As we were heading to Chakrata in the spring of 2013, an Information Board by the highway, near Herbertpur, announced the location of an Asokan Rock Edict at Kalsi still a few kilometres ahead. Honestly speaking, none of us had any idea that the approach to the historical site was on this particular stretch of the highway in the Vale of Doreen. Even the guidebook we used to rely upon failed in its purpose to provide any useful information about the site. The next thing I knew we were at the spot looking for clues to be captured.
The entrance-lane to the site lies towards the right side at the end of the main market of Kalsi town. Located near the confluence of Yamuna and Tons, Kalsi is about 50 km from Dehradun on the road to Chakrata via Herbertpur. The military barricade on the road to Chakrata is positioned just ahead of the market of Kalsi after which foreigners are required to furnish a permission from the Home Ministry to venture beyond.
The Great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273 – 232 BC) got his fourteenth edict inscribed on a rock at Kalsi. However, the site was brought to light by John Forest in 1860. Considered to be one of the most important monuments in the field of Indian epigraphy, the rock edict is looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Representing the times when Ashoka had vowed himself to be a Buddhist, after having conquered a substantial chunk of the globe, the 10 x 8 ft-rock edict is identified in Prakrit language and Brahmi script.
Having embraced Buddhism, Ashoka is known to have got 14 rocks inscribed, spread across his empire, with a unique religious message on each. The edicts reflect Ashoka’s humane approach towards his administration and his commitment to non-violence as well as abandonment of warfare. The inscriptions are believed to be a testimony to the fact that what Ashoka preached also practiced.
The small garden around the dome appeared to be a reasonable place to picnic. The landscape from the site presented with a rich frame comprising fertile fields spread on successive ledges till the bank of Yamuna against the backdrop of shallow hills. I wondered what the scene would have been back in the Ashokan times.
In its heyday, the region surely must have been the best of tarai forests full of wildlife. Even as recently as the late 1940s, the valley of Jungle Princess Doreen, Dehradun was full of tigers and other big cats. On a sadder note, the current state of wildlife appears to be very gloomy despite the presence of two national parks – Rajaji National Park and Kalesar National Park – in the vicinity of Dehra Valley. Nevertheless, the vale continues to be popular with birding enthusiasts.
Kalsi can be visited round the year albeit if you are okay with the idea of spending a hot summer afternoon at an average altitude of 750 m. Apart from a lone FRH at Kalsi, the nearest appreciable accommodation options are at Dakpathar (just four km) or Asan barrage.