Beral is a small village in Himachal Pradesh’s Rohru district. A friend of mine pointed me in the direction and I packed my bags to leave in no time. A 4-hour drive from Shimla and I arrived at Kharapathar junction. Here I got introduced to Ashish, my host, and together we drove a distance of 11 kilometres to Beral.
Every day here was a new experience. I fell in love with the open panoramas, greenery and the outdoors. And warmth of the people and at-ease pace made me feel alive.
What I did
I walked and explored the outdoors extensively. My village walks were dominated by studying the architecture and traditions. The lengthy farm walks meant spending more time in the saturated colours of nature, where I saw acres of apple orchards (their mainstay) and other vegetables.
Ashish would take me for easy to moderate hikes. One day we walked down to the Nageshwar temple in Jharag village. This temple is the main temple for both Beral and Jharag. Here I met Jagat Ram, the master craftsman of the temple. Above 50 years of age, artisanship has been his family profession. We chatted as he carved a panel with Goddess Sherawali on it. Ideally it takes him a maximum of 10 days to complete such a panel.
Another day, we set out for short hike to Giri Ganga, a little above Kharapathar. The trail was paved by an incredible forest of deodar and pine trees. As we walked through the gentle steep slopes, I stood admiring the tall trees and the silence which was occasionally interrupted by the wind-swept melody.
The age of this temple is unknown. It was discovered by a rishi who was carrying water from the Ganga. Dropping his lota or jug here, he spilled the holy water, exclaiming “Giri Ganga!” The temple premises is divided into upper and lower sections. The lower part has a statue of the rishi, and temples of Mata, Vishnu, Shiva and Ram. After a steep flight of stairs, the sole Kali temple is perhaps even older than the lower ones.
After our quick temple visit, we wandered off behind Kali temple into the forest and walked towards the river in the meadows. Here we sat in open grassland and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. I felt as if I were in the centre of a true Himachal panorama—the mountain meadows, clear river, an abandoned wooden hut and the vibrant forest.
Another day we hiked further off to the village of Chenu, about an hour and a half away one way. Here I spent an entire day at Ram Sarandas Kalta’s house. We spent hours chatting about the cultural practices, society norms, politics and history of the land and its people.
My host’s mother, who I fondly refer to as ‘aunty’, took me to her sister-in-law’s house on Sunday. As a routine, every Sunday afternoon they spend time with each other. At Asha Kalta’s house, I tried ghenda, a local preparation where water, ghee and sugar are boiled together, then cooled, before wheat flour is cooked in this mix. This is rolled into large orbs with depressed centres, and topped with more ghee. This was a bit too heavy for me but I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon conversations with them.
I was also invited for my first Pahadi wedding where the energy and vigour were most impressive. Customarily the weddings are 2-3 days here where the first day is called ‘maame’ and the second ‘vedi’. In maame, the mama or bride and groom’s maternal uncle visit the other party with goat, garlands and other ritualistic things. Traditional songs and dance highlight the event followed by a meal. Vedi is when the bride goes to the groom’s house and then the wedding ceremony takes place.
In my week-long stay, I cooked several times with my host’s mother. From making homemade diary products like ghee, butter and buttermilk to learning how to make local delicacies like Sidhoo (steamed dumplings stuffed with local seeds) and Lota (wheat flour bread with ghee), every day there was something interesting in the kitchen.
What I ate
Breakfasts were usually forms of stuffed parantha. Quick to make and wholesome, bedheni roti is made of poppy seeds crushed and lightly sprinkled with the dough. Served hot, ghee is generously poured on this light parantha.
When I visited Ram Sarandas Kalta’s house in Chenu village, I tasted mutton which was slow cooked. The mutton is usually dried in the month of December and slowly consumed through the months. This is usually prepared by the man of the house and is called ‘shaag’ or meat soup owing to its thin, spiced curry. Also my last meal in the Kalta homestay was the mutton soup cooked by my host’s father.
Where I stayed
I couldn’t have chosen a better home in Beral. Kalta homestay is a cosy private home where Ashish and his parents live. (On Google maps) Guests get a private room on the ground floor of the house and the bathroom is shared. All homestay rules apply, i.e. complying by the family’s lifestyle and schedule, sharing responsibilities in chores and enjoying home cooked meals.
My room was airy, warm and sufficient. Every morning I could see the valley of Nawer from my window. Though my favourite part in the house was the deck. Located on the topmost floor, this was my hideaway where I did nothing, read and wrote for hours together. It overlooks the entire village and beyond. It is truly a preview to paradise.
I paid a very reasonable ₹1000 per day for my stay here. I travelled by myself. They do not have a ridge pricing in place and expect it to vary.
There were many nights when, after dinner, we sat watching TV together. I wondered how it was possible to blend in so easily. Perhaps, that’s when I knew I found a place just like home, somewhere in the Himachal mountain valley village.
What I bought
Ashish’s mother knits extensively. Buy stylish mufflers, socks, woollen shoes and woollen headbands from her. Prices are nominal, about ₹300 for mufflers and ₹200 for a pair of woollen socks.
How I travelled
The best way to reach Beral is to take the bus from Shimla’s Lakkar Bazar Bus Stop to Kharapathar, 95 kilometres away/4 hours by road. From Kharapathar, Beral is 11 kilometres away. Request for a pick-up by car from your guest house or homestay.
Good to know
-Beral is also spelt as Brall, Baraal, Baral and Baaral. I chose Beral as on Google maps.
-Staying in Kalta Homestay is like being a part of the family. Please help around the house and don’t expect to be served or attended to.
-Get in touch with Ashish Kalta to book and plan your stay. He is available at +919418207750/ +919129033323; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-This destination is ideal for responsible travellers and mountain lovers. If you seek luxury in your travel, it may be better to skip Beral.
-My visit to Beral was in April 2016.
Will you visit this nondescript village in Himachal?