Seven Years in Tibet – A Cult Classic | Travel Book Review

Title: Seven Years in Tibet

Publisher: Harper Collins

Author: Heinrich Harrer

Buy From: Flipkart

Tibet was once a secluded region in the Himalayas. Today it is a completely cut-off country. The very solitude that Tibetans yearned for from the external world turned out to be their worst adversary. The Chinese attacked them, well aware of the fact that Tibet is free from the reach of any other nation. No one could turn to its help and a beautiful country and its culture was lost.

Heinrich Harrer was the first Austrian and probably the first European to set foot in Tibet. He sneaked into Tibet to save his life from the colonial forces. His escape to Tibet gave us, the travel fraternity, one of the finest books ever written about the culture and lifestyle of erstwhile Tibet.

Seven Years In Tibet

Seven Years In Tibet

This book is autobiographical in tone but also serves as a testimony to a culture that probably no longer exists. Nobody knows for sure what remains of Tibet. All we hear is self-immolation and a lost generation of young Tibetans high on drugs and subsidies in Dharamsala.

Seven Years in Tibet reminds us of the beautiful country that Tibet once was. Do not confuse the book with the movie. Movie is exaggeratedly romanticized, the book is not.

Seven years in Tibet’ is one of the finest works of Heinrich Harrer, also the author of mountaineering cult book ‘The White Spider’. Set in the fifties, the author narrates his failed attempt to summit Nanga Parbat, subsequent capture by the British army followed by his escape to the Himalayas and thence to Tibet where he went on to stay for seven years.

Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian by birth rose to prominence when he successfully ascended the notorious North Face of the Eiger in 1938. This earned him a place in the German team which was to ascent the Nanga Parbat. Although he never succeeded in the venture, his visit took him to a place which he had not imagined even in his wildest dreams; the roof of the world – Tibet.

He perhaps became the first European to set foot in Tibet.

The book gives an insight into author’s painful journey from Indian Himalayas to Lhasa along with friend Peter Aufschneiter while observing life of people living in the remote highlands of Himalayas on the way. He has artistically described the life of Tibetan royals, commoners, monks and monasteries, laws, festivals, and seasons.  While in Tibet Harrer learnt the language, became friends with many  top officials in the Tibetan government and got the privilege to closely observe his holiness the Dalai Lama in his early years.

Harrer has been one of few outsiders to be able to observe the majestic Himalayan country, its people and religion in its prime which so far was forbidden to foreigners. He describes the close bond that he and His Holiness developed and how a child went on to become the leader of the highest country in the world, a country severed off from rest of the world by the highest mountain ranges.

The author was still in Tibet when Chinese invasion occurred. The painful and atrocious Chinese invasion and exile of Dalai Lama is narrated by the author with vivid details. How thousands of Tibetans were forced to flee Tibet and seek refuge in India is explained in detail, which invokes painful emotions.

Imagine Seven Years in the Himalayas. In Tibbat. Tibbat which gradually became Tibet. Not only the name of this beautiful country has changed with time but its meaning too has changed entirely. Nobody thinks of Tibet as the beautiful land it once was but the first thing that strikes you is Chinese atrocities. And probably sad images of the Dalai Lama fleeing his own homeland.

This book probably will take you to the wonderland that Tibet once was.

To Tibet, that deserves to exist, as it was.

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