Himachal Pradesh - the land of eternal snow peaks - takes
in the transition zone from the plains to the high Himalayas
and in the trans-Himalayan region of Lahaul and Spiti actually
crosses that mighty barrier to the Tibetan Plateau.
The Kullu Valley with its developed and tourist-oriented
economy can be considered the backbone of the state. Off to
the east is Prabati Valley (popular with long – stay
visitors). In Chamba and Kangra regions can be found typical
British Hill Stations. The residence of Dalai Lama is in Upper
Dharamshala, know as McLeod Ganj, which has become a center
for Buddhism, as well as the headquarters of the Tibetan Government
in Exile. Shimla, the famous colonial hot – weather
capital, remains Himachal’s seat of government.
The bleak, high altitude regions of Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur
were opened to foreigners in 1992. Permits (easy obtained)
are necessary to visit some parts. The predominant influence
here is Tibetan Buddhism.
History of Himachal Pradesh (HP)
The regions that today comprise Himachal were in ancient
times crossed by trade routes to Tibet (over the Shipki La)
and central Asia (via the Baralacha la and leh), and in addition
commanded the sach Pass that led to Kashmir. Rajas, Ranas
and Thakurs ran their rival Rrahuns and Thakurais, the regions
over which they presided, making Himachal a patchwork quilt
of tiny states. Only Kangra and Kullu (and later Chamba) had
the power to break out of the pretty feuding system.
Several Himachal states had kings from Bengal, the best known
of these states being Mandi, which was founded in 1527. With
the exception of the bigger states, most of the later hill
states were founded by Rajput adventurers from the plains
in the early medieval period.
The first westerners to visit the region were Jesuit missionaries
in search of Prester John’s legendary land. The British
discovered Himachal after their wars with the Sikhs and the
Gurkhas. And upon the subsequent discovery that Himachal was
ideal for growing apples, an American missionary, the Reverend
NS strokes, developed the Kotgarh orchards (his family still
runs them). Little bits of England were created at Shimla,
Dalhousie and Dharamshala during the late 19th century, in
the early part of this century a railway was built to Shimla
and another was laid through the Kangra Valley. In the interior,
however, feudal conditions remained men were forced to work
without pay and women were regarded as chattels.
The new state of Himachal Pradesh comprising only six districts
was founded in 1948. By 1966, the Pahari – speaking
parts under Punjab administration, including Kangra, Kullu,
Lahaul and Spiti were added, full statehood was achieved in
Geography of Himachal Pradesh (HP)
Himachal Pradesh is dominated by mountains and associated
rivers and valleys. The highest peaks are Shilla (7026 m),
Manerang (6597 m) and Shipki (6608 m).
There are several major rivers running through the state
including the Beas River, which flows through the Kullu Valley,
the Chenab River in Lahaul and Spiti and the Spiti River,
which joins the Sutlej River in Kinnaur.
A lot of Himachal Pradesh can be easily segregated according
to various valleys. Lahaul and Spiti is a series of valleys
stretching from the Chandra valley in the north-west to the
Lingti Valley along the Spiti-River. The Kullu Valley stretches
from Mandi to Manali. The Prabati Valley follows the Prabati
River, which branches off the Beas River. The Kangra Valley
stretches from Mandi to Shahpur, near Pathankot. To the north
of the Kangra Valley, on the other side of the Dhauladhar
Range, is the Chamba Valley, which is separated from the remote
Pattan Valley (upper Chenab River Valley) by the Pir Panjal