Day 2: Gunehr, Tibetan Colony Of Chowgan and Musical Evening At Kotli
It was our second day in the quaint and beautiful village of Gunehr. After a brush with the rains and hailstorms at Bir, lovely dinner and a cozy night at 4rooms hotel on day 1, I woke up excited for a new day. At home, I am not a morning person but when I travel, I usually wake up early. No doubt, there is always an urge to explore the new place. As expected it was a beautiful but chilly morning. We decided to go out, explore the village but the moment we stepped out of the main gate, the rains came calling. Our rooms had umbrellas and we fetched them immediately. A few steps down the road and it became extremely windy. We wished to go on but we could not continue. It was raining cats and dogs. We had to return but we did not go to our hotel. We (Parnashree, Abhinav and I) hopped in Anil’s shop to have some tea and Maggi.
The Morning Walk to the village stream.
The rains in the mountains is a beautiful sight. As the water washes away the dust and grime, it makes everything shine in its pristine best. Against the race of time, one can simply sit and stare or even hear the droplets make different noises against different objects. Or you could do like us. We sat down with our cuppas of tea and shared our unique travel experiences. And the conversations went on. We did not budge until the rains stopped in the next hour. As soon as the warmth grew in strength and intensity, we stepped out to explore the village. This time, fourth member of our gang, Dipanshu joined in too.
The walk was warming us up and the morning was already getting to its best. We aimed to reach the end of the cobbled road where we could see a stream that passed through this village. While I was noticing the little things about the Gunehr, I was nostalgic of my first ever visit to the village Dudahi (Near Padrauna in Uttar Pradesh) where my paternal grandparents used to live initially. I had faint memories of it but the quiet and simple life of the people seemed quite similar. More than humans we were met by domesticated hens, goats, cows, sheep,etc. There was greenery all around. The houses were a combination of mud, stone, wood etc. Many newly built houses could also be seen. Though the houses were small but each one had a specific section for the animal feed and stay. The locals were dressed differently, unlike the city folks. Here, I must tell you this village has a high dominance of Gaddi population. They are a tribe mainly living in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
They looked sweet and simple people. Their dressing style was different. Their ways of worshiping Gods and Goddesses is also different. Every house had a small temple which was located in the open. As far as the village life was concerned, nobody seemed to be in any kind of rush. When we passed through their houses, they looked at us curiously. When we interacted with them, they gave us lovely smiles. When we stood up confuse-faced, they gave us directions too. And finally after a slow walk of around 30 minutes, we reached the stream. It was both soothing and delighting sight. We sat there for sometime and returned to the hotel.
Tibetan colony of Chowgan
Breakfast was lavish once again. We had lots to talk about SHOPART ARTSHOP 2 too and we were lucky ones because Frank invited us into his office and explained us more about his dream project. This really helped us to get a better insight. By this time the day had turned out to be bright and sunny and without waiting a minute, we decided to head to the Tibetan colony of Chowgan (5 kilometers away). Kashmirji, one of the driver from the village gave us a drop on our request. Within 10 minutes, we were at the starting point of the Tibetan refugee settlement in the Himalayan village of Chowgan. This area has number of monasteries. We decided to walk on the left and get a hang of the place till lunch time. Chokling Gompa, the monastery of Neten Chokling Rinpoche is the famous for grand prayer hall and a picturesque stupa. We visited two monasteries which definitely belonged to different communities for sure. The Buddha stupas as well the architectural style was totally different from each other.
After walking through this very pretty and neatly maintained village, we reached the other monastery. We were surprised to find figurines from Hindu mythology. It was built in a lavish compound. There was a grand house as well as a monastery. The prayer hall was closed but when we requested, they opened it for us. I love the use of color red in monasteries and without doubt, there is something amazingly peaceful about abodes of God.
There was much more to walk down to but being short on time, we decided to return to the main market area. An entire day can be spent here enjoying the serenity of the place. Frank had suggested us to go for the new Tibetan restaurant which was located right there, next to a bank. The green board at one corner helped us locate ‘Joy Cafe’. After the long and eventful walk, we were really looking forward to an interesting luncheon and it indeed came out to be a joyful one. The soupy Thenthuk and Thumpa , spicy noodles and Momos and Tingmo, steamed Tibetan bread made for one yummy treat for our taste-buds. And after that we stopped at one of the local bakery shop too to pick some local sweet-breads.
One Unique Musical Evening In The Village Of Kotli
By this time, it was already 4:30. Now we were up and excited for our next stop. We didn’t know that this was going to be one unique experience. After the breakfast, when Abhinav had curiously asked Frank about local music of the region, he had instantly named ‘Buddi Singh’ in the next village-Kotli, introducing him as a local superstar. On our way to the Tibetan market, we had stopped at his house and fixed up an appointment with him. The family had agreed to play some local stuff for us and invited us at 5 in the evening. We were headed there. It was a delightful experience to sit with them, hear them sing and play for us. Mr. Singh’s daughter dressed up in the local attire and sang lovely songs for us. Her father played the flute and explained the meaning of the songs in Hindi. There were songs on ‘wife singing for here husband’, ‘niece to her uncle (bhaanji to her maama) and many romantic songs. And while we were enjoying this exclusive musical evening, it poured once again. This time, it was non-stop. The electricity went out but Buddhi Singh and his family continued to sing and play for us. It was heartening to see how this family is embracing and practicing the local art and culture so beautifully.
We returned only to stop and have a lovely dinner at 4tables restaurant. Frank gave us some kitchen lessons too. Yes, we learnt making trout. And more, we met some more friends there. We decided our Day 3 itinerary based on the discussions that happened at Frank’s house.. Keep watching for the next post.
Check this video!!!
P.S. I have often referred to Frank in the article above. He is the owner of 4rooms hotel and 4tables restaurant in Gunehr and the man behind the unique art festival – SHOPART ARTSHOP 2. Our trip to Gunehr happened because we had an invitation from him.