Category Archives: About the Area

Uttarakhand Village paves way for Voluntary Tourism

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Jeevan Lal is the hero of the story. His hamlet in remoteKanda, (now Uttaranchal),86 km from Almora, is an ideal  tourist spot. Kanda has about 30 villages and a population of over 15,000 people. But unlike other Hill station, Kanda has shown the way for a new concept of voluntary tourism.

Tourists not only stay in the 5 rooms Jeevan’s Paying Guest, but also use their skills to bring about a difference. For example Rajan Singh who has an architecture back ground , has helped design Earth Quake proof house for those living in the high seismic zone of Kanda.

The project also helps generate employment in an area where there are very few employment schemes.Different from the other forms of tourism ,this pro-poor voluntary tourism helps in offsetting the “Domino Effect” that has destroyed many hill stations.

       Foreigners who flock Kanda in large numbers , make their stay meaningful . They begin their day with a shramdaan ,leading to a cleaner environment . They involve themselves in different chores. They go trekking , chase butterflies but also give lesson in working English to the poor Dalit and backward people. And in the evening ,they enjoy a sumptuous Kumauni meal with Jeevan’s family. Many houses here are even repaired by the volunteers. Jeevan’s story would have remained  unknown beyond these picturesque valleys, but for Prof.Dr.Tajvir Singh – head of the Centre for Tourism Research and Development in Lucknow  and an authority on Himalayas.

    In his research journal, Dr . Singh and his assistant Shalini Singh took up this pilot project and spent a week in Kanda. The research paper they prepared , after there stay in Kanda, war presented at a conference in Makau at the institute for Tourism Studies.” The world received the news with joy”. saidShalini ,back from the conference.

    Prof Singh said this experiment would introduce ‘social  tourism’ on the hills “ inundated by holders of visitors from the plains unmindful of the damage they have done to the place”. ROSE ( Rural organisation for Social Elevation ), Jeevan’s organisation with headquarters in Sunargaon , has a bio- gas plant, a cattle shed, green house and a bee- keeping unit.

      During their stay ,volunteers engage themselves in organic farming, paper making, preparing greeting cards from recycled papers and dried flowers, and even cooking Indian food using biogas or solar cooker.

About the area

about_place_1Kanda is a remote village in the district of Bageshwar, in the Kumaoni hill range of Uttaranchal, a hilly province of northern India. It is a dispersed settlement cluster of about 30 villages, home to over 20,000 people and is some 86 kilometers from well situated Almora (once the British capital of Kumaon). The Kanda valley settlements have an approximate elevation of 1400- 1800 meters. The people of the area are mainly involved in  farming, forestry, horticulture, tea gardening, handicrafts, jewelry, and lately, mining. Soldiering is also in the Kanda blood. Many of its villagers are in the armed forces or live as retirees in the area.

R.O.S.E. is centered within the Kanda area at a distance of about 500km from Delhi and close to the Nepalese border. You will find your hosts, the Verma family, based in the small village of Sonargaon, a ten minute walk from Kanda market.

mapAmidst these terraced hills live the Kumaoni people. Theirs is a beautiful world of  fertile soils, richly forested slopes and magnificent Himalayan peaks (including Nanda Devi). The small villages of Kanda share unpolluted air and a healthy environment surrounded by mountain scenery. The landscape is visually appealing as its terraced farming and numerous wild flowers present pleasing shades of color to the eyes. The hills around Kanda offer an unrivaled tranquility.

The Kanda area is distinct for its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. It is a paradise for nature lovers, bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. The whole Kumaoni area is full of medicinal plants, spices and herbs, many of which grow naturally and are cultivated by the local farmers.

about_place_2The people of Kanda are poor. Over 50% of villagers live below the poverty line, lacking even the basics of life such as healthcare, sanitation facilities and adequate shelter. Land holdings are small, as they have been continuously divided among male heirs for several generations. Cow, buffalo, goat, and ox rearing is very popular for meat, milk and the plowing of fields. The dominant religion is Hindu and it is also a way of life. Women do most of the work in the home as well as in the fields while the men labor for the family income. Dependence on natural resources is high and thus resource management is necessary for a balanced and sustainable way of life. Local education and participation are some of the ways of reducing unrestricted dependence on the natural resources, and thus conserving the riches with which nature has endowed this region.

Spiritualism

9India has always attracted people seeking spiritual enlightenment. Spiritualism is about being loving, compassionate and caring, not only to others but also towards oneself. It is not religion alone that empowers the pilgrim, although it is deeply ingrained in Hinduism, but is simply the search for bliss, emptiness, joy, ecstasy and a feeling of completeness.

The yogis of India bring in people from all around the world. The mental and physical healing power of yoga and meditation has earned a great reputation and the nearby city of Rishikesh is known worldwide as a capital of yoga and meditation.

Uttaranchal with its Himalayan foothills is the perfect environment for a spiritual escape. Yoga and meditation courses, relaxation and even spiritual healing are on offer for those who are interested. The surroundings are ideal to attain self realization.

The Power of Seven Chakras

Wake up Mother Kundalini,
Thou whose nature is Bliss Eternal – the bliss of Brahman,
Thou dwelling like a serpent asleep at the lotus of Muladhara,
Sure affected and distressed am I in body and mind,
Do thou bless me and leave thy place at basic lotus?

Consort of Shiva, the Self-caused Lord of universe,
Do thou take thy upward course through the central canal,
Leaving behind Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha And Ajna,
be thou united with Shiva, thy Lord the God,
At Sahasrara – the thousand-petalled lotus in the brain,

Sort there freely,
O Mother,
Giver of Bliss Absolute,
Wake up Mother Kundalini,
Wake up

Local Craft

3Kanda is a fairly isolated settlement and as such there is need for local craft expertise. This requirement is more than amply filled. Local craftsmen operate in the areas of carpentry, blacksmithing, masonry, bamboo craft, wool carpet weaving, dehydrated floral craft and Rangoli Alpana (folk painting), to name but a few.

