Legacy of Jasuli Devi | Dharmshala at Suyalbari | Nainital

Inspiring tales from the past always fascinates us. And if we get motivated through such stories, it often makes us delve further into the lives of the key protagonists whose actions and contributions continue to influence us even today.

This post covers an interesting story of Jasuli Devi, a native of Darma valley, located in the upper regions (Himalayas) of Pithoragarh district. Jasuli Devi belonged to Rung community, an indigenous tribe which was primarily involved (in earlier times) in trading. Their travels took them across the borders to Tibet and Nepal. The Sino-India war of 1962 led to the abrupt end of their flourishing business across the borders, and they were forced to take up other vocations in India.

The captivating beauty of Darma Valley

Nestled in a remote part of Pithoragarh district (close to the Indo-China Border), Darma valley is pure heaven for nature lovers. With Panchachuli peaks forming a backdrop, the pristine green valley with a rich flora and fauna will enthral anyone. It’s a high-altitude valley (approx. 3,450 metres above sea level) .12 villages form part of this valley and some of the key villages include Sobla, Dar, Duktu and Dantu.

Note – I shall cover Darma valley and its enchanting beauty in a separate blog but its important to give a perspective here.

Who was Jasuli Devi and what’s her story that echoes even today?

Let’s go back to 1870 or thereabouts.  Jasuli Devi (or Jasuli Shaukyani), a resident of Dantu village (in Darma valley) possessed enormous wealth. Her husband had already passed away and she also lost her only young son. Feeling dejected and losing a sense of purpose in life, Jasuli Devi started throwing away her wealth (silver coins) in the river.

This became the talk of the town. Sir Henry Ramsay (who was the Kumaon Commissioner at that time) was visiting the area when he got to know about Jasuli Devi and her wealth. Sir Ramsay convinced Jasuli Devi to use the wealth for the benefit of her community members (whose trading business took them to various places) and this is how the 2 discussed and zeroed-in on the concept of setting up of these dharmshalas.

With this money, hundreds of caravansaries (resting places or inns or dharmshalas) were built not only in Uttarakhand but also in Nepal and Tibet. The distance between 2 caravansaries (or dharmshalas) was kept at approx. 12 kms, what one could travel on foot in a day. These structures provided a big help to the traders (especially to the tribal people from the border areas) who would often travel long distances for business.

Things rapidly changed after the war of 1962, as the movement across international borders was halted and the road infrastructure (in this region) was given a major push.  These dharmshalas started to rapidly lose their sheen and now are either totally non-existent or a ruin. In the last few years, efforts by the local administration and community groups helped in mapping these dilapidated structures (wherever it could be found).

Renovation and restoration of a caravanserai in Nainital District

One such remaining structures was found in village – Sirsa (near Suyalbari), district Nainital. The structure was a complete ruin when the administration decided to work on its restoration.

This is a great example of how the community and the Govt. establishment worked together to revive the rich glory of the past. Using the traditional building method, the dharmshala has been restored to its original look and feel. A total of 10 rooms (roughly 6 ft. by 8 ft each) are part of the entire complex. A big porch extends until the edge from where you get excellent views of the Kosi River (down below).

Some references indicate that the state Govt. has plans to build a cafe / restaurant and a centre for outdoor activities (Angling in Kosi River).

Source of this information – https://exhibition.skoch.in/beacons-of-hope/district-administration-nainital/

Location of this dharmshala in Nainital District

This is located right on the Bhowali – Almora highway, approx. 4 kms from Suyalbari town and roughly 17 kilometres from Almora. Google Map link – (click here).

To commemorate Jasuli Devi, in August 2012, a statue of her was erected in her home village (Dantu) in Darma valley. Long live her glory for the notable work she did for the people in the region.

Hope you enjoyed the post.


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