What Makes The Har Ki Dun Trek One Of The Richest Cultural Experiences

My relationship with Har-Ki-Dun started a lot earlier than my love for the mountains advanced, even perhaps earlier than I used to be born. My mother and father celebrated their honeymoon there. They pitched tents alongside rivulets within the lap of those huge valleys. Pictures of the Swargrohini peaks, the misty forests and the quaint village of Osla stored popping up in household albums.

It was a few years later that I visited the Har Ki Dun valley. I spent round 6 to 7 months right here and what I witnessed was really enchanting. The path is breathtakingly stunning. However what introduced extra to my journey was the wealthy tradition that I noticed and have become a part of.

The easy but unfamiliar manner during which the villagers lived and farmed, the colorful garments they weaved, the temple rituals, the beating of the village drum, the traditional structure of the homes, their people songs and tales… It was like getting into a distinct world, a time warp of historic tradition and wonder.

It’s no surprise that at Indiahikes, we now have at all times maintained that this is likely one of the most culturally wealthy treks in India. Proper from the basecamp at Kotgaon, you start to really feel a deep sense of tradition and the presence of a time passed by.

Kotgaon Indiahikes
The doorway of the Kotgaon village is marked by a beautiful temple with pretty wood structure. Image by Vishwas Kallur

On the cusp of cultures

The whole Har Ki Dun valley, known as the Ranwai Ghati, or domestically as Parvat Ghati, is geographically located very near the borders of Uttarakhand and Himachal. Additionally, this valley lies near the Jaunsar Baawar tribal area. So the native customs, mythology, cuisines, dance kinds and rituals have main influences from Himachali, Jaunsari and Ranwai cultures, which make the valley an alluring Treasure Trove of heritage and historical past.

The Osla village unfold out on the mountainside with homes virtually hanging within the air. Picture by Reni

Historic structure and carvings

The wonder begins proper at Kotgaon, Indiahikes’ base camp of the Har Ki Dun trek. Kotgaon has historic wood homes, some courting again to even 300 years. The homes are constructed of wooden and stone. You’ll discover clean carvings of flowers, leaves, typically tigers on the façade and on the pillars. Run your hand over them. It’s historic artwork. Scent it and you’ll inhale the candy woody perfume of Deodar. It’s a strong-hardy specimen, good for constructing sturdy properties.

Historic carvings on outdated homes of those villages. Picture by Urvish Joshi

The roof of those historic homes is product of a gray stone known as Pathaal within the native language. Expert artisans who’ve an in-depth understanding on easy methods to measure, hew and polish these stones are invited to assemble these roofs.

These wood homes may be as much as 5 storeys in top and are named in accordance with the extent of flooring on them, Dwipura for 2 flooring, Tripura for 3, Chaupura for 4 flooring and so forth.

A wood home at Osla Village. Picture by Jothi Ranjan

If you happen to occur to go to the city of Uttarkashi (round 8 hrs from Mori), at Tiloth, you may see a Panchpura, or a 5 storeyed wooden home that’s roughly 300 years outdated. Don’t overlook to ask the locals the story of Nar-Bijola,the 2 warrior princes who fought for the hand of a fairly princess and lived there.

What’s fascinating is that these homes are an ideal mix of aesthetics and sensibility. The bottom flooring is often reserved for the animals. Along with offering a protected shelter for the cows or buffaloes, this place generates plenty of warmth due to the physique warmth of the animals and thus, insulates the whole home.

Strike up a well mannered dialog with the homeowners of the home on the village of Kotgaon, Osla or Gangaad and they are going to be completely satisfied to point out you round. In the event that they such as you again, you’ll be blessed with a cup of candy pahadi tea together with native tales of gods and goddesses looking down demons.

Our picture trekkers particularly love capturing the intricacies of the wood carvings. Set towards the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, they’re a factor of utter magnificence. 

A uncommon temple devoted to Duryodhana-King of Kauravas

All alongside the trek route, within the villages in addition to on the path, you’ll come throughout many temples devoted to the native gods and goddesses. You’ll study that the folks right here deeply revere the Mahabharata. However what is going to take you utterly abruptly is that they not solely worship the Pandavas, however in addition they pray to the Kauravas! 

Whereas trekking to Osla, you come throughout a shrine devoted completely to Duryodhana — the king of the Kauravas, the one different recognized temple being Poruvazhy Peruviruthy Malanada situated in Kerala.  

This temple at Osla is a 3 chambered wood temple adorned with bells and prayer flags. Observe the exquisitely carved pillars at the front and back of the temple. The temple is an attractive construction, constructed on the strains of historic Hindu structure. In latest instances, owing to political stress, the native authorities renamed it The Someshwar Temple and “re-dedicated” it to Shiva however the 5,000-year-old ritual of the drum being performed thrice a day in honour of Duryodhana continues even right this moment.

Temple devoted to Duryodhan at Osla Village. Picture by Jothi Ranjan

The story goes that Duryodhana appealed to Lord Mahasu, the native god of those climes, to bless him with a chunk of this valley in order that he might handle its folks and its fauna. Lord Mahasu granted his want and Duryodhana sorted the affairs of the folks of this land. Within the conflict, when the Kauravas have been killed together with Duryodhana, the folks of his kingdom wept and people tears grew to become the river Tamsa, which implies river of sorrow that also flows by this valley.  

