Manimahesh Lake, 4080 Meters

Wanderings in the Himalayas: Traveling Saints of India | Book Review

Title: Wanderings in the Himalayas                            Author: Sri Tapowanam

Publisher: Central Chinmaya Mission Trust            Price: Flipkart | Amazon

A true seeker finds his way to the divine pathways of the Himalayas, no matter which part of this world he/she comes from. Once it was the world renowned sage Sankaracharya who walked all the way from the backwaters of Kerala to the remote lands of the Kashmir Valley. And then followed his ardent disciple, Swami Tapowan, who followed into the footsteps of his guru and walked across the length and breadth of the Himalayas. From Lahaul to Kailash Mansarovar.

A solo backpacker with no backpack. 

Swami Tapowan walked across the Rohtang Pass in the winters summers of 1920s. He lead a group of sadhus who had no experience of walking in the snow. Even Sri Tapowan didn’t have any clue about the path across the Rohtang that lead into the Lahaul Valley. Yet they managed to walk from Vashishth (Manali) to Trilokinath. Across the vast snow-ocean of Rohtang Pass.

Now, for me, this alone was a strong reason to read this book.

Wanderings in the Himalayas
Wanderings in the Himalayas | Photo: Amazon

I bought this book to get an insight into the Lahaul of the early 1920s. And it didn’t disappoint me at all.  This book was written originally in the Malayalam language (Himgiri Vihar) and later translated into several other languages including Hindi in English. This book was translated into simple yet poetic English by Shree Kesava Pillai.

Until now, I had read books written purely from an adventurer’s perspective but this book comes like a  breath of fresh breeze. The historical background (you may call it mythological) of the mountains, rivers, and villages certainly takes you back in time.

A student of the Vedanta, the author spreads the light of Vedanta during his sojourns in the Himalayas. You may not agree with the author all the times but his deftness to explain Vedantic teachings by relating them to real-life events of the Himalayas is praiseworthy. Like a river flows in any which direction it wants to, the author also delves into unknown territories every now and then and that’s what makes this book an interesting and gripping read.

There is a special bond between the Kedarnath/Badrinath Dham and Kerala and that’s what invited the author to wander in the Himalayas. The author follows his hero Sri Sankaracharya all the way from Kerala to Badrinath to Srinagar to Sharada Peeth in Mujaffarabad (now POK).

In The Temple of Sarada – II, the author describes the beauty of hitherto unknown part of Kashmir, the POK. If the author is to be believed, and I see no reason not to believe him, the Sarada Peeth is undoubtedly the most beautiful part of India. The high altitude lakes spread across the region, surrounded by the mighty Himalayas are described as a wonder only God (nature) can create.

When we come across fine, wide plains and beautiful lakes at the top of mighty masses of rock, we cannot but wonder at the power of God and greatness of His creation, says the author about the mesmerizing beauty of the Kashmir Valley.

However, there are passages in the book that are boring because the author goes completely off the track. The book includes only two maps and no photographs. Even the maps are black and white and they might not catch your interest. In addition, you will have to bear with the condescending tone of the author. But as I have said already, this was not written from an adventurer’s point of view. The book is more about exploring the inner self by drawing inferences from the external world. If you are looking for some technical information or statistical data, you better read Harish Kapadia’s sojourns.

Interestingly, the author mentions Chamba as Champa, Rohtang as Lutang, Kugti Pass as Kapil Pass and there are many such mistakes. I wonder if these are mistakes or just the Hindu names of these places because barring these few instances, he gets names of all other places right (sic).

And before I wrap this up, I would like to mention few quotes from this book.

Of course, bears are terrible creatures when our paramount consideration is the preservation of the body; but from a spiritual point of view, even the bear is an object of love and joy. (Page 96, Amarnath)

I got down from the train and I was persuaded to get into a vehicle. But the mode of travelling proved very uncomfortable and before long I gave up and covered the remaining part of the journey on foot. (From Hoshiarpur to Jawalamukhi, 70KM). (Page 101, Jawalamukhi)

From Yogindranagar to Mandi, it is only 36 miles. Although one can proceed by train up to Yogindranagar and after that in a motor, I decided to cover the distance on foot. (Page 112, Lake Reewal)

Now such is the wisdom this book carries.

If it is wealth that enables a king to do what he likes, it is wealthnessness that enables a sadhu to lead the sort of life he lives.

Wealthlessness of a Sadhu. 🙂

O Sadho Re!

2 thoughts on “Wanderings in the Himalayas: Traveling Saints of India | Book Review”

  1. For that, you must read Travel in the Wonderlands of Lahaul and Spiti written by MS Gill. A marvellous work. I have reviewed that book too.

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