Raithal- a sustainable village in Uttarakhand

Crispy views of the majestic Himalayas from Raithal
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

About 45 kilometres from Uttarkashi town in Uttarakhand, Raithal keeps away from the tourist’s map. On the contrary, its neighbour, just 23km away, Barsu, is a popular spot for travellers and specifically, trekkers who pursue the Dayara Bugyal trek.

Raithal is thriving with local life, blessed with crisp and clear views of the Himalayas and most importantly, an upcoming sustainable hotspot.

The population of the village is about 1200-1500 and a majority encourage and get involved in community programmes like farming (potato, green peas, wheat and a host of other seasonal crops), promoting traditional homestays, harnessing local bees for honey-making, using natural resources like solar energy, and initiatives for women empowerment (weaving by Koli people and The Goat Village). A lot of local young men also work as responsible trekking guides and porters.

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What to do

 

Enjoy sunny mornings in the hills
Enjoy sunny mornings in the hills
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

Raithal is brimming with activities for the curious traveller. From inspiring yoga mornings to leisurely walks, this village depicts ideal Himalayan mountain life. A village walk unravels traditional Garhwali architecture (wooden houses with carved windows), local way of life (women husking rice, children playing outdoors), flourishing local vegetation and relics of history.

The five-storied Panchpura
The five-storied Panchpura
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

Panchpura, the 500-year old house of a feudal landowner Rana Gambhir Singh, stands deep-seated in the village. This five-storied wooden wonder is earthquake-resistant and has prominent auspicious carvings on the window. The main house was connected by an iron chain to the opposite granary (kuthar). Currently the house is unoccupied, since the family has grown beyond to accommodate all its members.

Someshwar Temple in the village
Someshwar Temple in the village
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

The main temple of this village is Someshwar temple, dedicated to Shani and Shiva deities. It is believed to be as old as the existence of the village itself and faces the majestic Shrikant peak of the Himalayas.

The main festival in the village is Phulyar Mela, when five villages (Raithal, Bhatwari, Kyark, Bandrani and Natin) come together to pluck auspicious Brahmkamal (heavenly flowers) from the high altitude meadows—which is believed to be a medium of blessings from the god.

For professional mountain-bikers, cycling within and around the village is a rewarding option. Cycles are available on rent in the GMVN Tourist Rest House (TRH) and many local young boys also participate in the sport.

To understand sustainability further, visitors are welcomed to sneak peek at The Goat Village (TGV). This is an initiative to empower locals where village tourism experiences like milking goats, getting hands-on with farming, developing a new skill like weaving or investing in quiet day hikes are encouraged.

One of the two remaining original temple structures
One of the two remaining original temple structures
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

A few metres below the main village of Raithal is the striking sun temple. The temple bears resemblance to the temples built by the Katyuri empire in 6th to 8th century. It used to be a cluster of five temples. However, now only two remain. In the centre of the premises is the new reconstructed Shani temple and eastwards it is adorned with remnants of Shiv Linga and Surya temple.

Where to stay

A typical Garhwali house converted into a homestay
A typical Garhwali house converted into a homestay
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

In an attempt to support and enable local livelihood, the village has collaborated to form local homestays which give travellers an insight into traditional homes that once existed. These typical ancestral Garhwali houses are now used essentially to attract tourism.

Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Tourist Rest House, a few metres away from the main village, is also an option for those who want to stay the non-traditional way. Its very basic rooms come with attached bathrooms.

The Goat Village is another accommodation option. Choose between cottages, an economy villa or seasonal tents here. TGV uses solar power and hence has limited supply of electricity.

What to eat

Mandua ki roti topped with homemade white butter
Mandua ki roti topped with homemade white butter
Image courtesy: ©Amrita Das

All accommodation options in Raithal include meals. They serve local home-cooked and farm-fresh food. From a preparation of fiddlehead fern (locally called lingda), delicious thick gravy of nettle (kandali saag), soup made of local pulses (gehet ki dal) and slow-cooked mutton, accompanied with local wheat bread (mandua ki roti) and locally grown red rice are specials from the area. Barnyard millet pudding (jhangore ki kheer) is a perfect Garhwali dessert to finish.

Getting there: Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the closest airport which is about 225 kilometres away.

Book homestays directly. Get in touch with Vijay Rana (himalayanrural@gmail.com)
Book adventure trails in and around Raithal with Dinesh Bhatt (athimalayauki@gmail.com)

Buy local: Honey from Dinesh Bhatt; local art and crafts and handwoven souvenirs from Himadri Emporium, near Bus Stand in Uttarkashi town.

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