Indian culture is renowned for the extent of diversity it contains. So much so that each square area in this gargantuan sub-continent follows traditions that are considerably distinct from each other. This uniqueness is conspicuous from the geographical area’s clothing, food and ritual customs, which are beautifully reflected in Indian literature, specifically Contemporary Indian Literature. It speaks of how the country had faced extremities, from famine to flood, or from monarchy to imperialism, and how India fared post-Independence. It also describes the lives of people at all these periods. One such astounding book, which unfolds the daily chores of people in Garhwal Himalayas, is Ruskin Bond’s travelogue All Roads Lead to Ganga, published in the year 2007.
Ruskin Bond has written down the moments he cherished in the Garhwal Himalayas in this book. The momentous rationale behind why India made him awestruck was how Indian culture emphasises the co-existence of mankind with nature. The fact that we worship boulders standing tall using fragrant flowers and wild grass as ornaments signifies the idea that the Gods we worship live amongst us as nature.
People follow ceremonies and traditions so rigorously that they are typically celebrated as grand festivals in India. For instance, when the author reached Badrinath, he was able to see a humongous crowd waiting to see the lingam, as he had decided to visit Badrinath at the peak of the pilgrim season. To pay homage to the gods in the shrines, people struggle and overcome many hurdles, sometimes even going as far as risking their own lives for this purpose. They go through these ordeals to instil hope in their minds that they emerge the better in the proximity of their lives!
There are quite a few traditions followed in the Garhwal Himalayas that are different from the rest of the country! Garhwali women usually invest their savings in silver and gold ornaments— nose-rings, earrings, bangles and bracelets, and sometimes necklaces of old silver rupees. At the time of marriage, the groom's parents give the gift of land to the parents of an attractive bride, sort of like a dowry system in reverse.
The author also satirically mentions how a few resources are exempted from exploitation in the name of customs. He takes the instance of the Kalpa-Vriksha (the Immortal Wishing Tree), an ancient mulberry tree under which Sankaracharya has supposedly meditated. This led the tree to be safeguarded, while other trees around the same epoch were destroyed and exploited.
The tea shops do a pretty brisk business in Garhwal Himalayas as in any other place in hills and mountain ranges. So, the pilgrims who visit the stone-cold mountain ranges are in for some delicious tea and buns to eat!
All in all, this book will walk you through the serene beauty underlying the Himalayan range in India and is worth reading if you are an avid traveller and missing out on travel in the pandemic days!