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A village of optimists: Osla, Uttarakhand

Nestled amidst the Gharwal mountains of Uttarakhand, Osla is a tiny village that is much talked about due to the hearsay of the presence of Duryodhan’s temple in the village premises.

The first glimpse of Osla village will give you the feel of just another mountain village where children have burned cheeks and bright smiles on their faces. But as you spend a little time over there, you will see the prevailing matriarchal rule.

Women walking around with huge bundles of wood on their backs, girls chopping logs into small fragments and men weaving cloth or cooking food, some even just sit back and enjoy chatting with their friends in the warmth of the afternoon sun.

Whenever there is some dispute among the family members, the women’s say is considered to be the final one. Women have the upper hand in all the dealing and decision making. The dowry system is applied here but in the reverse order, where the dowry is given to the bride’s family by the groom’s family. The village is special for not only it’s beliefs and culture but also due to the lifestyle of the villagers here.

Osla is remotely located at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea-level. The nearest road connect is Taluka in Dehradun. From Taluka, it’s a three-hour trek to Osla.

The village remains totally inaccessible from the month of October to March, due to heavy snowfall. Hardships have made the village totally self-sustainable. The villagers do farming at Kalkatiyadhar, which is another two hours trek from Osla. This is because the terrain of Osla is not suitable for farming.

The food is cultivated and stored in wooden huts for winter. Goat meat which is dried during summers, is served as an instant food during the harsh winter season. The villagers use goat wool to spin thread which is then used to make woolen clothes.

You will find most of the villagers wearing the same thick woolen coat that has a checker design of black and white, made from wool that is obtained from black and white sheep. The villagers somehow manage the need of food and clothes. But the medical facility is still far out of their reach.

They rely on whatever local medicinal herbs they find in the upper Himalayan ranges. These are the likes of a herb called ‘Kaudi’ in the regional language, which is known to cure fever when taken in boiling water but for any grave medical conditions, the villagers are helpless.

Where winters are harsh and cruel, this season also marks the starting of the resting period as well as a joyous time for the people of Osla. The winter breeze is followed by local music sessions in the evening near the bonfire.

The aroma of delicious mutton gravy fills the valley and huge glasses of local brewed alcohol is shared. No matter how harsh the conditions are, Osla villagers live life to the fullest every moment.

The village attracts tourists due to the controversial temple of Duryodhan, the king of the Kauravas according to Hindu mythology, in the Mahabharata. Locals deny the hearsay about any such temple and claim the temple to be dedicated to their local deity Someshwar, another name of Lord Shiva.

All the 22 villages that are located in the area, have a temple constructed in the same style that are located at the centre of every village. The deity Someshwar, is said to travel from one village to another and no other sculpture or statue can be kept. Also, when he is not present in the village, no one is allowed to open the door of the temple for anyone.

Knitted strongly with the beliefs and age-old practices, Osla villagers have learnt to laugh off the tough times and live in the moment. The village is a must-visit to see the marvels of nature and meet these inspiring people.

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