First things first, whatever little
we I know about Indian Judges, GD Khosla (the author of this book) perfectly fits the picture. The first two chapters are there only to tell us that this book is not just about the mountains but about a High Court Judge visiting the Himalayas.
But let not that become a hindrance in your journey to the remote lands of Spiti and its inspiring world of rituals and traditions. Khosla along with his companion Shrinagesh, the then Commissioner of Kulu, unravel the mystery of wonderland Spiti. And an insight into the unseen Spitian Magic is worth every effort.
Himalayan Circuit: A Journey in the Inner Himalayas was first published in the year 1956. The Khoksar Spiti road was still under construction back then. Even the Manali-Leh road was in the planning phase.
So, when a High Court Judge and the Commissioner of Kulu decided to embark on a Trans-Himalayan Journey, the only luxury they could afford was to walk in the company of Chanchalu (the master chef) and pahadi mules.
And how exactly pahadi mules are a great company?
GD Khosla, the author describes it himself.
The local men have implicit faith in the judgement of animals, and allow them to choose their own path across a stream. I was amazed to see the leading mule pause near the edge of a stream, sniff at the water and, after going up or down the bank a few yards, enter the water deliberately, and walk across the other side. The remaining animals followed close behind.
The muleteers always advised us to ford the stream at the same point
Barring the first few pages, this is an exquisitely inspiring book. The book is descriptive and at times it appears that you are reading a descriptive High Court judgement with all the historical facts and figures placed in cautiously so as to maintain the reader’s interest. Usually judgements are boring but this one is different. The author’s penchant for minute details keeps you afloat.
Like every other
author traveller, Khosla also delves into philosophical discussions with himself and shares his experiences of anger management. A few more pages are dedicated to Buddhist teachings, which might appear boring in 2015. However, if you re-think and consider the fact that the book was published in 1956, all these philosophical discussions will make better sense.
The book is very emotive and descriptive and allows us to walk with him and understand the land and its laws, especially when the entire region was more or less disconnected with the mainstream Himachal.
The journey starts from Shimla and unlike the standard Shimla-Kinnaur-Kaza route, the author adopts the less frequented Jalori Pass route. Journey through the picturesque Banjar Valley in 1956 on a Land Rover is as promising as it sounds.
And because there were no roads, they had to rely on the pahadi mule power, which was available in abundance. The journey starts from Manali over the Hampta Pass and along the right bank of the Chandra River. The journey then proceeds along the treacherous curves of Chandra.
From Kunzum onward, the expedition is treated like a circus party in every village of Spiti and rightly so because it was probably for the first time someone from the district administration was making a contact with the Spitians. With all their tents, radios and wireless systems, they surely provided enough entertainment to the uninformed Spitians.
The little favors that Spitians ask from their masters (sic) are heartwarming episodes. This book provides an insight into the rituals and hardships that an average Spitian faces. Not just that, this is more about the administration’s first brush with the harsh reality of the Spiti Valley.
And despite all this, an average Spitian is found to be happier than his informed counterparts from the planes.
And this holds true even till date.
P.S. This book has run out of print and it's copyright too has expired but you can find its online copies available on the Internet.