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
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
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
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
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
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
Crop rotation with Potato – Corn Village
A canal running by the corn village - with water used in multiple ways.
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
A house in the Corn Village of Sainji, Mussoorie
Corns adorning a house in the corn village of Sainji
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.
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
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
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
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
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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96 Responses

  1. Yogi Saraswat

    When I was reading very first paragraph of this post , I have question in my mind , why it is called as ‘corn village ‘ but after your beautiful pictures , everything is clear and understandable . Thnx for sharing a very unique place

  2. Louiela

    Interesting place, indeed. Same like others, i was looking for corns… and saw them hanging on houses as harvest is done already.. Thanks for sharing this post. And I hope many people will be like Kunwar Singh…

    • Ami

      Yes, Kunwar Singh does inspire a lot …I hope to be able to give back the same way as he does.

  3. Punita Malhotra

    For some reason, I could not imagine corn in the mountains 🙂 How interesting this village looks. And those houses with bunches of corn hanging on their walls are so pretty.

  4. Elena

    At the beginning of this week I read your article about Landour and ever since my mind was stuck on the Corn Village. I’m happy that you chose to give more information about this unique place. It was a very interesting reading. Thank you!

  5. Gareth

    That snap of your first glimpse of the Corn Village is really spectacular and all the more so with the waterfalls in the background. And the manager wasn’t lying; there certainly was a lot of corn for you to see! I must admit, this isn’t the kind of place I expected to see corn produced but either way, a really interesting and unique place

  6. The Travel Ninjas

    The corn “decorations” are lovely. It’s so interesting how they serve the dual purpose of practicality and decoration. Meeting the villagers would be the best part, but we don’t speak hindi. I wonder if any of the tours could translate some simple conversations.

    • Ami

      I don’t think that would be a problem. On request, you can get an English speaking guide or a cab driver (who doubles up as an interpreter).

  7. Tom

    No restaurants there? Such a place absolutely needs a “Corn Cafe” where they make of course tons of dishes out of corn and corn by-products. They also need a corn festival every year complete with food stands and a corn queen and king. Or perhaps I’m just projecting….but it would be nice to have a corn cafe.

  8. Vyjay Rao

    This is a unique village. Had never heard of it. The corn adorning the houses is really lovely. A great place to get lost in time, I am sure,

  9. Davide

    What can I say?!?! This is one of the most interesting post I have read in the last few days (I read more than 50 posts); easy reading and you have got a great experience there, your pictures are so beautiful and I really like to go to this small village, understanding their life style, their traditions and of course their Corn Dishes! Anyway is not too bad, like you said, get there for volunteering! PS: I shared it on my Pinterest too 😀

    • Ami

      Thank you David. I am so glad that you liked the post. I do hope you get there soon. Am sure along with volunteering you will get so much more!

  10. Sarah @ Expat of the World

    Amazing that the village are open to people coming and looking around. That young woman in your shot is absolutely gorgeous. I’d have loved to speak with her and learn about her life.

    • Ami

      Thanks Sarah. The villagers are so welcoming. And that is what I loved about the place. The little lady in the pic was an adorable munchkin. Hope you get to meet her.

  11. Doreen Pendgracs

    I would love to visit the Corn Village. It looks amazing, and I’d love to meet the local people as well. Thx for the post, Ami.

  12. Chris

    What a quirky looking place!

    I conjures memories for me of time spent in Latin America.

    Good times that now make me want to get here someday 🙂

  13. sveeteskapes

    Had never heard of such a place as corn village before. This looks like such a colorful place, such happy faces too. Would love to visit someday.
    xx, Kusum

  14. Julianna

    Wow, that looks fabulous! You’re right – it’s got a purpose but it also looks so pretty. Thank you for sharing. Great pictures too.

  15. Mar Pages

    It looks like the houses are adorned with gold necklaces. Cute! If it wasn’t for the title of the post, I could have mistaken the ears of corn for bunches of bananas! Very interesting post.

  16. Miriam Ernst

    I would love to meet the inhabitants of a community like this one, I’m sure they have interesting stories to tell. And I like that the corn is everywhere in the village, it’s a kind of natural decoration, beautiful yellow touches!

    • Ami

      Thanks Miriam. The village is so unique that you are bound to find a lot of interesting tales here.

  17. Joanna

    I never knew that corn can grow so high up the mountains. I am stunned by the look of the village, the way it sits on that mountain edge, surrounded by waterfalls. It’s amazing that only 35 families live here and they keep the village so clean and beautiful.

    • Ami

      Thanks Joanna. It was a pleasure to discover it myself. You should try and get here to experience it all too.

  18. carmyy

    Oh my goodness! I don’t think I’ve seen that many cobs of corn hanging on a house – ever! And only 35 families! Such a small little community in such a beautiful place.

    • Ami

      The small community is what makes the whole living so interesting. Thanks for stopping by Carmyy.

  19. iamsuanlee

    This is very cool! From far away the corn hanging from the roofs of homes looks a little more like bananas!It was really good to read about all the festivals the village has and interesting to know that Diawali is separated a month after the rest of india!

  20. tatumskipper

    I love finding new small, quaint towns that have so much life and character. Your pictures are amazing and those landscapes don’t even look real!

  21. Indrani

    I have seen something similar in one of the villages of Hungary. Unable to recollect the place’s name. It was a fleeting glance and some pictures. One of those pictures sold too. This village definitely is much more aggressive in displaying its products. Feast to eyes! fits well for this. 🙂

    • Ami

      Thanks Indrani. If you get a chance, you should definitely go there. You will find a lot of interesting faces here.

  22. Laveena Sengar

    Actually this doesn’t look real to me at all. This so dreamy. I can never have thought corn hanging in this manner. Love the pictures. Great work 🙂

  23. Neha Verma

    These tiny offbeat small villages are the real charm of Himalayas. I had never heard of this before. When I plan my trip to Dehradun, I will definitely go here.