Himalayan Encyclopedia

For thousands of years the Himalayas have held a profound significance for the people all over the world from every walk of life. The Himalayas is said to have an exotic allure that is mesmerizing, magical and mystical.

Bordering the Northern border of the Indian subcontinent almost like an impassable barrier between it and the land North the Himalayan range stretches uninterruptedly for about 1550 miles (2600 kms), starting from the Brahmaputra River in the East till the Indus River in the Northwest. The range has more than 200 mountains exceeding 7200 metres in elevation as well as lesser peaks running through countries like Nepal, Tibet, India, Bhutan and Pakistan. The Himalayas take pride in hosting as many as nine peaks out of fourteen highest mountains in the world. Some of the well-known Himalayan peaks like Mt. Everest (8848m/29035ft) lies on the Nepal-Tibet border, K2 or Mt. Godwin Austen (8611m/28251ft) on the China-Jammu and Kashmir border, Mt. Kanchenjunga (8598m/28209ft) on the Nepal-India border, Mt. Makalu (8481m/27824ft) on the Nepal-Tibet border, Mt. Dhaulagiri (8172m/26811ft) and Annapurna I (8091m/26545ft) in Nepal, Nanga Parbat (8125m/26657ft) in the Pakistan territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Nanda Devi (7817m/25645ft) in India.

Since ancient times the vast glaciated heights have attracted the spirited souls from India for pilgrimage and also travelers to enjoy the diverse geographical, historical, natural and cultural endowments that the Himalayas offers. Thus making the Himalayas one of the most fascinating and sought after travel destinations. The Indian mountain pilgrims who have traversed these majestic mountains meditating since time immemorial coined the Sanskrit name Himalaya from hima “Snow” and alaya “abode” for this great mountain system. The mighty Himalaya is also sacrosanct for people of many religious beliefs as they consider it to be the abode of the gods, with many of the peaks even considered as divine manifestations.

The Himalayas have contributed immensely as one of the tourist attractions which are home to many species of animals and plants. The Himalayan vegetation has been classified into four types- tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and alpine. Each zone is determined by the elevation and precipitation. There is the tropical evergreen forest confined to the humid foothills of the eastern and central Himalayas.  The evergreen dipterocarps- a group of timber and resin producing trees grow on different soils and on hill slopes of varying steepness, bamboos grow on steep slopes; oaks and chestnuts can be found at elevation from 3600 feet to 5700 feet (300 metres to 720 metres). Alder trees can be found along the water courses on the steeper slopes.  At higher altitude then comes the mountain forest where you can find trees like fir, pine and juniper. Common animals that can be found and seen in the different parts of the Himalayas are snow leopard, blue sheep, musk deer, tigers, elephants, wild boars, rhinos and crocodiles. Even endangered species of plants and animals can be found in the Himalayas. Even though there are animals that migrate to the lower regions of the Himalayas during the winter season, but animals like the Yak and Nyan can be seen well adapting to the cold climate of the north.

The inhabitants of the Himalayas are also varied; four different ethnic groups form the Himalayan population-the Indo-European, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic and Dravidian- the first two are well presented in the Himalayas. Their settlement in the Himalayas has been influenced by the topography, economic pattern and the climatic condition. Their distribution is the result of the long history of penetrations by Central Asian and Iranian people from the west, Indian people from the South, and Asian from the east and north. In Nepal which constitutes the middle third of Himalayas, these groups overlapped and intermingled. Thus the Himalayas are in rich culture and also tradition which can be an experience for travelers to see and experience it.