My village … Kanoli

I do not know how on earth my ancestors chose Kanoli for their winter home despite the fact that they had the choice of settling along the bank of Ramganga or Jakuli River like many other Shaukas who had settled there in the villages like Tejam, Bhainskhal, Timtia, Rasiabagarh, Quiti, Nachni, Thal, etc.

Kanoli, our village has pucca houses and sufficient land. With 57 houses the village is divided into Talla Kanoli, Malla Kanoli, Pari Bamo and Toli. It is 40 kms away from sub-district headquarter (block) Kapkot and 64 kms away from district headquarter Bageshwar. My clan resides in Talla Kanoli.

After 74 years of independence Kanoli is still unconnected by motor roads. Public and private bus service is available 10 kms away at Nachni and Shama. Now due to awareness among villagers road construction has started to link Kanoli with Nachni and Shama. However, there are many bottlenecks which need to be tackled. Sometimes the government, sometimes contractors create avoidable problems leading to delays, lack of funds, etc. One can realise that due to lack of political pressure we are lagging behind. We all know that without political influence such developmental work hardly takes place in villages like Kanoli. Having said that I am hoping against hopes and hopefully within a year or two we may see motor roads in Kanoli.

The village Kanoli is situated on the middle and lower levels of the ridges, in the midst of the cultivated fields. The place is neither too hot and damp, like the low-lying land near the River banks, nor too cold, like the hill-tops. It is well- drained, elevated, and spacious place. I think this might be the consideration for my ancestor as to why they chose Kanoli over the areas near River banks. 

Another consideration in determining the village site might be the supply of drinking water, which was available in adjoining hill-stream, within less than a half a kilometer from the village. The springs suffice to meet the village requirements. The situation of forest land is also kept in view. As a rule, it is conveniently situated in relation to the village site: neither too far for grazing and fuel, nor so near that the wild animals are likely to alarm the villagers. On the one side the village has access to good forest land, and on the other to the semi irrigated fields. The villages along the banks of Rivers generally are found in a chain in lower valleys. There was no such chain of villages near Kanoli.

My great grandfather was one of the five brothers and he was the youngest one. All of them had built houses in Talla Kanoli. The houses of four brothers (not on seniority basis) are in the front row whereas the remaining brother’s house is behind. All houses had a courtyard and together it made a huge one, very much suited to children for their play. The courtyard is covered by stone-slates.

Talla Kanoli is well known for its Peepal tree (Ficus religious or sacred fig). This very old and big pipal tree is located behind our houses. The tree is large and leafy and easy to climb. Children used to play different kinds of games in and around this tree. If one hides in the tree, he or she could not easily be seen from below. Some of the branches of the tree are hung to the ground making small children climb them and swing which give them immense pleasure. The pipal with its heart like shape leaves would flutter even on the stillest days providing cool shade. I think the tree is older than our houses, older than our grandfathers. This great tree was a small world for us throughout the year. Now our relatives play cards under the shadow of the tree, as the children are away from school. The other trees like guava, orange, and lemon (big and small), malta would attract our attention during their fruiting season.

Another attraction of Talla Kanoli is its Kachehri, a meeting place. In good old days the Kutchery used to be full of life where everyone would meet each other. It was a place for settling disputes, village functions, panchayat meetings, etc. Even it served as a playground for children.

The houses are built on stone walls and the flooring has been done with wooden planks as base and then smeared with the paste of cow dung and clay mixed together. Stone slates known as ‘Pathar’ were used as roofing material for the house. For plastering the inside walls, mud paste was used. On the first floor, there are four rooms; two rooms in front and two rooms behind them. The main room which is bigger than all other rooms, was mostly used as ‘baithak’ and was called ‘Bhoni’ (baithak).

The staircase, connecting the first floor in front of the house, is called ‘Gon’. Staircase was made of stones which also served for sitting. The ground floor is divided into two parts of which one was used for animals mainly cows and their calves, oxen and goats. The other part is ‘Chulha ghar’ (kitchen). In the kitchen room, there was a small platform, like a niche for keeping ‘gharas’ (pitcher) for storing water. I remember there were at least four gharas in our house.

The house has the carvings on doors, windows marvelously adorned in a simple and gorgeous style. The open space of the window is filled with particular latticework to give a photo-frame like effect by craftsmen. Besides floral design and picture of animals, most of the wood carvings have Gods and Goddesses as their motifs, concept. Such wood carving can be seen in most of Shaukas’ houses. These types of houses were made in a linear pattern and are earthquake proof. I recollect that in 1964 we had a massive earthquake followed by a series of vibrations on the ground. It was severe. The whole area was trembling. We had come out in the open area. It lasted for almost a minute. There have been many more severe earthquakes in the past but our houses withstood all such tremors.

There were no water tanks or pipelines in the houses. Water was available but at a distance from villages in Rivers, dhara (streams). Water for drinking as well as cooking had to be carried to homes in ‘gharas’ (pitchers) and mostly ladies used to carry water on their back. Carrying water in ‘gharas’ from a distance was tough for women. But they would never complain about it, as it was like an outing for them with other women of the village. On their way up and down they would discuss all sorts of happenings and events of the village. In fact they enjoyed it. I remember seeing my mother carrying a ghara of water on her back. She had her own ‘ghara’ given to her by her ‘Maika’(mother’s family). Strange thing was that this job was exclusively assigned to ladies. I do not remember any men carrying such loads of ghara.

Like many villages in our hills, Kanoli today wears a deserted if not desolate look. Once a bustling village where the villagers tilled their fertile fields and one could hear the laughter ringing and the shout of children playing reverberating in the thin mountain air. All of it is a thing of the past as one by one the young and able left in search of greener pastures and once they found a means of livelihood, they took their families along with them.

All I hope that the village is connected by motor roads soon and it springs back to life once again. No doubt roads are life line for any village.