While we are all under lockdown, some miracles are still happening and remain untouched by the current situation. The Rhododendrons are blooming in the Himalayas and this year no one will witness this artistry of nature, except the fortunate ones who live high up in the mountains. These bright red bell-shaped beauties, locally known as burans, grow on small evergreen trees between March and May. There are around 80 species and 10 subspecies of the tree in the Himalayas. It is the state flower of Himachal Pradesh, the national flower of Nepal and the tree is the state tree of Uttarakhand and Sikkim as rhododendrons have a deep-rooted local cultural significance. The landscape in these mountains turns bright red as the flowers blossom in the valleys.
The social, economic, and religious aspect of these flowers makes them an elemental part of Himalayan village life and a prized commodity for the locals as the rhododendrons have many assorted benefits. For instance, wine (Sur) made from the flower, apart from being a great drink, prevents altitude sickness. Further, these flowers are used to treat various ailments, including diarrhea, headache and inflammation, as well as bacterial and fungal infections. They are also intertwined with the religious aspect of life. Local community members use the flowers as sacred offerings to adorn their deities in temples and monasteries.
You can experience the magic of Rhododendrons while you take a short hike or visit a local village home. Community members will welcome you with freshly squeezed Rhododendron juice. In addition to juice, they use the flower to make jam, jelly, chutney, tea and local wines. You can try and buy these products in most Himalayan villages.
A must-try experience in Kangra valley is Rhododendron tea. You can learn to make this special tea from a local and enjoy a cup in the serene vistas of the valley under the shade of a Rhododendron tree.