Himalayan panorama

Print edition : August 23, 2013

A landscape of the Eastern Himalayas. Photo: afds

The blood pheasant, the State bird of Sikkim, is found in the high mountain regions and is so named because of the blood-red patches of skin on its face and legs and the reddish hues of its tail and chest feathers. Photo: afsd

The book provides a wonderful perspective of the region’s geography, demography and culture.

I WAS aware that Himalaya : Mountains o f Life by Kamal Bawa and Sandesh Kadur, authors of Sahyadris : India’s Western Ghats A Vanishing Heritage, was launched in Bangalore early this year and that it incorporated a combination of text and photographs. As I am a photographer myself, my attention was immediately caught by the outstanding images of nature in the book. It carried me through a journey deep into the Eastern Himalayas. As someone hailing from that part of the world, I was fascinated by the subjects of some of the photographs, which I had not seen before.

Kamal Bawa, the distinguished professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and Sandesh Kadur, the award-winning photographer and film-maker, travelled through the jungles of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, the plains of the Brahmaputra valley, and the frozen banks of Tibet to assemble this dazzling collection of photographs of animals in their own environments. With an international range that is rare in books of animal photography, the photographs bring to life a vast panorama of the animals and the landscapes and climates of their habitats.

A book like this must be a result of the combined effort of all the photographers involved in the job. Their participation has been recognised adequately and they have been given due credit. Apart from the animal and plant diversity, the authors have been successful in bringing to life a panorama of land and people with their culture.

Here we see the placid look of a golden langur ( Trachypithecus geei) relaxing in the rainforest, the snow-capped mountain range of the Himalayas, varied landscapes of the region, a monastery on a cliff, a kitchen which is the centre of the tribal home, masked dances known as chham, glimpses of rhododendron, a species of exquisite moth, a Bengal tiger feeding on a rhinoceros, reptiles, and many other animal and bird species.

In this book we read about and look at photographs of the ecoregions in the Brahmaputra valley’s semi-evergreen forests, the Eastern Himalayan alpine shrubs and meadows, the Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests, the Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests, the Himalayan subtropical forests, the Himalayan subtropical pine forests, the Northern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests, the northern triangle temperate forests, rock and ice and the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands. The book tells us about the river systems of these areas, too.

The book provides a wonderful perspective of the region’s geography, demography and culture.

The authors have also included a chapter on the threats to biodiversity, climate change, tourism and transboundary conservation.

As Sandesh Kadur has said, a photograph plays an essential role in conservation. “The first national park, the Yellowstone National Park, was declared on the basis of photographs. It’s about how you use the images to bring about change. I believe a powerful image can bring about change.”

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