Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Nelong Valley in India on the Tibetan border

From 1975 to 1981 I lived in the northwestern Himalayas in India. I was a student of Buddhism there, studying with various Tibetan lamas. During that time I lived on and off in the Manali area for 4 years and took long walks, hikes in the mountains. I came to really love walking there, eye level with birds flying over the river valleys below. There were huge views of mountains and valleys, I savored the sounds of the rivers, birdsong, watching langur monkeys, ibex, flying squirrels, pikas, all kinds of butterflies, being on the alert for bears and mountain wild cats. I loved picking wild strawberries, wild rhubarb, thyme, sage, the air aromatic with herbs and the smell of cedar trees, wild irises, rock roses, all the hillsides covered in apple, plum, peach, apricot trees.

I came to love the local hill people, the paharis, with their hand woven wool traditional clothing, their tanned and wrinkled faces, talking with locals while they stood there spinning wool on the hillside. 

The northwestern Himalayas in India, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakand, is an especially beautiful part of this wonderful world. 

Today I came across a vintage film, a brief one about the Indian nomadic shepherds who traded with Tibetans. The film is of a valley a little further to the east of Manali, in the state of Uttarakand.

 I knew locals in Manali who had made their fortune that way, as an Indo-Tibet trader. Mr. Chandrabhaga, for example, who told me he used to take his mules up over the Rohtang Pass, onto the Tibetan Plateau, into Tibet. His mules were packed with sewing needles, matches, sugar, candles. Simple things it sounded like. He traded that with Tibetans for gold, turquoise and other things. He amassed his fortune and became a powerful landowner in Manali. So I was curious to see other traders like Mr. Chandrabhaga.

The nomadic shepherds of the northwestern Himalayas trade and have traded for a very long time, with the nomadic shepherds of western Tibet. This is a lovely little film about the nomads in India and that beautiful, remote part of India.

On the internet Archive, Tibetan Traders, 1957
On YouTube

Journal of a tour through part of the snowy range of the Himala Mountains, and to the sources of the rivers Jumna and Ganges
By James Baillie Fraser
Printed for Rodwell and Martin, London - 1820
A short contemporary video about the same place with some history

James Baillie Fraser

Views in the Himala Mountains, Rodwell & Martin, 1820, 
hand-coloured aquatint title and 20 fine hand-coloured aquatint plates by Robert Havell & Son after J.B. Fraser, versos with brushstroke marks from old adhesion, all plates reguarded at gutter margins, occasional small wormholes to margins, several plates with archival marginal repairs: plate VIII (Valley of Jumna) with longer closed tear repaired to right margin, plate XII (Assemblage of Hillmen) with small repaired tear to lower left corner, not affecting image, plate XV (Temple of Mangnee) with repaired long vertical crease to left side of the image, plate XVII (Junction of the Touse) with two small repaired patches to left hand blank margin, not affecting image, and plate XX (Jumnotree the Source of the River Jumna) with minor repairs to blank margins, plates interleaved with good quality thick wove paper, modern red half morocco gilt, upper cover with red morocco gilt label, sheet size 675 x 485 mm, elephant folio 

Provenance: Penelope Chetwode, Lady Betjeman (1910-1986), manuscript note at front presenting the book to her friend John Nankivell (b. 1941, architectural artist), in memory of their first Himalayan Temple trek, April-September 1971. Abbey Travel 498. "Among the finest aquatints of mountain scenery ever produced" (Godrej & Rohatgi). Rarely found complete. James Baillie Fraser (1783-1856) was a Scottish traveller and artist, who, following the end of the war with Nepal in 1815 travelled with his brother William to the Himalayas, spending two months exploring the region. They became the first Europeans to reach the sources of the Jumna and Ganges rivers. Tutored by the artist George Chinnery, Fraser was encouraged by William Havell to publish his sketches upon his return to Calcutta. Fraser's account of his travels was separately published as 'Journal of a Tour through Part of the Snowy Range of the Himala Mountains, and to the Sources of the Rivers Jumna and Ganges', with a map in the same year. "It is interesting, also, that Rodwell and Martin take the pains to say that the work is uniform with the Daniell (1795-1807) and the Salt (1809), neither of which folios was published by them." (Abbey). 

This coloured aquatint was made by Robert Havell and Son from plate 5 of JB Fraser's 'Views in the Himala Mountains'. Fraser and his brother William reached Rampur, the capital of Bushair State in the Himalayan foothills, on 12 June 1815. It was an important trading place for cashmere wool and was situated on the banks of the river Sutlej, which was crossed by the precarious rope bridge seen in the bottom left corner.

Bheem ke Udar - 1820

This coloured aquatint was made by Robert Havell and Son from plate 7 of JB Fraser's 'Views in the Himala Mountains'. While crossing the mountain pass between the valleys of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, on their way to the source of the latter, Fraser and his party spent a night at this spot. It is named after Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers in the epic Mahabharata. Fraser wrote: "Our encamping ground was ... a cave under a large stone, called Bheem-Ke-Udar; in a dry night it is sufficiently comfortable, but rain would readily beat in. In this cavern, and under a few other large stones around it, there was some shelter, though scanty for our company."