While on winter vacation in Dharamshala, I was reading a lot of newspapers, both English and Hindi and found them full of news items about drug abuse and drug peddling in the area. This was rampant despite strict vigil and stern action against drug peddlers in lower Kangra, bordering Punjab. Going down the memory lane of the 70s, I was reminded of the Hippies in McLeod Ganj in upper Dharamsala as also in the Kullu-Manali area.
Almost at the same time, Kasol had come into prominence. Kasol is a village in Himachal Pradesh and is also known as Mini Israel. It is situated in the Parvati Valley, on the banks of the Parvati River on way to Manikaran from Bhuntar-Kullu. Kasol is partitioned into Old Kasol and New Kasol on either side of the bridge. Lying just 42 km east of Kullu at an altitude of 1640 meters, it is 5 km from the holy place, Manikaran.
Kasol has recently transformed into a hub for backpackers, who are attracted to the scenic beauty of the valley, untouched hills, low population, and good climate throughout the year. It is also a base for Himalayan trekking and is famous for its trekking trails, which include treks to Kheer Ganga, Yanker Pass, Sar Pass (Sar in the local dialect, means a lake), and Pin Parbati Pass. Visitors from Israel are common in Kasol and one can see banners in the Hebrew language throughout the valley.
Kasol is also known as Mini Israel in Himachal Pradesh. The shops in the village of Kasol have western food and clothes. There is only one school which has classes up to 7th grade. The nearest college is in Kullu. The recent inflow of Israeli tourists has triggered mushrooming of restaurants, hotels and shops catering to their needs.
Kasol is inhabited mostly by tourists from Israel which is why most of the hoardings are in Hebrew. Israeli Shakshouka, a dish of poached eggs in tangy tomato gravy along with hummus and pita bread will drown you in its’ rich flavours.
Kasol is also often called a Hippie Haven’ or Backpackers’ paradise. Kasol is ideal for a vacation if you want to chill in the lap of nature. The village is an open space by the banks of the Parvati River where one can spend lazy afternoons.
The river abounds with trout and is the perfect place for angling. However, permission from the forest department is required for trout fishing in the river. Parvati River at Kasol is ideal for white water rafting as well. Serene Parvati Valley’s melancholy beauty will leave you wanting more.
Visitors are attracted to the town because of its hospitality, beautiful environs, and wild Charas, hand-made hashish made from the cannabis that is plentiful to the area. With Parvati River gurgling and the formidable snow-capped mountain lurking from a corner, reading a book in a café by the river would be an interesting thing to do but while in Kasol and not indulging in trekking would reckon the getaway incomplete. Do also visit Malaga, which is just a few kilometres from Kasol.
This is a tiny hamlet inhabited by people living in self- imposed isolation, who claim to be Aryan descendants, as a result of which they avoid interaction with outsiders—but a visit to Malana gives a real feel of the culture in the region.
Col RC Patial, SM, FRGS, PhD has served with the NSCS as a Senior Defence Specialist, with the NTRO as a Chief Editor of Open Source Intelligence and the first DD of the newly set up Training Academy. He is present, Principal, Meritorious
Residential School, Amritsar.
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