Mountains inspire us in many ways. For some they elicit poetic metaphors and myths. For others they stand as a challenge to climb and explore. Often they are subjects of scientific inquiry. Geologists, biologists, surveyors, historians, artists and photographers have devoted their careers to discovering the hidden secrets of mountain landscapes. For those who live in the mountains, they represent sustenance and survival, as well as hardship and toil. Human beings have always looked upon mountains as symbols of spiritual attainment—high places, where we confront eternal questions of existence and mortality. We often place our gods upon a mountain, distant and omniscient deities who look down upon us from ethereal summits.
In essence, mountains are nothing more or less than geographical phenomena, uplifted plates of the earth’s crust that support different forms of life in a variety of altitudinal zones. More than any other physical feature on this planet, including oceans, mountains offer the greatest diversity of species, climate and terrain. While they might seem to be eternal, immutable manifestations of geological forces—representing strength and solidity—in fact, mountains are some of the most fragile and changeable environments on earth. Ultimately, the future of mountains like the Himalaya rests upon choices we make as people who depend on the rivers, forests, plants, animals and minerals they contain. The ominous effects of climate change are self-evident in receding glaciers and shifting weather patterns. Giant dams and hydroelectric projects have blocked the flow of rivers, inundated valleys and displaced populations. Ill-conceived development, pollution and a wasteful use of natural resources threaten to destroy the mountains.
However we may look upon these highlands—from an aesthetic, romantic, scientific, cultural or religious perspective—it is vital that we recognise and appreciate where human beings stand in the context of their natural history. We cannot survive as a society or a species unless we preserve the serenity and sanctity of mountains, not just as symbols but as real and living monuments of creation.
The Story of Wangdi Norbu by Nandini Purandare & Deepa Balsavar
The Hill and the Mountain by Bill Aitken
Nomad’s Land by Sankar Sridhar
The Joys of the Unknown by Martin Moran
The Missing Link by Mamang Dai
High Culture by Anupam Sah
Rock of Ages by Viraf Mehta
Access by Janaki Lenin