The recognised Pamir knot lies in Central Asia, not far from India. It is often referred to as `the roof of the world`. From this knot emerge numerous mountain ranges. One of them is the Kunlun, which travels eastwards into Tibet. Another range, i.e. the Karakoram, enters Kashmir and runs southeast and incorporates the plateau of Aksai Chin. It broadens further east and is called the Kailash Range in Tibet. The Karakoram are majestic mountains comprising K2, the second highest mountain peak of the world. The Karakoram Pass has now gained extraordinary prominence. There are huge glaciers, i.e. highly sluggish rivers of solid ice and snow, in this region. The Baltoro and the Siachen are some of the legendary glaciers of this area.
To the south of the Karakoram rests two corresponding ranges. They are known as the Ladakh and the Zanskar ranges. It is noteworthy that the Indus River rises in the environs of the Kailash peak. It manages to crisscross the Kailash and other ranges, before entering India. In Kashmir it runs between the Ladakh and Zanskar mountain ranges, extending from south-east to north-west.
The Nanga Parbat overlooks the Indus in the north here in this position. The Himalayas lengthen from the Indus in the west to the Brahmaputra in the east. They establish a curve between these two limits, covering a distance of 2,500 km. The breadth of the Himalayas varies from 400 km. in the west to 150 km in the east. It is extensive in Kashmir and turns contracted towards the east. The loftiness of the eastern half is greater than the western half.
The Himalayas are young fold mountains. Mostly there are three distinctive ranges extending parallel to one another. The northern-most range, known as the Greater Himalaya or `Himadri`, is the most towering of all. All the soaring peaks of the Himalayas belong to this range. Mt. Everest or `Sagarmatha` is the highest peak in the world. It counts a height of 8,848 metres. It is located in Nepal. Kanchenjunga is the second highest peak of the Himalayan range and lies in Sikkim in India. Nanga Parbat in Kashmir and Nandadevi in U.P. are the other two significant peaks of Himalaya. Namcha Barwa is a significant peak (in Tibet) in the east, looking out over towards the Brahmaputra, where this range takes a jerky bend towards south, to enter India.
To the south of the Greater Himalayas lies the Middle or lesser Himalaya. It is called the `Himachal`. All the legendary hill stations like- Dalhousie, Dharamshala, Shimla, Mussoorie, Nainital, and Darjeeling belong to this range. The Pir Panjal in Kashmir and Dhaoladhar in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh belong to the Middle Himalayas; so does the Mahabharata range of Nepal.
The southernmost ranges of the Himalayas are called the Outer Himalaya or the `Shiwalik` ranges. This range is better known in the western half of the Himalaya. These are made of by river sediments, and have an inclination for earthquakes and landslides. Soil corrosion is at its riskiest in these youngest of the Himalayan family.
The Himalayas are also divided in an east-west direction. The Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are known as Western Himalayas. In Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, it is known as Central Himalaya. In West Bengal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh it is known as Eastern Himalaya.
There are also essential passes located in the Himalayas. Shipkila is located in the Satluj valley in Himachal Pradesh. Nathula Pass is located in Sikkim and is on the way to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, from India. Further east, the Bomdila Pass lies in Arunachal Pradesh. In today`s time of air travel, the Himalayas are no longer unconquerable.
The Himalayas are legendary for some of the picturesque valleys of the world. They have turned into prime attraction for tourists from all over the world. The Kashmir valley is a classic example of the statement. It is justly described as `paradise on earth`. The other substantial valleys include Kulu and Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. The Doons in the Kumayun Himalayas of Uttar Pradesh are also celebrated. All these valleys are famed for their fruit orchards.
Many grand rivers initiate from the Himalayas. They run into the Northern Plains and discharge themselves either in the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal. But more fascinating is the fact that, three central rivers of the subcontinent- the Indus, the Satluj and the Brahmaputra initiate beyond the Himalayas in a region surrounding Kailash and Mansarovar in Tibet. They run nearly parallel to the Himalayas, though in separate directions, yet for an extensive distance. Then suddenly, they bend towards the south, cutting through the Himalayan mountain chain, and coming forth, out into the Northern Plains. It designates that the Himalaya is not an ideal water divide. Moreover, it can be derived that these rivers existed even before the creation of the Himalayas. They continued pushing down their valleys, quicker than the rising Himalayas. As a result, they make immense and fantastic gorges or canyons. They are also called I-shaped valleys, since the rivers on both sides have perpendicular walls.
As mentioned earlier, the Brahmaputra signals the eastern-most geographical limit of the Himalayas. Mountains by the eastern boundary of India are called `Purvanchal`. These mountains are less impressive compared to the Himalayas. They are of medium stature. They consist of the Patkai Bum, and the Naga Hills in the north, and the Mizo Hills in the south. In the centre, they take a westward bend, along the Bangladesh-India border in Meghalaya. Here they consist of Jaintia, Khasi and Garo Hills, stretching from east to west.