Kinnaur Kailas

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A view from the winding mountain road, of the deep Sutluj River gorge, past Shimla and Rampur in eastern Himachal Pradesh.

Sutluj River (-luj pronounced in HP as looj) is revered as the daughter of Shiva, coursing her way from the fabled land of Kailas-Mansarovar on the Tibet plateau, entering India in HP, and coursing her way past Ropar in the plains of Punjab, on her way to merging with the Indus in Pakistan. A strange trajectory, considering that both the rivers have their origins in the same place, along with Brahmaputra, Karnali, and the subterranean flow of Saraswati – which emerges in a torrent at Mana village above Badrinath, to merge with Alakananda River a few hundred metres further down. Earlier, Sutluj was thought to merge in the Saraswati, flowing into the Gulf of Khambat. Tectonic shifts are said to have caused the Sutluj to take a sharp right turn at Ropar, to flow into the Indus instead, eventually resulting in the drying out of the majestic Saraswati eulogised in Vedic literature.

Campsite in the little village of Kafnu, by the beautiful lake over the Bhaba Dam. The lights over the lake lend a magical glow to the dreamy landscape in the chill of the night, viewed from the tent before falling asleep. In the middle of the night, the accompanying pack of mountain strays howled in unison to wake up the intrepid porters, to perhaps drive away a prowling leopard. The Pin Valley trek to Spiti begins at this point.

The first imposing view of the Kinnaur Kailas range, mystical, magical and enchanting.

A view of the Hindu-Buddhist district town of Reckong Peo, educational, trading and tourist centre, as well as government headquarters. There’s many treks from here to all over the region in Greater Himalayas, including to the Nandadevi area of Badrinath in Uttarakhand State.It is situated at a height of 9055 feet. You see the Mall.

Scenic parking lot for private vehicles, in Reckong Peo.

Could a dashboard view be more beautiful, seen from a parked car?

Kalpa, a verdant tourist centre above Reckong Peo, nestled closer in the lap of the Greater Himalayas.

Ohh Kalpa…. This used to be the chief mandal town, before Reckong Peo was designated as the new district headquarters.

The most amazing Kinnaur Kailas range, a shinning vision unfolding before our awestruck eyes as the Sun rose high in the skies!

Another part of Kalpa, literally in the lap of the great mountains. Blissful vision from the open air patio of a hotel.

A brilliant happiness over the Kinnaur Kailas range in Kalpa!

This is from a postcard of Shikhar Shivling, a place of pilgrimage at the top of Kinnaur Kailas. Only intrepid young trekkers/mountaineers can attain that great height involving parts of sheer vertical ascent, often in the midst of light snowfall. It is accessible only for a fortnight around the Shravan Purnima every year, being utterly out of bounds rest of the time. A young temple priest from another place in HP revealed that there was a rock formation there resembling the Nandi bull, Shiva’s mount. Most Himachulis are devout people, and as a mountaineer guide narrated, “Yahan ke chappe-chappe mein Shivji ka vaas hai.” And they also revere the rough, unpolished High Himalayan clear quartz found in parts of the HP highlands, placed in practically every shrine at home or in the temples as a symbol of Shiva.

Bruce and Himachuli Rana, latter from a family of generations of mountaineers, from the rugged region of Kullu highlands.

Mountains, apples, and wild hedges of Indian hemp right by the paved walkway in Kalpa. In other highlands of HP, this last often attracts traders from as far away as Goa, charas serving as one of the prime cash crops from the farmers’ secret patches grown away from prying eyes. [Sometimes, the crystals/minerals trade, directed from Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa and other tourism hotspots in India, is part of a contraband caravan all the way from Afghanistan, even concealing heroin and hashish! But most HP mountain dwellers appear to be innocent of the complex web of international mafia involved in this trade.]

Distinctive wood sculptured Himachuli temple style—Narayana temple in Kalpa. Of course, the Solar deity must also get his due adulation in these wintry heights A bas relief in polished wood, depicting a celestial musician in the form a kinnar, at the very top, above Shiva and Narayana!

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in the Kalpa heights of Kinnaur. Girls are fairly active outdoors, in schools and colleges, and in sports too in all HP. And in productive labour, of course!

Late autumn colours of Kalpa, overlooking shifting clouds above the Kinnaur Kailas range.

Elderly woman enjoying warmth of the Sun outside her dwelling. Most Himalayan mountain folk, young or old, are nimble-footed like the proverbial mountain goats, traversing miles up and down rough stone-and-earth tracks, often with heavy head loads, in the course of a single workday. There is no option either, homes often being hewn into the cliff sides up dizzy heights, naturally adding to the beauty of ecological habitat with low environmental impact. Some of the better-off youthful families I visited, each had even three dwellings conveniently located for different seasons – one in the high mountains in winter, often constructed of pinewood, also with secure cattle sheds, also with a school in the vicinity; another one in the middle of terraced fields through the wet agricultural season – to harvest time, and the third one lower down by the roadside, for convenient marketing of farm and horticultural produce.

Another day, and sunrise under the setting crescent moon over Kinnaur Kailas in Kalpa.