The lofty, majestic, ice-capped Himalayas continue to inspire seekers of knowledge and natural beauty into documenting its various attributes

Aptly named Himalaya, meaning “abode of snow”, this majestic mountain range is akin to the crown of India with the world’s top 10 highest peaks. Towering more than five miles above sea level, the snow-capped mountains form a massive border between the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia. In fact, the Himalayan abode has 14 peaks more than 8,000 meters high and some 200 peaks more than 6,000 meters. They have for centuries inspired sadhus to soothsayers, painters to photographers, botanists to zoologists; all have walked the mountains for inner salvation. Some have even conquered them by trekking, climbing and risking their lives to understand the mighty Himalayas.

Reams of documents have been written, rewritten and compiled with comprehensive and complex maps about the Himalayas. Innumerable drawings, paintings, photographs have been doodled, captured and composed to study the altitudes, crevices, elevations and contours of the mountains. Yet there is ample scope for the intrepid explorers to add to the already gathered mountains of information.

Two such tomes have been released recently containing fascinating facts and figures and some never-seen-before photographs. The first is titled Nicholas Roerich / Ashok Dilwali: Inspired By The Himalayas by Ashok Dilwali with 174 pages. The second is Himalaya: Mountains Of Life which is a voluminous 308 pages by ARTEE (Ashoka Trust for Research in Education and the Environment). Both publications are hardbound coffee table books.

Ace lens man Ashok Dilwali is modest and known world over for his spectacular mountain landscape shots taken diligently for over 40 years by crisscrossing the Himalayas. His photographs recapture the magic and majesty of Roerich’s genius. A prominent painter of Russian origin, Roerich fell in love with the Himalayas and refused to go back home. For nearly 25 years, he marvelled at the mountains and it got reflected on his colourful canvas. He passed away in 1947 in India leaving a rich legacy.

Roerich’s masterpieces triggered Mr. Diwali’s lifelong passion to capture the beauty of the mountains and he went about shooting in Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Tibet.

Mr. Dilwali says, “Mountains have a life of their own; they are not just white and bright but are extremely colourful creatures if one has the inclination.” He goes on to explain, “A photograph in any form conveys only five per cent of the beauty. I say so for two reasons. In the first place, a thing of three dimensions is reduced to two, the whole charm is gone. Secondly, what you experienced while taking a photograph is the ‘real charm’. Can that ‘charm’ be attached in the photograph? It is a feeling of utter happiness, an inner thing. How can you explain the happiness at a beautiful composition springing up suddenly? A viewer can only see a photograph but never ever be a part of it fully. Only and only a photographer knows the thrill of the moment.”

The research and writing of Himalaya: Mountains Of Life was funded by ATREE and according to the authors, “the Himalaya — land of gods, of ancient mountain kingdoms, of icy peaks and alpine meadows — is like no other on earth”.

“The life and landscapes of the region are as diverse, spectacular and fragile as the mountains themselves,” says Bawa, who has been working in the Himalayas for nearly five decades.  “Even today, these mountains hold many mysteries: undiscovered species, primeval cultures and the promise of magical cures,” adds Sandesh Kadur, who handles still and video shooting with ease.

“The Himalayan mountain system extends some 2,500 km from east to west and covers about 595,000 sq km. The range acts as a climatic divide with a massive storehouse of snow and glaciers that are a source of 19 major rivers, including the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. For thousands of years, the Himalayas have had a profound impact on Indian culture and agriculture. But today it is the prerogative of the scientists to document the myriad mysteries of the mountains and understand its biodiversity for the benefit of mankind,” says Professor P.S. Ramakrishnan, School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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