The Himalayas is the highest mountain range in the world that is situated in South Asia. The Himalayas are a part of India, Tibet, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan, reaching up to 9000 meters above the sea. It separates India from the rest of Asia, has more than 50 mountains, and stretches across 1500 miles.
This mountain range has derived its name from a Sanskrit term ‘Hima-laya’ which means ‘Abode of Snow.’ The ‘Himalayan Mountains’ are usually referred to as the ‘Himalayas.’
Formation of the Himalayas
The Himalayas are the youngest mountain ranges present in the world. There was a time when the Indian subcontinent used to be a part of the southern landmass. When it started drifting to the north, it crashed into Asia and the Himalayas were formed. The movement commenced as early as 70 million years ago and is believed to be continuing till now.
The Himalayas are becoming taller with an average movement of 7 cm each day. Volcanoes and earthquakes in the area prove that it is always active.
The Himalayan rivers drain into two big river systems:
- The western rivers are Jhelum, Indus, Chenab, Beas, Sutlej, Ravi and Indus. All these rivers combine and become the Indus River Basin and finally drain into the Arabian Sea.
- There are other Himalayan rivers that form the Brahmaputra- Ganga Basin and drain into the famous Bay of Bengal. These are the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers.
Glaciers and Lakes
The highest mountain range in the world, the Himalaya has nearly 15,000 glaciers which have 12000 cubic kilometers of freshwater. Some of the major glaciers are the Gangotri Glacier, the Langtang Glacier, the Yamunotri Glacier, Zemu and Kumbha Glacier. Due to changes in the global climate, the number of glaciers is decreasing rapidly.
There are numerous lakes in the Himalayan region. Nepal’s Tilicho Lake is among the world’s highest lakes. Other important lakes are Lake Tsongmo, Gokyo Lakes, Gurudongmar Lake etc.
The base of the Himalayas has a tropical climate and at the high altitudes, permanent snow is present. Fauna and flora vary with altitude and therefore, the Himalayas are the abode of a great variety of plants and animals.
At high altitudes, there are snow leopards, the Himalayan musk deer etc. At the foothills, you will find golden and grey langur, black bear, red panda etc. The unique faunal and floral wealth includes Hydrangea hirta, box myrtle, apple, rhododendron, Juniperus tibetica.
Several medicinal plants are found in the Himalayas. Names may be cited of abies pindrow, arachne cordfolia etc. It is also the storehouse of precious minerals and stones like gold, zinc, copper, silver etc.
The main tourist activity is mountain climbing. It started in the 19th century when climbers like Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first two persons to reach the majestic Mount Everest. There are also many picture-perfect hill stations in the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, that attract tourists from all corners of the world.