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II. Belonging

A road connecting Himachal Pradesh' capital Shimla to the higher Himalayas. Since the colonial era, roads have been crucial to the overall development and connectivity of mountainous regions.

The UNESCO World Heritage Kalka-Shimla railway line, that connects the plains of Punjab with the Himalayas of Himachal. Inaugurated during the colonial era, this line has evolved into a abiding symbol of mountain affinity and pleasure for the residents and visitors of the hills. Note the bridge resembling a Roman aqueduct.

A dawn scene with a cowshed under an Arjun tree. On the farming fields of Kangra Valley. Agriculture and horticulture constitute two of the most important hill professions. 

A pastoralist from the local 'Gaddi' community, shepherding her flock of sheep and goat in the Kangra Valley. The Gaddis traditionally divide their time travelling and residing in the valleys of Kangra and Chamba in different parts of the year.

A farmer and her fields in Kangra Valley.

A woman paints an auspicious design in her courtyard during morning prayers, as a form of offering and gratitude to the earth. (Kangra)

A traditional mud-and-slate house in Kangra.

A carved wooden window in another traditional house-form, overlooking the courtyard (Kangra Valley).

A carved stone pillar at Baijnath temple (13th century) in Kangra Valley, dedicated to the 'healer' avatar of Lord Shiva. In the backdrop are the Dhauladhar Himalayas.

Pottery-in-the-making at the famous crafts village of Andretta (Kangra Valley).

Hidimba temple in Manali (16th century), dedicated to the eponymous goddess from the epic The Mahabharata. Note the horizontal timber-beam and stone-layer architecture, traditionally known as the 'Kath-Kuni' style of building, that is inherently seismic proof.

The ancient town of Mandi by the river Beas, also famous as the cultural capital of Himachal Pradesh as well as "Chhoti Kashi" or "Little Benares" (owing to its similarity of architectural layout of the temples by the banks of a water body).

Shopkeepers selling regional dried fruits, spices, other agricultural produce, and locally made wooden handicrafts in the town of Manali.

A vendor roasting corncobs on embered coal, as packets of 'Maggi' noodles and raw eggs wait to be boiled in the hill station of Mussoorie (Uttarakhand). Most Himalayan hill stations are characterised by the presence of such food stalls, and over the years, these food items have popularly become synonymous with many mountain towns.

Another food stall in Mussoorie in the local 'Tibetan Market.' Since the time the Tibetans fled to the Indian Himalayas at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s, such markets came to characterise every other hill town.

A Tibetan Market in McLeod Ganj, the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Note the Buddhist Thangka art and holy metallic bowls on display.

The erstwhile 'Viceregal Lodge' in Shimla, the seat of the British Viceroy and among the most imposing British era buildings in the Himalayas. Built in the Scottish-Baronial style of architecture, this building hosted numerous significant meetings, including the ones deciding the Partition of India in 1947. It is now used as a place of higher learning, and is known as the Indian Institute of Advanced Studied (IIAS).

The Mall, Shimla, resembling an English countryside market square. All British era hill stations were made in the image of 'home away from home', and architecture naturally played a crucial role in enabling this act. However, the majority of these edifices were built via hybrid aesthetics, combining indigenous building techniques with European templates.

A fine specimen of hybrid architectural aesthetics in the Himalayas, combining the indigenous Himalayan wattle-and-daub technique of building with Swiss Chalet and English Cottage styles. Shown here is Cedar House, Shimla.

Interiors of a British era home in Shimla, 'Sunnymeade', now famous as one of India's finest bed-and-breakfast homestays.

Residents and visitors of Shimla enjoying an evening stroll on the 'Mall', under the shadow of the Victorian period 'Gaiety Theatre.' With the establishment of various hill stations across the Himalayas, the practice of 'walking' got crystallised' as a modern, leisurely activity.

The 'Lower Bazaar', Shimla, bustling with local life on a regular day. 

A labourer carrying heavy sacks of vegetables across the Mall, Shimla. Since the colonial times, labour from different parts of the Himalayas has been sourced to perform backbreaking work. Seven-and-a-half-decades after independence, the inability to find a respectable and sustainable solution to such exploitation points to the failure of the Indian government and ethos.

Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, one of the oldest boys' schools in Asia. All famous hill stations in the subcontinent gave rise to several famous institutions that were initially used to educate young English youth. Today too, these institutions are much coveted by a sizeable Indian population. 

Adventure sports such as paragliding and wild river-rafting are popular in numerous parts of the Himalayas. Here, a tourist paraglides in the Himalayas of Chamba district, framed by the state tree 'cedrus deodara', or the Himalayan Cedar.

Naldehra, one of the oldest golf courses of India, in the mist-wrapped hills of Shimla district.

Large-scale chopping of the mountains has become common in many parts of the Himalayas. While highlands have been exploited for modern development since the colonial era, what distinguishes its contemporary manifestation is an unchecked, aggressive sense of individualism that seems unable to learn anything from the past. Consequently, projects mired in corruption and myopic vision marshal ahead with astonishing brazenness. 

Apart from agriculture and horticulture, tourism also constitutes a large-scale profession in the Western Himalayas. Seen here are hotel hoardings in a congested corner of Manali, emblematic of the swift and haphazard growth of private businesses that have taken over the hills post liberalisation.

The meadow of 'Khajjiar' in Chamba district, also popular as the 'Switzerland of India'. In the middle is an ancient lake, which, like most other lakes of the Western Himalayas, is ascribed with a spiritual and religious significance. And like the predicament of several such lakes, this one too is facing a dire present and future, owing to human pollution. The decrease in size during the last few decades is palpable by the outer ring of shallow water.

A morning scene, with an old cottage amidst a grove of deodar trees (Chamba).

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