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Exploring The Himalayas - History, Culture and Society

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Item Code: NAY895
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Author: R.S. Fonia
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788173056116
Pages: 244 (Throughout Color and B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 1.43 kg
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Book Description
About the Book
The Himalayas are not only a conglomeration of series of snow-laden mountain ranges, lush green valleys. beautiful lakes and rivers but also a sacred land of wisdom and learning of ancient Indian art, culture and philosophy Since time immemorial, the Himalayas have been known as the 'Abode of God', The Vedas, the Epics, the Puranas and the Shastras not to mention the later literary works and inscriptions, not only speak about the glory of the Himalayan ranges but also mention the physical features of the region, the inhabitants and their age-old socio-economic and cultural traditions.

Although much work has been done on the geography, geology, tourism and pilgrimage of the Himalayas during the last four decades. very little is known about the archaeology, early history and cultural heritage of the region in the context of socio- economic background.

The main objective of the present work is to understand the socio-economic and cultural aspects of the Himalayas in a historical perspective. The work also aims to identify correctly the races and peoples with their age-old customs, languages and religious ceremonies and also to bring to light the historical records which have so far not been studied thoroughly and methodically.

The objective is also to document and study the development of culture in the context of trade and commerce from earliest to recent times in so far as they are reflected in the archaeological monuments and archival material, as these are being gradually lost due to commercial pursuits, negative impact of tourism and human vandalism. An attempt is also being made here to present as thorough an account as possible of the traditional society of the western Himalayas, which has changed drastically in the recent times.

It is hoped that the present work will generate interest in the readers all over the world to conduct further studies on the Himalayas and also to create awareness about its cultural and ecological preservation.

About the Author
Ramnath Singh Fonia, B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D., was born and brought up in the lap of Himalayas with moorings in the Garhwal. His natal brush with nature inspired him in the course of his academic journey to do his Doctorate in Socio-Economic and Cultural Studies of the Western Himalayas from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Dr. Fonia is a renowned archaeologist well known for his research work in the Himalayas. Through his extensive survey, excavation and field studies he has garnered evidence to reconstruct the various stages in the evolution and development of food producing, nomadic and semi-nomadic trading communities in the Himalayas on the basis of local environment. Being associated with Archaeological Survey of India for last three decades, he availed the opportunity to extensively explore the region. He retired as Additional Director General in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), New Delhi. Prior to this, he served ASI as Director of various sections including World Heritage, National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities, Publication, Exploration & Excavation, Regional Director-North, Director-in-charge, Kedarnath Restoration Project and also as adviser to the authorized person for the excavations at Ayodhaya. Besides, he was also nominated as Member Secretary of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology, National Screening and Evaluation Committee and also of the Expert Committee on Amendment of Antiquity and Art Treasures Act. Dr. Fonia has represented India at several international conferences including South Asian Archaeology Congress in Italy as also at Wisconsin, U.S.A. He also has the distinction of having led the joint collaboration between India and Afghanistan in the field of Archaeology, Archives and Museum. Dr. Fiona’s work on the subject is distinguished by its authenticity and the resonance of the Himalayas seen through the eyes of a scholar and a naturalist.

The Himalayas are not only a conglomeration of series of snow-laden mountain ranges, lush green valleys, beautiful lakes and rivers but also a sacred land of wisdom and learning of ancient Indian art, culture and philosophy. Since time immemorial, the Himalayas have been known as the 'Abode of God'. The Vedas, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Puranas and Shastras not to mention the later literary work and inscriptions which were composed and written here, not only speak about the glory of the Himalayan ranges but also mention the physical features of the region, the inhabitants and their age-old socio-economic and cultural traditions. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna said, "Among the mountains, I am the Himalayas." It is obviously in accordance with the pride and privilege of this concept; the inhabitants of the region still worship these hills, spurs, rivers and trees as Gods and Goddesses and besides, are renowned for their sincerity to protect and preserve the nature and environment of the region. This concept too has prompted, among others, the women of Reni village of Garhwal Himalaya to launch 'Chipko Andolan' with the determination to save their forest and trees against deforestation.

Great poet Kalidas describes the Himalayas in his famous initial sloka in the Kumarasambhava thus:

There is a mountain in the north, ensiled by Divinity, named The Himalayas, the king of all mountains, stretching from east to west; it is located on the earth as a measuring rod.

Swami Vivekananda expounds this sloka as follows:

Important words in the verse are devatatma (divine soul) and manadanda (measuring rod). The poet implies that the Himalayas are not merely a wall, accidentally constructed by nature. It is ensued by divinity and is the protector of India and her civilization, not only from the chill, icy blasts blowing from the Arctic region, but also from the deadly and destructive incursions of invaders. The Himalayas further protect India by sending the great rivers such as the Sindhu (Indus), the Ganga and the Brahmaputra perennially fed by melting snow and irrespective of the monsoon rains. Manadanda implies that the poet affirms that the Indian civilization is the best of all human civilizations and forms the standard by which all other human civilizations, past, present and future must be tested.

Such was his high esteem about the importance of the Himalayas.

For ages, the Himalayas have been the source of inspiration to the people of India that had exercised a spell over sages, saints and yogis, and had drawn the attention of writers and poets.

