Welcome to the abode of snow, Himalayas, where high
mountains rising into the sky are separated by beautiful valleys through
natural and man made passes. The land of Himalayas through which many a
travel story talks of traditions and beliefs, where travelers that have
spanned the mountains, valleys and pastures, pause to tell their tale. The
Himalayas, the abode of sages, the seat of adventure, the cradle of
mythology greets you and wishes you a journey full of variety and
excitement that the Himalayas can offer.
In a memorable verse of the 'Kumarsambhava', the famous Sanskrit poet Kalidasa compares the Himalaya to a gigantic measuring rod striding the earth between two oceans. The snow-capped peaks are indeed the most impressive feature. Himalaya, a Sankrit word, which means ' The Abode Of Snow' and all other names used to describe this mountain range associate it with eternal snow - "Himvan", "Himvat", "Himachal" and "Himadri".
Interestingly, a vast shallow sea, the Tethys, existed where the Himalaya stands today. The submerged landmasses on either side started pushing towards each other, giving birth to these mountains. This was a relatively recent occurrence in the geographical time frame, so the Himalaya is considered a young and fragile land formation.
Scientists speculate that the whole process took five to seven million years. Fossil finds at heights of over 8,000 metres (26,000 feet) support these theories. The Himalaya has risen about 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) in the past 20,000 years and continues to rise at the rate of 7.5 to 10 centimetres (3-4 inches) a year.
World's Mightiest Mountain Range
No other chain can boast of peaks of 8,000 metres (26,000 feet). In the Himalaya there are 14 such peaks and hundreds of summits over 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) high. The range of mountains stretches 2,700-kms (1,700 miles) across an area between Assam and Kashmir. In the east, Namche Barwa stands sentinel; the western extremity is guarded by the awesome Nanga Parbat.
The Source of Rivers
The Himalaya is the source of many great rivers of the Indian subcontinent. The Indus or Sindhu (the river rising out of a lion's mouth) rises in the trans-Himalayan Tibetan Plateau, as does the Brahmaputra. The Ganga and Yamuna, with their countless colourful Himalayan tributaries, are inextricably intertwined with local myths and legends.
Bulwark of Indian Security
For centuries, the Himalaya acted as the bulwark of Indian security, serving as the great divide between India and Tibet. The rugged terrain deterred all but the most dauntless from risking their lives on perilous journeys in the icy heights. But, difficult though many of the passes and valleys were, they did not prevent a slow penetration by determined and hardy souls for the purposes of trade and pilgrimage. It must be remembered that the Himalayan region has also served through history as a melting pot of races, religions and cultures.
The vast Himalaya is far from being a homogenous region. It is, in fact, a region of remarkable variety. 'Himachal' (steadfast snows), is the term used to denote the lesser Himalaya; the outer rim rises sharply from the foothills, which are called the 'Doars', from the Sanskrit 'Dvar' (gateway). The greater Himalayas themselves are referred to as the 'Himadri'. ' Uttarakhand' is a loose, general term covering all the northern territories; it also denotes Kumaon and Garhwal as a unit.