Wise Wall Project, Khati

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

Khati Village, UttarakhandProject FUEL

About Khati

Khati is a small picturesque village in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Legends say that the villagers of Khati are the direct descendants of those who sheltered the Pandavas, the central characters in Hindu epic- Mahabharata, during their Vanavas (exile in forest). Khati witnesses a significant footfall of trekkers on their ways to Pindari, Kafni or Sunderdunga Glaciers. But despite its unparalleled beauty and rich history, the village still has a hard time coping up with the lack of basic amenities i.e. roads, healthcare, education and electricity.

The Wise Wall Project (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

In the second edition of the Wise Wall Project, an initiative of Project FUEL and FUEL Foundation, we collaborated with the Hans Foundation to collect and paint the life lessons of the villagers of Khati. 

Counting the petals (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

The project aimed at increasing the visibility of the village by transforming it into an art gallery for people all across the world to learn from, while also raising awareness against the various community issues surrounding rural life and seek solutions for the same.

Aipan (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL


The murals of Khati are based on the traditional folk art called ‘Aipan’, that is specifically found in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. 'Aipan' is derivative of a Sanskrit word which means 'to pigment'. It is traditionally made using the colour ‘red ochre’ and rice paste. These motifs are the bearers of good fortune, known to evoke divine power, and they ward off the evil. The art comprises lines, dots, and various geometric and rhythmic patterns. The murals were not just inspired from the life lessons of the villagers but they also touched upon community issues like stigma around menstruation, importance of education, and family planning. The murals were conceptualized by the project’s head artist, Poornima Sukumar.

Marriage Wall (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

The lady living in this house was the first one in Khati to do a love marriage almost 85 years ago. She boasts of the tricks she employed to convince the family for the marriage and fondly remembers her wedding procession.

Phool Dei (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

During our stay in Khati, we witnessed a beautiful festival called ‘Phool Dei’. A significant harvest festival in Uttarakhand, Phool Dei is a reverence paid to the Gods for the good crop year.

Phool Dei (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

It is on this occasion that the little kids decorate the threshold of the houses with freshly picked flowers.

We actually got the village kids to stand against this wall and pose for us.

Ringal, 2018-03/2018-03, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Kalyan Ram ji is an amazing artist from Khati. His unique weaving techniques and captivating patterns will make you go 'wow' each time you see him at work. He primarily uses 'Ringal’ (Dwarf Bamboo) to create baskets, lamps, carpets, holders amongst other things. He is one of the best and last remaining artisans in the region.

Hira Lal's Story, 2018-03/2018-03, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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“My happiest moment in life came when I got a permanent job. I was chosen to be a health worker in Khati. In my small shop I have medicines that people can take before they are taken down the mountain to the hospital. ”
-Hira Lal, 45

Tiger Hunt (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

The popular story about this house is that the great-great grandfather who lived in it killed a tiger with his elbow. He was out in the jungle to graze his cows when a feisty tiger showed up. The grandfather without battling at eyelid fought him. We did not know the authenticity of the story but the way everyone in the family spoke about the incident encouraged us to paint it for them.

Champa’s Rose Garden (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

"When I was young, I had a beautiful rose garden in my parents house. Every time someone visited the village, the relatives would get the person to see 'Champa's rose garden'. When I got married my husband asked what makes you happy and I answered, 'Roses'. He ensured to bring me one from each trek he went for. He passed away a few years ago and yet I see and smell roses when I close my eyes and think of him or my childhood."

Champa’s Rose Garden (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

And to celebrate Champa's story we painted these geometric roses on her house.

The Star Guides of Khati (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

Balwant and Dev were known as the ‘Star Guides’ of Khati. Both taught themselves how to speak fluent English with the trekkers, coming from all around the world to the Pindari Glacier. Their family showed us the heaps of postcards their friends sent them from countries like New Zealand, Australia, U.S.A., amongst others.

In an accident, both brothers passed away when an avalanche hit them. We painted this wall as a tribute to them.

Ayurvedic Doctor (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

“My mother was the first Ayurvedic doctor of Khati. She picked these barks, roots, leaves and herbs and made a concoction to heal severe back and knee pain. Before she passed away, she taught me her secrets.”
-Bhagwan Singh Dhanu, 38

Hema Tailoring Shop (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

Hema was curious, intelligent, and more than anything, open to learning. Recently married, Hema had moved into her in-laws’ house on one condition- they will let her work. She was proficient at stitching and knew how to operate a computer, which led her to open a small tailoring shop in the confines of her house. The advantage of this was twofold- a young girl claiming her independence and sense of identity, while single-handedly solving the village’s problem of the dearth of tailor in the region.

