No other mountain range in the world can match the sheer majesty of the Himalayas. It’s often called the “Roof of the World,” and with good reason. We’ve all heard of Asia’s famous peaks: Everest, Annapurna, K2 and others.
They’re the stuff of legend and home to the mythical Shangri-La; many cultures throughout history have seen the Himalayas as sacred places, the homes of gods, even as embodiments of the gods themselves. These peaks have been the focus of movies and books, and they’ve been the crowning achievements in the career of many an explorer or mountaineer.
The Himalayas deserve their fame, though. They not only contain the world’s highest peak, they tower above the rest of the world’s mountains with room to spare. To get a bit of perspective, know that Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside of Asia, is 6,962 metres tall. It’s located in the South American Andes, the only range that could even begin to give the Himalayas a bit of competition. At 8,848 metres, Mount Everest is taller by almost thirty percent. Also, the Himalayan system contains over 100 peaks higher than 7,200 metres. And by all indications, the Himalayas are a young range and still growing.
Young by geological standards, that is. The Himalayas are still far older than even the most distant of mankind’s ancestors and have had profound effects on human culture for as long as our species has existed. They’re not easily skirted and are even more difficult to cross; the Himalayas have long served as a barrier between the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia. Who knows what might have been if the armies of Genghis Khan had been able to cross this forbidding hurdle? Even with twentieth century equipment, the region’s higher peaks can still claim the lives of unprepared mountaineers.
There is much more to the Himalayas than dangerous expeditions and unattainable summits, however. Almost all of Asia’s major rivers have their origins in the “Abode of Snow,” rivers that have long sustained the surrounding civilizations. The glaciers and eternal snows of the Himalayas contain such a large portion of the planet’s fresh water that only the polar ice caps hold more.
Between the Indus, the Ganges, the Yellow and other rivers, almost a third of the Earth’s population depends on water from the Himalayas. It should come as no surprise that the Himalayas and surrounding areas are home to cultures both rich and diverse.
You’ll see shrines and natural wonders sacred to Buddhist and Hindu.
With a little luck and perhaps a touch of meditation, you’ll find the Himalayas to be sacred to any of Earth’s occupants.