Saur – A Painted Mountain Village in Uttarakhand

This post is a photo story of a unique village – Saur in Tehri district of Uttarakhand that lies in Garhwal Himalaya.

A ‘painted mountain village’ – Saur has murals painted on the walls of village homes.
The paintings depict the life story of the inhabitants; in the above mural – the villagers are singing songs to request Goddess Surkanda Devi to fulfil their wish for rain.

What was once a village with more than 2000 souls, in the present day there are only 12 homes occupied by families while the other dwellings around them crumble. Saur village (a 400 year old habitation) sometimes resembles a ghost village with the majority of the old houses unoccupied amid overgrowth of greenery; the unexpected sight of these vibrant painted homes is a welcome surprise.

These richly carved windows welcome the visitor to Saur village.

Saur is set in a valley riddled with streams amidst pine and chir forests and is surrounded by mountains. Since the village is a bit off the main road, the blissful sounds of birdsong and the rustling of pines is interrupted very rarely by a moving vehicle.

A house surrounded by roses; and roses painted as murals on the walls!

These frescoes here were painted under the Wise Wall Project and are an astonishing and valuable collection of folk tales, village anecdotes and community knowledge.

The only house in Saur that had a radio (The Village Pradhan’s house) – beautifully depicted by a life-like mural!

Every mural painted on the houses of Saur village is unique; but none more so than the tiger mural; which is spread across five houses. In fact, I was only able to spot it when I saw the houses from a considerable distance. To hear the folk tale behind the classic mural, the best way is to hear it from one of the villagers itself.

Co-existing in harmony; a classic rural scene painted outside this house.

This house witnessed the grandest wedding in the village; and that has been beautifully recreated in the form of a painting.

The festivities of the bride’s wedding family are depicted poignantly in these paintings. Weddings in Garhwal are a boisterous affair and are attended by the entire village dressed in their finery.

The cheerful nature of the festivities is evident in the paintings on the wall.

I was a bit disheartened to notice that a majority of the houses of the village were unoccupied and roofs of a few homes had started caving in with the vagaries of nature.

The inhabitant of this house had a grand bronze hookah, so eminently displayed in this mural.
Simple living – when children were not consumed with the mobile phones.
The best way of exploring Saur is to ask one of the village kids to take you around; the stories will come automatically.
The quotes narrated by villagers are written on the black slate and make for fascinating & informative reading.
This was one house where a family lived and we can notice that the mural is so well maintained.

Overgrowth almost covering a nice frame of a window with embellishments.
Roses are always pleasant.
A mural of kids playing while the goats graze merrily; lost in the lush green grass.
Its sad to see that some of the painted houses are in deplorable shape and getting worse.

Playing a musical instrument that looks a lot like the Scottish bagpiper!
Wonderful to notice that some smart kids have used their brains and collected these life lessons written on slates and put them together in a place where they are visible.
I visited Saur in May and could not help but wonder how it would look in spring season with all the blooms.
The modern generation in the urban areas has lost their connection with the earth.

It is possible to experience the true joys of village life in Saur as one of the original inhabitants of the village has restored an old house and converted it into a homestay / heritage stay. The restoration has been done keeping in mind the traditional construction methods and aesthetics so that the house has a charming and rustic feel, with all the modern comforts.

Good to Know

If you are thinking of making a trip to Saur; the distance from Delhi to Saur Village – 315 Kms and the distance from Dehradun to Saur Village – 100 Kms.

Did you know / ever heard of this mountain village, Saur?

P.S : I was in Saur on assignment.

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17 thoughts on “Saur – A Painted Mountain Village in Uttarakhand”

  1. Wow, this is just amazing! How wonderfully the villagers have expressed their stories and their lives! I feel inspired to paint the walls of my house now. Though it’s sad that the houses are crumbling and abandoned. Can’t the state government declare it a heritage site?

    1. shubhammansingka

      So glad you liked checking it out! The Project Fuel guys have really done a wonderful job in collecting and then narrating the stories of the villagers in the form of lucid murals. Its a sorry state of affairs in Uttarakhand; particularly the Garhwal region where the number of ghost villages keeps increasing as more and more locals move to the cities in search of livelihood options for a so called better standard of living.

      1. It’s the same all over the country, maybe all over by the world. We also see a very small reverse migration happening, but I don’t know if it’s a real thing, or a good thing. So many of us migrants are rootless! My husband and I, being retired, are trying to put down roots, but we need to withdraw that one toehold we have in the city.

    1. shubhammansingka

      I am glad that the heritage homestay guys invited me to visit Saur village for an assignment; that said I’d be happy to visit the place again and report on the changes (if any). Hope you guys are well, Aliza. Always nice to hear from you.

  2. This is first time I have heard name Saur village. I didn’t know that such beautiful village exists in UK! hanks for sharing these pictures and information, Shubham.

  3. Thought of a village of ancient time, and make it as hereitage one is realy 👍. I had a chance many States to visit Nagaland few different rural areas of 3 districts, I asked the people there they have so good healthy green nature well managed and clean why they are not developing these beautiful area as tourist attractions with a good rural connectivity roads. This will improve the exchequer of state.
    I believe in save heritage and sour village did it unbelievable painting.

    1. shubhammansingka

      It would be really awesome if each place could develop their own unique ideas and promote the destination to attract tourism that ultimately benefits the locals.

  4. This is excellent shubham. A great example and perhaps this shud be done in many other villages of Uttarakhand which has the same story of mass outward migration. Appreciate your work there.

    1. shubhammansingka

      Thank SJ. I really hope with the wealth of cultural heritage that Uttarakhand has, we find a way to salvage it and transform a way for tourism to benefit the locals.

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