The magic honey village: Grahan, Himachal Pradesh
If you’re looking to explore the lesser known villages in Parvati Valley then a 10 km hike to the village of Grahan is an absolute must. The village is located north of the Hippie town of Kasol in Himachal Pradesh. The village of Grahan is situated at an altitude of around 7,700 feet above sea level (2347 metres) and has only 50 houses and a population of around 350 people.
Hiking is the only option for locals and tourists to reach the village from Kasol. The hike to Grahan starts from new Kasol after crossing the bridge which leads to the woods and takes around four to five hours on an average with a couple of short pit stops along the way, the over all trek is pretty easy and very much doable even for a rookie hiker.
The hike starts with a gradual climb which takes one to the top of the first hill where the only dhaba for refreshments is available along the hike. The trail is more or less pretty much marked out with red arrows all along the way to the village, courtesy of youth hostel who run treks to Sar Pass during summers with Grahan as the base village for the high altitude trek.
While hiking one will pass through the forest with huge pine trees and the sound of bees and insects with the mighty Parvati River flowing in full force along the valley. The hike also involves crossing a few wooden bridges, the second bridge marks the half way point to Grahan.
Along the way one will find a couple of really nice spots where you can sit and just soak in all the freshness that Mother Nature has to offer. A pit stop after crossing the half way point near the river is an absolute must. You can fill up your water bottles, have a light snack and rest under a tree for a few minutes.
Towards the last 20% of the hike, one will notice a fork in the trail with two arrows pointing in perpendicular direction. One arrow indicates a short cut while the other is the easy trail to the village. The short cut is an extremely steep climb to the village and one which is more suitable only for the locals and their cattle. The easy trail is longer and extremely beautiful with a major chunk of the trail, includes walking along the banks of the Parvati River. Travellers will find plenty of picture perfect spots along the way.
Grahan houses can only be spotted towards the last 150 metres of the hike and once in the village, travellers will be greeted by a flock of small children who are found playing every where in the village with the temple complex being their main playing area. A good 95% of the houses in Grahan are still traditiona. Some houses are over 200 years old.
The history of the village is very unique and interesting, the local legend goes that Grahan was first located near the village of taboos, Malana some 500 years ago, till a few elders decided to migrate to their current location deep inside the Parvati Valley tributaries. The villagers from Grahan are the only outsiders who the Malana locals consider equals. So much so, that they permit them to enter their houses and temples.
Consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Grahan and defying the same can lead to a heavy fine. The villagers claim that all of them one night got a vision of their local deity Yagya Maharishi who demanded that all of them should give up on alcohol the very same day and also forbade the existence of alcohol in the village.
The people of the village are descendants from two families and it is mandatory that the villagers marry only a member of the other family. They are not allowed to marry their own people or an outsider. Many of the villagers have extremely sharp features and are blessed with colured eyes and blonde hair.
Farming and cattle rearing are the main occupations of the villagers. Garlic, potato, apple and pear along with hasish (charas) are the major cash crops of the village just like the rest of the valley. It is important to keep in mind that possession of such stuff is not only banned but also leads to imprisonment.
The villagers from Grahan are also honey gathers and many of them hike up deep into the forest with huge rifles to protect themselves from the Himalayan Bears which are in plenty around the bee hives. The honey gathered from the forest near Grahan has a different taste and feel to it. A couple of table spoons and one will feel a heavy sugar rush, something very uncommon after having honey.
Villagers claim that the honey has such an after effect because the bees gather the nectar from wild flowers from around the forest. A few of these flowers are from poisonous plants which are located higher up in the mountains.
A walk through the village and one will get the Himachali feel which is pretty much missing in all the other villages such as Tosh and Pulga that are lost in the Hippie trance. The village has no cellular network, no ATM and no hope of a road since it falls under the state forest area.
Accommodation in Grahan is limited to a handful of wooden guest houses and home stays which are all run by villagers. The rooms are very cosy with nothing more than a bed and a window with the view of the mountains. Each guest house or home stay in the village has a cafe of thier own and serve very good local Himachali food. The aloo gobi with roti made by the locals is a must try while in the village.
The best time to hike to Grahan is during the summer months from mid-March to first week of June and then again during spring from September to the first week of November. It is very important to keep in mind that hiking to Grahan after dark is not advisable and there have been cases of backpackers going missing while trying to do a night hike. Starting the hike from Kasol post-breakfast, around 10-11 am is ideal to make it to the village by early evening.
If you are looking for a village to find some much needed peace because Kasol and Tosh are very crowded then Grahan is the place for you. From the hike to the home stays in the village, this place is still untouched and very much the road less traveled in Parvati Valley.
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