Himachal Pradesh Himachal Pradesh is a beautiful hill state in Northern India, nestled in the Western Himalayas. “HIMACHAL” literally means, “THE LAND OF SNOW.” The state capital is Shimla which was formerly British India’s summer capital under the name Simla. It is the most beautiful and peaceful state in India. For sheer geographical diversity, few places in the world are as richly endowed as Himachal Pradesh. It is a mountainous state with altitudes ranging from 350 metres to 7,026 metres (1,050 ft. to 21,000 ft.) above sea level. It has a rich and varied landscape encompassing fertile plains with vast grasslands, meadows, and forests. In the foothills of the Himalayas there are lush green rain fed valleys, but higher up there are barren mountain scapes of the cold desert of the Spiti valley.
Nature presents striking contrasts here. It is a land of high passes and deep valleys full of breathtaking scenic beauty. With several spurs and sub-systems, the Himalayas form the strong spine of the state. They also give the area an enormous geographical spectrum – and one that is unparalleled in the world.
The Himalayan regions (Spiti, Kinnaur and Lahaul valleys) of Himachal Pradesh are bordered by Ladakh in the west and Tibet in the north. Two of the Main Himalayan ranges pass through the State of Himachal Pradesh – The Lower Himalayas and the Central Himalayas, which make the state wonderfully scenic for the tourist. The state is dominated by high mountains, fast flowing rivers and vast valleys. The highest peaks, Shilla Peak (7,026 metres), Manerang (6,593 metres), and Shipki (5,669 metres), are in the eastern part. Peaks that you can see close up are Leo Pargil (6,791 metres) near Nako Lake in the Kinnaur Valley, Deo Tibba (6,001 metres) close to Manali, and Kinner Kailash (6,050metres) which dominates the view from Kalpa village in the Kinnaur Valley.
Culture is as diverse as the landscape. Himachal is also known as, “The Land of Gods” as more than two thousand Devis and Devtas (local deities) are worshipped in the state. Himachal has more than six thousand big and small Hindu temples of different architectural styles. Then there are Buddhist monasteries in the state that are different again. Most of these are located in the district Kinnaur and Spiti. Some of these Buddhist monasteries are more than 1,000 years old. Many of the temples, churches, and Gurudwara monasteries are in an architectural style typical of the region, and have woodcarvings of international fame.
Fairs and festivals are an integral part of the Indian way of life. Himachal Pradesh has many colourful fairs and festivals to celebrate throughout the year and these are of great significance to Himachalis (people from Himachal), who normally lead a simple, quiet and hard working life, tending their orchards, fields and flocks. The population is composed of a variety of distinctive hill tribes: Gadis, Gujaris, Kinnauris and tribal people from Spiti valley – who are very warm hearted friendly people and are very fond of singing and dancing. Local music and dance reflect the cultural identity of the state. During local festivals and other special occasions , they try to please their gods through their dance and music.
The state is well known for its handicrafts. The carpets, leather work, shawls, metalware, woodwork, and paintings are worth looking at for their fine workmanship. The pashmina shawl is one of the products which is most highly valued not only in Himachal but all over the country. Himachali caps are also very famous. The extreme cold of the winters mean wool weaving is a necessity. Nearly every household in Himachal owns a pit-loom. Wool is also considered as pure and is used as a ritual cloth. The best known woven cloth is the shawl, ranging from fine pashmina to the coarse desar. Kullu is famous for its shawls.
Rivers in deep gorges and placid mountain lakes, thick forests and acres of scree, mountainsides draped with snow, and green alpine meadows, apple orchards in cultivated terraces all form a part of this immense spectrum, and provide an almost endless range of possibilities for adventure activities including day-hikes, low altitude and high altitude treks following trails that last a couple of days – or can be extended over a few weeks, skiing, heli-skiing, ice-skating, mountaineering, rock climbing, and water sports. There is the thrill of paragliding and the test of stamina with mountain cycling. You can go camping, play golf, go for a nature walk, a heritage walk, or take a jeep safari through the tribal areas and high passes of the state or just plan a restful holiday in the hill station. All you have to do is make up your mind and select your own activity!
The Tribal areas of Himachal Pradesh:Most of the places in the state are still out of reach for a regular tourist and are considered as the favourite off-beat routes in India. These destinations, with only a few tourists, are the best in the world. Words and phrases cannot describe these unique areas and yet, can barely touch this lunar-like landscape and its haunting beauty and splendour. A traveller visiting here can only marvel at the deft hand of the creator. The mysterious charm of this paradise beckons those who are eager to explore forbidden lands, and meet the people steadfastly protecting their old tradition and culture with a vibrant religion.
Centuries of inaccessibility make this region an anthropologist’s delight. These tribal areas are known as Kinnaur, Spiti & Lahaul valleys, which are the remote Himalayan valleys, lying on the Indo-Tibet border are still hardly explored…!
Hill Stations of Himachal Pradesh
Himachal is divided in 12 districts (provinces) namely Kangra, Hamirpur, Mandi, Bilaspur, Una, Chamba, Lahul and Spiti, Sirmur, Kinnaur, Kullu, Solan and Shimla.
which also have numerous wonderful hill stations – most of which were established in the time of the British Raj. They are particularly cool in summers. Shimla, Dharamshala (home to the Dalai Lama), Dalhousie, Kullu, Manali, Palampur, Chail are a few of the popular hill towns in Himachal Pradesh which offer breathtaking scenery and countless options of adventure sports.