Locals in Dronagiri believe Hanuman will change their fortunes
Dronagiri in Uttarakhand is synonymous with the legend of Hanuman. Locals are hopeful that Hanuman will bring them luck with the government promoting Dronagiri as a trekking heaven
Dronagiri in Uttarakhand is synonymous with the legend of Hanuman. Locals are hopeful that Hanuman will bring them luck with the government promoting Dronagiri as a trekking heaven.
Life in Jumma, a picturesque village with 35 families, and other half a dozen villages on Dronagiri is simple. The village wakes up early and goes to bed by 7 pm. It is also the starting point to reach Drona village nestled at an altitude of 10,000-feet. It takes a 5-6 hour serpentine trek through 9 km of forest and sliding zones to reach Dronagiri.
Pratap Singh, 66, of Jumma village says their ancestors faced hardships due to harsh weather. Pratap and other villagers pin hope on tourists interested in exploring the mighty hill that finds mention in the Hindu epic Ramayan. Recently, the Uttarakhand government rolled out plan to promote Dronagiri trek.
As the Ramayan goes, Lord Ram’s brother Lakshman was wounded in a battle after which Hanuman was asked to bring ‘Sanjeevani’ (a mythical and elusive all-curing herb) from Himalayas. Hanuman, as the legend goes, lifted Dronagiri after he failed to trace ‘Sanjeevani’. “We believe Hanuman baffled our god (Drona) and took away the treasure. We never portrayed him during Ramleela. But now times are changing. We worship Hanuman,” Hiwali Devi, 60, says.
For six months in a year, the villagers in Dronagiri - primarily Marchas and Bhutias - migrate to lower parts as snow covers the entire area from October and return in the summer. For centuries, Bhutias carried out trade with Tibet but business came to a halt after the India-China war in 1962.
“Dronagiri shall attract tourists in a big way. The guests will hopefully give us good business,” says Pratap Singh whose family is into horticulture and livestock rearing.
Last year, the Uttarakhand government had launched a project on its own to search for ‘Sanjeevani’ after the Centre refused money for the venture. The erstwhile BJP government had a similar project but it failed.
The government is focusing on a different angle, says tourism minister Satpal Maharaj. “We intend to promote virgin trekking routes on a major scale. People have read about Dronagiri in textbooks. We want them to have a firsthand experience by visiting Drona,” the minister tells Hindustan Times.
On May 21, a group of 60-odd trekkers, including a group of youngsters from Mumbai, visited Drona village. Mannu Kapoor, who headed the group, says the hill is a paradise for trekkers. The group had trekked further to reach Bagini glacier.
Though tourism is on the state’s agenda, locals believe the hunt for ‘Sanjeevani’ should continue. Narendra Bisht, 50, a postmaster at Jhelam en route to Drona village, says several herbs are found in abundance in the forests. “No one has been able to spot ‘Sanjeevani’ but we are blessed to have herbs such as ‘Kurchu’ (a scented herb), ‘Kida Jadi’ (Himalayan Viagra) and ‘Gucchi’ (a rare mushroom).”
Chaman Singh, 65, a villager from Drona, strongly believes ‘Sanjeevani’ still exists in Dronagiri. “Vis (poison) and Nir-Vis are two sets of herbs found in Drona forest. Nir-Vis gives life to the death. We have spotted Vis but yet to find Nir Vis,” he asserts.