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Mystical Journey to Khandadhar

2022 - 2023 is Year of Pastoralism Transhumance and I spent some time with five Fuals or Shepherds in Kullu Valley as they prepared for their annual transhumance to the high altitude meadow of Khandahar. This 5 day journey with 2000 sheep and goats is permitted only through strategically developed religious taboos and restrictions, a journey akin to a pilgrimage to their hidden Shangrila, where mountain passes are guarded by fierce deities called Joginis. These religious and social taboos are instrumental in helping to conserve and maintain the ecological balance, the forests and wildlife in these upper regions of the Himalayas. Since the Himalayas are also a major source of medicinal plants and herbs, these restrictions also prevent their over extraction. The shepherds live very regulated and frugal lives where the forest and natural resources are concerned. They do not cut any green living plants nor misuse anything, even though having a fire burining constantly is their hallmark, yet they do not cut any trees but will choose to carry really heavy cumbersome logs of trees which have died or were struck by lightning or were torn down during a storm. Their clothes are also mostly homespun and very comfortable through even the most trying weather. It was a really eye opening experience to spend time with these knowledegable, affable and warm hearted people who never shy from a good joke at anyone's expense.

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