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The north face of Mount Everest as seen from the path to the base camp in Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China.
Countries Bhutan, People's Republic of China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Burma, Afghanistan
Highest point Mount Everest
 - elevation 8,848 m (29,029 ft)
 - coordinates 27°59′17″N 86°55′31″E / 27.98806°N 86.92528°E / 27.98806; 86.92528

The Himalaya Range (Sanskrit: literally, "abode of snow", हिमालय, IPA pronunciation: [hɪ'mɑlijə]), or Himalayas for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. By extension, it is also the name of a massive mountain system that includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other, lesser, ranges that extend out from the Pamir Knot.

Together, the Himalayan mountain system is the planet's highest and home to the world's highest peaks, the Eight-thousanders, which include Mount Everest and K2. To comprehend the enormous scale of this mountain range, consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 metres (22,841 ft) is the highest peak outside Asia, whereas the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 m (23,622 ft).[1]

Some of the world's major rivers, Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Red River (Asia), Xunjiang, Chao Phraya, Irrawaddy River, Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Tarim River and Yellow River, rise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basin is home to some 3 billion people almost half of earth population in countries which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, People's Republic of China, India, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Pakistan.

The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in both Hinduism and Buddhism. The main Himalaya range runs, west to east, from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley, forming an arc 2,400 km (1,491 mi) long, which varies in width from 400 km (249 mi) in the western Kashmir-Xinjiang region to 150 km (93 mi) in the eastern Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh region. The range consists of three coextensive sub-ranges, with the northern-most, and highest, known as the Great or Inner Himalayas.



K2, on the border of Pakistan and People's Republic of China
Kangchenjunga, on the border of Nepal and Sikkim, India

The flora and fauna of the Himalayas varies with climate, rainfall, altitude, and soils. The climate ranges from tropical at the base of the mountains to permanent ice and snow at the highest elevations. The amount of yearly rainfall increases from west to east along the front of the range. This diversity of climate, altitude, rainfall and soil conditions generates a variety of distinct plant and animal communities.


Lowland forests

On the Indo-Gangetic plain at the base of the mountains, an alluvial plain drained by the Indus and Ganga-Brahmaputra river systems, vegetation varies from west to east with rainfall. The xeric Northwestern thorn scrub forests occupy the plains of Pakistan and the Indian Punjab. Further east lie the Upper Gangetic plains moist deciduous forests of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and Lower Gangetic plains moist deciduous forests of Bihar and West Bengal. These are monsoon forests, with drought-deciduous trees that lose their leaves during the dry season. The moister Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests occupy the plains of Assam.

The Terai belt

Above the alluvial plain lies the Terai strip, a seasonally marshy zone of sand and clay soils. The Terai has higher rainfall than the plains, and the downward-rushing rivers of the Himalaya slow down and spread out in the flatter Terai zone, depositing fertile silt during the monsoon season, and receding in the dry season. The Terai has a high water table due to groundwater percolating down from the adjacent zone. The central part of the Terai belt is occupied by the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands, a mosaic of grasslands, savannas, deciduous and evergreen forests that includes some of the world's tallest grasslands. The grasslands of the Terai belt are home to the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis).

Bhabhar belt

Above the Terai belt is an upland zone known as the Bhabhar, a zone of porous and rocky soils, made up of debris washed down from the higher ranges. The Bhabhar and the lower Shiwalik ranges have a subtropical climate. The Himalayan subtropical pine forests occupy the western end of the subtropical belt, with forests dominated by Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii). The central part of the range is home to the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, dominated by the sal tree (Shorea robusta). They are at the foot of the Himalayas where the Himalayan streams descend on to the plains.

Shiwalik Hills

Also called Churia or Margalla Hills, Sivalik Hills is an intermittent outermost range of foothills extending across the Himalayan region through Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan. This region consists of many sub-ranges. Summits are generally 600 to 1,200 metres (2,000 to 3,900 ft). Steeper southern slopes form along a fault zone called Himalayan Frontal Thrust (HFT); northern slopes are gentler. Permeable conglomerates and other rocks allow rainwater to percolate downslope into the Bhabhar and Terai, supporting only scrubby forests upslope. The Himalayan subtropical pine and broadleaf forests continue here.

Inner Terai or Dun Valleys

The Inner Terai valleys are open valleys north of Shiwalik Hills or nestled between Shiwalik subranges. Examples include Dehra Dun in India and Chitwan in Nepal. Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests grow here.

Lesser Himalaya

Also called Mahabharat Range, the Lesser Himalayas is a prominent range 2,000 to 3,000 metres (6,600 to 9,800 ft) high formed along the Main Boundary Thrust fault zone, with a steep southern face and gentler northern slopes. They are nearly continuous except for river gorges, where rivers from to the north gather like candelabra in a handful of places to to break through the range.

At these elevations and above the biogeography of the Himalayas is generally divided by the Kali Gandaki Gorge in central Nepal, one of the deepest canyons in the world.

At the middle elevations of the range, the subtropical forests yield to a belt of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests growing between 1,500 and 3,000 metres (4,900 and 9,800 ft), with the western Himalayan broadleaf forests to the west of the Gandaki River, and the eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests to the east. The western broadleaf forests stretch from the Kashmir Valley, across Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and through western Nepal. The eastern broadleaf forests stretch across eastern Nepal, through Sikkim and Bhutan, and through much of Arunachal Pradesh.


This 'hilly' region (Pahad), averaging about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) immediately north of the Mahabharat Range, rises over about 100 kilometres (330,000 ft) to about 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) at the Main Central Thrust fault zone, where the Greater Himalaya begin.

Above the broadleaf forests, between 3,000 and 4,000 metres (9,800 and 13,000 ft), are temperate coniferous forests, likewise split by the Gandaki River. The western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests are found below treeline in northern Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and western Nepal. The eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests are found in eastern Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. Along the border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, the eastern subalpine conifer forests mix with the northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. East Himalayan Fir, West Himalayan Spruce, are some Himalayan Hemlock important trees of these forests. Rhododendrons are exceptionally diverse here, with over 60 species recorded in the northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests.

Greater Himalaya

North of the Main Central Thrust, the highest ranges rise abruptly as much as 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) into the realm of perpetual snow and ice. As the Himalayan system becomes wider from east to west, the number of parallel high ranges increases. For example, Kagmara and Kanjiroba ranges both reach well over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) north of the Dhaulagiri Himalaya in central Nepal.

Montane grasslands and shrublands grow above treeline. The northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows are found in the high elevations of northern Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh. To the east, the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows cover extensive areas along the Tibetan border with Uttarakhand and western Nepal. The eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows grow above the eastern and northeastern subalpine conifer forests, along the Tibetan border with eastern Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. The shrublands are composed of junipers as well as a wide variety of rhododendrons. They also possess a remarkable variety of wildflowers: Valley of Flowers National Park in the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows contains hundreds of species. The upper limit of the grasslands increases from west to east, rising from 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) to 5,500 metres (18,000 ft). The grasslands are the summer habitat of the endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia).


The watershed between rivers flowing south into the Ganges or Indus and rivers flowing north into the Brahmaputra or mainstem Indus that flow around the ends of the entire range often follows somewhat lower, less rugged mountains tens of kilometers north of the highest ranges. South-flowing rivers form valleys in this region, often semi-arid due to rainshadow effects. These valleys hold some of the highest permanent villages on earth.

Origins and growth

The 6,000 km plus journey of the India landmass (Indian Plate) before its collision with Asia (Eurasian Plate) about 40 to 50 million years ago

The Himalayas are among the youngest mountain ranges on the planet, and consist mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This is referred to as a fold mountain.

The collision began in the Upper Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, when the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate, moving at about 15 cm per year, collided with the Eurasian Plate. About 50 million years ago, this fast moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean, the existence of which has been determined by sedimentary rocks settled on the ocean floor, and the volcanoes that fringed its edges. Since these sediments were light, they crumpled into mountain ranges rather than sinking to the floor. The Indo-Australian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan plateau, which forces the plateau to move upwards. The Arakan Yoma highlands in Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal were also formed as a result of this collision.

The Indo-Australian plate is still moving at 67 mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 km into Asia. About 20 mm per year of the India-Asia convergence is absorbed by thrusting along the Himalaya southern front. This leads to the Himalayas rising by about 5 mm per year, making them geologically active. The movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate also makes this region seismically active, leading to earthquakes from time to time.

Glaciers and river systems

Glaciers near K2 in the People's Republic of China and Pakistan
This image shows the termini of the glaciers in the Bhutan-Himalaya. Glacial lakes have been forming rapidly on the surface of the debris-covered glaciers in this region during the last few decades.
River systems of the Himalayas and Hindu Kush

The Himalayan range encompasses about 15,000 glaciers, which store about 12,000 km3 of freshwater. The 70 km-long Siachen Glacier at the India-Pakistan border is the second longest glacier in the world outside the polar region. Some of the other more famous glaciers include the Gangotri and Yamunotri (Uttarakhand), Nubra, Biafo and Baltoro (Karakoram region), Zemu (Sikkim) and Khumbu glaciers (Mount Everest region).

The higher regions of the Himalayas are snowbound throughout the year, in spite of their proximity to the tropics, and they form the sources for several large perennial rivers, most of which combine into two large river systems:

  • The western rivers combine into the Indus Basin, of which the Indus River is the largest. The Indus begins in Tibet at the confluence of Sengge and Gar rivers and flows southwest through India and then through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. It is fed by the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, and the Sutlej rivers, among others.

The eastern-most Himalayan rivers feed the Ayeyarwady River, which originates in eastern Tibet and flows south through Myanmar to drain into the Andaman Sea.

The Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and the Huang He (Yellow River) all originate from parts of the Tibetan plateau that are geologically distinct from the Himalaya mountains, and are therefore not considered true Himalayan rivers. Some geologists refer to all the rivers collectively as the circum-Himalayan rivers.[3] In recent years, scientists have monitored a notable increase in the rate of glacier retreat across the region as a result of global climate change.[4] Although the effect of this will not be known for many years, it potentially could mean disaster for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the glaciers to feed the rivers of northern India during the dry seasons.[5]


A high Himalayan lake at an altitude of around 5,000 metres Sikkim, India

The Himalaya region is dotted with hundreds of lakes. Most lakes are found at altitudes of less than 5,000 m, with the size of the lakes diminishing with altitude. The largest lake is the Pangong Tso, which is spread across the border between India and China. It is situated at an altitude of 4,600 m, and is 8 km wide and nearly 134 km long. A notable high (but not the highest) lake is the Gurudogmar in North Sikkim, at an altitude of 5,148 m (17,100 ft) (altitude source: SRTM). Other major lakes include the Tsongmo lake, near the Indo-China border in Sikkim, and Tilicho lake in Nepal in the Annapurna massif, a large lake in an area that was closed to tourists until recently.

The mountain lakes are known to geographers as tarns if they are caused by glacial activity. Tarns are found mostly in the upper reaches of the Himalaya, above 5,500 metres. For more information about these, see here.

Impact on climate

Pass in Ladakh with the typical Buddhist prayer flags and chorten

The Himalayas have a profound effect on the climate of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau. They prevent frigid, dry Arctic winds blowing south into the subcontinent, which keeps South Asia much warmer than corresponding temperate regions in the other continents. It also forms a barrier for the monsoon winds, keeping them from traveling northwards, and causing heavy rainfall in the Terai region. The Himalayas are also believed to play an important part in the formation of Central Asian deserts, such as the Taklamakan and Gobi.

The mountain ranges also prevent western winter disturbances in Iran from traveling further, resulting in snow in Kashmir and rainfall for parts of Punjab and northern India. Despite being a barrier to the cold, northernly winter winds, the Brahmaputra valley receives part of the frigid winds, thus lowering the temperature in the North East India and Bangladesh.

The Himalayas, which are often called "The Roof of the World", contain the greatest area of glaciers and permafrost outside of the poles. Ten of Asia’s largest rivers flow from here, and more than a billion people’s livelihoods depend on them. To complicate matters, temperatures are rising more rapidly here than the global average. In Nepal, the temperature has risen 0.6 degree C over the last decade, whereas the global warming has been around 0.7 degree C over the last hundred years.[6]

Mountain passes

The Himalayan range at Yumesongdong in Sikkim, in the Yumthang River valley

The rugged terrain makes few routes through the mountains possible. Some of these routes include:

Impact on politics and culture

Mountain sheds like these are used by the rural populace as shelter for cattle in summer months as they take them for grazing in higher altitudes.

It should be noted that almost half of the humans and livestock of India live on one-third of the landscape within 500 km of the Himalayan range.(pdf, 3mb)

The Himalayas, due to their large size and expanse, have been a natural barrier to the movement of people for tens of thousands of years. In particular, this has prevented intermingling of people from the Indian subcontinent with people from China and Mongolia, causing significantly different languages and customs between these regions. The Himalayas have also hindered trade routes and prevented military expeditions across its expanse. For instance, Genghis Khan could not expand his empire south of the Himalayas into the subcontinent.

Notable peaks of the Himalayan system (includes outlying ranges)

Peak Name Other names and meaning Elevation (m) Elevation (ft) First Western ascent Notes
Everest Sagarmatha (Nepali), "Head of the World",[7]
Chomolangma (Tibetan), "Goddess mother of the snows"[7]
8,848 29,035.44 1953 Highest mountain on Earth, on the border between Nepal and Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China.
K2 Chogo Gangri 8,611 28,251 1954 2nd highest mountain on Earth. Located on the border between the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, People's Republic of China and the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
Kangchenjunga Kangchen Dzö-nga, "Five Treasures of the Great Snow" 8,586 28,169 1955 3rd highest mountain on Earth. Located on the border between Nepal and Sikkim, India.
Lhotse "South Peak" 8,516 27,940 1956 4th highest mountain on Earth. Situated between Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China, and Nepal, in the shadow of Mount Everest.
Makalu "The Great Black" 8,462 27,765 1955 5th highest mountain on Earth. Situated on the border between, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China and Nepal.
Cho Oyu Qowowuyag, "Turquoise Goddess" 8,201 26,905 1954 6th highest mountain on Earth. Situated on the border between Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China, and Nepal
Dhaulagiri "White Mountain" 8,167 26,764 1960 7th highest mountain on Earth. Situated in Nepal.
Manaslu Kutang, "Mountain of the Spirit" 8,156 26,758 1956 8th highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Gurkha Himal, Nepal.
Nanga Parbat Diamir, "Naked Mountain" 8,126 26,660 1953 9th highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.
Annapurna "Goddess of the Harvests" 8,091 26,545 1950 10th highest mountain on Earth. Situated in Nepal.
Gasherbrum I "Beautiful Mountain" 8,080 26,509 1958 11th highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Karakoram of Pakistan
Broad Peak Faichan Kangri 8,047 26,401 1957 12th highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Karakoram of Pakistan.
Gasherbrum II - 8,035 26,362 1956 13th highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Karakoram of Pakistan.
Shishapangma Xixiabangma, "Crest Above The Grassy Plains" 8,013 26,289 1964 14th highest mountain on Earth. Located in Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China.
Gyachung Kang unknown 7,952 26,089 1964 15th highest mountain on Earth. Located on the border between Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China, and Nepal, it is the highest mountain under 8,000 meters.
Gasherbrum IV - 7,925 26,001 1958 17th highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Karakoram of Pakistan.
Masherbrum unknown 7,821 25,660 1960 22nd highest mountain on Earth. Located in the Karakoram of Pakistan.
Nanda Devi "Bliss-giving Goddess" 7,817 25,645 1936 23rd highest mountain on Earth. Located in Uttarakhand, India. It is the highest peak entirely within India.
Rakaposhi "Shining Wall" 7,788 25,551 1958 A massive peak that towers above local terrain. Located in the Pakistani Karakoram.
Gangkhar Puensum Gankar Punzum, "Three Mountain Siblings" 7,570 24,836 Unclimbed World's highest unclimbed peak remains off limits to mountaineers. Located in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Ama Dablam "Mother And Her Necklace" 6,848 22,467 1961 Considered by some to be one of the most beautiful peaks in the Himalayas. Located in the Khumbu, Nepal.


2004 photo mosaic the Himalayas with Makalu and Mount Everest from the International Space Station, Expedition 8.
A panorama of Garhwal Himalaya from Dhanaulti,India

Notable Himalayan mountaineers

  • Santosh Yadav is the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest twice, and the first woman to successfully climb Mt Everest from the Kangshung Face.She first climbed the peak in May 1992, and then did it again in May 1993.
  • George Mallory (1886–1924) Attempted first ascent of Mount Everest; died on North Face.
  • Noel Odell (1890–1987) British. First ascent, in 1936, of Nanda Devi, which remained the highest summited peak until 1950.
  • Bill Tilman (1898–1977) British. First ascent of Nanda Devi in 1936. In 1934, first person to penetrate Nanda Devi sanctuary
  • Frank Smythe (1900–1949) British. Mount Blank, Kamet, and early attempt on Kangchenjunga.
  • Eric Shipton (1907–1977) British. With Bill Tilman, first to penetrate Nanda Devi sanctuary. Discovered route to Everest over Khumbu Glacier.
  • John Hunt (1910–1998) British. Leader of 1953 expedition of Mount Everest.
  • Tenzing Norgay (1914–1986) Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer. First man on Everest's summit along with Edmund Hillary.
  • Maurice Herzog (b. 1919) First person to summit an Eight-thousander, Annapurna, in 1950. Lost all toes and most fingers due to frostbite. Peak not climbed again until 1970.
  • Sir Edmund Hillary (1919–2008) New Zealand mountaineer and explorer, the first man on Everest's summit along with Tenzing Norgay.
  • Tom Bourdillon (1924–1956) member of British Everest expeditions 1951, 1952, and 1953, reached 300 feet (90 m) from summit of Everest three days before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay finally conquered it.
  • Hermann Buhl (1924–1957) First ascent of Nanga Parbat in 1953 (feat accomplished solo and without oxygen). First ascent of Broad Peak. Died in fall on Chogolisa, body never found.
  • Willi Unsoeld (1926–1979) United States. First ascent of Everest from West Face and first major traverse of a Himalayan peak, with Tom Hornbein 1963. Daughter Nanda Devi Unsoeld killed during Nanda Devi expedition 1976. Died during avalanche on Mount Rainier, 1979.
  • Chris Bonington (b. 1934) First ascent of Annapurna (South Face), 4 ascents of Everest.
  • Nawang Gombu (b. 1936) Indian mountaineer. First person to climb Everest twice: 1963 and 1965.
  • Jim Whittaker (b. 1936) United States. First American to summit Everest.
  • Reinhold Messner (born 1944) Italian mountaineer. First man to climb all fourteen mountains over 8000 meters (collectively known as the eight-thousanders).
  • Jerzy Kukuczka (1948–1989) Polish mountaineer. Ascended all fourteen eight-thousanders faster than anybody else, establishing ten new routes.
  • Nazir Sabir Pakistani mountaineer. First ascent of two eight thousanders (Broad Peak & Gasherbrum II) in a single attempt.
  • Swami Sundaranand (b. 1926 India) Climbed 25 mountains with little or no equipment from 1950-1990 to experience open eyed Samādhi using the ancient techniques of the Himalayan yogis. Noted also for his extensive photography of the Indian Himalayas.[8][9][10] Land has been secured in Gangotri, India, for a museum dedicated to his rare Himalayan photos and documentation of the Himalayan Glaciers with a special emphasis on environmental protection of the region.
  • Jaime Viñals First Central American person to climb Mount Everest.[11]
  • Casey Mackins An English mountaineer who climbed Mt Everest by a new route without oxygen from Tibet in 1984 and then again from Nepal in 1990 during his famous Sea to Summit expedition where he became the first person to climb Everest starting from sea level
  • José Antonio Delgado Sucre(1965–2006) was the first Venezuelan mountaineer to reach the summit of five eight-thousanders. He was one of the most experienced climbers in Latin America. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela.
  • Ed Viesturs (b. June 22, 1959) is the first American, and 12th person overall, to summit all fourteen eight-thousanders, and the sixth climber to do it without bottled oxygen.
  • Pemba Dorjie (born c. 1977) a Sherpa who currently holds the world record for the quickest climb to the summit of Mount Everest from camp. On May 21, 2004 Dorjie set that record, with a total time of 8 hours and 10 minutes.
  • Apa Sherpa (born c. 1960) On May 21, 2009, successfully summited Mt. Everest for the 19th time, breaking his own record for most successful ascents.
  • Krzysztof Wielicki (born 1950) Polish mountaineer, the fifth man to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders. Three of them (Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga and Lhotse) he ascended as the first man ever to do it in winter.
  • Bear Grylls (born 1974) Youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest
  • Mandip Singh Soin (born 1957) Indian mountaineer, India's Most Versatile Adventurer only Indian to receive the NESS Award by the Royal Geographical Society, UK.


