The Scent of Himalayas

Shashikala Gadepally posted under Book Review on 2024-05-24

What mysteries do the hills hold in the depth of their hearts? What legends do they breathe to the urban travellers as they ascend the calm, tall, bumpy terrains? What charm do these silent evergreen trees exude? Isn’t it fascinating to explore the untamed terrains of the Himalayas standing tall and undeterred, like sentinels guarding not just the inhabitants of the hills but also preserving the centuries-old beliefs, customs and legends in its folk tales? Just as the fragrant scent permeates the hilly surroundings and the hues leave their imprints on the rustic habitat, so do these tales of faith, hope, belief, love and valour colour the local life of the Himalayas.

As the cool breeze spreads its wings across the Himalayan range, whether the Garhwal or the Kumaon of Uttarakhand, nature seems to come alive with every blade of grass. The vibrant Himalayas pulsate with gushing life alongside the rivers that flow through the regions, sometimes defying the boulders, other times befriending the obstacles.

It is as though the natural beauty and the culture of the mountains seep through the crevices, reaching out to those intriguing hearts who resonate with the cultural nuances of the hills.

From a tree that harbours secrets of the bygone ages, or a bird that spells misfortune for the inhabitants, a cow that represents virtue and moral strength or a queen whose valour is unmatched, or the love story of two rivers which, despite all hurdles, unite to spread the message of eternal love and companionship….it goes on just like the folktales and the legends of the Himalayas. These tales reach out to the readers and strengthen their imagination. The book is an oyster, and each story is a pearl that carries the imprints of the Himalayan region, their lifestyles, culture, habits, beliefs and customs that are still practised.

The elements and forces of nature play a pivotal role in the lives of the Himalayan inhabitants. Whether it is the harvesting season celebrated as a festival or the fear of witchcraft, folk culture has a deep sense of faith in the presence of the good and the evil, one driven by hope and the other propelled by vile. Acceptance and defiance co-exist in their lives, as in the stories of The Ghost of Garhwal and Naak Kati Rani or the saga of the Ashoka Tree.

The uniqueness of the stories lies in the nuggets at the end of each story that explore and affirm the faith and beliefs of the Himalayan tribes. Some of the facts are eye-openers as to why certain rituals are followed with such a deep conviction even today.

Mona Verma’s tales from the Himalayas are a rich tribute to our country's cultural heritage, which pervades through the multilingual, multicultural ethos and binds them with a common thread.