Five Must Read Books about Himachal Himalaya

The small trekking window that opens every year in the summers, for lesser mortals like me, has finally shut. Sunny winters are the best time to sit back and read a book to learn more about the mountains without actually going there.

Read because there are stories hidden in those yellowish pages far more interesting than ours will ever be.

Read because these stories let you escape from the mundane world to the world of mountains and legends.

A lot has been written about the mountains of Himachal Pradesh by eminent authors. Here are five books that I recommend you read this winter to make your summer excursions in the Himalaya far more interesting.

You should read as many of them as possible.

Book Review Himachal

Himalayan Wonderland by M.S. Gill 

M.S.Gill, the former Sports Minister of India, at the age of 26 served as the Deputy Commissioner of Lahaul Valley in 1962. He volunteered to serve in the valley because like all of us, he too was fed up of serving in the corporate offices of Chandigarh. And that was the beginning of a new chapter in his life.

The book was published in 1972; exactly ten years after the author left the valley. Part memoir and part travel, it is Gill’s account of his time in the valley. He closely observed the rituals, rivers, mountains, and people of the valley.

Across Peaks and Passes in Himachal by Harish Kapadia

The cloth merchant version of Mr. Kapadia, I must say, has inspired many trekkers across India to do somewhat similar. This is one of those books which you would like to finish in one sitting.

It’s not your conventional guide book that talks about calculated distances, stopovers, trek difficulty and other technicalities involved in a trek. It’s more of a story book that spans over 30 years. Lingti, Kulti, Spiti, Pin or Parbati; name any valley, Kapadia talks in depth about each of them and explains the history of climbing skillfully that you too feel like giving a try to scale these mountains.

Treks and Passes of Himachal Himalayas by S.R. Saini

This book is not just a travel guide but it encapsulates Saini’s thirty years of experience and his love for the Himalayas. Unlike new-age multicolored travel books, this book is more substance and less glitter. Even the cover of the book is unattractive and you might give it a pass at first glance.

However clichéd it may sound, you never judge a book by its cover and that’s why aesthetics of Saini’s book shouldn’t matter. Having spent almost his entire life in the mountains, Saini has lived the culture, traditions, and rituals of the Himalayas. His knowledge of Himalayan culture and lifestyle is a major plus for Saini’s book. I haven’t read any other book that details Dhauladhar Himalayas better.

Himalayan Circuit by G.D. Khosla

One of the finest of the lot. Himalayan Circuit 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 Comissioner 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. 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.

Men and Mules on a Mission of Democracy by P.N. Sharma

In 1952, India celebrated the greatest festival of democracy; the first ever General Elections after the dawn of Independence. However, the remote land of Spiti Valley could not participate in this festival because of many difficulties; primarily snow.

This book is written by Parmanand Sharma, a retired teacher, who has made the Dhauladhars’ his home.

When the Spitian Challenge was first thrown open to babus by the authorities, the author was then serving as a school teacher in Dharmshala. He heartily accepted the offer to be the Deputy Leader of the contingent that was to embark on a 400 mile ‘pad yatra’ to conduct first ever general election in the Spiti Valley.

Some of these books are not available online. Finding them offline is a daunting task. In case you are unable to find any of these books, shoot an email to me and I will be glad to help.

Now that you come this far, why not let us know that other than Google Bots, someone else too is reading this blog. 
Drop a comment, share your thoughts!

 

12 Comments
  1. Yet another informative piece from your closet….
    Im currently reading ‘Himalyan Wonderland’ by MS Gill….and it is a very humble account by him on Lahaul…anybody who is curious to know about Lahaul in depth…this book is the one!! Its difficult to find it online and if one gets any luck then its way too expensive.
    I get my copy thru Indiareads.com on a reasonable price.

    Very nice post tarun …quite apt for the time when this info shud b thr…afterall winters is whats our way of life (ppl of mountains).
    Keep writing…keep going!

  2. In addition to ‘”Spiti Mein Baarish” by Krishan Nath, another book I’d like to add to Tarun Goel’s list is “Travels in Western Himalayas- in search of paintings” by M.S.Randhawa published by Thomson Press sometime in 70s.

    Incidentally, I have hard copies of the following books:

    1. Himalayan Wonderland
    2. Across Peaks and Passes in Himachal
    3. Himalayan Circuit.
    4. Spiti Mein Baarish.
    5. Travels in Western Himalayas.

    While Himalayan Wonderland has been reprinted recently, I think Harish Kapadia’s book is also available in Delhi book stores.

    I could, perhaps help with the books at Serial No. 1 to 5 above but it would take some time.

    Could you help me with S.R.Saini and P.N.Sharma’s books!

  3. + एक किताब ओर जोडे ” रोहतांग की गोद मे ” by vinod himachali travel book lahoul spiti and kullu

  4. मै जब 1995 से 1999 तक केलांग मे सेवारत था तो मैने ज़िला पुस्तकालय मे लाहौल के उपर हिमालय के बारे मे कुछ किताबें पढ़ी।O.C.Honda की किताबें जिसमे हिमाचल के गोम्पाऔं का ज़्यादा बर्णन मिलता था,बहुत मज़ा आता था।Folk tales of Lahulian—M.S.Gill यह भी बहुत पढ़ी।ज़िला पुस्तकालय केलांग मे books की quality मिलती थी, quantity नही।
    अब यह जो किताबें यहां बर्णीत है,मै ज़रूर पढ़ना चाहुंगा।

  5. Another book that can make it to the list is ‘jungle jungle, Parvat Parvat’ by Manmohan Bawa. First published in hindi in 2009 and was translated from Punjabi to hindi in 2008.
    Published by National book trust. A treat for travellers and mountain lovers.

  6. From where I can get these books:-
    Himalayan wonderland
    Across peaks nd passes
    Men & mules

  7. Himalayan Wonderland is available on archive .org as pdf.

    Men and Mules can only be replicated with the author’s permission.

  8. I want to know about the passes surrounding the whole chamba distt. 1) across whole dhauladhaar ranges, 2) passes in bara bhangal region 3) passes in bharmour region, 4) passes across chamba pangi of pirpanjal ranges…and over pangi to other sides ……which book should I go though? …. even ur blogs have provided more than half of the knowledge…but still are there drawings or sketches of terk routes, trails available anywhere?

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