The Taktshang Monastery, also known as the "Tiger's Nest"

Several places in the Himalaya are of religious significance in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, the Himalaya have also been personified as the god Himavat, the father of Shiva's consort, Parvati.

Some of the important religious places in the Himalayas are:-

In addition to the above, a number of Tibetan Buddhist sites are situated in the Himalaya, including the residence of the Dalai Lama. There were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet.[12] The Tibetan Muslims had their own mosques in Lhasa and Shigatse.[13]

The following mystic entities are associated with the Himalayas:

  • The Yeti is one of the most famous creatures in cryptozoology. It is a large primate-like creature that is supposed to live in the Himalaya. Most mainstream scientists and experts consider current evidence of the Yeti's existence unpersuasive, and the result of hoaxes, legend or misidentification of mundane creatures.
  • Shambhala is a mystical city with various legends associated with it, it is one of twenty-four Himalayan hidden realms, or beyul, in Vajrayana Buddhism.[14] While some legends consider it to be a real city where secret Buddhist doctrines are being preserved, other legends believe that the city does not physically exist, and can only be reached in the mental realm.
«Tibet. Himalayas», 1933
Nicholas Roerich

The Himalayas in art, literature, and film

See also


  1. ^ Himalayan Mountain System. http://books.google.com/books?id=4q_XoMACOxkC&pg=PA25&lpg=PA23&dq=%22South+Tibet+Valley%22&output=html&sig=cplbaHyY4CGV0ogUvw0NT8o0EfM. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  2. ^ "Sunderbans the world’s largest delta". gits4u.com. http://www.gits4u.com/wb/wb6a.htm. 
  3. ^ Gaillardet, J; Métivier, Lemarchand, Dupré, Allégre, Li, Zhao (2003). "Geochemistry of the Suspended Sediments of Circum-Himalayan Rivers and Weathering Budgets over the Last 50 Myrs" (PDF). Geophysical Research Abstracts 5 (13617). http://www.cosis.net/abstracts/EAE03/13617/EAE03-J-13617.pdf. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  4. ^ "Vanishing Himalayan Glaciers Threaten a Billion". Planet Ark. June 5, 2007. http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42387/story.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  5. ^ "Glaciers melting at alarming speed". People's Daily Online. July 24, 2007. http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90781/90879/6222327.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  6. ^ http://pulitzercenter.typepad.com/untold_stories/south-asias-troubled-waters/page/2/
  7. ^ a b "Edelweiss trekking, mountaineering, rafting, safari cultural and pilgrimage tours in Nepal". http://www.edelweisstreks.com/mteverest.php. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  8. ^ United Nations, May 2007, Our Planet magazine
  9. ^ Personal Time with Swami-ji, 157 mins Film, The Center for Healing Arts [1]
  10. ^ Himalaya: Through the Lens of a Sudu Published August 2001 ISBN 81-901326-0-1
  11. ^ Neira, Claudia (July 2002). "Faith that moves mountains". IDBAmerica Online. http://www.iadb.org/idbamerica/index.cfm?thisid=629. 
  12. ^ Tibetan monks: A controlled life. BBC News. March 20, 2008.
  13. ^ Mosques in Lhasa, Tibet. People's Daily Online. October 27, 2005.
  14. ^ Levine, Norma (1993). Blessing Power of the Buddhas: Sacred Objects, Secret Lands. Element Books. pp. 132. ISBN 1-85230-305-0. 

Further reading

  • Aitken, Bill, Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003. ISBN 81-7824-052-1
  • Berreman, Gerald Duane, Hindus of the Himalayas: Ethnography and Change, 2nd rev. ed., Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Bisht, Ramesh Chandra, Encyclopedia of the Himalayas, New Delhi, Mittal Publications, c2008.
  • Everest, the IMAX movie (1998). ISBN 0-7888-1493-1
  • Fisher, James F., Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal, 1990. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990. ISBN 0520069412
  • Gansser, Augusto, Gruschke, Andreas, Olschak, Blanche C., Himalayas. Growing Mountains, Living Myths, Migrating Peoples, New York, Oxford: Facts On File, 1987. ISBN 0816019940 and New Delhi: Bookwise, 1987.
  • Gupta, Raj Kumar, Bibliography of the Himalayas, Gurgaon, Indian Documentation Service, 1981
  • Hunt, John, Ascent of Everest, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1956. ISBN 0-89886-361-9
  • Isserman, Maurice and Weaver, Stewart, Fallen Giants: The History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes. Yale University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0300115017
  • Ives, Jack D. and Messerli, Bruno, The Himalayan Dilemma: Reconciling Development and Conservation. London / New York, Routledge, 1989. ISBN 0415011574
  • Lall, J.S. (ed.) in association with Moddie, A.D., The Himalaya, Aspects of Change. Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1981. ISBN 019561254X
  • Nandy, S.N., Dhyani, P.P. and Samal, P.K., Resource Information Database of the Indian Himalaya, Almora, GBPIHED, 2006.
  • Palin, Michael, Himalaya, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson Illustrated, 2004. ISBN 0-297-84371-0
  • Swami Sundaranand, Himalaya: Through the Lens of a Sadhu. Published by Tapovan Kuti Prakashan (August 2001). ISBN 81-901326-0-1
  • Swami Tapovan Maharaj, Wanderings in the Himalayas, English Edition, Madras, Chinmaya Publication Trust, 1960. Translated by T.N. Kesava Pillai.
  • Tilman, H. W., Mount Everest, 1938, Cambridge University Press, 1948.
  • ‘The Mighty Himalaya: A Fragile Heritage,’ National Geographic, 174:624-631(November 1988).

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Coordinates: 28°00′N 82°00′E / 28°N 82°E / 28; 82

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Himalayas article)

From Wikitravel

This article is an itinerary.

The Himalayas seen from the International Space Station
The Himalayas seen from the International Space Station

The Himalaya are a range of mountains in Asia, most correctly defined as stretching from the Indus river in Pakistan, through India, Nepal, Bhutan, ending at the Bramaputra River in India. This is often extended to include the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other minor ranges extending from the Pamir Knot, as these mountains are continuous with the Himalaya proper, and the geographical difference makes no difference for the traveller, we follow this convention here. This region includes the 14 highest mountains in the world, and over 100 peaks over 7200m.


If you are not planning to do any trekking, then you will not need any special equipment, or even warm clothing as you will be able to pick up good warm clothing on entry to the region. If you do need warm clothes, don't miss the second-hand markets selling attire from wealthy nations.

If you are trekking, the equipment you will need depends on your destination, in most of Nepal you will need nothing more than a sleeping bag and a pair of boots; the Indian Himalaya offer a large number of routes that are possible to trek independently if you have a tent, stove, and all the equipment needed for unsupported trekking.

Get in

Most parts of the Himalaya are connected to the plains to the south, by bus and airplane.


The Himalaya are a home to a diverse number of people, languages, and religions. Generally speaking Islam is prevalent in the west, Hinduism in the southern ranges of the eastern Himalaya, and Buddhism in the northern ranges of the western Himalaya. While there are numerous languages spoken, Hindi/Urdu (when written, they are two totally different languages, when spoken they are nearly interchangeable) will take you very far, as it is understood by the majority in the Pakistani, and Indian Himalaya. In Nepal it's not very useful, but it does have significant overlap with Nepali, and as such gives you a head start with that language.



The northern Areas of Pakistan offers some of the most visually stunning parts of the Himalaya. The trekking in Northern areas is arduous, seldom without glacier crossings, and not for the inexperienced, or unprepared. Local law, and good sense, prohibit trekking without a local guide on most routes. As such it is one of the more costly parts of the Himalaya for trekking. The people in this area, while being almost entirely mulslim, are diverse, with numerous languages, and different types of Islam followed--some highly conservative, some noticeably liberal.

This highway leads North from Pakistan into Western China.

  • Pakistan occupied Kashmir

Some parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir is off limit for foreigners especially the buffer zone (India-Pakistan line of control), due to the ongoing conflict with India.

This is a very conservative, largely tribal area, much of which would be unwise for tourists to visit, Peshawar is an exception to this, and is an fascinating, accessable look at a Pashtoon city.


Picturesque forested mountains, this was a popular destination with travelers until the conflict escalation between Pakistan and India. While Srinagar is reasonable safe, don't spend time in the country-side. Ladakh is the important exception to this. Offering much in the way of sight-seeing, and trekking it's not to be missed.

A pleasant, laid back, predominantly Hindu state, with a Tibetan Refugee population; popular with Tourists.

Another state of India, the source of the Ganges, it has a number of pilgrimage sites.

Wedged between, Nepal, Bhutan, China and West Bengal, Sikkim was predominately Buddhist until the 19th century, when numerous Nepalis came. As such there are many, Buddhist monasteries, and related sights. Trekking here is limited due to the closeness of the border with China. You must take a guide and go as a group, there are very limited number of routes.

Seldom visited by tourist, this state is a fascinating mix, with a large tribal population, people follow, Animist, Hindu, Buddhist, and Baptist Christian religous traditions.


A major tourist destination, with numerous sightseeing, trekking, and other adventure sport opportunities, Nepal has a level of tourist specific infrastructure far in advance of anywhere else in the region. Here you can trek for a month and stay in guest houses every night, and need not carry more than a change of clothes or two, and your sleeping bag. Nepal has unfortunately been suffering from a Revolutionary Maoist uprising making the country less than safe.


