The legendary Himalayas and the rivers originating from them have been an irresistible attraction for travellers from within India and abroad since ancient times. There are innumerable books recording the serenity and the ethereal beauty of this hallowed mountain range — for instance German philosopher Hermann Keyserling's The Travel diary of a Philosopher and Tapovana Swami's Himagiri Viharam (Malayalam). This book is a Tamil translation of another notable book in this genre, which transfuses the ennobling experience of the onlooker into the veins of the reader.

What set this book apart from the rest are: the delightful and detailed description of the mythological and historical background; the wealth of geographical information; the interesting stories drawn from the folklore linking the past and the present; and the author's personal accounts of his interaction with the common folk in the places he visited. It is to the author's credit that he has not allowed his devotional faith to stand in the way of highlighting the large-scale pollution and dumping of wastes taking place there, the severe damage caused to the eco-system as a consequence, and the harmful effects of globalisation. The tour, starting from Delhi, takes Veerendra Kumar and his team to holy places such as Rishikesh, Haridwar, Gangothri, Yamunothri, Kedarnath and Badrinath before terminating at Gandhiji's Anasakti Ashram in Kausani. While speaking about Karna Prayag, the author strikes the emotional chord by the way he narrates the story of Karna (of the Mahabharata).

While at the bathing ghat Har-Ki-Pauri at Haridwar, he recalls the story of Bhartruhari, elder brother of King Vikramaditya (6th century). Bhartruhari's famous works, Neeti Satakam, Srungara Satakam, and Vairagya Satakam are discussed in detail and with philosophical insight. Another brother, Vararuchi's marriage with a downtrodden girl, Panchami near the shores of river Nila (Bharata puzha) in Kerala is narrated interestingly, with a judicious mix of information about the archaeological sites linked to it. Similarly, Kangal, a place of mythological significance linked to the dance of Lord Siva, prompts the author to speak about Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu) and the famous Siddha poet Tirumoolar and his classic work, Tirumandiram. Also, Agastyamuni near Thilvara, on the way to Kedarnath, inspires him to describe the Agastyakoodam hills in Kerala and Agastheeswaram Taluk in Tamil Nadu as well as the sage's mythological role in the origin of Tamil language. as the primogenitor of Tamil language.

Cultural harmony

The book has artistically interwoven the historical heritage and the mythological background, and translator Sirpi's poetic diction, while managing to retain the flavour of the original in Malayalam, makes for a pleasant reading experience. In a way, it should contribute to India's national integration and cultural harmony, as its very title Vellipanimalayin meedhu — taken from the renowned Tamil poet-patriot Subramania Bharati's Bharata Desam — eloquently testifies.

VELLI PANIMALAIYIN MEEDHU (Tamil): Translation of M. P. Veerendrakumar's ‘Haimavathabhuvil' by Sirpi Balasubramaniam; Kavitha Publications, P.B.No; 6123, 8, Masilamani Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 600.

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