Himachal Pradesh is an array of beautiful landscapes merging together to create exotic locales. Also known as the ‘Region of Snowy Mountains’, it is bordered on all sides with equally scenic states like Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Haryana.
Blessed with cascading rivers, green valleys, snow caped mountains and thick vegetation, it really doesn’t come as a surprise that it was known as the ‘Abode of Gods’ in the ancient times. It unarguably ranks number one in the priority list of travelers, photographers, tourists, nomads, backpackers etc.
The beauty of the place strikes a cord with the ‘Nomadier’ in you in an instant, and you are filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards it. It soothes ones consciousness, and calls you to bathe in its splendor. Taking in as much of the spectacle and the culture, you will be delighted like a ‘child who gets a new toy’. The gentle breeze caressing the realm of your senses, Himachal Pradesh is as intoxicating a place, as it can be. You as a ‘Nomadier’ are bound to relish it forever!
As old as the planet. Himachal Pradesh got inhabited 2 million years ago. The scenic foothills were home to the pre-historic man and later on to the highly advanced Indus Valley civilization. Himachal Pradesh has boasted of having some of the most prolific civilizations adorn the unchartered territories of its landscape.
Large kingdoms like Kangra, Mandi, Bilaspur, Nalagarh, Sirmaur etc. established their lordship around the medieval period. Under their reign the state of Himachal Pradesh, witnessed some flourishing changes, both politically and culturally. The state had a rich cultural inclination and a lot of festivals were celebrated with grandeur. Especially under the reign of Maharaja Sansar Chand of Kangra who with his policy of territorial expansion, made sure that the state was duly developed and celebrated.
But, all this was about to change with the entry of the Muslim rulers who with their monarchal ambitions confined these kingdoms to remain dominated. However, as the years passed the British colonization stepped in and after having defeated the Khalsa and Gurkha troops, they anchored their supremacy over the region and made Shimla their summer capital. The British Raj also aided in bringing infrastructural inputs by laying the first rail-lines between Kalka- Shimla and the Kangra Valley.
Geography and Climate:
Himachal Pradesh is a state which has a magnetic effect on the first time visitor. Adorned at the foothills of the Himalayas, it covers a total area of 55, 673 km. Bordered by Jammu and Kashmir on the north, Haryana on the south and the Tibet Autonomous Region on the east; it doesn’t come as a surprise that Himachal is one of the favourite tourist spots in India. The elevation keeps increasing as you reach higher terrains and can range from 350 mtrs to 7,000 mtrs. The ‘Nomadier’ in you will always find sanctity in the mighty natural resources of the Himachal.
From tolerable clear climate in Manali to freezing cold due to snow just ten kilometers away from Manali in the Solang Valley, the climatic conditions can vary tremendously as the elevation increases through the state. On a broader perspective, Himachal has three seasons - winter, summer and rain. It can get sub-humid in the south to freezing cold in the north and eastern mountain ranges. The state has extremities in rain fall also as areas like the ‘Dharamsala’ experience heavy rainfall throughout the year, while Lahual and Spiti remain almost rainless.
Culture and People:
Himachal Pradesh embodies a unique potpourri of cultures and people. It remained untouched for the largest part of its existence, but once the technological advancements strengthened the states economy a lot of people started pouring in. Thus, Himachal slowly but gradually became a multireligional and multicultural state. Some of the most commonly spoken languages include Hindi, Pahari, Mandialli, Kangri, Punjabi to name a few. Apart from the tribal populations of Kinnars, Pangawals, Sulehrias there are also Brahmins, Buddhists, Rajputs and Gujjars who have made it their home.
The people of Himachal have an acute sense of simplicity in their living. Their lives revolve around the high peaks, rivers and valleys. The people in general are very simple and affectionate and have a firm root in their history. Ninety percent of the people live in villages and small towns and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Many of them have their expertise in animal husbandry. The other major profession is handcrafting items like carpets, metal ware, woodwork and paintings. The Himachali cap is especially famous for its art. And, almost all the households own a ‘loom’.
The rich cultural vibrancy of the state makes way for a lot of festivals celebrated across the state. Each year the Himachalis see a cycle of rituals and festivals with melas (fairs) full of fun and frolic. From the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, all festivals are celebrated with great aplomb. Some of these fairs and festivals include the grand celebrations at Kullu Dussehra and Shivratri. Apart from these, Diwali and Holi are equally enjoyed. Out of the commons, the one which enjoys special participation is the ‘Phulech’ or the ‘Festival of Flowers’. People from each household proceed towards hilltops to collect flowers, which are offered to village deity and afterwards these flower garlands are distributed among the people.
The beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh offers a platter of delicacies, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The cuisine of Himachal Pradesh has a significant influence of the North Indian and Tibetan style of food. The people of Himachal Pradesh prefer very spicy food items. However in their daily and regular routine most of the citizens have North Indian dishes that are easy to make and very tasty to eat. The most common dishes include rice, dal, madra and the famous Sattu which is consumed with sugar or milk.
A place which is so rich in natural beauty must also have a unique collection of wildlife. Himachal Pradesh can easily be called as a haven for wildlife. Adorned with over 1200 bird species and 359 animal species, Himachal conjures up an affable collection of wildlife. Most of the species are rightfully protected under the ‘Wildlife Protection Act of 1972’ and because of which their abode is a protected place.
A lot of bird species are found in here and many of them are migratory ones, which visit Himachal once a year. Some of the native ones include the ‘Lammergeyer’; also know as the ‘Bearded Vulture’. Commonly found, you can’t miss a vulture which sports a beard! However the same cannot be told about the ‘Himalayan Bulbul’ - very rare to find, but very pleasing to listen to! And if you are really lucky you might even spot the majestic ‘Golden Eagle’, vanquishing across the Himachal skies. Some of the migratory birds include the ‘Snow Cock’, a peculiar kind of ground nesting bird from the mountain ranges of Southern Eurasia. And the most beautiful species of bird found in Himachal – the ‘Western Tragopan’. A highly endangered species, it is known as the ‘Jujurana’ or the ‘King of Birds’.
Himachal also boasts of a variety mammals. Wild Goat species include the ‘Himalayan Tahr’, which have flexible, rubbery hooves which allow them to grip on to smooth rocks. There is also the curiously named ‘Blue Sheep’ (Bharal), named such because of its gray-blue coloured hairy coat. It grazes at altitudes of over 6,000 m and has the characteristics of both sheep and goat. It is also one of the chief preys of the elusive ‘Snow Leopard’, which lives in the rocky areas of Himachal. One of the most astonishing of all the cats, the Snow Leopard is a delight to watch and something unique is the fact that it is also known to eat grass and twigs. A rarity for a cat! It also happens to be the state animal of Himachal Pradesh.
For the adventure enthusiast, Himachal Pradesh boasts of humungous activities. With the right mix of rough terrains and riveting rivers, Himachal Pradesh is a dream destination for adventure aficionados. From rugged terrain driving to skiing in the ancient slopes of ‘Kungri’. From white water rafting in Sutlej to para-gliding in the Kullu Valley. Himachal Pradesh embodies a spirit of classic adventure. Rest assured the ‘Nomadier’ in you will never in the least be let down!
Rugged Terrain Driving:
One of the most important means of transport around Himachal Pradesh is obviously by the road. But it takes a whole new meaning, when you are travelling along some of the most scary bends, high mountain passes and incredible terrains. The geography of this place adds invariably to the adventure quotient. And you as a Nomadier will be delighted beyond your thoughts, when you drive around this adventure valley.
The second best means around is through the two wheeled delight. Cycling around the valley is as exciting as trudging along the narrow edges of mountain peaks. With gentle routes, high altitude passes and exotic locales, you a ‘Nomadier’ will feel as if riding in one of the most serene landscapes ever.
Let’s take the adventure quotient a little higher. Skiing is an activity which gestures a sense of composed sensitivity. Gliding along the snow clad mountains of Kufri, Mahasu or Solang Nullah the adrenaline quotient breathes in elevated bouts of life. It is such a scintillating experience, that the ‘Nomadier’ in you takes delight in even the minute experiences of it. And for the highly experienced skiers, there is also the ‘Rohtang Pass’ which is open from June to September.
Get ready for the heart to beat a little faster. Heli-skiing a sport developed for the extreme adventure junkies, who don’t have the time to trudge along long trails to ski down. Being taken up by a helicopter, you are released to a spell-binding descent from some of the most breathtaking slopes. It can be experienced in Hanuman Tibba, Rohtang Pass, Deo Tibba etc.
No need to specially mention it. Para-gliding has enveloped the mind like no other adventure sport. You as a ‘Nomadier’ can experience the beautiful feeling of flying like a bird and relish the delights of flight. Gliding through the air like a kite you would never forget this magnetic experience. You can have a go at it in Bilaspur, Kullu Valley or the Pabbar Valley. It is also very much active at Billing in Kangra, which also happens to be the venue for national and international para-gliding rallies.
For the aqua lovers, Himachal Pradesh doesn’t disappoint either. There are a variety of options for all age groups of people, the majority of which prefer the white-water rafting. Cruising along the mesmerizing rivers is a completely engaging experience. Few of the highly recommended destinations to try these are in Sutlej in Shimla, Beas, Ravi and Chandra in Lahual.