Beautiful view of Himalayan mountains, Kasol, Parvati valley, Himachal Pradesh
“When one child ends up rotten, the father can fix him right up. But when all the children turn bad, what can the father do but run away?” That’s how the camp owner in Kutla, Himachal Pradesh talks about the gods that came to Parvati Valley. He talks about how, millennia ago, these gods of what is now Delhi saw their children, their devotees, corrupted by politics and power. Disillusioned and craving for an escape, they turned towards the snow-covered Himalayan valley that surrounds Parvati River. To this day, they remain in the small towns and hamlets that dot the valley from Malana to Kutla, where we sit in a small space with our host, shivering in the cold as rains lash down on the valley. ALSO READ: Here are 5 reasons why you must visit Tosh village in Himachal Pradesh’s Parvati Valley
We are, admittedly, in a bit of a spot, unprepared for the bitter, cold monsoon that has started to drench the valley. But we have no regrets. Like the gods that came before us, we too have trekked to Kutla in search of an escape from the cities down below. Unlike them, though, we’ve got to head back down to the humdrum plains once the rains stop. And until then, we stay captive to the forces of nature and the stories of our host.
View of the bridge over Parvati River, Manikaran
His stories show us a glimpse of the valley that many don’t see, beyond the smoke of marijuana that draws so many people here. There is so much ahead of the hippie food joints and smoke-filled verandas in Kasol and Tosh. There are guardians, deities that protect each and every part of the valley. You can spot them as you make your way from Tosh, the final village at the end of Parvati Valley, further north towards Kutla. Some of these gods, according to our host, even come in the form of humans. They serve as oracles, spreading the message of the god they serve. They come to the villages, settle down and bless the villages. “You wouldn’t believe it if you came from outside. But if you’ve lived here, you would understand.” These oracles are widely respected; one in Malana recently ordered all guest houses in the reclusive village to be shut down. CHECK OUT: Planning to Head to Parvati Valley? Here’s Why You Should Stay in Manikaran Instead of Kasol
And how do these gods travel through the valley? Through small chariots or Raths, decorated with silver or gold faces. The gods direct people to carry these Raths to the path they choose. Goat sacrifices happen in certain parts of the valley as well, though to a much smaller degree than it used to before. When the gods are not traveling, the decorative faces or Mukhs remain safely locked up. It is only during festivals and special events that they are taken out and placed in the temples for all to see.
A cow in Parvati Valley on a ridge called ‘Bunbuni’
Kasol, the main town in Parvati Valley, has its own special festival to honorits god, Somu Narayan. It happens on March 14 and 15 each year, with a RathYatra or chariot procession and cultural events and folk dances for entertainment. KasolBirshu, as it is called, is one of the rare cultural events in India that follow the modern Gregorian calendar, as opposed to the Hindu lunar or solar calendars. It happens around the Somu Narayan temple that lies near the Blue Diamond hotel above the main road that passes through the town. NOW READ: 7 Places Around Kasol That You Should Have A Pit Stop At
The temple, like many holy places in the valley, is off-limits to visitors. The locals don’t bother promoting the temple or the festival, believing that most people who come to town are only there for the weed. And given what the crowd in Kasol looks like now, we can’t argue against the assumption. Once a lesser-known hippie destination, Kasol, Tosh and Parvati Valley have become popular spots to smoke away a few days. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a fascinating culture waiting to be explored; similar in many ways to our own yet so different.