Until a few months ago, the houses in Saur reflected a sense of abandonment and lifelessness.
With most of its inhabitants already gone for better employment opportunities, only 12 families remain in the 300-year-old village in Garhwal region of Tehri district in Uttarakhand, leaving it emblazoned with the tag of a ghost village.
Today the walls of every house, including the abandoned ones in Saur, speak of another story. Through The Wise Wall Project, an initiative powered by Project FUEL, the walls came alive with time-tested anecdotes and life lessons painted across the village, making itself the first ever village in the world to do so.
During the time they spent adorning the village, the volunteers came across many tales recounted by the villagers, which recurrently revolved upon melas (fairs) that used to be celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Understanding the cultural and economic importance of fairs for the region, the thought of its revival was mused by Project FUEL and thus paved the way for ‘Ghost Village Festival’ to take place with the aim of increasing connectivity, improving livelihoods and to rebuilding a ‘ghost’ Saur.
Held on November 4 and 5, the festival was organized in collaboration with The Hans Foundation. It comprised of the ‘perfect’ village experience – including community living, wall painting, hands-on village experiences like the exploration of local flora and fauna, food foraging, pine needle craft making, folk music galore, sumptuous Garhwali fare and a celebration of human wisdom.
Acting as a bridge between the experience-hungry city dwellers and the rural wisdom holder villagers, the festival played host to about 100 individuals, some of which included people from different parts of the world.
Here’s a glimpse into the two-day cultural weekender in the ghost village of Saur that celebrated the spirit of rural Uttarakhand—its culture, traditions, people and their existence:
Project FUEL, which was founded in 2009 by Deepak Ramola, aims at documenting the life of the people through the life lessons, and passing them on for every human to live their best, where FUEL stands for Forward the Understanding of Every Life lesson.