The Chunere tribe of Uttarakhand work on the gharats, the traditional watermills, on a small patch of land in the middle of the river Kosi flowing through Garjia village, crafting wooden utensils called Theki.
The water diverted from the river through a stone embankment extends towards the watermill through a wooden chute. A wedge inserted to the end of the chute directs the water to the turbine runner producing energy, enabling it to move. It is here that the master craftsman of the Chunere tribe carves and shapes the moving log with his instruments, the helpers do the finishing.
This watermill is a centuries old part of hill culture, serving local needs, mainly for grinding maize, wheat and rice.
Here the Chunere tribal’s craft utility items for the villagers. Every year in December, a handful of craftsmen arrive from Bageshwar, a holy town in the Kumaon Himalayas, and live and work by the river till March. The only community to get a permit to cut trees in the forest, they procure sandhan wood to make vessels used by the locals as the wood has medicinal qualities. Locally known as Theki and weighing two-three kgs each, they craft pots for pickles, for storing milk products including curd as it doesn’t sour in these pots, flower vases and local musical instruments like the Hurka. The items are sold in the nearby villages of Tehri, Uttarkashi, Almora, Nainital and Pithoragarh.
As their agricultural yield is not enough to sustain them for the entire year the Chunere group live and work, away from their families for these months to make ends meet by crafting and selling these wooden vessels. They take loans to pay the forest department for cutting trees and buying rations.