A fascinating little kingdom, Bhutan only issues visas to tourists on expensive group tours or to individuals who benefit the country, i.e. NGO workers, or exchange students.


Most sights relate to the mountains themselves, and to religious structures, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. Many of the most popular destinations are sights in themselves.


Trekking is the most popular activity, with a wide selection of possibilities, from desserts to jungles. It's also popular to study Yoga or Meditation. White Water Rafting is popular in many places

  • Altitude sickness is a worry, with many of the passes in the Himalaya being over 5000m. Increase your elevation as slowly as possible, avoid flying from a low elevation to a high one, and physical activity; and drink lots of liquids after gaining altitude. Altitude sickness is unpredictable, and may strike people who haven't had problems before. Give yourself lots of flexibility in your plans, to avoid pushing yourself higher when you need to rest.
  • Stay up to date with the news, and be willing to change your plans, when going to places such as Kashmir or Nepal, that are facing armed uprisings.
  • Traffic on the narrow roads is often frightening, but due to the slow speeds is unlikely to result in fatalities.

Get out

Flights out of the Himalayas are often cancelled due to bad weather, be sure to give yourself at least a few days before needing to catch a connecting flight.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HIMALAYA, the name given to the mountains which form the northern boundary of India. The word is Sanskrit and literally signifies " snow-abode," from him, snow, and dlaya, abode, and might be translated " snowy-range," although that expression is perhaps more nearly the equivalent of Himachal, another Sanskrit word derived from him, snow, and dchal, mountain, which is practically synonymous with Himalaya and is often used by natives of northern India. The name was converted by the Greeks into Emodos and Imaos. Modern geographers restrict the term Himalaya to that portion of the mountain region between India and Tibet enclosed within the arms of the Indus and the Brahmaputra. From the bend of the Indus southwards towards the plains of the Punjab to the bend of the Brahmaputra southwards towards the plains of Assam, through a length of 1500 m., is Himachal or Himalaya. Beyond the Indus, to the north-west, the region of mountain ranges which stretches to a junction with the Hindu Kush south of the Pamirs, is usually known as Trans-Himalaya. Thus the Himalaya represents the southern face of the great central upheaval - the plateau of Tibet - the northern face of which is buttressed by the Kuen Lun.

Throughout this vast space of elevated plateau and mountain face geologists now trace a system of main chains, or axes, extending from the Hindu Kush to Assam, arranged in approximately parallel lines, and traversed at intervals by main lines of drainage obliquely. Godwin-Austen indicates six of these geological axes as follows: 1. The main Central Asian axis, the Kuen Lun forming the northern edge or ridge of the Tibetan plateau.

2. The Trans-Himalayan chain of Murtagh (or Karakoram), which is lost in the Tibetan uplands, passing to the north of the sources of the Indus.

3. The Ladakh chain, partly north and partly south of the Indus - for that river breaks across it about 100 m. above Leh. This chain continues south of the Tsanpo (or Upper Brahmaputra), and becomes part of the Himalayan system.

4. The Zaskar, or main chain of the Himalaya, i.e. the " snowy range " par excellence which is indicated by Nanga Parbat (overlooking the Indus), and passes in a south-east direction to the southern side of the Deosai plains. Thence, bending slightly south, it extends in the line of snowy peaks which are seen from Simla to the famous peaks of Gangotri and Nanda Devi. This is the best known range of the Himalaya.

5. The outer Himalaya or Pir Panjal-Dhaoladhar ridge.

6. The Sub-Himalaya, which is " easily defined by the fringing line of hills, more or less broad, and in places very distinctly marked off from the main chain by open valleys (dhuns) or narrow valleys, parallel to the main axis of the chain." These include the Siwaliks.

Interspersed between these main geological axes are many other minor ridges, on some of which are peaks of great elevation. In fact, the geological axis seldom coincides with the line of highest elevation, nor must it be confused with the main lines of water-divide of the Himalaya.

On the north and north-west of Kashmir the great waterdivide which separates the Indus drainage .area from that of the Yarkand and other rivers of Chinese Turkestan has been explored by Sir F. Younghusband, and subsequently by H. H. P. Deasy. The general result of their investigations has been to prove that the o f India, Murtagh range, as it trends south-eastwards and finally forms a continuous mountain barrier together with the Karakoram, is the true water-divide west of the Tibetan plateau. Shutting off the sources of the Indus affluents from those of the Central Asian system of hydrography, this great water-parting is distinguished by a group of peaks of which the altitude is hardly less than that of the Eastern Himalaya. Mount Godwin-Austen (28,250 ft. high), only 750 ft. lower than Everest, affords an excellent example in Asiatic geography of a dominating, peakcrowned water-parting or divide. From Kailas on the far west to the extreme north-eastern sources of the Brahmaputra, the great northern water-parting of the Indo-Tibetan highlands has only been occasionally touched. Littledale, du Rhins and Bonvalot may have stood on it as they looked southwards towards Lhasa, but for some Soo or 600 m. east of Kailas it appears to be lost in the mazes of the minor ranges and ridges of the Tibetan plateau. Nor can it be said to be as yet well defined to the east of Lhasa.

The Tibetan plateau, or Chang, breaks up about the meridian of 92 E., and to the east of this meridian the affluents of the Tsanpo (the same river as the Dihong and subsequently as the Brahmaputra) drain no longer from the elevated Eastern ' 'Tibet. plateau, but from the rugged slopes of a wild region of mountains which assumes a systematic conformation where its successive ridges are arranged in concentric curves around the great bend of the Brahmaputra, wherein are hidden the sources of all the great rivers of Burma and China. Neither immediately beyond this great bend, nor within it in the Himalayan regions lying north of Assam and east of Bhutan, have scientific investigations yet been systematically carried out; but it is known that the largest of the Himalayan affluents of the Brahmaputra west of the bend derive their sources from the Tibetan plateau, and break down through the containing bands of hills, carrying deposits of gold from their sources to the plains, as do all the rivers of Tibet.

Although the northern limits of the Tsanpo basin are not :sufficiently well known to locate the Indo-Tibetan watershed even approximately, there exists some scattered evidence of the nature of that strip of Northern Hima p laya on the Tibeto-Nepalese border which lies between the line of greatest elevation and the trough of the snowy Tsanpo. Recent investigations show that all the chief rivers of Nepal flowing southwards to the Tarai take their rise north of the line of highest crests, the " main range " of the Himalaya; and that some of them drain long lateral high-level valleys enclosed between minor ridges whose strike is parallel to the axis of the Himalaya and, occasionally, almost at right angles to the course of the main drainage channels breaking down to the plains. This formation brings the southern edge of the Tsanpo basin to the immediate neighbourhood of the banks of that river, which runs at its foot like a drain flanking a wall. It also affords material evidence of that wrinkling or folding action which accompanied the process of upheaval, when the Central Asian highlands were raised, which is more or less marked throughout the whole of the north-west Indian borderland. North of Bhutan, between the Himalayan crest and Lhasa, this formation is approximately maintained; farther east, although the same natural forces first resulted in the same effect of successive folds of the earth's crust, forming extensive curves of ridge and furrow, the abundant rainfall and the totally distinct climatic conditions which govern the processes of denudation subsequently led to the erosion of deeper valleys enclosed between forest-covered ranges which rise steeply from the river banks.

Present Survey

Most probable

Value of Height


Mount Everest. .



K2 (Godwin Austen) .






Although suggestions have been made of the existence of higher peaks north of the Himalaya than that which dominates the Everest group, no evidence has been adduced to support such a contention. On the other hand the observations of Major Ryder and other surveyors who peaks. J Y Y explored from Lhasa to the sources of the Brahmaputra and Indus, at the conclusion of the Tibetan mission in 1904, conclusively prove that Mount Everest, which appears from the Tibetan plateau as a single dominating peak, has no rival amongst Himalayan altitudes, whilst the very remarkable investigations made by permission of the Nepal durbar from peaks near Kathmandu in 1903, by Captain Wood, R.E., not only place the Everest group apart from other peaks with which they have been confused by scientists, isolating them in the topographical system of Nepal, but clearly show that there is no one dominating and continuous range indicating a main Himalayan chain which includes both Everest and Kinchinjunga. The main features of Nepalese topography are now fairly well defined. So much controversy has been aroused on the subject of Himalayan altitudes that the present position of scientific analysis in relation to them maybe shortly stated. The heights of peaks determined by exact processes of trigonometrical observation are bound to be more or less in error for three reasons: (1) the extraordinary geoidal deformation of the level surface at the observing stations in submontane regions; (2) ignorance of the laws of refraction when rays traverse rarefied air in snow-covered regions; (3) ignorance of the variations in the actual height of peaks due to the increase, or decrease, of snow. The value of the heights attached to the three highest mountains in the world are, for these reasons, adjudged by Colonel S. G. Burrard, the Supt. Trigonometrical Surveys in India, to be in probable error to the following extent: These determinations have the effect of placing Kinchinjunga second and K 2 third on the list. (T. H. H.*) Geology. - The Himalaya have been formed by violent crumpling of the earth's crust along the southern margin of the great tableland of Central Asia. Outside the arc of the mountain chain no sign of this crumpling is to be detected except in the Salt Range, and the Peninsula of India has been entirely free from folding of any importance since early Palaeozoic times, if not since the Archean period itself. But the contrast between the Himalaya and the Peninsula is not confined to their structure: the difference in the rocks themselves is equally striking. In the Himalaya the geological sequence, from the Ordovician to the Eocene, is almost entirely marine; there are indeed occasional breaks in the series, but during nearly the whole of this long period the Iimalayan region, or at least its northern part, must have been beneath the sea - the Central Mediterranean Sea of Neumayr or Tethys of Suess. In the peninsula, however, no marine fossils have yet been found of earlier date than J urassic and Cretaceous, and these are confined to the neighbourhood of the coasts; the principal fossiliferous deposits are the plantbearing beds of the Gondwana series, and there can he no doubt that, at least since the Carboniferous period, nearly the whole of the Peninsula has been land. Between the folded marine beds of the Himalaya and the nearly horizontal strata of the peninsula lies the Indo-Gangetic plain, covered by an enormous thickness of alluvial and wind-blown deposits of recent date. The deep boring at Lucknow passed through 1336 ft. of sands - reaching nearly to 1000 ft. below sea-level - without any sign of approaching the base of the alluvial series. It is clear, then, that in front of the Himalaya there is a great depression, but as yet there is no indication that this depression was ever beneath the sea.