In a gesture honouring her story and determination, we painted a sewing machine on the wall of her house, captioning it ‘Hema Tailoring Shop’.

Bilori Devi’s Story (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

"My parents weren't having any children for a long time. When I was born they were so elated that they offered a silver statue to the goddess in the village temple. It was a huge deal in those days for families to rejoice over the birth of a girl-child. When my husband passed away, I had small kids to look after. My father before dying sanctioned his pension on my name. So I walked 25 kms to the post office in the snow and got myself some money to run my house. I am 81 and of all the things I am starting to forget, I will never forget how generous my parents have been." This story from Bilori Devi inspired this mural.

The Postman of Khati (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

"My father is the Postman of this village. With a humble salary of 165 rupees he raised four children, and gave them basic education and good values. I left Khati for a small job in Surat. It broke my self-confidence and took away my dignity. I returned back to my roots to find respect and love. You might forget home but fortunately home never forgets you.”
-Durga, 30

School Wall (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

The school in Khati is only till class 8th. But a new building is awaiting to be inaugurated which will provide education to students till class 12th. Cheers to more classrooms, more books and more educated minds even in the remote villages of the world.

Revati Devi’s Story, 2018-03/2018-03, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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“My life lesson for the people of Khati is to never stop growing potatoes. It is with this crop that we have survived and prospered for years on. Khati only grew potatoes and beans at one point. And the same would be bartered with other eatables."
– Revati Devi, 75

Master of all trades, 2018-03/2018-03, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Tailor. Carpenter. Mason. Bishan Singh ji has juggled between many professions in last 53 years. When tailoring did not pay well, he assisted the village carpenter and mason to learn the skills. He still stitches happily the clothes for school fancy dress competitions. This wall commemorates his tools across his crafts.

The Swing of Love (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

“My father made a swing for me when I was a child. So every time I went to the forest to graze the cattle, I would swing and sing, carefree."

"I did not get married and was bullied by people. My father told me it was my choice and always respected my opinion. And I still swing in that swing of freedom and love.”
- Rumli Devi, 50

Life in the Mountains (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

Life in the mountains

Khati was awarded the 'Nirmal Puruskaar'  by the President of India in the year 2008. The then Pradhan (village head), Dhani Ram ji travelled all the way to New Delhi to receive it on behalf of the village. For a village this remote, this was such a proud moment that people still can be heard celebrating it when they speak about the felicitation.

Quenching the Thirst (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

Earlier, the villagers would trek down the mountain to fetch water from the river. In the past two years, The Hans Foundation has worked in the area and have laid down water pipelines in the village in an effort to make water accessible.

Heruli Devi's Story, 2018-03/2018-03, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Do you ever look at Fevicol and feel grateful for it? Well, Heruli longs for it all year long. During a village walk she showed us the beautiful Ringal products that she makes. While we were appreciating her talent, she said “This is nothing. I can make almost everything- lamp shades, book holders, so many things, if only I had Fevicol.” Due to the difficult trek, she never asks people to bring it for her. The fear of it spilling along the journey or costing a lot bothers her.

Grooving the Greens, 2018-03/2018-03, From the collection of: Project FUEL
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Primarily, the main crop of Khati is rajma (kidney beans) and potatoes. In recent years, it has expanded to green beans, radishes, cauliflower to name a few.

Stigma around Menstruation (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

Menstrual hygiene is one of world's most important areas of concern. Especially, when one works in a rural community like Khati, you realise how much awareness and sensitisation is needed. Due to conservative ideologies, most women during their cycle have to spend days living in the cowshed instead of their own home.

Written on the wall-
"Neither impure, nor a disease or a cause of fear,
easy and simple is the process of menstruation.
Cleanliness and hygiene are its safe solution."

The Hans Foundation has initiated participative workshops to bring awareness in the community about menstruation. This wall was painted to support the effort.

The Wise Wall Project (2018-03/2018-03)Project FUEL

Khati has now become the second village after Saur, in the recent history to have a documented database of life lessons from an entire community. And as wishful as it gets, the village has now been transformed into a living storybook that tells the tales of Khati, like never before.

Credits: Story

The Wise Wall Project in Khati was in collaboration with The Hans Foundation.

Photo Credits: Jaison James

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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