Beas · Free flowing rivers · Himachal Pradesh

In Photos: Gharats of Tirthan: For the tastiest Parathas

In the Tirthan Valley of Himachal Pradesh, as we crisscrossed tiny wheat fields moist with dew and apple orchards laden with white blossoms, a rhythm accompanied the steps: a constant ghrr-ghrr-ghrr. It came from small slate shelters with sloping roofs, which looked like tiny shrines. Sometimes, the shelters were made directly over a stream, but many times they were on the banks, with a channel diverting some water to them.

These were the Gharats: water-mills running on the kinetic energy of flowing water and milling fresh, cool flour.

Throughout Tirthan Valley, Gharats dot the streams at several locations. Raju Bhartiji says that Tirthan had many more Gharats in the past, but the floods of 1995 washed many of them away and most remaining fell into disrepair. Even so, as compared to other parts of Himachal, Tirthan valley is fortunate. Hydropower dams, including mini hydro projects, with their headrace and tailrace tunnels, flow diversions and blasting have destroyed thousands of Gharats in Himachal and Uttarakhand. These water mills are special not only because they are decentralized and appropriate technology structures. They are a part of the heritage of the land: almost all of the materials for building one come from the surroundings and the masons who build them are artists.

We witnessed a channel diverting water from a stream to a Gharat and the outflow then irrigating a small patch of vegetables before meeting the river again! Beautiful use of flowing water and returning it to the stream with respect. Let us hope that the streams and rivers remain healthy and Gharats continue to chime in the Himalayas.

Like Dilbari Devi from Jibhi says, “Gharat-fresh flour makes the tastiest Parathas!”

A brief snapshot of the Gharats we encountered enroute to different places follows below.

~Abhay Kanvinde

Gharat off Jibhi Stream Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Functioning of the Jibhi Gharat Video: Abhay Kanvinde
Channel diverting water from the river to the Gharat Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Video showing the details of diversion channel and irrigation enroute Video: Abhay Kanvide
Tiny makeshift dam diverting a part of flow for the Gharat. Kids fish here during the day Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Chaman Thakur ji is the owner of the Gharat above. He also runs a river lodge. He uses the water from Gharat for his field before it joins the river Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Gharat Channel used for small scale irrigation Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Channel of Gharat, with water flowing down from the Chhoi Waterfall, Nagini Village, Tirthan Valley. Channel used to divert water for small household uses, two Gharats and then joins Tirthan Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Gharat at Nagini village
Gharat At Nagini Village Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Overshadowed Gharat At Nagini Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Shalini Devi showing the channel for Gharat near Tindar, Jibhi Valley Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Water is not allowed to get into the Gharat when it is not in use. Tindar, Jibhi Valley Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Gharat on the banks of Jibhi Khad Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Wooden turbine of the Gharat at Jibhi Khad Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Gharat at Tindar
Channel like a penstock taking water to the Gharat from a height
Fresh-milled Flour! Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Water being diverted from Jibhi Khad Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Gharat near Aut. It also doubles up as a chicken coop during hot afternoons Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Several Gharats are in disrepair and abandoned. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Channel of an abandoned Gharat Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Gharat on the banks of Jibhi Khad once produced electricity to light up a nearby hospital. It is currently undergoing repairs. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Inside the Gharat on the banks of Jibhi Khad. It is currently undergoing repairs. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Part of the retrofitted turbine. This is currently undergoing repairs Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Awaiting repairs to mill flour and light up homes
Although abandoned, there is a small shrine at this Gharat and a lamp is lighted here daily Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

All Photos, videos: Abhay Kanvinde for SANDRP (

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