"History and Himalaya From Myth to Reality" lecture by Prof. Shekhar Pathak at Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg > 3pm on 3rd February 2012

Time : 3:00 pm0

Entry : Free (Seating on First-Come First-Served basis)

Place : Seminar Room, Nehru Memorial Museum & Library ( NMML ), Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg, New Delhi

Event Details : The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library cordially invites you to a Public Lecture on ‘History and Himalaya From Myth to Reality’ by Prof. Shekhar Pathak, Former Fellow, NMML and Editor, Pahar, Nainital, Uttarakhand

Abstract : Himalaya, the ‘abode of snow’, is home not only to an imposing geological, geographical and biological diversity but also to a multitude of flourishing human concerns and constructs, from hunting-gathering communities to agrarian societies and their settled cultures and also to the economies of modern trade and industry. This mountain system has created and fostered a distinctive ecology that has become the basis for the existence of the natural as well as cultural systems of Indian subcontinent. It simultaneously connects the lush green hills and tropical rainforests of Myanmar, Arunachal and Bhutan with the sparse and cold semi-desert of the Ladakh-Karakoram region, and the great plains of Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra with the Tibetan plateau.
From the east to the west, Himalaya stands like a sub-continental arc. It is spread in many countries, regions and climatic zones. In so many ways, it is dynamic and active. Its rich soil and water, in spreading abundant fertility and life in the plains below, transform the landscape extraordinarily; its communities and their cultures, which arrived and settled over millennia, have in turn spread out in many directions.
Its geology teaches us about continental drift, the disappearing of the Tethys Sea, or about its own rising height, still ongoing, or yet about its own peculiar nature, which hides within itself a complex dynamism. With its peaks, passes, glaciers, moraines, rivers, confluences, gorges, pastures and meadows, its geography is akin to the myriad faces of nature. Its glaciers and rivers have been called the ‘water towers’ for the 21st century. Its lofty peaks make a formidable barrier for the monsoons, resulting in heavy rainfall on the windward side. This mountain system, indeed, produces and controls the climate of South Asia.
The expanse of its vegetation and forests is like green lungs that absorb the ever-rising atmospheric carbon. Its flora is the basis for a variety of medicines. Its wilderness has given natural expression and embodiment to a plethora of floral and faunal species, from birds, fish, and butterflies to lichens, orchids and yarsha gumba (caterpillar fungus -Cordyceps sinensis- also known as keeda jadi).
Its natural beauty and tranquillity has inspired and mesmerized many, including some of the greatest human beings ever lived. The abundance of raw material that it provides is the basis for mineral, metal, oil, timber and drug industries. Its wilderness has been a meeting point for natural and spiritual energies, and within a broader cultural context, it is still the main attraction for pilgrims and tourists. The mighty snowy peaks, the grim passes and the forbidding glacial vistas fascinate and beckon the adventurers and explorers.
Various societies and cultures have settled here; while some of them have maintained an interactive existence, many have also chosen a more separate, isolated but splendid identity. The existence of hundreds of communities is deeply connected with Himalaya. Perhaps, this is the reason why Himalaya is an unparalleled location in terms of its natural and human diversity.
Different stages of social development can be seen here, with tribal, caste and class-based societies standing alongside each other. While animal husbandry is actively practiced in the mountains and agriculture in the valleys, the barter system of trade spreads across the Himalaya. This has led to the creation of a unique social, cultural and economic system, containing elements brought in by different constitutive communities.
Being the melting pot of several human groups, a juncture of different political systems, and the source of the most important rivers of Asia, the continuously increasing geo-political importance of the Himalaya has ensured that we ought to understand it deeply and comprehensively by engaging with its geology, geography, history, culture, anthropology, sociology, ecology, economics, and indigenous knowledge systems. It is necessary that the Himalaya should be studied not only for its myths and folklore but its various aspects should become the object of study for scientific and independent research as well.
Today this mountain region is being rapidly encroached upon. The resources of Himalaya are being exploited at an unsustainable rate, much beyond at which they could be naturally regenerated. Hydroelectric projects, mining, pressure on biodiversity, increasing marginality, decreasing livelihood options, the out-migration of mountain communities and finally the impact of globalization, privatization, consumerism and climatic changes are serious concerns.
There is a need to understand the history of Himalayan people in a more scientific way. It is to be looked as ‘periphery’ as well as ‘centre’. It is to be written as part of the national histories as well as full fledged histories of the regions.
Here in this lecture an attempt is being made to understand the history of the Himalayan region through its geo-geographic-ecological and socio-cultural importance in Indian sub-continent.

Speaker : Prof. Shekhar Pathak taught in Kumaon University, was Fellow at IIAS, Shimla and NMML, New Delhi. He edits PAHAR, an annual devoted to Himalayan studies. He travels a lot in mountains and writes a little.

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"History and Himalaya From Myth to Reality" lecture by Prof. Shekhar Pathak at Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg > 3pm on 3rd February 2012 "History and Himalaya From Myth to Reality" lecture by Prof. Shekhar Pathak at Teen Murti House, Teen Murti Marg > 3pm on 3rd February 2012 Reviewed by DelhiEvents on Friday, February 03, 2012 Rating: 5

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