Jasuli Devi or Jasuli Shaukyani was known to be a great philanthropist of the 19th century. She belonged to the Rung Community, an indigenous and affluent tribe located in the upper reaches of the Kumaon Himalayas, a pristine high-altitude valley, known as ‘Darma’ (in district Pithoragarh).
I had written a detailed narrative about a dharamshala / inn / caravanserai built by her in Nainital district and how the dilapidated structure was restored, thanks to the efforts of the district administration and the rung community. A great example of how Govt. and other organizations can come together to preserve our rich cultural heritage. Click here to read that post.
Jasuli Devi, is credited to have built over 300 dharamshalas (caravansaries) in Uttarakhand, Nepal, and Tibet. Unfortunately, many of them are no more than a ruin now, but initiatives like the one in Nainital, give us hope that turnarounds are possible, and preservation of heritage is the only way to give our future generations a chance to connect with the past.
A tryst with the beauty called ‘Darma Valley’
I travelled to Dantu village in Darma Valley, located in the upper reaches of Pithoragarh district (Kumaon region) in Uttarakhand. This is the village of Jasuli Devi. The landscape is magnificent with vast and serene valley stretching endlessly and the outer boundary dotted by the high mountains with snow distinctly visible on the top. The mighty Panchachuli stands tall towards the north of the village. Darma Valley is a group of 12 high altitude villages.
There’s a statue in the village (built in 2012) to commemorate Jasuli Devi and her work (on building numerous caravansaries) for the people who often commuted long distances for trading and other purposes. The statue is located in a remote corner of the village on an incline path from where she probably keeps an eye on the entire village and blesses one and all. As I trudge on the incline path to pay her an obeisance, I come across a small Dharamshala on my left. From the look and feel it was similar to the one I saw in Nainital or at Satgarh (keep reading further). I wondered, maybe it all started here.
A visit to a dharamshala , now a ruin
While the dharamshala in Nainital is a success story, its not the same everywhere. A humble effort made in the past to count such dharmshalas gave a modest figure of around 100 (meaning many have completely perished away and that we may never know about them at all).
An hour drive from Pithoragarh towards Dharchula leads one to Satgarh (a small village on the road-head). This is where one of Jasuli Devi’s legacy still exists but in a very sad state.
Perched on a raised platform, the structure consists of 6 rooms in total. These were used by the traders or by any traveler who needed a place to rest in the earlier times. Wild plants and bushes have well colonized the structure now and the old and delicate walls may crumble down anytime. And it did happen once in the recent past as told to me by some villagers who spotted us when we were examining the ruin. The village folks themselves contributed to the restoration of a side wall and put some stones back into it so that the structure survives. Frankly, it needs more than a mere patch work.
Where is Satgarh on the map?
It is approx. 25 kms from Pithoragarh (district headquarters) on the main Dharchula highway. It takes approx. an hour to reach by a motor transport. It will fall on your left as you drive towards Dharchula. The next nearest town is Kanalichinna which is about 7 kms ahead from here.
Google map link of Satgarh village – click here
This needs an urgent attention. Know how to do?
This structure needs an urgent attention. Perhaps an approach like the one in Nainital. But before that, the district administration needs to take cognizance of it and then perhaps many organizations working in the area of heritage preservation and other citizen-led groups will surely come together to give it a life again.
The villagers (who live in the vicinity) were keen to do their bit if relevant entities come and decide to do something about it. I sincerely hope that it happens and happens sooner.
As I was about to leave, heavy mist descended through a gap in the mountains that surrounded Satgarh. Perhaps it was an indication of something good. And I only hope for the best.
Great read. I could go back to the times in my imagination. Sometimes I wonder that people of earlier generations have left behind so much that we revere today but will we be able to leave behind such a legacy or will we be remembered as a consumeristic generation. Let’s try to create a legacy.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hope these 100 discovered Dharamshalas soon see the light of Restoration and become habitable again.
LikeLiked by 1 person