Himalayas form one of the longest chain of mountains in the world which runs all along the border of Northern India — right from Jammu and Kashmir in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East. Not to forget its dominance in Nepal, Bhutan and China’s Tibetan autonomous region as well. That the Himalayas get described as “Great” is not a bit of exaggeration — lush green hills, snow-capped peaks, gurgling rivers, energetic streams, chilly winds, snowy passes, religious sites, beautiful monasteries reflecting unique Buddhist architecture, diverse wildlife, colourful flowers and rare orchids bring out the best of the mountains.
Though I reside in Kolkata, I feel a strong bonding with the Himalayas right from my childhood. I was just three and half years old (in mid-2008) when I had taken my first glimpse at the “Great Himalayas”. Though it was primarily a trip to Dooars in North Bengal, we had also ventured to the Himalayas of neighbouring Darjeeling district bordering Bhutan. It was followed by successive trips to the Himalayas — Darjeeling Hills (2009), Bhutan (2013), Nepal (2015) and Arunachal Pradesh — the enchanting North-Eastern state from where I have returned just two months ago.
Since I was a kid during our visits to Darjeeling Himalayas, I cannot recall all the experiences of those places; still I possess memories of the Bindu barrage over Jaldhaka river (right on the Indo-Bhutan border) and our stroll on the Bhutan soil, Cactus Garden at Kalimpong, tiny hamlet of Rishop and the monastery at Lava surrounded by gallant mountain ridges on all sides.
But I vividly remember my visits to the Himalayas from the trip of Bhutan.
Bhutan — a small country, lying on the north of India, is worth praising for its natural beauties. All the fundamental features and characteristics of the Himalayas, which I have stated earlier, are omnipresent in Bhutan. The country is dotted with numerous monasteries, Dzongs and Chortens. Every building in the country symbolises traditional Bhutanese architecture. The country has presented an unique philosophy to the world called ‘Gross National Happiness’ which aspires to bring a smile on the faces of every Bhutanese citizen and make the country green through the promotion of health, education, ecology etc. And this feel-good factor in the environment renders a positive effect among the tourists as well making their trip to Bhutan memorable. This concept of ‘Live and Let Live’ should be well appreciated by other countries to make the world a peaceful and tolerant one.
In Nepal, a Hindu-dominated country, we can see abundance of temples including the holy Pashupatinath shrine at Kathmandu. Kathmandu is a special city because of its mixture of ancient and modern elements thanks to the coexistence of centuries-old temples and Durbar Square (the UNESCO World Heritage site, parts of which had got destroyed by the devastating earthquake just a month after our visit) on one side and glittering shopping malls and glamorous hotels on the other. The city is dotted with Buddhist sites as well like the Boudhanath Stupa on the valley and Swayambhunath perched high on a hill-top. Not to forget Pokhara whose beauty centres around the large lake, with adventure-filled Mahendra Caves and the gallant Davies Falls being the other major attractions.
The trip to Arunachal Pradesh is the freshest among all of my Himalayan trips till date. I can still breathe the fresh scent of the mountains and that chilly weather of Tawang, that miraculous scene of the Kameng River flowing through the town of Dirang from the balcony of Hotel Pemaling. The memory of our “adventure” through the rough terrain, rendered slippery due to incessant rains, while on our journey towards the Bum La Pass and the Indo-China border still make me shudder in delight!
Yes, in my eyes, Himalaya is paradise — right from the towns/cities of Phuentsholing, Thimphu, Paro, Pokhara, Kathmandu, Kalimpong, Dirang, Tawang; monasteries/Dzongs at Punakha, Bomdilla and Tawang; lakes at Pokhara (Phewa) and Arunachal Pradesh (PTTso); high mountainous Pass, be it Sela (Arunachal Pradesh) or Chelela (Bhutan); the enchanting rivers Teesta, Wang Chu, Paro Chu, Trishuli, Kameng to the grazing of independent Yak or Takin on the hills and lastly (but not the least) the good gentle dignified behaviour of the Great residents of the Great Himalayas.
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