The charming corn village of Sainji, Mussoorie

posted in: Asia, Culture, Heritage, India, Uttarakhand | 96

In my last post on Landour, I gave you a glimpse of this unique corn village near Mussoorie. The actual name of this corn village is Sainji Village.  Why it is called the corn village is evident from the moment you step in here. Besides the way it looks, there is something very unusual about this village – it is one of those places that leaves you will a serene and thoughtful feeling. Best discovered and felt with a virtual tour. So, without further ado – Welcome to the Corn Village of Sainji.

Sainji Village or the Corn Village, near Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

First Glimpse of the Corn Village

When Rokeby Manor suggested a visit to the corn village, I conjured up images of houses set amidst corn fields. Through the drive from Landour and Mussoorie, I saw many terrace farms but no villages or houses. I also, realized that I was visiting at the end of their harvest season and hence, it was likely that the land would be barren. Curious, I checked with the Ashish – the manager from Rokeby and he confirmed the same. However, he mysteriously added that – “There will still be a lot of corn for you to see“.

Kempty Falls near Mussoorie

Sainji village is a good 5 kms from the famous Kempty falls of Mussoorie, in the Tehri Garhwal district. It is just off the main road that takes you towards Yamunotri.

Sainji Village or the Corn Village, near Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

As I stepped out of the car through the main gate of the village, I could see what Ashish meant. Every house, and I mean literally every house of the 400 members of the village, was adorned with corn cobs. And that is when I felt that the name “corn village” was just apt.

Exploring the Corn Village

One of the houses in the Corn Village of Sainji

While the actual purpose of hanging out corn was to dry them and use them as seeds for next year, the manner in which the same was done was quite aesthetic. It seemed to play a dual role of providing seeds for the farm as well as enhancing the decor of the homes. The foyer, the balconies, windows and doors -all covered with the golden crop from their own fields.

Corn hung in the passage of a house in the corn village

The villagers do not just grow corn but also, wheat, rice and other vegetables. Just after the harvest season, I saw some fields being set up for the winter and some being refreshed with crop rotation using potato and french beans. A small canal of water ran through the village. This was not just used for irrigation but also, for their washing needs.

Crop rotation with Potato - Corn Village
A canal running by the corn village - with water used in multiple ways.

The village is just a small community of 35 families. As I walked through the village, I was struck by how clean and beautiful it was. The walk ways are well paved with stone and the houses are just colorful. There are no shops in between the homes and the whole set up gives you a feeling of a gated community with different living quarters. Within the homes, there is little or no furniture. Family members have their make-shift beds that are laid on the floor or the charpoys that are set up outside as beds.

A house in the Corn Village of Sainji, Mussoorie
Corns adorning a house in the corn village of Sainji

A few homes have dates mentioned on the outer walls that indicate the year of construction. It was nice to see that most of them were recently reconstructed – a sign that the village was progressing.

A home that was constructed in 2003 in the corn village.

Meeting the inhabitants

Old lady sitting along with her friends in the corn village of Sainji

Every house in the village has an open square where you can see various kids playing and women washing clothes or vessels, while chatting to each other. The villagers were not surprised with our visit. They continued with their activity as I went around admiring the various homes of the corn village. There were mostly women out at that time of the day while the kids seem to be out in school. A few infants continued their play in the warm winter sun, one of them completely capturing my heart with her innocent smile.

Meet Ishaani – the little 8 month old stumbling and falling and yet smiling as she learnt to walk in her village square.

Cute little Ishaani with her mother and brother in the Corn Village of Sainji

A close-knit community, I am told that the villagers celebrate quite a few unique festivals with pomp and glory. Diwali for them is actually a month after the rest of India celebrates it. Around January, they have a goat festival where they sacrifice a few of them. Around June, a fish festival called Maund festival, where the entire village goes to the Aglar valley. Prior to the festival, powder from the tribal “Timru” plant is made and scattered into the river to deplete the oxygen content of the water and make the fish semi conscious. On the day of the festival. the entire village goes to the river and hunts down the fish. People from the nearby villages gather here and together, they have some fun times.

The Government school and creche at the Corn Village

I was lucky to meet Kunwar Singh – the village head man and the director of an NGO that worked towards the well-being of this village. It was while chatting with him that I understood that the Government.. had aided them with a small creche and school for the kids. However, now that the kids were older, they had moved to another school that was run by the same NGO that he and his wife Lori set up in the hills.

Work by Kunwar Singh

While chatting with the down-to-earth Kunwar Singh, I did not know his background or contribution to the village. It was later when I was returning that I discovered how this man along with his wife worked to make life better for this village. Ashish mentioned that he was instrumental in setting up the school that we had seen. In addition, he was the one who ensured that the village got connected by good roads to the rest of Mussoorie. He also, worked to get electricity and other amenities for the village.

His wife, Lori is a Canadian by birth and she was the one who set up the Garhwal English Medium school and worked tirelessly with the kids of this village to give them a good education. Inspired by the story, I googled him up and read about all his volunteer work. Hearing it all was just so amazing and heartening. It was nice to know that selfless work and care still existed in this world.

What can you do at the Corn Village

A visit to the Corn village is not just unusual for the discovering the way of life of people here. It does open up your thinking and makes you understand a different way of life. The various hotels and resorts of Mussoorie have taken up this as an initiative to promote and help these villages economically by organizing tours here. You can spend a day here discovering the village, the life here and sampling some of their cuisines.

A home with its large square in the corn village. Note the corn seeds kept out for drying

Another option is to spend a few months volunteering with Kunwar Singh and his NGO. They seem to be doing a lot of work for the village and it is just so amazing to see the village blossom under their care.

Either ways, the corn village of Sainji is one of those places that leave a deep imprint in your minds. Whether it is the people, the village itself or just the whole concept, it is definitely one of those eye-openers to the fact that sometimes small things in life give you big joy. A lesson that is evident in the smiles of the villagers, who may not have everything in the world but have more than enough to give you when you visit them. If you enjoyed visiting this village, you should definitely consider visiting the other Uttarakhand villages too.

Corn Village

Getting here:

  • Dehra Dun is the nearest railway station and airport to Mussoorie and Sainji village. From here, one needs to hire a car and drive to the Kempty falls.
  • The Corn village of Sainji is around 5 kms after Mussoorie. One needs to follow the road that goes towards Yamnotri. Turn right just after the Garhwal English medium school to get to the corn village.

Travel Tips:

  • A lot of resorts and hotels in Mussoorie arrange for a day outing to the corn village of Sainji. If you are staying at Rokeby Manor in Landour, you can book the same through them.
  • When visiting the village, remember to be respectful to the villagers. It is always nice to ask for their permission to visit their homes or take their pictures.
  • Most of the villagers speak Hindi
  • There are no shops nearby and hence, ensure you carry your own food and water for the trip. Unless you have something organized by the hotel through whom you would be visiting.

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