B.R.P. BHASKAR

TAPOBHOOMI UTHARAKHAND: M. K. Ramachandran; Current Books, Round West, Thrissur-680001. Rs. 150.IN THIS book the author, M. K. Ramachandran, who claims to have visited all the major temples of India and most places along the Himalayas, provides a fascinating account of his travels in the Garhwal region. Not satisfied with the experience of conducted tours to holy spots like Badrinath and Kedarnath, he later travelled alone in the Himalayas, absorbing the sights and sounds of the mountains and the rich legends that surround them. The author dwells not only on the majesty of the mountains but also on mundane matters like the flora and fauna. Often he reinforces his observations with lines from Kalidasa's classics.While recounting legends, he sometimes appears to impart to them the character of history. Also, some of his observations on current events and terminology are such that can cause many eyebrows to arch. For instance, he contends that the Chinese troops, who occupied large parts of Ladakh, pulled back unilaterally from the Garhwal region because of the spiritual power of the saints living there. Interpreting a well-known story, he writes of Vyasa telepathically e-mailing the Mahabharata verses, numbering more than 100,000, to Lord Ganesa. The intense feeling with which the author depicts the glory of the Himalayas and its place in our cultural history raises the book way above the level of a mere travelogue. Reading it is almost like going on a pilgrimage.