3” of snowfall.
The play of light and shadow owing to the hide-seek of the sun and a light rain brought out different hues of the brick facade. The sun was behind the tower when capturing the above picture .
Whereas, the below picture looks vibrant with red bricks due to the sunlight kissing the surface of the structure!
Domed towers on both sides flank the central entrance /portico. The entrance leads to the Convocation hall with beautiful and elegant wooden interiors. Inside the Forest Research Institute campus is the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA). This is the staff college that trains officers selected for the Indian Forest Service (IFS). But, the convocation hall is inside the main FRI building.
The pediment is again very typical of the classical architecture.
However, the triangular area enclosed inside the pediment known as the tympanum is plain and devoid of elaborate patterns.
Instead, some of them have an oval-shaped vent, covered with glass. I am sure a person with deep knowledge and mastery over various architectures would have shown an avid interest in the nuances of the Forest Research Institute’s architecture.His/Her explanation would be much more detailed.
Whereas, this photo tour is just through the lens of an avid lover of architecture!!
- A bright sunny day is ideal to capture perfect photos of Forest Research Institute’s Architecture. Preferably, either during the sunset or just after sunrise!
- The picturesque campus, buildings and the Forest Research Institute’s architecture has been a backdrop in various Indian movies like – Student of the Year, Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, Paan Singh Tomar, Nanban, Krishna Cottage et al.
- Apart from the courtyards, the fascinating places to capture the photographs are the corridors!
Just as we were at the exit and I was capturing the corridor with a bench, the Sun-God graciously blessed us by filling the otherwise dark corridors with shafts of rays thus imparting an orangish hue. Bliss!
I love visiting such monumental structures of a bygone era. The visits help us to appreciate the connection that exists between architectural forms in our own time and those from the past.
So, let us not litter around on the premises when visiting.
In fact, during a stroll in the forest, I was appreciating the futuristic thinking of the architects in providing well laid out flood water drains across the estate and peeped into one. And, what I found was appalling!
I leave you with this thought on being responsible with our environs and some more pictures of the beautiful Forest Research Institute of Dehradun.
Let me know your thoughts on this photo tour of the Forest Research Institute’s Architecture.
How to get here:
- The campus is located on Chakrata Road in Dehradun.
- Dehradun is the capital city of the Uttarakhand state.It is well connected to the train network. All major airlines fly to Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport.
- The holy towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh are in close proximity to Dehradun.
- Dehradun can actually be covered as a day trip from either of the pilgrimage towns.
- The Museum is closed on weekends.
- The Museum opens at 10:30 AM during the weekdays.
- Though, the estate is open for walkers and joggers from early hours of the day.
- It is highly advisable not to roam around alone inside the campus post sunset. Wild animals are said to prowl the area.
You may use the Guide map available on the FRI site
As I had mentioned earlier, I happened to re-visit Dehradun owing to the #BNLF meeting. If you are wondering what is #BNLF then read on the wonderful narratives of the meet, penned by my friends on their blogs.The links are given below:
Happy Blog Hopping, folks 🙂