The Himalaya has witnessed numerous intriguing and interesting events ranging from the rich exchange of art, science and culture between civilisations of Europe and Asia to threatening wars and disputes that intimidated India. The rugged terrain and the harsh climatic conditions did not discourage travellers such as Fa Hein and Hiuen Tsang from entering India through the many formidable ‘saddle points’ or cols (passes ) carved through the snowbound Himalayan mountain range.
Alexander, the Great Macedonian Emperor, came to conquer this country through the Khyber Pass in the Himalaya. Trade and commerce flourished between India and the Central Asian Countries. While Atisha, the great Buddhist monk carried the word of Buddha to parts of Tibet and China and to all those places lying on the Silk Route, Adi Sankara moved through the Himalayan Passes establishing the doctrines of our Sanathana Dharma.
The 2,400 km-long and 400 km-wide Himalaya, stretching from the Karakoram in the West to the Namche Barwa in the East, crosses five countries – India, Bhutan, Nepal, China and Pakistan. The Indian Himalayan arc starts at Kashmir and passes through Himachal Pradesh, Kumaon, Garhwal, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. Besides this, there are four parallel zones — the Siwaliks at 3,000ft; Pir Panjal and the Dauladhar ranges whose average height is 10,000ft; the Greater Himalaya with giant peaks rising from 18,000ft to the highest summit of Mt. Everest at 29,028ft; and the Trans-Himalayan Range on the rain shadow slopes that holds the Ladakh, Zanskar and the Eastern Karakoram Ranges with peaks between 18,000ft and 28,150ft (K2). There are Passes that help to cross over from East to West and North to South.
Linking roads and regions
The Zoji La (Pass) is an important road link from Srinagar to Kargil and Leh; while the Chang La connects Ladakh and Tibet with the Pangong lake lying enroute, and the Kardung La in the Ladakh range is over 5,000 metres.
In Himachal Pradesh, the Rohtang Pass links Kullu with the Lahul and Spiti valleys; the Barlacha La connects with Jammu and Kashmir and Shipki La leads to Tibet.
In Uttarakhand, Lipu Lekh that lies in the tri-junction of India, China and Nepal Borders, is used by pilgrims heading to Mt. Kailash-Manasarovar; Mana and Niti Passes connect with Tibet.
In Sikkim, the Nathu La, an offshoot of the ancient Silk Route connects with Tibet. The Yonggyap Pass connects Arunachal Pradesh with Tibet.
The mighty Karakoram Pass (18,900ft) known as the skeleton trail, at India’s northern most borderline, passes through Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO- where the faceoff between China and India took place) to Kashgar.
As the Passes are considered to be divine repositories for the Gods and Goddesses, in the Trans-Himalaya, a traveller offers colourful prayer flags shouting the chant ‘Kiki SoSo Lahar Ghyalo’ (Victory to the Gods) and scatters grains in all directions. In Uttarakhand, stones are offered and incense sticks are lit.
The writers are ace photgraphers known for their travelogues
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