In the light thrown by recent researches on the structure and origin of mountain chains the explanation of these facts is no longer difficult. From early Palaeozoic times the peninsula of India has been dry land, a part, indeed, of a great continent which in Mesozoic times extended across the Indian Ocean towards South Africa. Its northern shores were washed by the Sea of Tethys, which, at least in Jurassic and Cretaceous times, stretched across the Old World from west to east, and in this sea were laid down the marine deposits of the Himalaya. The tangential pressures which are known to be set up in the earth's crust - either by the contraction of the interior or in some other way - caused the deposits of this sea to be crushed up against the rigid granites and other old rocks of the peninsula and finally led to the whole mass being pushed forward over the edge of the part which did not crumple. The Indo-Gangetic depression was formed by the weight of the over-riding mass bending down the edge over which it rode, or else it is the lower limb of the S-shaped fold which would necessarily result if there were no fracture - the Himalaya representing the upper limb of the S.

Geologically, the Himalaya may be divided into three zones which correspond more or less with orographical divisions. The northern zone is the Tibetan, in which fossiliferous beds of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic age are largely developed - excepting in the north-west no such rocks are known on the southern flanks. The second is the zone of the snowy peaks and of the lower Himalaya, and is composed chiefly of crystalline and metamorphic rocks together with unfossiliferous sedimentary beds supposed to be of Palaeozoic age. The southern zone comprises the Sub-Himalaya and consists entirely of Tertiary beds, and especially of the upper Tertiaries. The oldest beds which have hitherto yielded fossils, belong to the Ordovician system, but it is highly probable that the underlying " Haimantas " of the central Himalaya are of Cambrian age. From these beds up to the top of the Carboniferous there appears to be no break; but the Carboniferous beds were in some places eroded before the deposition of the Productus shales, which belong to the Permian period. It is, however, possible that this erosion was merely local, for in other places there seems to be a complete passage from the Carboniferous to the Permian. From the Permian to the Lias the sequence in the central Himalaya shows no sign of a break, nor has any unconformity been proved between the Liassic beds and the overlying Spiti shales, which contain fossils of Middle and Upper Jurassic age. The Spiti shales are succeeded conformably by Cretaceous beds (Gieumal sandstone below and Chikkim limestone above), and these are followed without a break by Nummulitic beds of Eocene age, much disturbed and altered by intrusions of gabbro and syenite. Thus, in the Spiti area at least, there appears to have been continuous deposition of marine beds from the Permian Productus shales to the Eocene Nummulitic formation. The next succeeding deposit is a sandstone, often highly inclined, which rests unconformably upon the Nummulitic beds and resembles the Lower Siwaliks of the SubHimalaya (Pliocene) but which as yet has yielded no fossils of any kind. The whole is overlaid unconformably by the younger Tertiaries of Hundes, which are perfectly horizontal and have been quite unaffected by any of the folds.

From the absence of any well-marked unconformity it is evident that in the northern part of the Himalayan belt, at least in the Spiti area, there can have been no post-Archaean folding of any magnitude until after the deposition of the Nummulitic beds, and that the folding was completed before the later Tertiaries of Hundes were laid down. It was, therefore, during the Miocene period that the elevation of this part of the chain began, while the disturbance of the Siwalik-like sandstone indicates that the folding continued into the Pliocene period. Along the southern flanks of the Himalaya the history of the chain is still more clearly shown. The sub-Himalaya are formed of Tertiary beds, chiefly Siwalik or upper Tertiary, while the lower Himalaya proper consist mainly of pre-Tertiary rocks without fossils. Throughout the whole length of the chain, wherever the junction of the Siwaliks with the pre-Tertiary rocks has been seen, it is a great reversed fault. West of the Blas river a similar reversed fault forms the boundary between the lower Tertiaries and the pre-Tertiary rocks of the Himalaya, while between the Sutlej and the Jumna rivers, where the lower Tertiaries help to form the lower Himalaya, the fault lies between them and the Siwaliks. The hade of the fault is constantly inwards, towards the centre of the chain, and the older rocks which form the Himalaya proper, have been pushed forward over the later beds of the sub-Himalaya. But the fault is more than an ordinary reversed fault: it was, nearly everywhere, the northern boundary of deposition of the Siwalik beds, and only in a few instances do any of the Siwalik deposits extend even to a short distance beyond it. The fault in fact was being formed during the deposition of the Siwalik beds, and as the beds were laid down, the Himalaya were pushed forward over them, the Siwaliks themselves being folded and upturned during the process. Accordingly, in some places the Siwaliks now form a continuous and conformable series from base to summit, in other places the middle beds are absent and the upper beds of the series rest upon the upturned and denuded edges of the lower beds. The Siwaliks are fluviatile and torrential deposits similar to those which are now being formed at the foot of the mountains, in the Indo-Gangetic plain; and their relations to the older rocks of the Himalaya proper were very similar to those which now exist between the deposits of the plain and the Siwaliks themselves. But the great fault just described is not the only one of this character. There is a series of such faults, approximately parallel to one another, and although they have not been traced throughout the whole chain, yet wherever they occur they seem to have formed the northern boundary of deposition of the deposits immediately to the south of them. It appears, therefore, that the Himalaya grew southwards in a series of stages. A reversed fault was formed at the foot of the chain, and ?.?

arranged between the same parallel system of folds as we see on the western frontier, connected by short transverse gaps where the rivers cross the folds, frequently to resume a course parallel to that originally held. An instance of this occurs where the Indus suddenly breaks through the well-defined Ladakh range in the North-west Himalaya to resume its north-westerly course after passing from the northern to the southern side of the range. The reason assigned for these extraordinary diversions of the drainage right across the general strike of the ridges is that it is antecedent - i.e. that the lines of drainage were formed ere the folds or anticlinals were raised; and that the drainage has merely maintained the course originally held, by the power of erosion during the gradual process of upheaval.

In the outer valleys of the Himalaya the sides are generally steep, so steep as to be liable to landslip, whilst the streams are still cutting down the river beds and have not yet reached the stage of equilibrium. Here and there a valley has become filled with alluvial detritus owing to some local impediment in the drainage, and when this occurs there is usually to be found a fertile and productive field for agriculture. The straits of the Jhelum, below Baramulla, probably account for the lovely vale of Kashmir, which is in form (if not in principles of construction) a repetition on grand scale of the Maidan of the Afridi Tirah, where the drainage from the slopes of a great amphitheatre of hills is collected and then arrested by the gorge which marks the outlet to the Bara.

Other rivers besides the Indus and the Brahmaputra begin by draining a considerable area north of the snowy range - the Sutlej, the Kosi, the Gandak and the Subansiri, for example. All these rivers break through the main snowy range ere they twist their way through the southern hills to the plains of India. Here the " antecedent " theory will not is typical. suffice, for there is no sufficient catchment area north of the snows to support it. Their formation is explained by a process of " cutting back," by which the heads of these streams are gradually Sidhpur ohar -

F ?Giraga?Sot ?` r`" Pefari (i F ! " ?'-.'? F PeIQBi;R  ?, ?

,??0???? ' `. ?. ?1%.??..:aiZ_-. C.. Recent; d =Upper Siwalik conglomerates c =J,fiddle Siwalik sandstones; b=Lower (Nahan) siwalik.s; a . = Nummulitic; n=Older 'VCRs of Himalayas 'Scale. inch.= Section across the sub-Himalayan zone.

upon this fault the mountains were pushed forward over the beds deposited at their base, crumpling and folding them in the process, and forming a sub-Himalayan ridge in front of the main chain. After a time a new fault originated at the foot of the sub-Himalayan zone thus raised, which now became part of the Himalaya themselves, and a new sub-Himalayan chain was formed in front of the previous one. The earthquakes of the present day show that the process is still in operation, and in time the deposits of the present IndoGangetic plain will be involved in the folds.

The regular form of the Himalaya, constituting an arc of a true circle, appears to indicate that the whole chain has been pushed forward as one mass upon a gigantic thrust-plane; but, if so, the dip of the plane must be low, for a line drawn along the southern foot of the Himalaya would coincide with the outcrop of a plane inclined to the surface at an angle of about 14°. The thrust-plane, then, does not coincide with any of the boundary faults already mentioned, which are usually inclined at angles of 50° or 60°. The latter are due to the fact that, although, perhaps, the whole mass above the thrust-plane may move, yet the pressure which pushes it forwards necessarily proceeds from behind. The back, accordingly, moves faster than the front, and the whole is packed together; as when an ice-floe drives against the shore, the ice breaks and the outer fragments ride over those within. The great thrust-plane which is thus imagined to exist at the base of the Himalaya, corresponds with the " major thrusts " of the N.W. Highlands of Scotland, and the reversed faults which appear at the surface with the " minor thrusts." (P. LA.) Such is the general outline of Himalayan evolution as now understood, and the process of it has led to certain marked features of scenery and topography. Within the area of the transIndus mountains we have beds of hard limestone or sandstone alternating with soft shales, which leads to the scooping out by erosion of long narrow valleys where the tion. shales occur, and the passage of the streams through deep rifts or gorges across the hard limestone anticlinals, which stand in irregular series of parallel ridges with the eroded valleys between. The great mass of the Himalaya exhibits the same structure, due to the same conditions acting for longer periods and on a much larger scale; but the structure is varied in the eastern portions of the mountains by the effect of different climatic conditions, and especially by the greater rainfall. Instead of wide, barren, wind-swept valleys, here are found fertile alluvial plains - such as Manipur - but for the most part the erosive action of the river has been able to keep pace with the rise of the river bed, and we have deep, steep-sided valleys eating their way northwards owing to the greater rainfall on the southern than on the northern slopes. The result of this process is well exhibited in the relative steepness of slope on the Indian and Tibetan sides of the passes to the Indus plateau. On the southern or Indian side the routes to Tibet and Ladakh follow the levels of Himalayan valleys with no remarkably steep gradients till they near the approach to the water-divide. The slope then steepens with the ascending curve to the summit of the pass, from which point it falls with a comparatively gentle gradient to the general level of the plateau. The Zoji La, the Kashmir water-divide between the Jhelum and the Indus, is a prominent case in point, and all the passes from the Kumaon and Garhwal hills into Tibet exhibit this formation in a marked degree. Taking the average elevation of the central axial line of snowy peaks as 19,000 ft., the average height of the passes is not more than 10,000 owing to this process of cutting down by erosion and gradual encroachment into the northern basin.

