The fascinating Forest Research Institute (FRI) |Dehradun

Forest Research Institute (FRI), is a prestigious institution, nestled in the foothills of the lower Himalayas, in the heart of the bustling Dehradun city. A premier institute for Forestry research, it produces finest officers of the Indian Forest Services, and has a rich history that goes back to 1864.

On a fine Sunday morning, under the cover of a clear blue sky and gathering sun, as I walked past a cluster of exotic trees and fine grass, the soft murmur of the birds perched on the twigs (but hidden from my line of sight) and the gentle rustle of the early December wind, disturbed the perfect silence of that moment. As I cantered down on Dr. Brandis Road towards the main FRI building (done completely in brick and mortar), the humongous structure looked deceptive at first, as if done by an artist on a canvas touched up with the golden glow of the grass and the silhouette of the hills behind. Above, over the pristine arches done in Greco-Roman architecture, birds made regular sorties as if keeping an eye on everyone coming close to these magnificent facades.

This marvelous structure was inaugurated in the year 1929 by the then Viceroy of British India, Lord Irwin. The tryst with forestry research in British India started much earlier when in 1864, Forest rangers’ school was set-up in Dehradun. The school and its subsequent avatars (eventually leading to the setting up of FRI in 1906) had a two-fold objective a). developing a dedicated ecosystem for scientific research and b). creating a supply of specially trained forest officers. In its early days, emphasis was more on botany, wood anatomy and utilization of timber and non-timber forest produce. Dr. Dietrich Brandis, who was the Inspector General of Forests in India between 1864 and 1883, gave great impetus to forestry research and paved a way for a dedicated FRI, a few years down the line.

Let’s examine a few timelines and important milestones that led to the creation of FRI that we see today.

  • In 1864, Ranger’s college was set-up in Dehradun. Remnants of the college can still be seen in a complex just behind the Tibetan market (opposite Parade Ground).
  • In 1884, the school was taken over by the then Central Govt. and was renamed as the Imperial Forest School.
  • On 5th June 1906, this was rechristened as the Imperial Forest Research Institute (IFRI). From 1906 to 1923, the IFRI operated from a campus in Chand bagh area of Dehradun. This building is now a part of the renowned Doon School.
  • In 1923, the IFRI was shifted further west, to its current sprawling campus (of over 1,100 acres). The magnificent main building that we see today was built between 1923 and 1929. Mr. C G Bloomfield was the chief architect of this building, and he laid great emphasis on using locally available material for the structure. Meticulous planning was done to ensure no damage happens given the harsh climatic conditions (especially the rains) that Dehradun saw in those times.
    • Note – Mr. C G Bloomfield also designed the famous Jaipur House building, located in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi.
  • On 7th November 1929, His Excellency Lord Irwin (then Viceroy of British India) inaugurated the new building at FRI.

A visit to the 5 museums located inside the main building is a must-do

S.No.NameWhat to see
1Entomology museumHas exhibits of various insect pests and the nature of damage caused by them
2Pathology museumHas exhibits of various economically important tree diseases and timber decays
3Timber MuseumHas exhibits of best-known and most common commercial woods
4Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) museumHas exhibits of non-timber produces and its processes (ex- fibres, dyes, resins, medicinal produces, etc.)
5Silviculture museumShowcases the evolution of forestry in India, associated threats, etc.

As I inched towards the end of my FRI visit, my eyes got fixated on a row of giant silver oak trees with dark green leaves, shiny on the top and velvety on the bottom. In the distance, on a mountain left of Mussoorie town, George Everest house was noticeable as a tiny white dot. And I wondered, how would FRI have appeared from the mountains in the absence of this concrete mess that Dehradun city has now become.

I hope you found the post interesting.

I am answering below some key questions that may be helpful to plan a visit.

1. Where is it located?

It’s about 6 kms from Clock Tower and the entry point (Trevor Road gate) is located right on the Chakrata Road itself.

Google map link for the entrance –

2. Visit timings?

FRI is open to visitors from 09:30 AM to 05:30 PM except on Mondays. There’s a small entry fee one needs to pay to visit the premises. If you wish to visit the 5 museums housed in the main building complex, you need to purchase an additional ticket (available at the entrance of the main building complex).

3. Is there any pass if someone wishes to visit regularly?

There is a walkers pass one can apply for. It can be made for 1 month, 3 month and upto 12 months duration.



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