Harsil

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Harsil
village
Harsil is located in Uttarakhand
Harsil
Harsil
Location in Uttarakhand, India
Coordinates: 31°02′N 78°44′E / 31.033°N 78.733°E / 31.033; 78.733Coordinates: 31°02′N 78°44′E / 31.033°N 78.733°E / 31.033; 78.733
Country India
StateUttarakhand
Elevation
2,745 m (9,006 ft)
Languages
 • OfficialHindi
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
Vehicle registrationUK
Websiteuk.gov.in

Harsil, the Himalayan paradise,[1] is a village, tourist hill station and army area located on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, on the way to Gangotri, a Hindu pilgrimage site in Uttarkashi district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Ganges below Gangotri, near Harshil

Situated at an altitude of 9,005 ft (2,745 metres.) from sea level, Harsil lies 78 km. from Uttarkashi, and 30 km away from the Gangotri National Park which is spread across 1,553 square km. The hill station is well- known for its natural environment and apple production.[2]

Background[edit]

Etymology[edit]

According to the local legend, the Harsil got its name from the rivers Bhagirathi and the Jalandhari as once they had an argument over their significance. Lord Vishnu, also known as Hari, was asked to intervene. He turned himself into a great stone, a shila, and absorbed their anger. Even today, after Hari-shila (or Harsil), the waters of the two rivers have become a little less turbulent.[3]

Harshil valley

History[edit]

Harsil lies on the old caravan trail between Tibet Autonomous Region and India, where trade & marriages once flourished.

Harsil has been under the Kingdom of Garhwal. In 1815 Anglo-Nepal War, British raj sided with the Kingdom of Garwal and as a reward they were given the eastern half of Garhwal.[4]

In mid 19th century, apples and rajma cultivation was introduced to Harsil by "Frederick Wilson", which became Himachal's main cash crops. In 1842, "Frederick Wilson", also called "Frederick “Pahari” Wilson" and "Pahari Wilson", a 25-year-old Englishman, deserted the East India Company’s army and fled to remote Harsil where he made fortune by logging deodar trees and selling those to British for the construction of railways. He was nicknamed "Raja of Harsil" by locals, even issued own coins. He was a friend of A.O. Hume and Rudyard Kipling, later's novel The Man Who Would Be King was inspired by the story of Wilson. Journalist Robert Hutchison wrote a book "The Raja of Harsil" on Wilson. A local deity's priest cursed him for destroying the forests and ecology. After he died in 1883, his 3 sons squandered the inheritance and died, his last known descendant, who had joined the Indian Air Force, died in air crash after the World War II. Sunderlal Bahuguna, founder of Chipko Movement, blamed Wilson for Garhwal's ecological destruction.[4]

Geography[edit]

Harsil Valley has a cluster of around eight villages near the India-China border. Upper reaches of Harsil are connected to Nelang Valley.[5] It is also connected to the Baspa Valley by several passes including the Lamkhaga Pass.

Demography[edit]

Front view of a Traditional House at Harsil, Uttarakhand.

Over the years, a small number of Jadhs, an ethnic group of the Bhotiyas, have settled here, and speak a language closely resembling Tibetan. There is also a sizeable Tibetan settlement in a close vicinity to ITPB Campus housing a Stupa (Buddhist Burial Mound) and beautifully carved wooden houses. [6]

Military setup[edit]

Army area[edit]

Harsil army area is a base camp of Garhwal Scouts and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Since it is close to the disputed India-China Border, it is of military significance. On 6 November 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Harsil to celebrate Diwali with ITBP oldiers.[7]

Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research[edit]

Harsil has a field station of the Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research (DIBER), earlier known as the Defence Agricultural Research Laboratory (DARL), run by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). DARL, engaged in the research and development of bioenergy as well as the sustainable and eco-friendly high altitude agro-technologies in the Indian Himalayan Region for the use of Indian Military, has developed a range of vegetable varieties suitable for mid to high altitude. Haldwani in April 2008. During the Golden Jubilee year of DRDO, the laboratory was renamed from DARL to Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research (DIBER) with a new mandate and thrust areas.[8]

DIBER has its origin in an Agriculture Research Unit (ARU) established 1960s at Sitoli, which was renamed to DARL in 1990s and to DIBER in 2008.[8] Harsil filed research station was established in May 1973.

