Wise Wall Project, Saur

An initiative to document the rural wisdom of our villages and celebrate it through art murals.

Project FUEL

About Saur (2017/2017)Project FUEL

About Saur

Saur is a 600-year-old remote village and it is believed that the goddess Surkanda used to live here. It is like the base of a bowl, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Saur means togetherness, and strangely that's the contradiction of the word, because the village has faced mass migration over the years. The village of Saur has been labelled as a ghost village due to excessive migration. It is one among 1,053 more Uttarakhand villages that have little or no inhabitants anymore.

The Wise Wall Project at Saur (2017/2017)Project FUEL

The Wise Wall Project, an initiative by Project FUEL and FUEL Foundation transforms villages into living classrooms, turning the walls of the same onto blackboards and canvases that uncover striking yet simple life learnings. These lessons are further designed and presented to the world through various mediums on our platform. The project aims to ignite a movement of transforming the long forgotten villages into open-air galleries, exhibiting human wisdom for anyone and everyone in the world to see and benefit from.

The Wise Wall Project (2017/2017)Project FUEL

The initiative in Saur, sponsored by RoundGlass and supported by Due North uniquely addressed the problem of migration to urban spaces.

RoundGlass is committed to enabling individuals to live their Journey of holistic Wellbeing and Meaningful Living™.
DueNorth is a unique tourism adventure in the Himalayas of Uttarakhand fostering rural development, heritage communities and local crafts.

Saur is now the first village in recent history to have a documented database of life lessons from an entire community exhibited on the exterior of every house wall including the abandoned ones.

Garhwal School of Painting (2017/2017)Project FUEL

Garhwal School of Painting

The style for the wall art was derived from the Garhwal school of painting, which is heavily influenced by the Mughal miniature style and patterns.The story behind this novelty goes as such; Mughal emperor, Sulaiman Shikoh, took refuge in Garhwal for nine months. During this time he brought along his court painters. But even when the king decided to move back to his city, the court painters decided to stay back in the mountains as they had fallen in love with the people and the place.The murals were conceptualized by the project’s head artist, Poornima Sukumar.

Rain Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

In Saur, people practice a unique tradition. Every time it doesn’t rain for a long period, the villagers gather together in the temple courtyard with the village musicians and they say, “hum baarish maangne ja rahe hai” (we are going to ask for rain).

Rain Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

It is believed that over the last six years, it has always rained on exactly the same day.

And if, for some reason, it doesn’t rain, they remove the stone from the temple so that god also suffers in the scorching heat. The villagers ask god to suffer too. They have a unique and lovely relationship with the almighty, which is more friendly than god-fearing.

Tiger Walls (2017/2017)Project FUEL

Several years ago, goddess Durga came in the dream of the village blacksmith and she told him that her tiger had been injured and was by the river, and asked if the blacksmith could tend to it.
Obviously frightened, the blacksmith told the other villagers of his dream and they said you must go and help the goddess and her tiger. So he went to the river bank at midnight and found the tiger that the goddess had referred to in his dream. He tended to the tiger and the goddess was so happy that for several years she would visit the village. The morning after her visits, people would discover her footsteps and bring the soil home for worshiping.

Singin' in the Woods (2017/2017)Project FUEL

The mural on this wall was conceptualized from the story that came from an old woman who has migrated out of the village. She recounted her favourite memory as the one in which she went to collect grass with her friends in the forest and they would find a spot to sit and sing for hours at a stretch.

Aakashvani Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

There’s a special anecdote from history - back in the day, only the head of the village had a radio that was given to him by the Government of India, to stay up-to-date with news and current events.

Aakashvani Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

All the villagers would gather around his house daily to find out what the news was. Turns out Aakashvani Lucknow was their station of choice.

Women in the Paddy Field (2017/2017)Project FUEL

We started the project by painting three women working in the paddy field, on the walls of their houses.

What inspired us was how these women worked, day in and day out, and no matter what happened, they continued doing their work. The clothes they wore, the colours of the garments and how they stood out against the mountains was extremely beautiful.

Panch Patthar (2017/2017)Project FUEL

'Panch Patthar' is a folk game that used to be played by young village girls back in the day. It involved five pebbles, a lot of balancing, and a smart mind to cheat and win.

Hookah Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

In the old days, when there was no television or internet invented, men in the village smoked big hukkas and conversed until morning. It also served as a tool to bring together the community and discuss the problems of the village.

The owner of this house, Mr. Bol Chand was the proud owner of a grand hukkah made of bronze. Almost everyone in the village circled around him to have conversations and smoke his hukkah.

Garhwali Nath Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

'Garhwali Nath' is the most famous and distinct ornament of the Garhwali culture. This piece of jewellery is a must have for every bride.

Garhwali Nath Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

The house we painted this portrait on, had had a wedding three months ago. It was only befitting to celebrate the daughter of the house wearing such a beautiful nose ring.

Rose Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

The rose wall was the first wall of painted patterns. Inspired by the local flora and fauna, we decided to take something mundane yet beautiful and let that fill up the space. The result, a long wall of roses that looks extremely beautiful from a distance.

Geeta Devi, with Bindiya and Sonali (2017/2017)Project FUEL

All her life, Geeta Devi has taken care of her cattle, be it before or after her marriage.

As a tribute to her never ending spirit, we decided to paint a mural featuring her in the same sari she wears; and along with her are Bindiya and Sonali, her buffaloes.

The 'Paintception' Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

This wall was dedicated to Birender ji, who was the person from the village hired to support us during the project. He asked us to paint a guy, painting a painting. We called it Paintception.