Table of contents


Independently of the enormous variety of topographical conformation contained in the Himalayan system, the vast altitude of the mountains alone is sufficient to cause modifications of climate in ascending over their slopes such as are not surpassed by those observed in moving from the equator to the poles. One half of the total mass of the atmosphere and three-fourths of the water suspended in it in the form of vapour lie below the average altitude of the Himalaya; and of the residue, one-half of the air and virtually almost all the vapour come within the influence of the highest peaks. The regular variations in pressure of the air indicated by the barometer and the annual and diurnal oscillations are as well marked in the Himalaya as elsewhere, but the amount of vapour held in suspension diminishes so rapidly with the altitude that not more than one-sixth (sometimes only one-tenth) of that observed at the foot of the mountains is found at the greatest heights. This is dependent on the temperature of the air which rapidly decreases with altitude. On the mountains every altitude has its corresponding temperature, an elevation of moo ft. producing a fall of 31°, or about 1 ° to each 300 ft. The mean winter temperature at 7000 ft. (which is about the average height of Himalayan " hill stations ") is 44° F. and the summer mean about 65° F. At 9000 ft. the mean temperature of the coldest month is 32° F. At 12,000 ft. the thermometer never falls below freezing-point from the end of May to the middle of October, and at 15,000 ft. it is seldom above that point even in the height of summer. It should be noted that the thermometrical conditions of Tibet vary considerably from those of the Himalaya. At 12,000 ft. in Tibet the mean of the hottest month is about 60° F. and of the coldest about 10° F. whilst, at 15,000 ft. the frost is only permanent g.

, ??

.?;    c 
°ill' i?????3?P.?i?;?/`,(??,??tA`".i?e4 61 C S rSiadlemiss from the end of October to the end of April. The distribution of vegetation and topographical conformation largely influence the question of local temperature. For instance it may be found that the difference of temperature between forest-clad ranges and the Indian plains is twice as much in April and May as in December or January; and the difference between the temperature of a wellwooded hill top and the open valley below may vary from 9° to 24° within twenty-four hours. The general relations of temperature to altitude as determined by Himalayan observations are as follows: (i) The decrease of temperature with altitude is most rapid in summer. (2) The annual range diminishes with the elevation. (3) The diurnal range diminishes with the elevation. Comparisons are, however, apt to become anomalous when applied to elevated zones with a dense covering of forest and a great quantity of cloud and open and uncloudy regions both above and below the forest-clad tracts.

The chief rainfall occurs in the summer months between May and October (i.e. the period of the monsoon rains of India) the remainder of the year being comparatively dry. The fall of rain .

over the great plain of northern India gradually dimin ishes in quantity, and begins later, as we pass from east to west. At the same time the rain is heavier as we approach the Himalaya and the greatest falls are measured in its outer ranges; but the quantity again diminishes as we pass onward across the chain, and on arriving at the border of Tibet, behind the great line of snowy peaks, the rain falls in such small quantities as to be hardly susceptible of measurement. Diurnal currents of wind, which are established from the plains to the mountains during the day, and from the hills to the plains during the night, are impqrtant agents in distributing the rainfall. The condensation of vapour from the ascending currents and their gradual exhaustion as they are precipitated on successive ranges is very obvious in the cloud effects produced during the monsoon, the southern or windward face of each range being clothed day after day with a white crest of cloud whilst the northern slopes are often left entirely free. This shows how large a proportion of the vapour is arrested and how it is that only by drifting through the deeper gorges can any moisture find its way to the Tibetan table-land.

The yearly rainfall, which amounts to between 60 and 70 in. in the delta of the Ganges, is reduced to about 40 in. when that river issues from the mountains, and diminishes to 30 in. at the debouchment of the Indus into the plains. At Darjeeling (7000 ft. altitude) on the outer ranges of the eastern Himalaya it amounts to about 120 in. At Naini Tal north of the United Provinces it is about 90 in.; at Simla about 80 in., diminishing still further as one approaches the north-western hills. All these stations are about the same altitude.

In the eastern Himalaya the ordinary winter limit of snow is 6000 ft. and it never lies for many days even at 7000 ft. In Kumaon,. on the west, it usually reaches down to the 5000 ft. level and occasionally to 2500 ft. Snow has been known to fall at Peshawar. At Leh, in western Tibet, hardly 2 ft. of snow are usually registered and the fall on the passes between 17,000 and 19,000 ft. is not generally more than 3 ft., but on the Himalayan passes farther east the falls are much heavier. Even in September these passes may be quite blocked and they are not usually open till the middle of June. The snow-line, or the level to which snow recedes in the course of the year, ranges from 15,000 to 16,000 ft. on the southern exposures of the Himalaya that carry perpetual snow, along all that part of the system that lies between Sikkim and the Indus. It is not till December that the snow begins to descend for the winter, although after September light falls occur which cover the mountain sides down to 12,000 ft., but these soon disappear. On the snowy range the snow-line is not lower than 18,500 ft. and on the summit of the table-land it reaches to 20,000 ft. On all the passes into Tibet vegetation reaches to about 17,500 ft., and in August they may be crossed in ordinary years up to 18,400 ft. without finding any snow upon them; and it is as impossible to find snow in the summer in Tibet at 15,500 ft. above the sea as on the plains of India.


The level to which the Himalayan glaciers extend is greatly dependent on local conditions, principally the extent and elevation of the snow basins which feed them, and the slope and position of the mountain on which they are formed. Glaciers on the outer slopes of the Himalaya descend much lower than is commonly the case in Tibet, or in the most elevated valleys near the snowy range. The glaciers of Sikkim and the eastern mountains are believed not to reach a lower level than 13,500 or 14,000 ft. In Kumaon many of them descend to between 11,500 and 12,500 ft. In the higher valleys and Tibet 15,000 and 16,000 ft. is the ordinary level at which they end, but there are exceptions which descend far lower. In Europe the glaciers descend between 3000 and 5000 ft. below the snow-line, and in the Himalaya and Tibet about the same holds good. The summer temperatures of the points where the glaciers end on the Himalaya also correspond fairly with those of the corresponding positions in European glaciers, viz, for July a little below 60° F., August 58° and September 55°.

Measurements of the movement of Himalayan glaciers give results according closely with those obtained under analogous conditions in the Alps, viz. rates from 92 to 144 in. in twenty-four hours. The motion of one glacier from the middle of May to the middle of October averaged 8 in. in the twenty-four hours. The dimensions of the glaciers on the outer Himalaya, where, as before remarked, the valleys descend rapidly to lower levels, are fairly comparable with those of Alpine glaciers, though frequently much exceeding them in length8 or io m. not being unusual. In the elevated valleys of northern Tibet, where the destructive action of the summer heat is far less, the development of the glaciers is enormous. At one locality in north-western Ladakh there is a continuous mass of snow and ice extending across a snowy ridge, measuring 64 m. between the extremities of the two glaciers at its opposite ends. Another single glacier has been surveyed 36 m. long.

The northern tributaries of the Gilgit river, which joins the Indus near its south-westerly bend towards the Punjab, take their rise from a glacier system which is probably unequalled in the world for its extent and magnificent proportions. Chief amongst them are the glaciers which have formed on the southern slopes of the Murtagh mountains below the group of gigantic peaks dominated by Mount Godwin-Austen (28,250 ft. high). The Biafo glacier system, which lies in a long narrow trough extending south-west from Nagar on the Hunza to near the base of the Murtagh peaks, may be traced for 90 m. between mountain walls which tower to a height of from 20,000 to 25,000 ft. above sea-level on either side.

In connexion with almost all the Himalayan glaciers of which precise accounts are forthcoming are ancient moraines indicating some previous condition in which their extent was much larger than now. In the east these moraines are very remarkable, extending 8 or io m. In the west they seem not to go beyond 2 or 3 m. reach. They have been observed on the summit of the table-land as well as on the Himalayan slope. The explanation suggested to account for the former great extension of glaciers in Norway would seem applicable here. Any modification of the coast-line which should submerge the area now occupied by the North Indian plain, or any considerable part of it, would be accompanied by a much wetter and more equable climate on the Himalaya; more snow would fall on the highest ranges, and less summer heat would be brought to bear on the destruction of the glaciers, which would receive larger supplies and descend lower.


Speaking broadly, the general type of the flora of the lower, hotter and wetter regions, which extend along the great plain at the foot of the Himalaya, and include the valleys of the larger rivers which penetrate far into the mountains, does not differ from that of the contiguous peninsula and islands, though the tropical and insular character gradually becomes less marked going from east to west, where, with a greater elevation and distance from the sea and higher latitude, the rainfall and humidity diminish and the winter cold increases. The vegetation of the western part of the plain and of the hottest zone of the western mountains thus becomes closely allied to, or almost identical with, that of the drier parts of the Indian peninsula, more especially of its hilly portions; and, while a general tropical character is preserved, forms are observed which indicate the addition of an Afghan as well as of an African element, of which last the gay lily Gloriosa superba is an example, pointing to some. previous connexion with Africa.