Adi Shankracharya established the first of his four mathas in the Garhwal Himalaya at [oshimath and took Samadhi at Kedarnath. The famous Sikh Guru Gobind Singh made a reference to Shri Hemkund Sahib, viz. that in one of his previous births, he had meditated on the shore of lake which was surrounded by seven snow-covered peaks. The Buddhist saints from Punjab and Kashmir yogis and scholars from Vikramshila and Nalanda Universities visited Ladakh and selected some caves in the region for meditation. These caves were later selected for building monasteries; this has provided a unique theme, that of living in unity despite diversity conveying a message of peace and tranquility.

Thus, the Hindus and Buddhists have always looked upon the Himalayas for spiritual attainment and established there holy shrines and places of pilgrimage, such as Brahmakamal in Assam, Pashupatinath in Nepal, Amaranth in Kashmir, Vaishno Devi in Jammu, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Hemkund and Jageshwar in Uttarakhand, Jwalaji in Himachal Pradesh, and Mansarovar-Kailash in western Tibet; Buddhist monasteries at Alchi, Hemis, Lamoure, Padam, etc., in Ladakh, Taboo and Lahul-spiti in Himachal Pradesh. These pilgrim centers provided interaction and movement of ideas among various groups of people and also provided peaceful channels of communication between hill people and the people from plains.

The Himalayas are a series of mountain ranges which curve in a great arc for about two thousand five hundred kilometers stretching from Afghanistan in the West to Tibet in the East through West Pakistan, Ladakh, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Nepal. About thirty mountains reach the height of over 7,500 meters above sea level and nineteen large rivers drain the Himalayas including the rivers Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra. It has been a nursery of peace and religion, and has also acted as a centre of meditation for sages, saints and yogis since time immemorial. The entire range is not only replete with marvelous beauty of nature but also preserves the cultural heritage and age-old customs and traditions from the ancient past. Still today it is a land of many a hidden treasures and mysteries, and holds an irresistible fascination for men of all tastes.

Nicholas Roerich, a great artist, philosopher, explorer, poet and archaeologist of recent times, has beautifully described the significance of the Himalayas in his poetic yet blessed verses:

It Himalayas!

Here is the Abode of Rishis.

Here resounded the sacred Flute of Krishna.

Here thundered the Blessed Gautama.

Here originated all Vedas. Here lived Pandavas.

Here - Gessar Khan. Here - Aryavarta.

Here is Shambala.

Himalayas - Jewel of India.

Himalayas - Treasure of the World.

Himalayas - the sacred symbol of Ascent.

Oh, Bharata the beautiful! Let me send Thee my heartfelt The present study is primarily concerned with the borderland area of western Himalaya, which forms the natural boundary between India and Tibet (Map 1). To the south-east it divides the western Tibetan districts of Garo from the Uttarakhand borderland, midway it separates Ladakh region of Rukchu, Zanskar, Purig and Dress from Lahul, Spiti, Kullu, Kistwar and Kashmir and in the west extends towards Chilas and Gigots. The natural subdivision of the western Himalayan range extending from west to east comprises Nubba Valley along the Nubba and the Sheyok river, Ladakh on the Indus, Zanskar on the Zanskar river, Changthang around the lakes of Tsokhaar, Tsomoriri and Lucking or Pangong Lake, Purig, Suru, Sod and Dress along different branches of the Dress River and Kashmir on Jhelum River. Similarly, Lahul-Spiti, Kistwar and partly Jammu lie along the Chandrabhaga (Chenab) River, Kinnaur along the Sutlej, Nilang along the Bhagirathi, Juhar along the Gori, Darma on the eastern Dhauli, Bynas on the Kali, and Niti-Mana valley along the Dhauli and Alaknanda rivers. The valleys of these rivers are the main lines of drainage and along them lay the tracts by which caravan routes from India pass through into Tibet and Central Asia from early times.

Trade and commerce with Tibet had been the backbone of the economy of Himalayan borderland communities since the remote past. Being the people of high mountains, they came close to Tibet on account of trade. As Tibet produced very little food grains and was largely dependent on imports from India, food was the main article carried by nomads from western Himalaya which was exchanged for Tibetan salt, dairy products and wool. This practice has encouraged cultivation of crops, promotion of sheep husbandry and development of culture in the Himalayan region. Indeed it is the watershed between two of the great cultural traditions, i.e. Tibetan in the east and Indian in the west. The trade with Tibet played a vital role not only in preserving its centuries-old customs and traditions but it also gave it continuity and consistency throughout its history. Situated on the approximate geographic location, this region has played a major role in the cultural-historical processes of various epochs. But in spite of such importance, attention of scholars and writers have so far not been sufficiently directed towards the socio- economic study of the region. Besides, the studies on the Himalayas are inadequately represented in the university courses. The school textbooks are also silent on the importance of the various people of the Himalayas who played such a major role in making the history of the Himalayas in the context of Central Asia. The idea of conducting research on the problem stated above came to my mind primarily because of the aforementioned neglect. Secondly, being born and brought up in the Himalayan environment, the thrilling stories of men and memories of trans-border trade with Tibet, the trade agreement letters, seals and indigenous equipments used by them during their trade journey to Tibet for negotiating snow and the slopes and harsh forces of nature such as walking stick with ferrule, yak hair ropes, tents, long bamboo poles and arms and armor inspired me to conduct extensive survey of the entire Himalayan region. With this objective, a preliminary account entitled "Indo-Tibetan trade through Himalayas" was prepared by me in 1982, and later a detailed work on socio-economic and cultural studies of western Himalaya was completed for the award of Doctorate Degree at Jawahar Lal Nehru University.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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