Harsil: The Land Cradling Apples, Rajma and A Little More
Tucked away in the Garhwal Himalayas, at 2620 meters into the sky that’s approximately 7000 ft above sea level, enroute to Gangotri comes a quaint little village – Harsil.
Set amidst pine trees and apple orchards, the town is famous for more things than one. It’s a trekker’s paradise, known to offer spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain peaks. It is well known for its local apple produce and is also famed for making an appearance in the super hit Bollywood movie by director Raj Kapoor – ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’.
The town was still in its pristine condition – uncluttered, neat and serene… waiting to sing her own tale. I tried to picture something of it, by setting out to explore the place.
I started off with a visit to the local and the ancient Kalp Kedareshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
From here, I could see the stream of turquoise blue Ganges water and though I had met mother Ganga only a few hours earlier in Gangotri, still could not resist climbing down towards the banks to catch Her glimpse.
Down at the banks, there was no one except a village woman drinking the holy waters from the cusp of her hand. On seeing me, she smiled and offered a few drops to me as well! Chilly winds were making me skittish but the warmth of her smile comforted me.
Do you know how the place gets its name? She asked in her broken Hindi. Even before I could give out my reply, she started her narration…
Once, Rivers Bhagirathi and Jalandhari had an argument about which was more significant. Lord Vishnu aka Hari intervened by taking the form of a stone or shila (Hari-shila or Harsil), and absorbed their anger. Even today, the waters of the two rivers become a little less turbulent from here onwards.
Before ending the story and immersing herself in her prayers, she however added one last thing –
So, these stones that you see in the river… These are not ordinary stones, Beta! They are Lord Vishnu. Pray to them with a sincere heart… He will make all your wishes come true!
She stood there… praying, I stood there… silent – watching the impeccable views the little town had to offer!
The river was flowing with all its grace, looking bubbly and beautiful in holding its charms… and in between there were piles of stones – relentless like faith, stoic like hope – sitting still in the waters… I closed my eyes. To capture this moment in my mind forever!
Before I left the place, Vishwanath (a locale from the village) made sure I bought for myself the very famous Apples of Harsil. A Britisher, Fredrick E Wilson had planted the first apple tree here in the 19th century. His cottage, it is said was a major attraction in the area until it got destroyed by a major fire recently, ending an important chapter of history.
Fresh from the orchards, the apples were the juiciest, fragrant, and the crispiest I had eaten in my lifetime. I was so impressed; we bought for an entire bag costing just Rs. 400 for 90 KGs! They were available in the town a plenty but we took them from the outskirts on the highway.
Harsil is also known for its Rajma (kidney beans). Though I am not a good chef, still I bought some for the lovely ladies at home.
- Harsil is just about around 30 km before Gangotri, 15 km from Bhairoghati, 30 km from Gangnani and 73 km from Uttarkashi.
- Harsil is a cantonment area, perhaps because of its proximity to the Chinese border and the army is very cautious to whom it opens its doors to. Entry is denied to foreign nationals.
- There are numerous trekking routes in and around Harsil like Brahmi Tal, Nachiketa Tal, Kush Kalyan, etc. This and the fact that the town itself is quite scenic makes it an excellent choice for stay and accommodation too.
Best Time to Visit:
How to Reach: Between April to June and September to November
How to Reach:
- The nearest Domestic Airport is Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun, roughly four-hour drive from Harsil.
- The nearest Railway Station is Rishikesh Railway Station and is connected by the all major cities of Uttrakhand. It is situated on the New Delhi-Dehradun railway line and is linked with the cities like Rishikesh, Haridwar and Rudraprayag.