The European flora, which is diffused from the Mediterranean along the high lands of Asia, extends to the Himalaya; many European species reach the central parts of the chain, though few reach its eastern end, while genera common to Europe and the Himalaya are abundant throughout and at all elevations. From the opposite quarter an influx of Japanese and Chinese forms, such as the rhododendrons, the tea plant, Aucuba, Helwingia, Skimmia, Adamia, Goughia and others, has taken place, these being more numerous in the east and gradually disappearing in the west. On the higher and therefore cooler and less rainy ranges of the Himalaya the conditions of temperature requisite for the preservation of the various species are readily found by ascending or descending the mountain slopes, and therefore a greater uniformity of character in the vegetation is maintained along the whole chain. At the greater elevations the species identical with those of Europe become more frequent, and in the alpine regions many plants are found identical with species of the Arctic zone. On the Tibetan plateau, with the increased dryness, a Siberian type is established, with many true Siberian species and more genera; and some of the Siberian forms are further disseminated, even to the plains of Upper India. The total absence of a few of the more common forms of northern Europe and Asia should also be noticed, among which may be named Tilia, Fagus, Arbutus, Erica, Azalea and Cistacae. In the more humid regions of the east the mountains are almost everywhere covered with a dense forest which reaches up to 12,000 or 13,000 ft. Many tropical types here ascend to 7000 ft. or more. To the west the upper limit of forest is somewhat lower, from 11,500 to 12,000 ft. and the tropical forms usually cease at 5000 ft.

In Sikkim the mountains are covered with dense forest of tall umbrageous trees, commonly accompanied by a luxuriant growth of under shrubs, and adorned with climbing and epiphytal plants in wonderful profusion. In the tropical zone large figs abound, Terminalia, Shorea (sal), laurels, many Leguminosae, Bombax, Artocarpus, bamboos and several palms, among which species of Calamus are remarkable, climbing over the largest trees; and this is the western limit of Cycas and Myristica (nutmeg). Plantains ascend to 7000 ft. Pandanus and tree-ferns abound. Other ferns, Scitamineae, orchids and climbing Aroideae are very numerous, the last named profusely adorning the forests with their splendid dark-green foliage. Various oaks descend within a few hundred feet of the sea-level, increasing in numbers at greater altitudes, and becoming very frequent at 4000 ft., at which elevation also appear Aucuba, Magnolia, cherries, Pyrus, maple, alder and birch, with many Araliaceae, Hollbollea, Skimmia, Daphne, Myrsine, Symplocos and Rubus. Rhododendrons begin at about 6000 ft. and become abundant at 8000 ft., from io,000 to 14,000 ft. forming in many places the mass of the shrubby vegetation which extends some 2000 ft. above the forest. Epiphytal orchids are extremely numerous between 6000 and 8000 ft. Of the Coniferae, Podocarpus and Pinus longifolia alone descend to the tropical zone; Abies Brunoniana and Smithiana and the larch (a genus not seen in the western mountains) are found at 8000, and the yew and Picea Webbiana at 10,000 ft. Pinus excelsa, which occurs in Bhutan, is absent in the wetter climate of Sikkim.

On the drier and higher mountains of the interior of the chain, the forests become more open, and are spread less uniformly over the hill-sides, a luxuriant herbaceous vegetation appears, and the number of shrubby Leguminosae, such as Desmodium and Indigofera, increases, as well as Ranunculaceae, Rosaceae, Umbelliferae, Labiatae, Gramineae, Cyperaceae and other European genera.

Passing to the westward, and viewing the flora of Kumaon, which province holds a central position on the chain, on the 80th meridian, we find that the gradual decrease of moisture and increase of high summer heat are accompanied by a marked change of the vegetation. The tropical forest is characterized by the trees of the hotter and drier parts of southern India, combined with a few of European type. Ferns are more rare, and the tree-ferns have disappeared. The species of palm are also reduced to two or three, and bamboos, though abundant, are confined to a few species.

The outer ranges of mountains are mainly covered with forests of Pinus longifolia, rhododendron, oak and Pieris. At Naini Tal cypress is abundant. The shrubby vegetation comprises Rosa, Rubus, Indigofera, Desmodium, Berberis, Boehmeria, Viburnum,' Clematis, with an Arundinaria. Of herbaceous plants species of Ranunculus, Potentilla, Geranium, Thalictrum, Primula, Gentiana and many other European forms are common. In the less exposed localities, on northern slopes and sheltered valleys, the European forms become more numerous, and we find species of alder, birch, ash, elm, maple, holly, hornbeam, Pyrus, &c. At greater elevations in the interior, besides the above are met Corylus, the common walnut, found wild throughout the range, horse chestnut, yew, also Picea Webbiana, Pinus, excelsa, Abies Smithiana, Cedrus Deodara (which tree does not grow spontaneously east of Kumaon), and several junipers. The denser forests are commonly found on the northern faces of the higher ranges, or in the deeper valleys, between 8000 and 10,500 ft. The woods on the outer ranges from 3000 up to 7000 ft. are more open, and consist mainly of evergreen trees.

The herbaceous vegetation does not differ greatly, generically, from that of the east, and many species of Primulaceae, Ranunculaceae, Cruciferae, Labiatae and Scrophulariaceae occur; balsams abound, also beautiful forms of Campanulaceae, Gentiana, Meconopsis, Saxifraga and many others.

Cultivation hardly extends above 7000 ft., except in the valleys behind the great snowy peaks, where a few fields of buckwheat and Tibetan barley are sown up to 11,000 or 12,000 ft. At the lower elevations rice, maize and millets are common, wheat and barley at a somewhat higher level, and buckwheat and amaranth usually on the poorer lands, or those recently reclaimed from forest. Besides these, most of the ordinary vegetables of the plains are reared, and potatoes have been introduced in the neighbourhood of all the British stations.

As we pass to the west the species of rhododendron, oak and Magnolia are much reduced in number as compared to the eastern region, and both the Malayan and Japanese forms are much less common. The herbaceous tropical and semi-tropical vegetation likewise by degrees disappears, the Scitamineae, epiphytal and terrestrial Orchideae, Araceae, Cyrtandraceae and Begoniae only occur in small numbers in Kumaon, and scarcely extend west of the Sutlej. In like manner several of the western forms suited to drier climates find their eastern limit in Kumaon. In Kashmir the plane and Lombardy poplar flourish, though hardly seen farther east, the cherry is cultivated in orchards, and the vegetation presents an eminently European cast. The alpine flora is slower in changing its character as we pass from east to west, but in Kashmir the vegetation of the higher mountains hardly differs from that of the mountains of Afghanistan, Persia and Siberia, even in species.

The total number of flowering plants inhabiting the range amounts probably to 5000 or 6000 species, among which may be reckoned several hundred common English plants chiefly from the temperate and alpine regions; and the characteristic of the flora as a whole is that it contains a general and tolerably complete illustration of almost all the chief natural families of all parts of the world, and has comparatively few distinctive features of its own.

The timber trees of the Himalaya are very numerous, but few of them are known to be of much value. The " Sal " is one of the most valuable of the trees; with the " Toon " and " Sissoo," it grows in the outer ranges most accessible from the plains. The " Deodar" is also much used, but the other pines produce timber that is not durable. Bamboos grow everywhere along the outer ranges, and rattans to the eastward, and are largely exported for use in the plains. of India.

Though one species of coffee is indigenous in the hotter Himalayan forests, the climate does not appear suitable for the growth of the plant which supplies the coffee of commerce. The cultivation of tea, however, is carried on successfully on a large scale, both in the east and west of the mountains. In the western Himalaya the cultivated variety of the tea plant of China succeeds well; on the east the indigenous tea of Assam, which is not specifically different, and is perhaps the original parent of the Chinese variety, is now almost everywhere preferred. The produce of the Chinese variety in the hot and wet climate of the eastern Himalaya, Assam and eastern Bengal is neither so abundant nor so highly flavoured as that of the indigenous plant.

The cultivation of the cinchona, several species of which have been introduced from South America and naturalized in the Sikkim Himalaya, promises to yield at a comparatively small cost an ample supply of the febrifuge extracted from its bark. At present the manufacture is almost wholly in the hands of the Government, and the drug prepared is all disposed of in India.


The general distribution of animal life is determined by much the same conditions that have controlled the vegetation. The connexion with Europe on the north-west, with China on the north-east, with Africa on the south-west, and with the Malayan region on the south-east is manifest; and the greater or less prevalence of the European and Eastern forms varies according to more western or eastern position on the chain. So far as is known these remarks will apply to the extinct as well as to the existing fauna. The Palaeozoic forms found in the Himalaya are very close to those of Europe, and in some cases identical. The Triassic fossils are still more closely allied, more than a third of the species being identical. Among the Jurassic Mollusca, also, are many species that are common in Europe. The Siwalik fossils contain 84 species of mammals of 45 genera, the whole bearing a marked resemblance to the Miocene fauna of Europe, but containing a larger number of genera still existing, especially of ruminants, and now held to be of Pliocene age.

The fauna of the Tibetan Himalaya is essentially European or rather that of the northern half of the old continent, which region has by zoologists been termed Palaearctic. Among the characteristic animals may be named the yak, from which is reared a cross breed with the ordinary horned cattle of India, many wild sheep, and two antelopes, as well as the musk-deer; several hares and some burrowing animals, including pikas (Lagomys) and two or three species of marmot; certain arctic forms of carnivora - fox, wolf, lynx, ounce, marten and ermine; also wild asses. Among birds are found bustard and species of sand-grouse and partridge; water-fowl in great variety, which breed on the lakes in summer and migrate to the plains of India in winter; the raven, hawks, eagles and owls, a magpie, and two kinds of chough; and many smaller birds of the passerine order, amongst which are several finches. Reptiles, as might be anticipated, are far from numerous, but a few lizards are found, belonging for the most part to types, such as Phrynocephalus, characteristic of the Central-Asiatic area. The fishes from the headwaters of the Indus also belong, for the most part, to Central-Asiatic types, with a small admixture of purely Himalayan forms. Amongst the former are several peculiar small-scaled carps, belonging to the genus Schizothorax and its allies.

The ranges of the Himalaya, from the border of Tibet to the plains, form a zoological region which is one of the richest of the world, particularly in respect to birds, to which the forest-clad mountains offer almost every range of temperature.

