A land so panoramic that its very name evokes the spirit of in all serene show and sensation, the state of Himachal Pradesh in India is a haven to dwell in. A retreat so cool and calm that has one yearning for a feel of its magical vibes, this is a place at once artistic and adventurous, spiritual and scenic, religious and resplendent. Home to such wonders that each delight in their own spinning of fairytale- and in such serendipity that awakens the world of dreams in actual reality, this place majestically nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas is one holding beauty in every promise of its breathtaking beckoning.
Closer to the heart of this Himachali narrative and steeped thus even greatly into its essence of an exuberance enigmatically esthetic is a quieter hamlet working its own pretty charms of magic. Tucked away in the hills of the Kangra valley and characteristic in its quaint vibes of an old world existence is the lesser known village of Gunehar. A place exotic indeed in its trademark appeal of rather ordinariness, through which lives indeed the ‘identity’ of country life, the assertion of Gunehar too occurs in an assortment of the bricks and muds scattered through the shorts lengths and shorter breadths of its small scape. But even in its randomly arranged rows of ramshackled cottages and rustic shops, interspersed indeed by cattle whether in flocks or as lone entities, and Gunehar still sports a flair of the artistic upon its being.
It is through such trails of its treading that the village has acquired a certain charm in uniqueness, one that affords immersion into the diverse realms of its distinction. Beauty defines indeed every speck of what composes Gunehar in the colors of a charismatic character, be it in the bounty of its brooks and boughs or the curations of creativity cradled in its core. In the crisp, cool air that one finds their soul heaving in through an unparalleled experience of living here, this piece of home humbly rested in a humongous high of the haughty mountains bears a thrill of life that goes beyond the boroughs through which existences assume essence.
The entire script of the Gunehar story spans a limitless expanse of what is imbued with sparks of the creative. In fact it would not be wrong to say that this particular Himalayan village thrives as much in the multiple explorations of art that it has been made to muse upon, as it does in the many a riches of natural endowing. The village itself is one iridescent even in its haze of the rustic hues but lend your senses also to the rhythm of its resonant radiance and one cannot help but be transfixed in unearthing a treasure trove of the Gunehar gallery.
In the many experiences that one lives thus in much wonder and appreciation of the beauty dictating this curiously unfolding chapter not characteristic of an existence expected to be entrancing already in its essence embalmed in the air of the esthetic, Gunehar presents therefore a picture perfect in and outside its physically prominent presence. Through art galleries and festivals that indulge also in non visual expression of the artistic ‘alibi’ of the human finding succour ultimately in such strums of the soulful, this Himachali village lays bare a deeper intent in beauty- one that is transforming of the very idea in which tourism finds usual representation.
It all began with a German man Frank Schlichtmann landing up in Gunehar more than a decade ago, who had this quirky idea of bringing in the identity of art to ascribe to this Himachali hamlet a character magical in a different kind of way. A space for alternative and meaningful living was what led him to start the 4Tables Project, through which he ventured to curate the ShopArt ArtShop festival that would usher in a new horizon of residing for this sufficiently simple stretch of the state. Then presenting a picture of quietness in its shuttered shops and monochromatic musing, beautiful no less though in holding on to all the true tranquilities of nature, Gunehar has come a long way since and today displays a character that is more cosmopolitan and colorful even when maintaining the charms curated by its courting of a certain calmness.
With its first edition shaping the destiny of Gunehar in 2013 and the second ShopArt ArtShop event of all artisticity following three years hence and setting in motion a continuum of the newfound narrative in which the otherwise nondescript village gained recognition, the buzz that had Gunehar making waves was one of immense beauty as well. It is this rendition of its character today in the flourishes and strokes of the imagination that has curated for Gunehar a special trail of tourists intrigued by the prospect of its painted prettiness. Identifying exclusively as an art village now, even when the spell of its creating as a knoll bequeathing the magic of the mighty Himalayas only ups the ante for its appeal to hold through eternity, Gunehar indeed is unlike any other rural retreat you would be venturing to anywhere in India.
Unique also is the manner in which the arts itself scout expression in this land blessed indeed in so many ways, such that does not rely on the traditional mediums of the paints and the brushes and the palettes to paint for it a portrait of the piquing. The experience that Gunehar has birthed and blossomed as part of its being asserts instead in the greater notions of conceptual art. But while it would be installations and such presences of tangible beauty through which the village lays claim to ownness, it also is a greater encompassion of the entire exposition of the creative or more appropriately and poignantly the soul stirring that has Gunehar glide across the nuances of an existence dramatically diversified.
Standing up to such distinction is another strand summing up this idiosyncratic identity in which the Himachali village finds representation. The essence indeed is similar, permeated by the same sensation of what expresses as art. Occurring though in its own discrete space of conceiving and conjuring is the Kahaani Ki Dukaan selling the colors and cues that which ekes out a separate identity altogether for Gunehar. A rather recent project that took flight in 2019, this heartwarming regard for seeking respite in creativity that is by now a necessary element embedded in its nomenclature has afforded Gunehar a greater repute in the graciousness of its ‘gentle’ existence.
Over the years, the intensity of its identifying in uniqueness has only increased and so has the assertion of its potential as a destination. But the ecological nature of Gunehar has never been compromised even in the tempting prospect of commercialising its growing touristry stature and the village continues to be as much serene and special the hamlet that it has been. That is something much ordinary though even in its prevailing as a pleasant surprise, for it is part indeed of the nature of its occurring as an avenue of art that has helped Gunehar remain the unspoiled vista of natural beauty.
Beauty then is the basis upon which Gunehar has been growing and evolving over the years. A few kilometers away from the village of Bir, famous in its distinction as the Paragliding Capital of India, Gunehar lives and thrive in the salubriousness of a serene specialness. And yet, in the entire run of what it takes to round up this really tiny townlet, there prevails a sense of simplicity that is endearing. In this lesser explored but still celebrated patch of the greater Himachali fabric, there dwells a feeling of life that is as close as one can get in deciphering the joys of living indeed.
And why not indeed that you would decipher all of the pleasures that life can grant in this quaint place of such beauty. Even when one cannot let go the greatness of the essence in which Gunehar currently identifies, one still would not be able to not gush over the immense prettiness that Gunehar harbours in all physicality. In this gorgeous land of the greens and the woods, of the gurgles and the babbles, of the freshest of airs and the clearest of skies, there isn’t any aspect of beauty that would be out of bounds for you to avail.
Most prominent in their popular parlance of prettiness would be the Gunehar river and the Gunehar waterfall, both beauties that shimmer and sparkle in the clear waters of the mountain. Whether one intends to lap up the crisp freshness flowing through these streams of sometimes calm, sometimes flouncy demeanor or finds beauty in the depths and densities of the surrounding forest or simply soaks in the congenial vibes of what endlessly courses along their gliding and gushing extent, these two eponymous elements of Gunehar embody all appreciations in which the village is vividly described. Nestled then in such picturesque settings of which is as perfect in pictures as it is in real revelations and exuberant in its unexpected but essential weaves of artistic beauty, this hamlet thriving in all its flaunt of the Himachali happinesses is more than just a tourist’s delight- it is utopia indeed for the soul to seek upon the horizon of a pure and simple pride.