Title : Wandering Through The Garhwal Himalayas

AUTHOR : Ganesh Saili

PP : 245

PRICE : ₹750

Publisher : Niyogi Books

Ganesh Saili’s writing is like a flowing river, at times turbulent, at times serene, at times it serenades people, at other times it sings hymns to Nature. This book can simply be called an awesome description of the beginning of the mighty Himalaya range, stretching from west to east in the north of India, a definite separator that makes the subcontinent ‘different’ from the rest of the Great Asian land mass.
The Garhwals have recently been opened to tourism, its beauty slightly remote from the masses but always drawing the ascetic and the adventurers. They have always been much more than lumps of rocks and ice; more than sleet, snow, rain and wind, more than beautiful and cruel; more than torrential and tranquil; more than just everything one has ever known; it is a land that inspires and challenges, entices and halts when one feels one has achieved the higher order of understanding, a place for enlightenment. That is what the sages of India did throughout the ages, escape to the Garhwals.
The book notes not only the mountaineer Mallory’s mysterious death that has become a famous Jeffery Archer book, it also remembers the heroic efforts of D K Sharma, a liaison officer for a Japanese team of climbers and the travellers from the past like Antonio de Andrade, a Jesuit monk who was the first European to entre Garhwal; it tells us about the early geographers and map-makers like Nain Singh, Kishen Singh and Kintup, who hid compasses in specially-made walking sticks, painters like Daniels, Thomas and William, travel writers like Rahul Sankrityayan and Govind Singh Chatak and many others. Of course, with pretty pictures, the book sketches nature’s magnificence in this part of the world.
The best part of this book are the evocations through other people’s words that bring alive another Garhwal, an interactive landscape. It tells us of memoires and diaries of people like the warrior, Madho Singh Bhandari, of Thakur Subir Singh’s library of Prakrit texts, about Pahari Wilson, a forest plunderer, Jim Corbett, the conservator, the District magistrates and British India’s officials who made stellar contributions in recording the flora and fauna of Garhwal, protected its lakes and mountains, lent their names to institutions. It also notes the contributions of the brave sons of Garhwal, the Victoria Cross winners, the British Orders of Honour winners from WWI, and the rebels of WWII like Chander Singh Garhwali. All their stories have been knit into the story of Garhwal by an extraordinarily skilled narrator.
There are many secrets the Garhwal holds, of which Saili gives us just enough of a hint, for the traveller to uncover, explore and enjoy, it is that kind of a book.
Now called Uttarakhand,the region is the custodian of major pilgrimage destinations in ecologically fragile zones. Excessive pilgrimages, tourism, ham-handed planning, over exploitation and commercialisation can at one blow kill nature and the pilgrimage and tourism, destroy Garhwal. In the ultimate analysis, says Saili, Nature always triumphs over puny machinations of men. ‘We never grow tired of each other, the mountain and I’, said the Chinese poet Li Tao Po. There is also Kalidasa and Elliot. All of them make up this book.

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