Garhwali Wedding Wall (2017/2017)Project FUEL

In Garhwali weddings, the man and woman are both made to sit in palanquins – yellow for the men and red for the women.

Garhwali Wedding Wall, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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No one does this anymore, but back in the day they were carried to their weddings because they were the gods and goddesses on their special day.

Garhwali Wedding Wall, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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We tried and imitated an entire wall of people dancing in the baraat, on a big abandoned row house.

Digital Dadi (2017/2017)Project FUEL

She carries a pink pouch around her neck to keep her mobile phone, which she uses to talk to her children. We named her as Digital Dadi.

Digital Dadi (2017/2017)Project FUEL

When we asked her what we should draw on the wall of her house, she told us to draw her portrait so that people remember her even after she is gone.

‘Saur’- the typeface (2017/2017)Project FUEL

'Saur'- the typeface

Here's an interesting fact - the project led to the creation of a brand new typeface called 'Saur’, that is specific to the area.

‘Saur’- the typeface, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Niteesh Yadav, one of India's youngest typography artists, came up with this new typeface. He traced and documented the handwriting of the villagers from the 12 remaining families. And using just those few handwriting samples he has created ‘Saur’, a brand new typeface!

Life Lesson Stones, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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All the life lessons were painted by a local painter, Satpal ji, in the typeface created. These life lessons were therein etched on stones and have been placed outside of the houses that the life lessons belong to.
They act as wisdom invitations for the curious traveler.

Amir Chand (2017/2017)Project FUEL

“I was working in Dehradun around the freedom struggle. When the partition was announced, the riots broke out in the country. I saw people being killed in front of my eyes. We were 7 boys from the same village working there and over night we decided that we have to go back to our village to save our lives. We trekked for two days, hiding in several spots to make it back. After the situation improved, I wrote a letter to the Deputy Director I was working with before escaping and requested him to send my salary by money order if possible. He actually did send Rs. 36 as the sum total of my salary. I couldn't believe someone could be so kind and generous amidst such hatred. That was a defining moment of my life.”
Life Lesson: “Look for the light amidst the dark”
-Amir Chand, 93

Sushil Chand Ramola, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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“Growing up, sometimes all we got to eat was potatoes. During these times, our community would help us by loaning out food and money. Living in community will help you in dire situations”
Life Lesson: ‘’Live in unity”
-Sushil Chand Ramola, 56

Dalip Chand, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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“I’ve studied till I was 20 years old, but somehow did not do well. In 1995, I appeared for the License of Teaching exam. I qualified for the teaching exam but the postal services at that time were slow, especially for village like Saur. My call letter reached after the classes in schools have started. It delayed my joining. This taught me that no matter how hard you work, you must also have luck on your side.”
Life Lesson: ‘Luck is as important as hardwork’
-Dalip Chand, 45

Puran Singh Negi, 2017/2017, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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“There are opportunities in Saur, but they are not being utilized well. There can be a fishing lake, young people can put up tents around it. The government schools are not in best shape. We need schools of quality for our kids to get good education.”
Life Lesson: “Migration can be stopped by employment”
- Puran Singh Negi, 55

Seema Devi (2017/2017)Project FUEL

“In my time, girls were not permitted to go to school. People, then, used to say that if you teach girls more, you will have to give more dowry. So, I only studied till 5th. I hope people today understand the importance of education. Today, getting educated is a luxury and must be a priority.”
Life Lesson: “Study well”
-Seema Devi, 49

Geeta Devi (2017/2017)Project FUEL

“I didn’t get a chance to study. For as long as I can remember, I have always been working. Before my marriage, I was taking care of the cattle in my maternal home. After marriage, I was doing the same. The situation is still unchanged, though now my daughter helps me. But there has never been a moment of peace or relaxation.
Life has become comparatively easy in Saur. Earlier, we would trek up to the top of the mountain to collect grass. We would stay there collecting grass from 8 in the morning till 8 in the night. We would get so hungry throughout the day. Now it is easier to collect grass from the nearby areas. Even the road is closer to the village. All the basic necessities are available. There is electricity and water in home.”
Life Lesson: “All is well as long as you are self-sustaining”
-Geeta Devi, 50

Saur Fellowship (2017/2017)Project FUEL

Saur Fellowship

To build up on our efforts in Saur, we initiated an education fellowship in the village.Our aim was two pronged. We wanted to bring learning and education to the doorsteps of Saur. We also wanted tourism to make its foray into the community and lend to the livelihood of the village.Under the fellowship, our two fellows taught Computers and English to the children and young adults of Saur. Along with the education, they also worked on the tourism leg of Due North (a homestay in the village, that is working to restore the village and its tourism) and the sustainability of the village.

Saur Village Festival (2017/2017)Project FUEL

Saur Village Festival

During the Wise Wall Project, many villagers recounted their fond memories of a now discontinued local mela (fair) that used to be celebrated with great fervor. It served as a great binding factor of the community, through provision of livelihoods and celebration of its cultural heritage. Realizing the social and economic importance of this fair for the region, Project FUEL attempts its revival through the ‘Saur Village Festival’.

Saur Village Festival (2017/2017)Project FUEL

Laced in rural wisdom, celebrating authentic conversations, narrating folktales and reviving an age-old fair, Saur Village festival is a two-day village experience festival. It serve as a platform for generating means of livelihood for the villagers, in-flow and showcase of talent and a revival of local arts.
With the festival becoming an annual event, we hope to initiate the rebuilding of Saur by bringing attention of the community, local authorities and tourism enthusiasts on its rich cultural history.

Credits: Story

The Wise Wall Project, Saur sponsored by RoundGlass and supported by Due North.

Photo Credits: Vibhor Yadav

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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