If you happen to occur to be at Osla within the second week of July, you’ll be met with a vibrant Doli procession of Duryodhana and sounds of celebration coming from the temple courtyard. 

Some say that Dehradun will get its identify from Duryodhan!  Fantasy and thriller all have a spot in creating tradition.

The Intriguing Melas 

The annual Melas are an altogether completely different affair within the mountains. They’re crammed with native customs and rituals that make attending one a very distinctive expertise. If you happen to occur to be at Har-Ki-Dun within the months of January or September, you’ll be invited to euphoric celebrations the place colourfully clad villagers congregate, sing and dance to native people songs. 

Har-Ki-Dun valley celebrates two sorts of Melas. One is the annual truthful often known as the Magh Mela that occurs in January like in most components of Uttarakhand however the second truthful that occurs across the Monsoon months of July, August and September is the extra fascinating one. This truthful is often held at night time and moreover being a time to fulfill and make merry, additionally it is an area for — consider it or not — eloping! 

Many younger {couples} elope on these night time Melas. It is a observe that’s adopted largely by folks belonging to completely different castes or economically poor backgrounds who wouldn’t have sufficient assets to throw a marriage ceremony. The couple spends a couple of days at a relative’s home, whereby the elders from the women’ village come and speak to the “runaway” couple.

Right here, the woman’s standpoint is considered and the wedding given social acceptability if deemed so by the elders. In case you are planning on doing one thing on related strains, do let your trek information know in order that he can come discover you afterward.

One other distinctive marriage customized is the idea of Bride Value that the groom’s household has to pay by livestock, recognized domestically as Pashu Dhan. This observe is often adopted by well-to-do households of the villages.  

Vibrant weaves and Cuisines

Exterior of the structure, one other factor that trekkers admire is the colorful clothes adorned by the folks right here. 

The villagers have their very own customary units of clothes which are often weaved by hand on do-it-yourself wood handlooms and dyed utilizing pure dyes (though artificial dyes are quick changing the pure ones). 

You’ll come throughout women and men sporting rough-looking sheep colored material. This material is constituted of utilizing sheep’s wool and is reduce into higher and decrease clothes within the type of waist coats – Sadri, full coats – Farzi and lowers – Suthan. They’re very heat and preserve one from freezing even in sub-zero temperatures!

Villagers have their very own customary units of clothes which are often weaved by hand. Right here’s a lady from Osla weaving the winter’s clothes. Picture by Jothi Ranjan
Typically, you’ll discover women and men clad in home-made clothes, proper from the top gear to their footwear. Native man in Gangaad Village. Picture by Jothi Ranjan

The ladies additionally put on headgear – Dhantu and jewelry. Nevertheless, in the summertime months, this clothes is substituted for lighter put on. If you wish to see these handlooms, simply request any village native from Osla or Gangaad and they’re going to positively be completely satisfied to point out you round their properties and handlooms.  

As you go by the villages, you’ll discover water mills – often called Gharat within the native language – these are wood mills that use the kinetic power of water to crush grain. Your first campsite- Puani Gharat – will get its identify from this. Puani or paani for water and Gharat for grindstone. You’ll discover this indigenous water run grindstone situated inside a small hut.

One of many water mills seen on the best way. Image by Ujwal Bala

There shall be many absolutely functioning Gharats alongside  your manner at Osla, Gangaad ,Seema, Dhatmir and Dharkot villages.  Native millets like Ragi and Jhangora are crushed right here for family consumption.

On high of all this, you’re going to get to style the native cuisines within the type of Lengde (native fern), the wild mushrooms, Rye and Palak ( native greens), dance to the native people songs, jiggle to some steps of the Raso or the Nati or simply watch the ladies people singing songs of affection and loss whereas working within the fields.

On most treks, it’s a must to take an hour or two out of the path to search out such deep-rooted tradition. That’s the place the Har Ki Dun trek stands out. You’ll discover this tradition proper on the edges of your path, the place you may spend time and take all of it in.

I’ll depart you with two secrets and techniques…

Every trek has its properly stored secrets and techniques. In a lot of the treks, these secrets and techniques are stunning locations — a hidden waterfall, a shock meadow, a lake — however Har Ki Dun has two sorts of secrets and techniques. I’m going to allow you to in on each.

The primary is the untouched fantastic thing about components of the path — just like the path from Dhatmir to Dharkot is unvisited by most and due to this fact lies pristine. The waterfall that you’ll encounter en route from Kalkathiyadhar to Osla is an attractive properly stored secret. 

The second secret of Har Ki Dun is the traditional tradition that it nonetheless upholds. The trek route itself doesn’t have any summit however the cultural bonanza that lies hidden for you at Har-Ki-Dun is price greater than an precise summit. It’s a cultural treasure that not many get to witness. Fantasy, lore, artwork, philosophy, faith, dance, tune and mountains mix to encourage awe — that feeling during which you are feeling diminished and exalted on the similar time identical to whenever you’re on high of a summit. 

At Har Ki Dun,the expertise of witnessing an unique tradition towards the backdrop of the snow-clad peaks will depart you enriched and  really reworked.

If you happen to’ve been to the Har Ki Dun trek and have a few of your cultural experiences to share we’d love to listen to you within the feedback. 🙂


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