Running for 2,400 kilometres, The Himalayas cover six nations. It is home to the highest peaks, and freshwater lakes. The rivers flowing from the Himalayas gave rise to civilizations thousands of years ago.
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The span of the great Himalayan Range is too big to grasp but the mountains are quite young in terms of earth’s geological history. In fact it is still growing – by 5 mm every year.
How geology experts describe the formation of the Himalayas is quite interesting. If we look at history, about 60 million years ago there was no Himalayan Range or even the subcontinents of India or Australia. Where we have India now was just blank and so called landmass of Asia ended with the land of what we today know as China.
Somewhere in the ocean waters down below the landmass of Asia which was called the Tethys Sea, something was moving. There was a movement in the tectonic plate and a landmass called the Indo-Australian Plate was budging northwards at a speed of 15 cm every year. This plate broke into two pieces – the Indian and the Australian.
The Indian plate was lined by volcanoes on its edges and had a density that was comparatively ‘soft’. So when the Indian plate met the landmass of Asia, the terrain of the Indian plate bent and folded and formed what we call today as the Himalayas.
When explorers first found marine fossils in the Himalayas it puzzled them. Now scientists know the reason. The landmass travelled across the ocean to form the mountains, and preserves its million year old history as fossils.
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Interestingly even after so many years this push of the Indian plate continues. It is thrusting parallel to the Tibetian plateau due to which the Himalayas are still rising and growing. Another strange thing is that the Indian plate is still moving into Asia at the rate of 67 mm every year. It is pushing its way into Asia. Experts speculate that the Indian plate would have penetrated 1500 kilometres into Asia within the next 10 million years.
Due to the active movement of the Indian plate, the region is prone to earthquakes. The push of the plate against the Asian continent keeps it in seismic disturbance.
There is a lot of ice in the Himalayas. It comes third in terms of water capacity after Antarctica and Arctic. There are more than 15,000 glaciers in this mountain range. This gives rise of rivers which quench the thirst of billions of people. These waters are also responsible for agriculture, forests and basically all life in a huge part of Mother Earth.
There are thousands of freshwater lakes dotted in the Himalayas. The most famous is the Mansarovar Lake which is considered the most scared lake on the planet. Near to it is the venerated Mount Kailash, which is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Some other well known lakes are the Rakshastal, Gurudongmar, Pangong Tso, Tilicho and the Gokyo Lakes.
These lakes make a beautiful photography spot. Resplendent in its purity its blue waters are a sight to behold. Untouched nature, azure blue skies and the dazzling sun make Himalayas like no other place on earth.
The Himalayan Range gives both beauty and thrill. Home to the highest peaks in the world, it is favourite of the mountaineers. There are hundreds of routes for the trekkers. Out of the top fifteen highest peaks in the world, nine can be found in the Himalayas. The highest peak in the world, Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) sits tall at 8,848 metres and is still rising. Second in height are the difficult K2 and then the amazing Kanchenjunga.
The Himalayan Range is so huge that spans across six countries -India, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet. The mountains have different forms – dry arid to spotlessly snow covered. At some places it is green with live whereas in others grass and shrubs cover the mountain sides.
The north side of the Himalayas is like a cold desert – dry, cold and harsh. In fact these mountains protect the land of India from the frozen, dry winds blowing from the north. It is because of it that the Indian subcontinent enjoys a warmer climate.
Himalayas is blessed with a unique rich flora and fauna. On these slopes reside distinctive species. The rare Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, takin and the serow are kinds of herbivores you will not find anywhere else. Then there is the Himalayan musk deer, which is prized for its musk perfume. These mountains also give shelter to the Brown Bear and the Moon Bear – two remarkably beautiful species.
One of the most popular residents of the Himalayas is the Red panda. A shy animal but a sight of it in the wild is worth a lifetime. The trees are also home to the striking Golden langur and the Gray langur. The ace predators of the Himalayas are the Clouded Leopard and the Snow Leopard – and both are truly beautiful creatures.
The Himalayas are considered holy by many religions. For the Hindus, the Himalayas are a living entity. They consider it as the father of Goddess Parvati and the King of all the mountains. Its sanctity has been mentioned in texts which are thousands of years old. Most of all, people go to the Himalayas to lead a spiritual life. Hundreds of ascetics can be found meditating in the snow capped peaks and slopes of the Himalayan Range. Even at minus temperatures and against cold harsh winds, they could be seen in a lotus position wearing only a loincloth.
The Himalayas are also home to many pilgrimage destinations, the most famous being Mount Kailash. Amarnath, Badrinath, Kedarnath and numerous Buddhist monasteries are situated in the Himalayas.
The Himalayas are also known to be the home to a mysterious creature known as the Yeti. Spotted by quite a few yet it remains as a controversial animal. People cannot say for sure if the creature truly exists or has it been mistaken with the Himalayan bears.
Another mystery that is associated with the snow capped mountain is the city of Shamballa. This city has been mentioned in various texts and by travelers through the ages. This city is supposedly hidden from the rest of the world and the people who live there are pure and immortal. However since no proof of such city has ever been found, it is considered as a myth.
The Himalayas are said to be the cause for two deserts to form – the Gobi and the Taklamakan. Both of these are in Central Asia, northern of the Himalayas.
The Himalayan terrain is difficult to reach as the altitudes get higher. Population becomes sparse except for the tribes who have lived there since generations. This also makes the Himalayas one of the least accessible and least explored places on the planet. In fact, after Antarctica it is the Himalayan Range that is most untouched by humans.
The Himalayas is also home to hundreds of varieties of orchids, rhododendrons and medicinal plants. The valleys of the mountain are adorned with unique flowers and fruits. In Ayurveda, the Himalayan range is considered as the paradise for medicinal plants.
Some of the best tourism and vacation destinations are in the Himalayas. Abundant in natural beauty, flora, fauna and purity of the environment – these mountains make the perfect holiday. You can extreme adventure like mountaineering and white water rafting.
It is photographer’s paradise and a birdwatcher’s heaven. For the idlers, you can spend all day simply watching the beauty around you. There is something for everyone in the Himalayas.
Get up and pack your bags right away.
Here is an amazing video footage of the Himalayas from its foothills to the snow laden peaks.