Tourism[edit]

Gangotri pilgrimage[edit]

Harsil is part of Chota Char Dham's Gangotri yatra (pilgrimage) route. The idol of the Hindu River Goddess Ganga (Ganges) is brought down from the shrine at Gangotri in the upper Himalayas after Diwali and kept at 'Mukhba' village near Harsil. It remains there throughout the winter when Gangotri is snowbound and inaccessible.[9]

Eco alpine mountain tourism[edit]

Government is developing the cluster of 8 villages of Harsil valley, as well as Nelang Valley for the tourism by creating tourist facilities. India's first snow leopard conservation centre is being established in the region. During the summer tourist season, path to Gartang Gali cliff-side hanging stairway is open, along which homestays in the native villages are developed. Natives of the border villages, Sukki, Mukhba, Harsil, Bagori, Dharali, Jhala, Jaspur and Purali are trained as nature conservation and adventure guides for eco-tourism trekking, bird-watching, flora and fauna. Harsil town is being beautified, tourist lights being installed similar to those at Nainital and Mussoorie, telescopes being set up at several places for star gazing.[5]

Transport[edit]

Gangotri Char Dham Railway's railhead at Maneri (62 km south on NH-34) is the nearest railway station.[10][11] Nearest airports are Dehradun Airport (220 km southwest)[12] and Shimla Airport (375 km west).

Harsil is on NH-34 within the Char Dham Highway network. The "Karcham-Harsil Road", nearly 150 km long route, was announced in 2020 which will link Karcham on NH-5 (site of Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant) to Harsil, both in Himachal Pradesh. It will cut down present 450 km long distance, which take nearly 16 hours, to just nearly 150 km or 2 to 3 hours. Since Karcham and Harsial are 26 km and 52 km away from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) respectively, the new road will also enable the faster deployment of troop. This new road, to be constructed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at a cost between Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 crore, is in addition to the 73 previously approved India-China Border Roads (ICBR).[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Planet, Lonely. "Harsil- a mini Switzerland in Uttarakhand". Lonely Planet India. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Uttarakhand's 'Harsil Apple Festival' bears' fruit". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  3. ^ Sharma, Dheeraj (2 December 2019). "Harsil - An Offbeat Place in Garhwal, Uttarakhand". Devil On Wheels™. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b "British 'Raja' in Garhwal: Pahari Wilson". DNA India. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Uttarakhand working at putting Harsil valley on global tourism map". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Travel lessons on a trip to Gangotri via a Tibetan settlement". SandeepaChetan's Travel Blog. 9 October 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  7. ^ "PM Modi to celebrate Diwali at Harsil with ITBP Jawans". United News of India. 6 November 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  8. ^ a b Defence Agricultural Laboratory (DARL) Historical Background, DRDO, accessed 10 Sept 2021.
  9. ^ "Mukhba Valley Travel Guide – Mukhba Village Location How to Reach Mukhba". www.euttaranchal.com. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  10. ^ 采编 (26 November 2005). "中印边境自卫反击作战史". 中国国防资讯网. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2005.
  11. ^ Achilles Heel in India's Border Defence with China!, Indian Defence Review, 20 June 2017.
  12. ^ Harsil tourist place, uttarkashi.nic.in, accessed 10 Sept 2021.
  13. ^ Modi govt's infra push along China border — 2 new roads, alternate route to Daulat Beg Oldie, The Print, 15 September 2020.

External links[edit]

  • Harsil travel guide from Wikivoyage