Mountains, Nature

Shrines in the high mountains…

Temples, unlike shrines, carry the baggage of civilizations – through the elaborate nature of their façade, the document evolution of subsistence and beliefs, the balances of power and associated antics… with shrines, especially those in the high mountains, one observes a relatively restricted role… as a placemark, they signify vantage points, as conservators they are embellished within areas of high conservation value… a rest stop to collect providence for safe passages, a humble overture to elicit sympathy from the elements…

Shrines of Himalaya, Gailgarh top, enroute Pangarchulla Peak, Uttarakhand, India
Gailgarh top, enroute Pangarchulla Peak, Uttarakhand

These shrines, shirking mutedly in their challenging environs, forego the luxury to gloat in the elaborate realms of art and architecture of their brethren downstream, an ethos that is mirrored in the lives and livelihoods of humans inhabiting these landscapes… a naivete disposition content to blend into its surroundings and appreciate the vistas around it rather than revel in its own opulence…

Shrines of Himalaya, Temple at frozen Bramhatal lake, Uttarakhand, India
Temple at frozen Bramhatal lake, Uttarakhand

In a way shrines in the high mountains seem rather diametric… place them near a human settlement and people climb their pedestals to seek solace from societal humdrum, find them in the hinterland and one sees the wayfarer gratified to discover signs of human presence… their spiritual power derives from a sense of reclamation, the toils of those deceased repeated by the living, sometimes only for the sake of it, so that they can one day inform posterity of its history…

Shrines of Himalaya, Badagran village, Chota Bhangal region, Himachal Pradesh, India
Badagran village, Chota Bhangal region, Himachal Pradesh

Stoic, is probably what’d come to mind if one were to ascribe a quality to these shrines, but it goes deeper… looking down from lofty heights or basking in the valleys, their seeming indifference is in fact a kaleidoscope – of human resilience that got them rooted in difficult terrains, and at the same the time of human fragility that felt the need to seek comfort in its companionship amidst wilderness… yet they are a manifestation of purity, so untainted that even the gods in their folds remain agnostic…

Thamsar pass, Bada Bhangal region, Himachal Pradesh

Musings on high-altitude shrines in the Himalaya…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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