Only two or three forms of monkey enter the mountains, the langur, a species of Semnopithecus, ranging up to 12,000 ft. No lemurs occur, although a species is found in Assam, and another in southern India. Bats are numerous, but the species are for the most part not peculiar to the area; several European forms are found at the higher elevations. Moles, which are unknown in the Indian peninsula, abound in the forest regions of the eastern Himalayas at a moderate altitude, and shrews of several species are found almost everywhere; amongst them are two very remarkable forms of water shrew, one of which, however, Nectogale, is probably Tibetan rather than Himalayan. Bears are common, and so are a marten, several weasels and otters, and cats of various kinds and sizes, from the little spotted Felis bengalensis, smaller than a domestic cat, to animals like the clouded leopard rivalling a leopard in size. Leopards are common, and the tiger wanders to a considerable elevation, but can hardly be considered a permanent inhabitant, except in the lower valleys. Civets, the mungoose (Herpestes), and toddy cats (Paradoxurus) are only found at the lower elevations. Wild dogs (Cyon) are common, but neither foxes nor wolves occur in the forest area. Besides these carnivora some very peculiar forms are found, the most remarkable of which is Aelurus, sometimes called the cat-bear, a type akin to the American racoon. Two other genera, Helictis, an aberrant badger,. and linsang, an aberrant civet, are representatives of Malayan types. Amongst the rodents squirrels abound, and the so-called flying squirrels are represented by several species. Rats and mice swarm, both kinds and individuals being numerous, but few present much peculiarity, a bamboo rat (Rhizomys) from the base of the eastern Himalaya being perhaps most worthy of notice. Two or three species of vole (Arvicola) have been detected, and porcupines are common. The elephant is found in the outer forests as far as the Jumna, and the rhinoceros as far as the Sarda; the spread of both of these animals as far as the Indus and into the plains of India, far beyond their present limits, is authenticated by historical records; they have probably retreated before the advance of cultivation and fire-arms. Wild pigs are common in the lower ranges, and one peculiar species of pigmy-hog (Sus salvanius) of very small size inhabits the forests at the base of the mountains in Nepal and Sikim. Deer of several kinds are met with, but do not ascend very high on the hillsides, and belong exclusively to Indian forms. The musk deer keeps to the greater elevations. The chevrotains of India and the Malay countries are unrepresented. The gaur or wild ox is found at the base of the hills. Three very characteristic ruminants, having some affinities with goats, inhabit the Himalaya; these are the " serow " (Nemorhaedus), " goral " (Cemas) and " tahr " (Hemitragus), the last-named ranging to rather high elevations. Lastly, the pangolin (Manis) is represented by two species in the eastern Himalaya. A dolphin (Platanista) living in the Ganges ascends that river and its affluents to their issue from the mountains.

Almost all the orders of birds are well represented, and the marvellous variety of forms found in the eastern Himalaya is only rivalled in Central and South America. Eagles, vultures and other birds of prey are seen soaring high over the highest of the forest-clad ranges. Owls are numerous, and a small species, Glaucidium, is conspicuous, breaking the stillness of the night by its monotonous though musical cry of two notes. Several kinds of swifts and nightjars are found, and gorgeously-coloured trogons, bee-eaters, rollers, and beautiful kingfishers and barbets are common. Several large hornbills inhabit the highest trees in the forest. The parrots are restricted to parrakeets, of which there are several species, and a single small lory. The number of woodpeckers is very great and the variety of plumage remarkable, and the voice of the cuckoo, of which there are numerous species, resounds in the spring as in Europe. The number of passerine birds is immense. Amongst them the sun-birds resemble in appearance and almost rival in beauty the humming-birds of the New Continent. Creepers, nuthatches, shrikes, and their allied forms, flycatchers and swallows, thrushes, dippers and babblers (about fifty species), bulbuls and orioles, peculiar types of redstart, various sylviads, wrens, tits, crows, jays and magpies, weaver-birds, avadavats, sparrows, crossbills and many finches, including the exquisitely coloured rosefinches, may also be mentioned. The pigeons are represented by several wood-pigeons, doves and green pigeons. The gallinaceous birds include the peacock, which everywhere adorns the forest bordering on the plains, jungle fowl and several pheasants; partridges, of which the chikor may be named as most abundant, and snowpheasants and partridges, found only at the greatest elevations. Waders and waterfowl are far less abundant, and those occurring are nearly all migratory forms which visit the peninsula of India - the only important exception being two kinds of solitary snipe and the red-billed curlew.

Of the reptiles found in these mountains many are peculiar. Some -of the snakes of India are to be seen in the hotter regions, including the python and some of the venomous species, the cobra being found as high up as 8000 or 9000 ft., though not common. Lizards are numerous, and as well as frogs are found at all elevations from the plains to the upper Himalayan valleys, and even extend to Tibet.

The fishes found in the rivers of the Himalaya show the same general connexion with the three neighbouring regions, the Palaearctic, the African and the Malayan. Of the principal families, the Acanthopterygii, which are abundant in the hotter parts of India, hardly enter the mountains, two genera only being found, of which one is the peculiar amphibious genus Ophiocephalus. None of these fishes are found in Tibet. The Siluridae, or scaleless fishes, and the Cyprinidae, or carp and loach, form the bulk of the mountain fish, :and the genera and species appear to be organized for a mountaintorrent life, being almost all furnished with suckers to enable them to maintain their positions in the rapid streams which they inhabit. A few Siluridae have been found in Tibet, but the carps constitute the larger part of the species. Many of the Himalayan forms are Indian fish which appear to go up to the higher streams to deposit their ova, and the Tibetan species as a rule are confined to the rivers on the table-land or to the streams at the greatest elevations, the characteristics of which are Tibetan rather than Himalayan. The Salmonidae are entirely absent from the waters of the Himalaya proper, of Tibet and of Turkestan east of the Terektag.

The Himalayan butterflies are very numerous and brilliant, for the most part belonging to groups that extend both into the Malayan and European regions, while African forms also appear. There are large and gorgeous species of Papilio, Nymphalidae, Morphidae and Danaidae, and the more favoured localities are described as being only second to South America in the display of this form of beauty and variety in insect life. Moths, also, of strange forms and of great size are common. The cicada's song resounds among the woods in the autumn; flights of locusts frequently appear after the summer, and they are carried by the prevailing winds even among the glaciers and eternal snows. Ants, bees and wasps of many species, and flies and gnats abound, particularly during the summer rainy season, and at all elevations.

Mountain Scenery

Much has been written about the impressive ness of Himalayan scenery. It is but lately, however, that any adequate conception of the magnitude and majesty of the most stupendous of the mountain groups which mass themselves about the upper tributaries and reaches of the Indus has been presented to us in the works of Sir F. Younghusband, Sir W. M. Conway, H. C. B. Tanner and D. Freshfield. It is not in comparison with the picturesque beauty of European Alpine scenery that the Himalaya appeals to the imagination, for amongst the hills of the outer Himalaya - the hills which are known to the majority of European residents and visitors - there is often a striking absence of those varied incidents and sharp contrasts which are essential to picturesqueness in mountain landscape. Too often the brown, barren, sun-scorched ridges are obscured in the yellow dust haze which drifts upwards from the plains; too often the whole perspective of hill and vale is blotted out in the grey mists that sweep in soft, resistless columns against these southern slopes, to be condensed and precipitated in ceaseless, monotonous rainfall. Few Europeans really see the Himalaya; fewer still are capable of translating their impressions into language which is neither exaggerated nor inadequate.

Name of Mountain.

Place of Observation.





of Slope


Everest.. .

Dewanganj .





K2 or Godwin-Austen

Between Gilgit and

Gor, 16,000 ft.


Pk. XIII. or Makalu

Purnea, 200 ft.



Sandakphu, 12,000 ft.


Nanga Parbat .

Gor, 16,00o ft.



Tirach Mir. .

Between Gilgit and

Chitral, 8000 ft. .



Rakapushi. .

C ha p r o t (Gilgit),

13,000 ft. .



Kinchinjunga .

Darjeeling, 7000 ft.



Mont Blanc .

Above Chamonix,

7000 ft... .



Some idea of the magnitude of Himalayan mountain construction - a magnitude which the eye totally fails to appreciate - may, however, be gathered from the following table of comparison of the absolute height of some peaks above sea-level with the actual amount of their slopes exposed to view: - Relative Extent of Snow Slopes Visible. It will be observed from this table that it is not often that a greater slope of snow-covered mountain side is observable in the Himalaya than that which is afforded by the familiar view of Mont Blanc from Chamonix. (T. H. H.*)/n==Authorities== - Drew, Jammu and Kashmir (London, 1875); G. W. Leitner, Dardistan (1887); J. Biddulph, Tribes of the Hindu Kush (Calcutta, 1880); H. H. Godwin-Austen, " Mountain Systems of the Himalaya," vols. v. and vi. Proc. R. G. S. (1883-1884); C. Ujfalvy, Aus dem westlichen Himalaya (Leipzig, 1884); H. C. B. Tanner, " Our Present Knowledge of the Himalaya," vol. xiii. Proc. R. G. S. (1891); R. D. Oldham, " The Evolution of Indian Geography," vol. iii. Jour. R. G. S.; W. Lawrence, Kashmir (Oxford, 1895); Sir W. M. Conway, Climbing and Exploring in the Karakoram (London, 1898); F. Bullock Workman, In the Ice World of Himalaya (1900); F. B. and W. H. Workman, Ice-bound Heights of the Mustagh (1908); D. W. Freshfield, Round Kangchenjunga (1903).

For geology see R. Lydekker, " The Geology of Kashmir," &c., Hem. Geol. Surv. India, vol. xxii. (1883); C. S. Middlemiss, " Physical Geology of the Sub-Himalaya of Gahrwal and Kumaon," ibid., vol. xxiv. pt. 2 (1890); C. L. Griesbach, Geology of the Central Himalayas, vol. xxiii. (1891); R. D. Oldham, Manual of the Geology of India, chap. xviii. (2nd ed., 1893). Descriptions of the fossils, with some notes on stratigraphical questions, will be found in several of the volumes of the Palaeontologia Indica, published by the Geological Survey of India, Calcutta.

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