Evidence of these craftsmen’s endeavors is everywhere in Kanda from the delicate carving work to be seen in much of the woodwork in local housing to the skilled gold and silver smiths and carpet weavers in the Market and surrounding area.

Goldsmiths, particularly, have a history in Kanda. It is believed that goldsmiths were the earliest settlers in the area, and they continue to practice their profession in Kanda Market today with great success. Visitors are welcome to stop by to watch how gold and silver are molded into beautiful ornaments by these Kanda craftsmen. Opportunities to see other crafts being practiced are also abundantly available. The making of hand made paper and particularly greeting cards is especially accessible to visitors and hands on opportunities abound.

Art & Culture

Kumaoni Culture
3Artistic beauty lies around almost every corner, whether it’s the brightly painted trucks plying dusty rural roads or the exquisite body art of mendhi (henna). Indeed, a highlight of sub-continental travel is its rich art legacy, from ancient temple architecture to a dynamic performing-arts scene.

Creative knowledge regarding local arts and crafts is taught to the younger generations, and many are skilled in artistic pursuits such as dried flower decoration and painting special designs and patterns on the houses, which is called Alpana and Rangoli.

Architectural details on the houses are beautifully carved into the wooden doors and window shutters, which are opened daily. The decorations and carvings on the houses sometimes signify aspects of daily life, such as gods and goddesses, wildlife and the natural environment.

15Commonly worn by married Indian women, the sari comes in a single piece (between 5-9m long and 1m wide) and is ingeniously tucked into place without the need for pins or buttons. Worn with the sari is the choli (tight-fitting blouse) and a drawstring petticoat. The palloo is that part of the sari draped over the shoulder. Also widely worn by women is the salwar kameez, a traditional dresslike tunic and trouser combination accompanied by a dupatta (long scarf). Women also wear many different types of Jewelry, made from Gold and Silver, such as nose and ear studs/rings, necklaces, toe rings, anklets, and many colourful bangles on their wrists, often indicating their marital status.

Traditional attire for men, though not as commonly worn as the sari and salwar kameez by women, includes the dhoti, a loose garment pulled up between the legs like a long loincloth.

Hinduism/shrines

82% of Indians are Hindu. To be a Hindu is to be born a Hindu, and then to follow a certain way of life. The word “Hindu” comes from “Hind”, the old Persian word for India, and Hinduism simply means the religion of the peoples of India. With no founder and no creed, it has evolved over time. As we know it today, it can be compared to a great, deep river into which, over a period of more than 3000 years, many streams have flowed. The streams are the beliefs and practices of the numerous races, ethnic groups, and cultures of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism has many gods, yet, for some Hindus, there is an impersonal “Absolute” behind them all, called Brahman, creator of the universe. Brahman “unfolds” into Trimurti, the holy trinity made up of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva the destroyer but also re-creator. Hindus everywhere believe in reincarnation, the individual soul born again in another body. Life flows on through death to rebirth. If people are good in one life, they will be rewarded by being well born in their next life. A very bad life on the other hand can lead to reincarnation in animal form. Eventually the circle of rebirth is escaped and the soul joins the world, free from physical restraint.

Hinduism is more a way of life than a set of beliefs.
(Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Former President of India)

ROSE volunteers learn about these religious aspects of community life. There are different religious events, some held in the temples and others in people’s homes. Events of religious significance include celebrations of various Hindu deities such as the celebration of Ramayana, Bhagwatgita, and Shivachana (worship of lord Shiva), the religious speeches of the priest and the nine days of Nawabriti (where there is worship everyday). These rituals give meaning to peoples lives and serve as entertainment. During their stay, visitors may observe various religious customs and traditions, such as marriage ceremonies, the naming ceremony of a baby, and Rakhi, the ceremony of sacred thread. Rakhi is an important ceremony where siblings tie thread around each other’s wrists, and by doing so, sisters are assured of their brother’s support and protection. There are many small and extraordinary religious events, including Jagar, the singing of Kumoani folk songs, and the classical dance Chaachari, to name but a few.

Organic Farming

2ROSE promotes organic farming and permaculture by using local sustainable crop seeds with organic compost and manure. The fields are ploughed using oxen and a wooden plough. Local farmers are educated in organic practices and the harm that chemical fertilizers and pesticides cause. The organic crops produced are much more beneficial to the health.

ROSE offers a wide variety of activities for anyone interested in learning about organic farming methods. The agricultural work changes from season to season, but there is always work to be done. During the monsoon, volunteers can help the women plant rice in the paddy-fields (June-July). Which although hard work, is extremely enjoyable. During harvest (September-October) visitors are shown how to cut the various crops using only a knife. These crops include rice, wheat, millet, soya, beans and chickpeas to name but a few. The quiet farming months are December, January and February when path maintenance and tree planting takes place if the ground is soft enough. Wheat and rice grains are pounded with a mortar and pestle to make flour for the chapattis eaten at most meals. In the organic garden: onions, chillis, garlic, mustard, greens, beans, radish, peas, spinach, cabbage and many more vegetables are planted. These vegetables are staples in the Indian diet. Creating a better understanding of what goes into the meals offers the visitor a chance for greater appreciation of the food.

In addition to the foods mentioned above another prominent crop in the area is tea. The opportunity to visit a working tea plantation is one that is often of interest to the visitor.