Har Ki Dun: A photo story of the doorway to ancient Himalayan villages

Har Ki Dun or Hari Ki Dun ( “Valley of Gods”) is a trail where time has stood still.  Off Taluka, you’ll see villages and people so strongly rooted to culture, customs and clothes of a time gone by that it is almost as if the folds of the mountains hide them away from the outside world. Follow our trekker Ujwal Bala’s journey to Har Ki Dun valley.

Day 1

1sankri village1 (2464 x 1632)

Hidden under a waft of clouds is your base camp, Sankri at 6,300 feet. It is a small, pretty village beyond whose ridges is Swargarohini- the peak that dominates the Har Ki Dun valley.  From Sankri, on your north-west, watch out for Sirga, a village that stands near the mountain top in a way that will make your jaw drop. Sirga was built in this way so that villagers can maximise their harvest – by getting sunlight early.

8View from top of taluka village

Twelve kilometres from Sankri is the village that you see here: Taluka. The hike towards Taluka is extremely pretty:  passing a series of wild roses and irises, deodar, bamboo and chestnut trees. There are a few concrete houses in Taluka – this makes Taluka stand out from the old architecture of other villages on the trail.

 

6girl in taluka village (1466 x 1014)

A woman looks on as trekkers trod through the village. Har Ki Dun is a trail frequented by trekkers, villagers and school children alike. The villagers’ easy manners display their familiarity with strangers who walk by.

 

3taluka village

A trekker reaches out to pat a sheep’s coat.  Villagers here weave their own jackets and coats. The trail from Taluka towards Puani Garaat is essentially a shepherd’s trail.


Day 2

13first tea & maggi point. (2464 x 1632)
A little ahead of Taluka is your chai and Maggi point. Stop here and have some piping hot chai to warm yourself up.  Mules, of course, go ahead with the load. They are lifelines here as they carry luggage between villages for villagers of course, for trekkers too.

 

15gangar village,trekking route (Sankri to Puani Garaat via Taluka)
A little ahead, across the river, you’ll spot the old Gangaad village. The trail on this entire trek runs alongside the clear Supin river. The sound of the river as you walk is inexplicably comforting. Gangaad is a village with about 200 houses with no electricity, or road head. A few solar panels are set up for light.

 

16camp in puani garaat

This is your campsite for the first night: Puani Garaat.  From this campsite, you’ll see the peaks of Swargarohini and Har Ki Dun shimmer in distance during sunset. The name of the place comes from Puani, as in paani (water) and Garaat  (grindstone). This area has a hut with water-run grindstone to grind flour. It is often used by nomads.

  Day 3

23momentum of water to run a mechanical turbine that grinds cereal into flour in trekking route

As you start the trek for day, you’ll see this grindstone at Seema village, similar to the one at Puani Garaat. Villagers here have found ingenious ways to grind flour with limited technology. The stream water’s momentum runs this mechanical grindstone.

 

20Osla village first view

As you head towards Kalkatiyadhar, you pass through the Osla village. Linger here just to marvel at the architecture of the village: the wooden houses where villagers stay on the first floor, stone roofs, the ornate carvings on their doors…  This village seems to have blended in with nature over time. The village is famous for  the Someshwar Temple.

 

26camp1

This is your next campsite: Kalkatiyadhaar. The trail ascends over the confluence of Supin and Ruinsara river to a vantage point of the mountains of Dhauladhar. Look out for Kalanag and Bandarpoonch peaks looming in the distance. You’ll huff and puff through the steep climb but this beautiful campsite offers many rewards.

Day 4

34Har Ki Dun Valley with Mt.Swargarohini in the background2
On this day, you approach Har Ki Dun valley on a snowy trail. The valley is so beautiful that you’ll find it hard to leave the place! It’s no wonder that the Pandavas came here believing this would offer them a pathway to heaven.

38har ki dun valley
Up ahead from the Har Ki Dun valley, you can see the Bandarpoonch (“Tail of the monkey”).  The twelve kilometre long Bandarpoonch glacier feeds the Yamuna river.

42reaching back Kalkatiyadhar_renamed_24568
This is the trail with snow, rocks, and dry vegetation which leads back to Kalkatiyadhaar. You may be able to spot Kedarkantha peak in distance.


Day 5

45
You’ll enter this patch as you descend from Kalkatiyadhaar. Har Ki Dun trail is also rich in flora and fauna. The trail is crowded with flowers during the months of August and September.

47sema village near to osla village
On your way back, close to Osla village is Seema village. Can you spot the house that looks like it was split in two?

46kedarkantha view near osla village (2464 x 1632)
As our mules soldier on over the bend, the Kedarkantha peak sneaks into the view. The Garhwal Himalayas are steeped in myths and stories from puranas and Mahabharatha. The name Kedarkantha translates to “the neck (kantha) of Shiva.”

48awwww ! kid in osla village (1) (2228 x 1419)
These seemingly shy kids traverse mountain paths in ways that city-bred people might never be able to!


Day 6

54villagers on the way approaching taluka_renamed_18241
A villager, with her basket, takes a moment’s reprieve as trekkers march towards Taluka. Villagers here are friendly and always willing to engage you in a conversation.  The pahadi Hindi they speak almost seems to have rhythm!

 

58pathway sankri_renamed_11451
The golden sun lights the pathway that leads to the Sankri temple. Sankri is a village with 250 odd houses, sitting as though on a step on the mountain slope.  Sankri has much to offer on a leisure stroll-so take a day to explore the village.

60breaking dusk !sankri temple !

A 15 minute walk towards the village of Sankri and you’ll find a staircase on your left- which leads straight to this temple of Bhairav devta. Bhairav is a fearsome avatar of Shiva.

 

The ending of a trek is never a happy thing. However, the drive back to Dehradun, through dense pine forests, is so beautiful that it dispels the somber mood. You know you’ll come back to the mountains again.

 

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